Progradar: So here we are with Matt and Kev from The Fierce And The Dead ahead of the release of (new album) ‘News From The Invisible World’ in July, so guys, first question, why vocals?
Kev (Feazey): Funnily enough, we get asked this quite a lot recently! I think that anybody who has followed us knew that the thing about not having vocals was never an idealogical stance, we never sat in a room and said that. We just got together and we played a lot of the stuff that was around when we were kids, a lot of rock music, from the kind of underground ‘Don Caballero’ kind of world, it wasn’t a huge leap to NOT have vocals, it just suited.
Then it was never like, literally, “We need to do something different with this album…”, we got these ideas and we mucked around for quite a few years after (previous album) ‘The Euphoric’ with vocal samples but it just never felt quite right. With this one it was literally like, “Shall we stick some vocals on that…”, and that was it, we thought, “Yeah, we’ll give it a go…” and we did and it worked!
Matt (Stevens): I think that, with the ‘The Euphoric’ album, we had done the best instrumental album that we could, we took that as far as we wanted to take it and then it was just a question of trying new things. It’s just not repeating yourself, doing things that are exciting to you and, hopefully, other people will be interested and, if they’re not, at least you’re doing what YOU want to do and you’re enjoying doing it, that’s the main thing.
Progradar: The only lyrics we’ve had on a TFATD release before were “Palm Trees!”
Matt: I remember our good friend Spike (Worsley), who is sadly no longer with us, coming up with those lyrics at a gig, Spike was a diamond. It was just a question of developing it really and this was the way to do it.
Kev: We were very keen because it was an experimentation to see how they would fit and we had a lot of discussion about how they’d present. We trusted each other implicitly, that’s one good reason why this band works, we can work on stuff and bring it back. There are no egos in this band, people play different instruments on recordings, it doesn’t matter.
The one thing that we all agreed on was that the vocals needed to sit in somehow, they needed to be part of the whole thing. The way we write music is still relatively similar, it was just really important that they (the vocals) sat inside of that and didn’t disrupt it.
Progradar: You guys know my opinion, it’s seems natural to me, the way the band should go forward. I think it’s a fantastic album, the vocal side of it is brilliant. It’s not majorly out there yet but you’ve had some feedback from the three singles you’ve released, what’s the feedback from your, shall we say, regular fanbase, has it been, on the whole, positive?
Kev: Yeah, I’d say, overall, it’s been really positive. Matt made a point the other day, you can see at what point people ‘got on the bus’ with us. If you’ve followed us all the way through, whilst it always sounds like us, ‘Morecambe’ and ‘The Euphoric’, if you listened to them both out of context then they wouldn’t sound like they came from the same band. It’s a case of this is where we are right now, this is what we’re writing and this is what we are going to do.
I think some people got on at certain points and might have a perception of us as a certain thing and have tied their flag to that mast, so to speak, they might not get it. Overall, though, we are over the moon really, we put it out there and most people have loved it. Matt said the other day that we seem to attract a lot of very broad-minded people.
Matt: It’s self-selecting, it’s a sort of filter. If you look into our Facebook group, the people who are there are open-minded about stuff. There are always going to be people for who the vocal sound doesn’t work and that’s totally cool. Certain vocalists just don’t connect with people and that’s not them being close-minded, it’s just that it doesn’t do it for them. The most commercial thing we could have done would have been to have made Truck ten times because that was our most popular song.
We could have gone around and played stoner rock festivals for the rest of eternity and had a lovely time doing that but, in the end, the reason we didn’t do that was because we wanted to do new things with it. What the music industry tends to be, and what the algorithms on Spotify want you to do, is make one song and then make that same song over and over again so you build a massive audience. At the end of the day, some people just aren’t into that and that’s fine. So far, in terms of our audience, they seem to be enjoying the tracks and the reviews that have come out so far have been positive. Ask me in two months time, it might be a different story. So far so good is probably the best answer I can give, to be honest.
Progradar: Do you think the new album will attract new fans to the band?
Matt: What tends to happen with The Fierce And The Dead records is that people get on and get off. There are people who loved ‘Spooky Action’ and didn’t like ‘The Euphoric’, there’s people who liked ‘The Euphoric’ and won’t like the new one. There’s people who liked the first E.P, the really long song we did, that haven’t liked anything we’ve done since because it’s not proper ‘post-rock’!
