We spoke to The False And The Fair who were in the heart of Hell Fire Studios recording their latest single: ‘The Space In-between’ lifted from their eponymous EP (released 16th Nov) ahead of what will be an epic headline show at Whelans tomorrow (18th Nov).
The lads have a great way of volarising nature and romanticising the otherwise mundane band origins, inspiration and recording processes, and are proud to be belong to Dublin’s thriving music scene. For us, their record is an exquisite slow prog-rock burner with warm harmonies and transfixing layers of psychedelic guitar lines that just narrate the EP so well.
Rachael: I was gutted to narrowly miss you playing The Crow Bar when I was last over in Dublin – how did the night go, and generally speaking, how do you find the local music scene – where’s your favourite haunt to play?
Jacob: The crowbar gig was great. We stripped back all the songs, took away the drum kit and rearranged some of them to suit the more acoustic vibe we were going for. The crowd were really attentive and respectful too which is nice when you’re trying something new.
There are times when it can feel like parts of the songs, such as the harmonies, can get lost during gigs so it was nice to expose those a bit more and put the songs in a new context. I got to play a wooden box that Adam found in a warehouse so I enjoyed the challenge of playing the same songs in a different way on a different instrument.
The music scene here is booming. There are so many new bands being born every day and they’re all so different. No matter what type of music you play everyone just seems really supportive and encouraging. Having colleges such as BIMM Dublin and Newpark jazz has made people realise that they can actually have a career in this industry and it’s very encouraging to see you friends succeed at doing what they love.
Tommy: In terms of venues, we’ve had fun playing all over. Workmans, Sin E and the Grand Social are all great spots, as well as Whelan’s where we’re launching this new EP. The Harbour Bar in Bray also has a special place in our hearts. We’ve got roots in Bray as well as Dublin so it’s always nice to come back to that home crowd.
Your origins of the band sound awfully romantic…atop the Wicklow Mountains at dawn, which feed seamlessly into the outdoors themes of this EP. I suppose coming from such a beautiful country it’s inevitable that you become consumed by it’s natural beauty – can you continue the story as romantically as possible please, haha…
T: I can try, although the songs on the EP might do a better job of it! There is something about being out in nature, isn’t there? You just feel so big and small and lost and hopeful and peaceful all at the same time, and it’s nice to have space to breathe and think. There’s something about the headspace of writing songs that I always connect with the outdoors, even though I’m usually inside when I write. I think looking out at something bigger than yourself is one of the major themes with this collection of songs, so hopefully some of that energy comes through. You’re not just yourself; you’re part of a living, breathing world and it’s too easy to get stuck inside your head sometimes. I hope people will be able to put this EP on and let their minds wander a bit.
You dropped a reference to Townes Van Zandt – I’d love for you to share with us more what this American artist means to you as a band?
T: Townes is the man. Listening to him up in the mountains that morning definitely helped spark the creative energy that ultimately led to this EP coming together. There’s such an aching beauty to his writing, a real rawness and a yearning quality that I find utterly breathtaking. A lot of it’s really sad actually, but whatever way his voice hit me that morning just made me appreciate what I’ve got and where I was at.
Psychedelia seems the compass of TFATF’s sound – are there many likeminded souls that you’ve collaborated with/do you find yourself part of a scene, inspiring, jamming and gigging together?
Adam: I think we’ve been really lucky with the people we’ve gotten to collaborate with over the years. We’ve all been huge Vernon Jane fans since seeing their first show, so getting Emily-Jane O’Connor to lend her voice to Bald Apes made us all a bit giddy. Having been a part of the BIMM scene, we got a chance to mingle with tonnes of unbelievable musicians. Through the college we met Laura O’Sullivan and Claire Z, who provided vocals for the last half of The Space In Between and have really promising projects of their own.
Ultimately though, I think we’re still trying to find our place in the broader Dublin music scene. No one here wants to be pigeonholed, which is amazing because you end up getting some really incredible genre-bending acts like Wastefellow and Fehdah, but it can also be a bit of a pain when you’re trying to put a show together! Ultimately I think it becomes more about quality over genre at a certain point though.
Cormac: When I joined the band, there seemed to be an established sound that I felt was very organic yet unprotected. Knowing that we had mutual interests, I felt that as we progressed we would be comfortable exploring each of our individual personalities as musicians. I think it’s evident that we all like psychedelic music to one degree or another, but we aren’t psych rockers. We enjoy much more of the genre’s soft, playful nature but you’ll get the occasional freak-out. Collaborations are always fun, Emily’s vocal on ‘Bald Apes’ is amazing. That section would have suffered without her. We’re currently taking on a lot more as individuals when it comes to the recordings. Rather than feature a new musician, we might try out something new ourselves. We like to experiment with different instruments and effects because it’s a lot of fun.
