Friendly Fires interview

Five minutes with the Balearic indie stars


Balearic indie stars Friendly Fires have just unveiled the soundtrack to your summer. Their new album, Pala, offers plenty of beats and treats, from the ’70s disco-funk of ‘Hurting’ and the polyrhythmic freefall of ‘Hawaiian Air’ to the house pulse and heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics of ‘Chimes’. Singer Ed McFarlane gives us a rundown of the new record.

Your album is named after an isle in Aldous Huxley’s Island. What was it that resonated with you?
The main thing I drew from it is this idea of a doomed utopia. There are tons of points about how he envisages a perfect society to work, which I don’t agree with, but what really drew me in was this idea of a temporary paradise and appreciating what you have as much as possible before it ends.

Did you feel like you weren’t embracing the moment?
To a certain extent. On the first record, songs like ‘Paris’ were very much about escapism on the dancefloor. This is much more being brought back to reality and realising that all your dreams weren’t quite what you expected them to be. Having come back from tour, I felt my life hadn’t changed that much. I realised being from St Albans [in the UK] and having my close friends around me is just part of who I am and I have to appreciate that, instead of chasing this bizarre, superficial ideal of what it’s like to be a rock star.

Given all the crazy situations that musicians are put in, you should probably dive into them, even if you decide it’s all hollow…
Yeah, I agree with that. I don’t want to be old and regret not indulging, but at the same time you don’t want those things to affect you enough that you have to live in that world, which is what it seems like when you watch really big successful acts.

We heard that New Kids On The Block influenced ‘Show Me Lights’. You do tread a line between cool melodies and super cheese.
Yeah, that’s one of the challenges in the music we make. There’s a fine line between a great catchy hook and a really annoying hook.

But presumably you didn’t listen to NKOTB at the time…
No, and the same with NSync. We were probably listening to cheesy pop-punk, despising that form of music and thinking it was fake, but I feel nostalgic for that era of pop because I can relate to that a lot more than the pop that’s in the Top 10 now, which is influenced by a tired sort of trance-y electro.

Your lyrics are unabashedly romantic. Do you ever think: Whoa, that’s a bit much?
No. When I was recording in that cottage I was on my own for a long time and maybe my emotions were exaggerated, but I’m glad about that. I love lyrics that are really open and direct, much like a lot of the house and disco music I listen to.

Your dance moves have become a talking point. When did you first find the balls to bust a move?
For our first few gigs I was a lot more introverted. I didn’t really know I could dance the way I do. It’s quite weird. Whenever I go to clubs I’m more of a Berlin shuffle kind of a guy, just doing the odd head bob. I didn’t know I had this quite slinky onstage persona – it just came out. It must just be a part of my very core!
Pala is available in stores now.

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