We’ve always lost and gained people, there’s people who came in when we played ArctTangent and from us supporting Hawkwind. There’s people who came in from Cardiacs and my solo stuff. They come and go all the time and I think that’s healthy. If you look at all the bands that changed radically sound-wise, it’s happened to all of them, hasn’t it? I still think there’s an attitude and a spirit that’s come from where we were to where we are now and we’re having a lovely time doing it.
It’s about building a community over making money and things, we are rubbish at making money for the band but we’re good at building a community around the band! The priority for me is to build the audience and to try and treat people really well, make it a nice thing to be part of and show how much we appreciate that audience. Hopefully we can continue to grow it, that’s always been my concern, it’s never been about making money. Just trying to make it better, nicer, make the shows bigger, just to keep it going really.
Kev: I’ll just add to that that, when we get together in a room to rehearse or play, that feels just like it did ten years ago. That, realistically, has been our aim through all of this, we really enjoy each other’s company, we like being around each other. It really sparks us creatively and that’s the thing that we want to keep going. We don’t TRY to be authentic because we just are, we do what we want to do.
We’ve never had any decisions to make when starting an album, Matt just walks into the room and goes, “I’ve got a riff!” and off we go! I think the audience picks up on that. If we were constantly chasing some rabbit down a hole because, as Matt said, it was really successful or making another Truck, then we’d be doomed.
Progradar: Because you guys are professional musicians but it is not your main source of income, does that give you the freedom to do what you want?
Matt: The Fierce And The Dead couldn’t work if we were trying to make it our main income stream because we wouldn’t be free to do what we want. That’s why you see a lot of artists doing the same thing, release the same album every eighteen months and go round the same gigs doing the same things. We are free to do EXACTLY what we want. If we wanted to release an ambient album or an acoustic album, we could do that, the main reason is because we have a small audience that support us.
We couldn’t afford to do this without making the money back, we are in a very lucky position that we have a core audience that buys enough of our music to keep it going. It’s the best of both worlds really, we’re musically free, our gigs sell out, we can put out the records that we want to put out and all the costs are covered. As long as that core fanbase continues to support us then we’re great.
Kev: Whenever we’ve had outside influence within the band, we have been very lucky that it’s always been positive. For example, working with David (Elliott) and yourself at Bad Elephant Music was a great experience. You can imagine, we have a lot of friends from the very bottom to the very top of the industry, you hear all these stories about expectations and all this kind of stuff and it’s weird. I have often spoken to Matt and we’ve mentioned about wanting play at certain places and to so many people but, when you look at what we’ve actually got, we’re fantastically lucky. We have enough self-awareness to understand that.
Progradar: How do you think the music industry has changed since you released the ‘Part 1’ E.P. back in 2010? Streaming and digital music were both in their infancy then, is that the major difference, do you think?
Kev: Me and Matt have very long, philosophical conversations about this, not just in context of the band but because it’s really interesting, like a cultural phenomenon. We seem to now be entering the era of ‘everything, everywhere, all at once’, to copy a phrase. Where things used to move in kind of like in waves, you’d have Nirvana wiping out hair metal and then you’d have britpop wiping out grunge, you’d have like a lens, people were having to look at what was available to them.
That was through what was curated by record labels or magazines, what was on TV, all that sort of stuff. Where as now, people can curate for themselves, I can introduce someone who’s never heard Neil Young and, by the next day, they can have heard everything that he has ever done. They can find a fairly brief but in-depth Wikipedia entry, they can know just about anything about this person. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s massively beneficial to us while also being a massive pain in the arse!
Matt: We’ve managed to go along doing what we want without anyone trying to interfere or cause us any problems. Look at the Cardiacs in the 80’s and 90’s, they had that core audience but they struggled to go any further than that. If you look at people like Faith No More, they got in there, with the metal scene and built an audience like that but, after they got to a certain point, it was almost like they weren’t the flavour of the month any more. Now, it’s just a case of building that audience one person at a time and hoping that, eventually, it will continue and become sustainable.
To answer your question about downloads and streaming, when I first started releasing my solo records, you sold a lot of CD’s and a lot of digital downloads. Streaming killed the digital download market, in terms of posting physical products out from the UK, that’s a bit of an issue now, with Brexit changes and postage costs going up massively. That makes it quite difficult to sell CD’s and vinyl mail order. It has radically changed and physical product has become quite difficult but, live wise, people are very keen to go to gigs, we’re not struggling to sell tickets. Certainly, people are still interested, if you look at the story of music over the last 40 or 50 years, it’s just a story of constant change.
The 90’s where bands on indie labels could sell ten thousand CDs, that world has gone and isn’t coming back, there’s more competition now, people have to accept the cards they’re dealt with and just get on with it. Count your blessings and realise that to have an audience is a massive privilege as most musicians haven’t got an audience, they’re making records in their bedroom to no one. We’re very lucky and I’ve got nothing to complain about, I can only see positives really.
Kev: Because we’re not looking at things through the lens of commerce, when we get a message from a fan in Brazil, that blows my mind, this is something that we laboured over in various studios and houses and it’s got that breadth without major distribution and all that kind of stuff. In that way, that’s amazing and, for a musician, that’s the payoff.
Progradar: Talking of the new album, what goes into writing an album for TFATD? How does it begin? Is it a collection of ideas from all four of you or does one of you come with more ideas than the others?
Kev: Because of Covid, the way we work radically changed. The way we normally work was that somebody would come in, 95% of the time that would be Matt, with a riff or something they’d put together and that would be then filtered through all the members of the band. It would be very rare that Matt would come in and say he had a bass line or I’ve got a drum beat to go with it.
Matt: Yeah, I probably do bring in the majority of the riffs but, by the time we finished it, very little would sound similar, most people wouldn’t recognise it as the same part. Whilst that’s kind of the spark, I wouldn’t say in any way that it’s me dominating the writing process.
Kev: That’s right, Matt would have brought something in and eventually it just sounded like us because everybody developed it. We all grew up together, we have this language that we can talk together in . That’s how we kind of put all the songs together in the past. On ‘The Euphoric’ we started demoing stuff, which we’d never really done before. Me and Stuart (Marshall) went into a studio and we demoed stuff but, on this one, because we obviously weren’t actually able to go into a room together, we had to think about it differently.
We all got ourselves little set-ups, Stuart had like a MIDI drum kit, Matt, Steve (Cleaton) and I all had little recording things then Matt would send me riffs, Steve would send me riffs, I’d send them ideas and there was a lot of file sharing. The beauty of being able to have MIDI parts, on a track like Photogenic Love, Matt sent me a piano piece, because it was MIDI, I could change the sound. He doesn’t give it to me with context, I might hear something different and I can then filter it and send it back, it’s a constant back and forth, almost like evolving the song.
Doing it this way actually allowed us to spend time individually, especially Stuart. I could send him tracks with rough drum machines on and he could then spend time at home on them. As any drummer knows, in a rehearsal room, trying to work your parts out is not that easy. He was able to sit back and come up with ideas, like flipping the beat on the choruses of Golden Thread, which is something I would never have thought of.
It’s really exciting when you get something that you’ve been working on, you send it off and it comes back different, it’s almost like you’re not in the band anymore and you’re hearing it again. It was all built up like that and then we went back over it with the real instruments, some of the parts on the album are literally demos. Again, on Photogenic Love, the guitar melody over the chorus is the original part that Matt sent me with all the effects on it and everything.
Matt: We couldn’t quite get the same sound again, could we?
Kev: Exactly, we’re not purists in that sense at all, if it sounds good then it’s good! What I’m trying to say is that filtering system has just become a bit bigger, where as before it used to be us in the room. It was a bit quicker but with less time to stand back from it and reflect on it, now it’s a lot slower but we have a lot longer to reflect on stuff.
Progradar: The album is going to be released later in July and you’re already working on album five, is it strange to be promoting ‘News From The Invisible World’ while you’re also writing new music?
Matt: When we were doing the fourth album, because Covid happened, we had a lot of time to write and we ended up with lots of stuff. For the first time ever, we had more music than we actually needed so we just carried on. Obviously we’re doing all the production of the physical stuff at the moment and all the PR, which has slowed it down a little bit but we’re still just carrying on writing. Each track we do is a progression of the last one, rather than each album, if you listen to ‘Invisible World’, although it sounds like us, there’s no dominant thing going on.
