Funeral For A Friend interview, 9th February 2004

Welsh five-piece Funeral For A Friend are one of the hottest bands around at the moment. They’ve gone from being virtual unknowns just 12 months ago to selling 60,000 copies of their debut album, ‘Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation’ in its first month of release and headlining the NME Awards tour. Their melodic riffs, emotive lyrics and Matt Davies’ soaring vocals have won them countless plaudits across the media and have ensured them a devoted army of followers. Jeremy Lloyd caught up with the band’s two amicable guitarists, Darran Smith and Kris Roberts, on their tour bus just before their recent gig at the Sheffield Leadmill.

There have been a number of high points for the band in the last year or so that have marked Funeral For A Friend’s meteoric rise to success. Some of these moments include the band picking up the accolade of ‘Best New British Band’ at the Kerrang Awards and creating a sense of hysteria during their performance at the Reading Festival, not to mention the NME Awards tour and the success of the album. Darran reminisced, saying ‘There are so many, it’s hard to pick one. Playing Donnington main stage was a high, but a special moment for us is when we headlined a little festival down in Cardiff called the Compass Point Festival. We were the second band on the previous year, and they asked us to headline it in 2003. The response was crazy.’

‘Last night (The final night of the NME Awards shows, which saw all the groups together on stage for ‘Escape Artists Never Die’) was a high point of this year,’ adds Kris. ‘Everyone piled on stage, it was complete chaos,’ Darran remembers.

The recent NME tour certainly boasted a very eclectic line-up. The group toured with three quite different bands (Franz Ferdinand, The Von Bondies, The Rapture). Darran expressed his thoughts on it all - ‘It was cool, but it was quite odd. I liked Franz Ferdinand, I thought they were very good, but to be honest the others aren’t really my cup of tea. But they were nice people, so it was good laugh.’

The band recently toured around Europe with heavy metal legends Iron Maiden. When asked how the tour went in general and how the band were received, Kris mused ‘It was a mixed reaction, a percentage of the audience took to us and a percentage of the audience didn’t. I would say it was about 50-50.’

Darran adds ‘That’s all we hoped to do. If we could get a tiny percentage of the audience to be interested enough in us to check out the album or even come and watch us at a club show, then we’ve achieved something.’

The band have been on the road almost constantly since the release of their album back in October. When asked who have been memorable touring partners, both agreed that Iron Maiden were definitely up there. ‘They’re really cool guys and the crew were amazing to us’, said Darran. ‘It was generally a really good time.’ Darran continues, saying that the band have been very lucky with tour mates, in the respect that they’ve got on with all the bands they’ve toured with. ‘Ones that do stick out to me are Boy Sets Fire,’ Darran adds. ‘In essence they’ve become good friends, and they’ve been asking us to go out and tour in the States with them.’

‘Juno’ a song on the band’s first EP, ‘Between Order And Model’ was re-recorded and renamed ‘Juneau’ for the album. This caused a degree of controversy amongst fans, who insisted that the original was better saying the band had gone down the commercial path. ‘With the first EP, you’re listening to a band that literally haven’t played for more than two weeks together,’ declares Kris. ‘The first EP is no more than a glorified demo really. When we came to recording the album, we decided to change Juno because we wanted to do Juno the way we would have written it now. We wanted to make it a more structured song.’

What does ‘Juneau’ actually mean? ‘It’s the capital of Alaska, and the association with the title is a cold, harsh but beautiful place which is a reference to a girl, who is beautiful but very cold and harsh,’ offers Darran. When asked what the album title ‘Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation’ means, Darran said ‘Personally, I don’t look upon it as meaning anything, it’s just a play on words that I really liked.’

Talking of songs, Darran and Kris tell us the songs that they’ve most enjoyed playing live recently. ‘Personally I’ve always loved playing Escape Artists’ says Darran. ‘Escape Artists is awesome,’ agrees Kris, ‘This Years Most Open Heartbreak I love, but at the moment the ultimate favourite is The Art Of American Football.’ Darran continues ‘What we’ve been doing on this tour which has been good fun is getting a circle pit going or splitting the audience to create a wall of death!’

Darren and Kris offer advice for bands who are in the position they were in 18 months ago. ‘Just keep plugging away, and try and surround yourself with a good team of genuine people. Without the team of people we hooked up with we wouldn’t by any means be in the position we’re in now,’ Darran explains. ‘Go to independent labels before going to major labels.’ Kris advises.

When asked what lay ahead for the band, Darran said ‘We’re doing two weeks in Europe with Lostprophets, which will be really good fun as we’re good mates with those guys. The Welsh justice tour – bringing it to the masses! We come back from that and go to Japan, and from Japan to America for about a month and a half on the Cocheed And Cambria tour, plus a bunch of dates with The Avenged Sevenfold.’ Kris adds, ‘We’re doing most of the festivals and then we’ll then we’ll start writing the new album.’

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Jeremy Lloyd