Future of the Left

You’re pretty well known for your onstage banter at gigs, where you often demonstrate your ability to verbally castrate punters. Does it ever feel like some punters heckle you just so you can tell them to fuck off?
[laughs] Yeah, absolutely. Not the last time we were there, but the time before we had a bit of a – it’s like with anything it’s all about maintaining the balance, and it’s all about people understanding that the whole interaction between band and audience is part of the affair, but there are times where it overshadows the ‘rock show’ part of proceedings and that’s absolutely not what we are after.

When we played the Annandale about two years ago there was an English guy at the front who believed he had a psychic connection with the band on the basis of being able to shout really loud and it was really funny eviscerating him for a bit but it went too far and it was boring. It was boring for the people on stage as I’m sure it was boring for a lot of people who were stuck at the back of the room who couldn’t hear exactly what was going on.

So there is a balance. We have a policy now where if somebody is spoiling the show by never shutting up or by elbowing people in the face who don’t want to be elbowed in the face down the front then you give them a chance or two because it’s a rock show, it’s not the Gulag Olympics. But after you’ve given them a chance or two and they still don’t listen, you refund them and then you escort them out of the building. And then you get on with playing your show. Needless to say the guy from the Annandale was back at the next show. He wasn’t completely quiet; a couple of sentences fell out of his mouth. But I think he had learned by that stage his place is to watch and enjoy or simply not be there.

What was the motivation to release your new EP, Polymers are Forever, ahead of the third record?
Well the motivation was originally of course to release the album before we came out [to Australia] but because of the scheduling it just wasn’t going to be possible to release it properly. If you can release an album a week after you recorded it that doesn’t mean you’re going to give that album every chance of reaching people.

The EP is, in effect, it’s a record in itself, it’s an advertisement for the record in a sense; it contains one song which is on the album. But hopefully when people listen to it and its six songs long and 21 minutes, it’s only 12 minutes shorter than the last album. Hopefully those 5 songs not on the record will make people think ‘well if these are 5 songs which couldn’t make the cut for the album then the album itself must be really special’, which is the absolute intention of it really.

Your lyrics are often quite ambiguous, do you meticulously sift through every word when you are writing or are lyrics more of an afterthought once the music has been composed?
What usually happens is there’s a melody first. The melody is the most important thing for me. And then there’s usually a key phrase which springs out straight away, just randomly in the rush of noise in rehearsal, a key phrase, a chorus or just a line which repeats and that usually suggests the meaning or subject of a song. Y’know, the occasional song is about bollocks, but most of the songs do have a subject matter or at least an atmosphere, a picture or a situation they are trying to convey.

I work harder on the lyrics than I used to, ‘cause I used to just enjoy disjointed rhymes which maybe didn’t add up to a whole but just conjured a whole mindset. With the 15 songs on the new record I can conclusively say that 13 of the songs are actually about something, y’know, whereas two, two of the songs if they are about something, fucked if I know what it is.

Are you approached by fans with their own interpretations of your lyrics that they’re just certain the song is about?
Yeah, and obviously sometimes people are right and they say “that songs about fuck-all, isn’t it mate?" and you say “yeah". But I remember with mclusky, there’s a song on the first record called She Comes in Pieces, and some guy emailed me thinking it was about his girlfriend who died in a famous rail disaster in Britain a few years ago. I tried to explain to him She Comes in Pieces is a metaphor; ‘she’ didn’t actually arrive in physical pieces. But that was quite dark and disturbing. This guy was obviously mentally disturbed, even looking at it in the kindest possible light. That was the most violent misinterpretation I can think of.

The last two records both leaked online before their official release. Are there any measures you have taken for the new record to see that it isn’t leaked?
Well, everything will be kind of electronically stamped. Anything that is leaked we will be able to know who it came from first. So I’ll be happy to go around to the person’s house who is responsible for leaking it first and publicly shame them. I won’t assault them; I don’t really fancy myself in prison. I don’t know how long I would last. I’m far too fucking sarcastic, it would be 7 or 8 minutes until somebody stabbed me through the eye with a shiv.

Downloading, well it’s not even a complex issue, people just download. If you can get something for nothing, particularly, as much as this is a cliché it is to say this, quote/unquote – ‘in this economy’ – then you’re going to use that chance to take something for nothing.

My problem comes when people try to say it’s a fight against the oppressor, ‘allmusicforfree.com’. I’ve met and talked to so many people who believe all music should be free, and I’ve managed to identify certain musicians who have made some shitty music on their laptops and they’re so impressed they’ve put it on the internet and some guy in San Francisco says ‘cool tunes man’, that they believe that all music should be recorded for free.

And I will say that it’s all very well for bands who spend years on big corporate labels, like Radiohead, say ‘people should be able to decide what they want to pay for it’. I think you’ll find that wasn’t the model that took them to success in the first place. Like I say, the argument, morally justifying it isn’t one that really washes with me, I’ve noticed it impact on my music generally.

We have friends in this band called Oceansize. I went to their show, whenever that was, a year and a half ago in Cardiff, and there was some guy complaining about how much the ticket cost, compared to what you guys pay for shows it would make you sick, it was like a tena, so what’s that? 18 Australian dollars? And he was complaining about how much the show cost, he thought it was disgusting that this band would charge him 10 quid to get in and see them, c’mon. Then he turns around and the barmaid, for the round he’s buying, says ‘that will be 10 quid’. So, y’now, five cups of poison for you and your friends, that’s perfectly reasonable, you’ll pay that with happiness. But 10 quid for a live show? That’s a problem.

But, like I say, in terms of playing in Australia, we can’t level that complaint at the Australian fans, the prices you guys pay to come and see us. When somebody’s paying $44 or $45 to come see us play, that is an incredible honour. Whenever we play a rock show we always give everything to it. I hesitate to say 100%, because everything needs 100%, but we try and push it further and further when we come to Aus because I’m aware that that is a lot of money, even in an affluent country such as Australia.

That’s all we have time for; we look forward to seeing you at Meredith and the Corner Hotel.
Marvellous. I’m really looking forward to both those shows, particularly the Corner, that’s been the highlight of the past 10 years of my life. Probably.

Future of the Left's EP Polymers are Forever is out now; their third record, The Plot Against Common Sense, is scheduled to be released in early 2012.

FasterLouder presents Future of The Left sideshows:
Sunday 4th December – The Rosemount, Perth
Tuesday 6th December – The Zoo, Brisbane
Thursday 8th December – Annandale Hotel, Sydney
Friday 16th December – The Corner, Melbourne

Win the ultimate Future of the Left prize pack

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shazie said on the 30th Nov, 2011

Great interview!

Wish Foo Fighters weren't on the same night, I always seem to miss these guys playing when they come out.