Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2011
Jack Savidge is still fast asleep when Metropolis catches up with him at his East London apartment. It’s another one of those days for the 26-year-old drummer of England’s hottest dance act, sleeping in after a late-night video shoot for its new album Pala.
Despite the album’s entering the UK top ten since its May release, Savidge says it’s not all champagne and caviar for Friendly Fires. “What surprises us most about being successful is, you go from the totally opulent to the totally unglamorous,” he observes, wiping the proverbial crust from his eyes.
“You assume that at the beginning it’s a slog, and then as your stock rises you leave the dives behind and move to a glamorous existence,” he continues. “But in fact you’re always going between these huge mainstage shows back down to tiny places where none of the equipment works. So your ego is always being built up and then instantly humbled again.”
The song for which the band spent the previous night filming a video, “Blue Cassette,” is another of the propulsive dance anthems for which the band has built its following. A love song for someone who’s passed away, the video depicts the band getting older during the course of performing it. “By the end we’re ancient,” Savidge explains. “We used prosthetics to turn us into 90-year-olds.”
Another arms-in-the-air outing is “Live Those Days Tonight,” a bright and shiny feel-good dancefloor filler sure to be remixed round the world this summer. The song’s reference point would appear to be ’80s synth-pop a la Tears For Fears, but Savidge says otherwise.
“The ’80s vibe is something we happened on by accident,” he insists, instead referencing introspective shoegazers My Bloody Valentine as an influence. “Some of our music has a vintage sound, but we don’t generally try to recreate something old,” he adds. “I guess Ed’s vocals are in that emotive ’80s register, but I don’t think it’s something we come to from listening to bands like that.”
Pala—named for Aldous Huxley’s final novel, Island, about a utopian paradise of the same name—also includes some more contemplative songs that represent a new direction for Friendly Fires.
One of those is Savidge’s favorite song on the album, the retro-flavored “Hurting,” which tops up an easygoing beat with punchy, Motown-era horn charts. “It’s kind of a departure for us,” he says. “It’s slower, quite soulful. During this album we thought it would be best to take the foot off the accelerator a bit. We learned that we can relax and still do what we do best.”
Although still in their mid-20s, Savidge, and his bandmates singer Ed Macfarlane and guitarist Edd Gibson are already conscious that their proverbial 15 minutes of fame may be reaching its end.
“We’d finished the song ‘Pala,’ and Ed had written lyrics loosely based on the idea of a fleeting paradise, and as the record was developing, we decided to make it the concept,” Savidge says. “It helped focus our minds to think about moments which are fleeting, and the ever-shiftingness of time and what that does to you as a person.”
Whichever way the band’s fortunes go, the bonds between its members, cast as classmates at posh St Albans school, look to remain solid. “You go from being friends sharing a hobby to being business partners—that’s the most strange way in which the relationships change, but you can’t really shy away from it,” Savidge notes.
“I guess it changes so that if you have a day off you’re no longer ringing each other to hang out. But if you’re going to be business partners with anyone, it might as well be people you are really good friends with and who you trust.”
Summer Sonic, Aug 14 (listing).