Progress Report

Progress Report: The Futureheads

NAME: The Futureheads
PROGRESS REPORT: Recording the followup to 2008’s This Is Not The World in their studio in Sunderland, UK.

After Field Music’s David Brewis mentioned working with his friends and rehearsal roommates the Futureheads, it made sense to talk to them next. The bands have known each other since they began; Field Music’s Peter Brewis drummed for the Futureheads before starting his own band with brother David. But according to the Futureheads vocalist and guitarist Ross Millard, this is the first time the bands have recorded in the same space at the same time on the same equipment. Sharing hasn’t been a problem though, it’s everything outside the studio that’s made it difficult. “With so many distractions and temptations, there are many opportunities to just kinda go, ‘Oh well, that’s a great riff that we’ve come up with today, so lets take the afternoon off!'” he says. “It’s like when you’ve gone from being at school to going to University, and all of a sudden you have to study on your own there’s no one there with a gun to your head saying, ‘Right, you have to do this now otherwise everything’s going to go to shit.'”

Since they’re recording among friends (they’re self-producing, while David Brewis handles the engineering), Millard says the studio seems more like a “a mate’s flat” than a workplace. Even so, they’ve made significant progress, recording eight songs with nearly a dozen more waiting to be put to tape. The way their work is the opposite of Field Music’s method — the Futureheads get songs to the point where they can play them live before they record them. But the band doesn’t like to play songs live before they’re recorded, which is why the Futureheads haven’t done any touring this year. “I think it’s a shame maybe that you start trying songs live before they’re ready,” Millard explains. “I know that’s not a very punk rock thing to say! But I almost think we prefer to stick to what we know and what we do best.” But they’re so eager to tour that they hope to release a single when they complete the record in early September.

But with the tracks as far along as they are, Millard says they have a clear-cut view of the new album. Rather than the straightforward powerpop on 2008’s This Is Not The World, they wanted songs with more bite. “They’re a bit more smart aleck-y than the last album’s stuff. We wanted to make a record that was a little bit more challenging. I don’t mean that it’s awkward or difficult to listen to, but the musicianship is a little more skillful and the songs are about things that are a little bit more esoteric.” It’ll be a more esoteric album because it’ll deal in specifics: though the Futureheads are a “UK band,” it’s a little bit like being called an American band, with no consideration for what coast or corner you live on. So the band wrote lyrics specific to their friends’ and families’ stories, and covered problems like their native Sunderland’s physical and cultural isolation and its growing unemployment. But they wanted to cover its positives too, like the area’s honest and hardworking residents, and the underdog pride that’s helping in Sunderland’s regeneration. That pride’s why the Futureheads have kept their strong accents across their distinctive harmonies. But there’s also a problem with the approach — the more you try to be specifically British, the more you can sound specifically American. “I feel like [Sunderland] has been sung about in a million Bruce Springsteen songs,” laughs Millard. “So we’re trying hard to document that without it being reminiscent of Americana.” That might be why one of the new songs on the record is called “Local Man Of The World.”

Millard says he’s been listening to Hüsker Dü, Mission Of Burma, and the Replacements to get an idea of how other bands have tackled ambitious and emotional topics, something he thinks British bands, with their natural sense of reserve, can have trouble with. His bandmates are listening to Nurse With Wound and other, noisier projects. But they’re still keeping their trademark harmonies. “Always loads! But I think they’re a lot less traditional on this new stuff. They’re slightly more zany than they were on this last record anyway. And that’s quite enjoyable,” he says. “There’s nothing more fun than trying to take people by surprise by singing an outrageous harmony here or there.”

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