Interview The Futureheads’ ‘Rant’ Is A Welcome Diversion

Martyn Young takes a look at the art of a capella.

Sometimes the most progressive thing a band can do is strip everything back to its purest and simplest form. In the case of Sunderland art pop group The Futureheads the traditional guitar based rock album was proving to be rather uninspiring. The band, it appears, have found inspiration instead by jettisoning instruments completely, with their forthcoming album being completely a capella.

There is an argument for suggesting that making an entirely a capella record in 2012 is an incredibly brave, and indeed exciting, decision. There remains something infinitely powerful about hearing a lone voice, sometimes the simplest things are the most effective, and there is nothing simpler than a four-part harmony (except for maybe a one part harmony - Ed).

‘Rant’ features a number of Futureheads classics re-arranged in a capella form amongst a number of choice cover versions including Kelis’ ‘Acapella’ which they also performed two years ago on Radio1’s Live Lounge - the catalyst for the whole project, apparently.

A capella singing, of course, goes right back in history and has its traditions based in religious music. Indeed a capella is an Italian word meaning “In the manner of the chapel.” Over centuries it has been adopted, and indeed adapted, by many cultures and nations, evolving into styles such as barbershop and doo-wop. The Futureheads are not the only British guitar group to sing a capella. The Housemartins regularly performed a capella in the eighties, most notably on their Christmas No. 1 single, the cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s ‘Caravan of Love’. There is also something charmingly endearing about another a capella record that stole the Christmas No. 1 slot, The Flying Pickets version of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’. Maybe The Futureheads are two months two late with their attempts.

On their website, The Futureheads explain their decision to make an entirely a capella album and the band state that: “When you’ve played guitars, drums, keyboards, whatever for many years, you find that you’re hands start to want to automatically play familiar notes, familiar chords, familiar melodies every time you pick up the instrument. With your voice, that simply doesn’t happen. It’s a fresh start every time. The Sky’s the limit and it has been since birth.” These fresh sentiments are extremely welcome and, whether or not the album turns out to be a success, the band should be commended for daring to attempt something that appeared to be more or less a forgotten art form.

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