Have you ever heard of TAU – only discovered the artist myself recently (Shaun Mulroney is the mastermind behind the project) and they’re actually heading over to Dublin next month, I could really see your soundscapes sitting well together! 🙂
A: I hadn’t, I can definitely see what you mean though! Myself and Cormac are big fans of a Swedish psychedelic band called Goat and there are a lot of similarities there. We might have to shoot him a message!
‘The Space In Between’ EP artwork by Grace Ryan
The guitar work is exquisite, I have to say, it’s warm progressive rock that just seems to narrate the EP so well – how do you each approach songwriting?
A: Tommy will come into our rehearsal room with the bones of a song and we’ll all sit around feeling out the track and throwing melodies about until we find something we like and the vibe sits right. Once we all have an idea for our main parts, we’ll start arranging it and adding little flourishes and accents – we’re basically just kids with crayons and a colouring book at that stage.
J: We’ve all played together for so long that when we work on new material it all comes quite naturally. We know what we like and we know what to expect from each other from a musical standpoint. We’re at a stage where we can trust each other and nobody is afraid to try something to see if it works.
C: When writing guitar parts I usually try to hear what the music is telling me. I hear how the lads gravitate to it and I find a way to make my own emotional tie to the sound. That said, we’ve all had a hand in writing the main riffs on this EP. I tend to become very attached to the sounds that I develop in the early stages of an arrangement. If it works I usually don’t try to push it too much, but there’s always room to explore new ideas.
T: I spend a lot of time writing by myself so it’s always a joy to get together with the guys and play. The more they contribute creatively the better, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve had a lot of fun writing together in the same room recently, so I hope some of those songs take shape and find their way onto future projects.
You’ve included ‘Gone’ on this EP which you previously released as a single, this song must bear a particular weighting – what does this song mean to you?
T: Gone Tomorrow’s one of those songs that’s been with us forever, must have been the second or third song we ever worked on as a group and it’s certainly the oldest song remaining in our set these days. I think we’ve all got a certain fondness for it and it helped define our sound early on, to some extent. We released it last year but it was out on its own, and since it was just one track we only did an online release for it. We decided we’d like to have it on this collection for the blessed souls who want to buy our CDs and listen to the tracks that way, and when we realised that it worked nicely leading directly on from our new song ‘Psychedelic Psmile’ we knew that was the perfect place for it.
Would it be fair to say that you’re recognised by your most popular track: Bald Apes, which is very different sound to where you’re at with this EP, two years on, would you agree, not least in reference to the vocals (screamed to gentle-vocal hooks)? Can you talk us through this journey?
A: I think Bald Apes has always felt like a bit of an outlier for us tonally. It was written around the same time as Gone Tomorrow and In The Shade of the Mountain, yet it has this totally different perspective and scope. We’ve always been open to experimentation and I think back then we were still very much crafting our collective voice. I’m really proud of what we came up with, considering we actually recorded it 2 years prior to releasing it. This last year has really helped me to understand our dynamic and the direction we’re going in together, but I think that our recent musical development has had a lot to do with the shedding of pretense, a new level of openness, and a mutual acceptance of our individual voices and talents.
T: For me, I just thought Apes was one of our strongest songs at the time. As Adam says, we didn’t necessarily know what direction things were going for us musically. We decided to just go for it with a tune we were all excited about, and that seemed to have a great impact and energy when we played it live. I also won’t rule out more shouting in the future.
Even the location you chose to record your EP was in the heart of the Dublin Mountains – Hellfire Studios, where some Dublin legends like Hozier and David Keenan have recorded – how was the experience?
A: We got really lucky actually, I was studying Music Production in Bray and it turned out one of my lecturers Ivan Jackman is heavily involved with the studio. We ended up recording In the Shade Of the Mountain, Gone Tomorrow and The Space In Between with his students as part of one of their assignments, then once we realised that we wanted to make this EP, we booked in another few days to lay down Another Life and Psychedelic Psmile. It’s not your typical stuffy studio and the distance from the city gives you an opportunity to really focus on what you’re doing. It’s amazing up there – totally secluded with this amazing view of the city and the sea! I think we all fell in love with the place. Besides, their gear is delish!
What elements of an era do you hear in your songs – whether they are conscious choices made or unconscious results?
J: As far as the drums are concerned I grew up listening to a lot of Nirvana, Tool and The Smashing Pumpkins. It may not come across in the songs too much but there are definitely elements of that mid-late 90’s angst in the drums. Another Life is the best example of that, I really let loose on that song.
T: In terms of a broad influence the most obvious reference is probably a late ‘60s, early ‘70s kind of vibe. The likes of Love, Pink Floyd and Neil Young would be touchstones for me, but we’ve got such varied musical interests within the group that I hope we’ve come up with something reasonably unique that stands on its own two legs. We recently put together a Spotify playlist featuring some of the tracks that influenced us on this EP and I’ve really enjoyed listening back over them and reflecting on where we’re coming from.
Check out their latest single: ‘The Space In-Between’, recorded live by Ivan Jackman at Hell Fire Studios:
Catch them live at Whelans tomorrow (18th Nov) €8.50 (Adv) €10