It’s lots of different ideas, you’ve got stuff that sounds like Radiohead and Pink Floyd, you’ve got stuff that sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, The Flaming Lips, there’s loads of different influences in there. I think as we develop the material we’re currently working on, that’s kind of an extension of what we were doing. I think that, now we know the vocals are going on, it’s a different thing because we didn’t really know where we were going with them.
We’re also using more strings and stuff, I really liked that, and the pianos. I think the ‘Invisible World’ has made us feel quite confident and we’re trying different things and just trying to be braver really. The last song on the album, Nostalgia Now, has got lots of strings and piano and on it and it just makes me think that I want to keep trying new things.
I think people can hear when you’re excited about things yourself and I think that comes across on the record, that enthusiasm and joy comes across to the audience. We don’t really know where we’re going with it yet but it will be a continuation of what we’ve done, we’ve probably got all the bits ready for album five, haven’t we?
Kev: Across the years we’ve never stopped writing, we’ve always got instruments around us and we’ve got WhatsApp groups and voice memos of Steve at two o’clock in the morning quietly trying to play us his ideas. It could be literally two years and then one of us will go, “I’ve just found this…”, an email I sent you and it’s really good and just been sitting there waiting to be discovered!
Matt: I think the writing process for the last record was so broad, Non-Player was Steve’s idea initially, I think it’s given Steve a chance to be more of a song writer which is really good for me. The Start was mainly Kev’s, there’s all of us putting parts in and, like I said, it’s Stuart having a chance to work at home on stuff. It’s been really interesting, we’ve put a lot more thought into this one.
Kev: Being able to demo properly, it’s like you can actually go and listen to it and realise it’s fine where as, in the rehearsal room, it sounds great because it’s loud. You’re going to play it seventy-five times and think it sounds great but, when you take away the volume and put it in a different context, is it still fun?
Progradar: I think I know the answer to this but, how much are you looking forward to getting out there and playing these songs live?
Matt: Yeah, can’t wait, really looking forward to it. We’ve got a friend of ours who’s come down to help us with backing vocals and a bit of percussion and keyboards. We could play to click or play to a backing track but I’d rather not, if we can help it. I’m not averse to it but, if we can play it live, I’d rather play it live, it’s more exciting. We just can’t wait to play live again, the gigs we do are not necessarily about us, they’re more about the community of people that come to the gigs.
All those people in the Facebook group and all those people we’ve met over the years coming together, that’s why I love it. There’s no egos, it’s more important than trying to be a show off, it’s more about developing that sense of community. Treating people with decency and respect and being grateful for the support we get so, yes, can’t wait to play it live. We love playing and I love a Premier Inn breakfast, it will be fantastic!
Kev: For us, it’s just given us a new twist, new challenges and things we’ve got to work out how to do, how we present it and that makes it interesting for us. We always want everything to be joyous and a celebration, the last few rehearsals we’ve had have been really good fun, it’s really exciting.
Progradar: It’s time for the last question, to both of you, please recommend one band that you’ve been listening to a lot recently…
Matt: A metal band called Svalbard, they go really heavy and then really melodic and then really screamy. They’re great and have som excellent tunes, for the last few years I’ve gone back into a metal phase again. It was the music I grew up with when I was a kid and, for the last few years, a lot more experimental metal bands have come through and Svalbard would be the one I recommend.
Kev: Literally, what I’ve been listening to this week, there’s band called BadBadNotGood. I’m not sure how you’d describe them, jazz/funk? I’m not sure what you’d call it? They’ve got an album called ‘IV’ that I’d highly recommend to everybody. There’s a lot of sound design in it, it’s all very simple instrumentation but it’s how the instruments are presented, it’s very similar to a lot of what we do. We think about how we make the instruments sound, there’s a lot of bands that have influenced us that people may think are a long way from us, like The Flaming Lips.
Progradar: Thank you guys, it’s been a pleasure as ever to chat to you and I wish you the best of luck with the new album and will hopefully catch you live somewhere soon!
Matt & Kev: Cheers and thanks for everything!
‘News From The Invisible World’ will be released on 28th July, 2023 and you can pre-order the album from bandcamp here: