Interview: The Futureheads

Rob Garratt The Futureheads flew to stardom with their catchy brand of punk-pop, only be dropped by their record label. Now they're back with their own label, a new album and a gig in Norwich. ROB GARRATT spoke to guitarist Ross Millard. Further listening: The Futureheads

Rob Garratt

The Futureheads flew to stardom with their catchy brand of punk-pop, only be unceremoniously dropped by their record label after the flop of their second album. Now they're back with their own record label, a new album, and a gig in Norwich. ROB GARRATT spoke to guitarist Ross Millard.


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The Futureheads are a band with perseverance. After shooting to fame in early 2005 they enjoyed 18-months at the top when they were dropped suddenly by their record label. But instead of throwing the towel in and biting the dust, the band ruffled their feathers and burst back onto the scene, founding their own record label and releasing their third album earlier this year.

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That perseverance is based on a long history of playing together. Meeting when they were still teenagers, they congregated at Sunderland's City Detatched Youth Project, a place for young musicians to meet and rehearse.

Their college-roots make them an inspiration to students at our own our similar Community Music East, but guitarist Ross Millard says the city is lucky to have it.

“As far as the north east was concerned it was a one off. There are a few others in the country and it's not enough. There's a lot of facilities geared towards UK hip-hop but there's not really any kind of meeting point for guitarists and drummers. The more the government puts into this kind of thing the better - it worked a treat for us. Music is a self-sufficient hobby - you need less encouragement to pick up a guitar and get going - but there needs to be some network in place, and these projects are not always where they need to be.”

After gigging around Sunderland in their teens and twenties, they got signed to an indie label and put out a couple of EPs, before being snapped up by a major label for their eponymous debut in 2004.

“You almost don't notice because you have such short-term ambitions at the beginning - you want to play a few gigs, and then you want to play outside the city, and suddenly someone wants to make a record,” says Millard.

But making a record is something that blessed and cursed the band. Shooting to stardom with a Top-10 cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, they have worn the song round their necks ever since. And whilst it made them flavour of the month and shifted thousands of copies of their debut - the scene had changed by the time of its follow-up and the band were dropped by their label in late 2006.

The band have said they were close to splitting at the time, but instead they dusted themselves off and became an inspiration to wannabes once again when they founded their own record label for the release of their third record This Is Not The World earlier in the year.

“Splitting up's a difficult thing to quantify, we saw past that, we were so confused about what we wanted to do next. We felt the only future was to get our own label and be in control. With Warner Bros it was like the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing and you get to the stage where you need a little bit of enthusiasm behind you.

“We just went back to the initial idea of the band and had a heart to heart, we had to rekindle our love for doing it rather than thinking of it as a job or business.”

And after investing their own hopes and dreams in the label, they could not have been more lucky with the Top 20 hit first single The Beginning of the Twist, and the band have kept up the pace with this tour being their fourth of the year.

“We were totally prepared for it to collapse, we didn't expect it to be a hit. We've got a loyal following, you're asking a lot of fans to expect them to come out and see you four times a year. But this will be our last tour for a long time - we're not planning any more gigs until autumn next year.

“On this tour we've got a long set list to pick songs from, we like to change the set list for every show because we've got enough songs to do that. We like to stick in requests. There's a couple of slower tracks of the second album we don't want to play, because we're wanting to keep it fast and energetic.”

But whilst Millard seems doubtful the band's luck will last forever, he seems to be embracing wherever the industry is going next.

“To an extent I'm not sure if there's a right way or a wrong way to release music. In this country we have it so a band doesn't get a look in after it's first record. We're very fortunate to keep going to three records.

“Bands used to make money from selling records and going on tours, then people stopped buying music and bands made money from just the shows. Now there's a recession they'll stop going to shows - the levee's got to break at some stage.

“The era of rock bands getting rich for doing very little is over. This will force out great art - you don't see much great art coming out of rich bands - and I'm looking forward to what comes out of this.

“There's ideas in place for a new album - it will be more complex than the last one - the fourth record has to be our classic album, for our own sakes. We don't want to feel we're going back on ourselves.

“We can't decide how long we'll be doing this. Our drummer's having a kid and our bassist is getting married next year, we'll do this as long we feel we've got the songs. And the general public decides - if no one buys a gig ticket then its time to give up.”

t The Futureheads play the Waterfront on Sunday. New single I Wouldn't Be Like This If You Were Here is out on Monday.


Further listening: The Futureheads