Leeds post-punk five-piece, FEHM have marked their return with an enthralling (very much echoing Joy Division and The Cure) double-sided A single: ‘Human Age / Last Breath’ this October, following last year’s debut EP, (via Art Is Hard Records), produced by Matt Peel at Nave Studios. The new material is a big step forward for the band, both in sound and arrangement; these are their first songs written as a five-piece. Ahead of their debut album (due 2018) we caught up with FEHM to gain an insight into their development as artists, the expansion of the band, their indirect politically themed songwriting and the real ‘community’ of their hometown’s music scene.
Last month’s new single: ‘Last Breath’ really heralded our attention, can you talk us through the inspiration behind the latest single?
Darren: It was the first song we created as a 5 piece so as we essentially merged two bands, to get us started we had 2 half written songs from me and Paul. Musically, it’s got quite a driven pace so we made the changes fairly smooth without any sudden movements, giving the progression a ghostly yet warm and familiar sound to tie in with theme behind the lyrics. The guitar riffs really bring this home, adding a pleasant hook that’s got an air of melancholy.
Paul: The lyrics behind the song are based on an ongoing experience I have from working within a hospital, it’s about seeing patients unable to escape the torment they’re in. They’re looking for a release to end their suffering but once you let go, it’s the end, is it worth fighting to stay or is it worth letting go?
You spoke of your last EP as a “reflection of the monotony of everyday life and peoples’ struggle to achieve what they really want.” How do you feel you might describe the themes in your upcoming debut album?
D: We’ve been concentrating on expanding our sound to write the album and developing ways of introducing new ideas and concepts. The chord progressions and melodies are designed to invoke certain feelings and different atmospheres. We’re not sure yet if the album will tell a story or have a running theme, but we definitely want it to be a well thought out journey brought together by atmospheric soundscapes, rather than just a collection of songs, one after another.
P: I tend to write the lyrics last, we concentrate on creating melodies and progressions first, we aim to finish the music before any words are written. We create the vocal melodies within the process but the lyrics come after so as opposed to the themes it could effectively be about anything. I write about what I’m feeling at the time generally.
So many musicians incorporate politics into their music and use their platform to bring these ideas into public discourse, is this something you feel passionate about?
D: I wouldn’t say it’s a major priority of ours, but you can’t really write music about the misery and hardships of life without incorporating politics at some point. I think there’s two approaches you can take on the subject, the direct approach and the indirect approach, and it’s about finding a balance that enables you to express yourself creatively and poetically, without the subject becoming overwhelming.
P: Human Age, the song that will be released next is political in a sense but indirectly I guess.
‘It’s the human age, we decline as we progress
It’s all too late, the unproductive success,
Will we break, before it all mends
Or will we take, until it all ends’
The whole song is how I feel at the moment with current affairs and what’s been happening around the world; Brexit, Donald Trump etc. To me, these are people in the masses taking not just steps back, but leaping backwards. I remember genuinely waking up after Brexit and feeling so upset, so dissapointed that the majority of our country would rather be segregated than joined together. Music is about building bridges not making borders.
How has the transition been for FEHM in going from a trio to a five-piece band?
D: It wasn’t without its ups and downs but, surprisingly smooth actually. The three original members had all been practicing together for years, so two extra people jumping in between felt a little clumsy at first. We all have common interests in the style of music we create and had spoken about collaborating in the past, so it’s wasn’t long before everyone was bouncing off each other and we all got settled in.
P: I’ll just say I’ve been asking Ben & Darren to join the band for years before it actually happened…….
What’s the current music scene like in your hometown, Leeds?
D: There is a good sense of community in Leeds’ music scene. There’s lots of collectives, practice spaces and venues that encourage musicians to work together and it helps maintain a diverse society. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a hardcore band, psych, noise, synthwave or post punk, whatever. Everyone knows each other somehow and we all have the same primary goal of making music.
Have you ever felt any pressure to shoehorn into a particular scene and play a certain circuit of venues?
D: We pretty much just take it as it comes. We try not to be too picky, but at the same time, we’re not gonna play a show that isn’t right for us. I think we’ve found our footing and because we know what we want, it takes away the pressure of being pigeonholed.
So you’re currently writing and recording your debut album. How’s the project going and are you any closer to deciding on a release date?
D: We’re really enjoying writing and exploring new ideas at the moment. We’ve got our foundations and objectives outlined and it’s great watching our ideas get carried away.
The songs are beginning to stack up as we progress and we’re really excited to get it ready for the studio sessions at the nave next year.
P: To be honest, we’re not close to even considering a release date as we don’t even have the album fully written yet but the overall process is going good, we have a bunch of songs, some closer to completion, some in the early steps. We’re forever writing new music and ideas too. We’ll just see where we’re at in a few months.
And finally, what is the greatest thing about being in FEHM, that makes you think to yourselves, ‘I really couldn’t do anything other than this’?
D: This project has pushed our musical abilities to new levels and I couldn’t imagine making music with anyone else.
Upcoming live dates:
28 Oct – LEEDS – Wharfchambers (single launch show)
05 Nov – LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club (w/ Autobahn)
10 Nov – MANCHESTER – Off The Record
19 Nov – LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club (w/ Protomartyr)
22 Nov – GLASGOW – Broadcast (w/ Autobahn)
Listen to FEHM‘s next single ‘Human Age’ (released 28th October) a tale of confusion in the modern era: