Funeral for a Friend

Funeral for a Friend Biography

Grand sweeping choruses, epic widescreen ambition and soaring guitars. This is where Funeral For A Friend find themselves in 2007. Thriving on a new sense of drive and purpose, their new album Tales Don’t Tell Themselves is simply the boldest statement they’ve yet made, both a culmination of everything they’ve released to date and a breathtaking reinvention of their band. “We’ve never written anything like this before,” says drummer Ryan Richards. “It’s just the best music we’ve ever made. That’s really all I can say.”

Written in Wales towards the end of 2006, Tales Don’t Tell Themselves is probably the most important – and hardest – album that five-piece Funeral For A Friend have made. “We were adamant that we wanted to go somewhere different,” says singer Matt Davies. “We wanted to explore different areas; we wanted to push things a little bit further.”

But the album had a difficult birth. A two month writing spell over the summer of 2006 had produced little of worth, the band struggling for inspiration. “We wrote a bunch of stuff,” says Richards. “They were good songs, I suppose but none of it was very different from the music we had written for our last album Hours. We were just going over old ground. Matt was struggling for lyrics too and he didn’t seem to be particularly inspired by anything.”

“For the most part, we had hit a brick wall,” agrees Davies. “I felt so detached from the songwriting because I’d been doing it the same way for so long. I had to really look at new ways of doing things. I was writing things that I didn’t necessarily understand.”

Then fate intervened. Richards took a three week break from the songwriting process when his wife gave birth to a baby daughter. The rest of the band – completed by guitarists Kris Coombs-Roberts and Darran Smith and bassist Gareth Davies – spent three weeks looking at their summer’s work. “It was very frustrating,” says Richards. “We realized that we weren’t taking any risks. I wasn’t prepared to be in a band which wasn’t adding anything. We all realized we needed to be braver, we had to put ourselves out there.”

They returned to their practice room newly charged, an intensive bout of writing leading to nine new songs in just two weeks. “We were just firing songs out,” says Davies. “It was like we were possessed. All these songs were just flowing out of us.”

“We were in such good spirits that we’d finish one and then we couldn’t wait to start the next,” says Richards. “We were thinking, ‘What’s next?’. Then we were pumping them out, one after the other. All those songs ended up on the record. That was the core of the album.”

The turning point came after writing a multi-structured, heroic 12-minute piece initially titled ‘Reunion’. Davies had rethought his lyric writing process, taking inspiration from his days as a film-student. “I was writing in a semi-narrative script form,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in writing that way, so I tried to write a story in a play-style form. I like the way stories flow, I like the way country music tells stories, and I wanted to try it too. I sang what I had to the band to see if they liked it and everybody stopped and went, ‘Fucking hell!’ It became one of the most direct and uplifting choruses we’ve ever written. We played the song six or seven times immediately after that because we didn’t want to lose the tingle we had down our spines. It was special.”

“That song gave us focus and purpose,” continues Richards. “We ended up splitting it into three parts, all of which ended up as the first, last and middle song on the record. Then we built the rest of the record around that. It was almost as though we were writing the soundtrack to a film. We’d never written that way before. We felt we could really stand upon what we were doing. Listening back to the other tracks we’d written over the summer was odd – there was just no comparison to what we had been doing and where we were going. We scrapped nearly all of it and got on with writing the rest of the record. We felt born again, we felt like a new band.”

It meant making a record that will shatter any previous opinions or expectations about Funeral For A Friend, one that hums with a majesty and vision that defies anyone to still think of them as an emo band. “That just baffled me anyway,” laughs Davies. Formed in 2001 in South Wales, the band’s early two EPs saw them lumped into an easy emo pigeonhole. Newly signed to Atlantic first album Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation did little to change that stereotype, despite the band’s protestations that they were simply a rock band. Last album Hours changed opinions slowly but it’s with Tales Don’t Tell Themselves that they will finally break into the big leagues, a major album that both shatters their blueprint and expands it into something teaming with aspiration, splendour and depth.

Some of the credit for that should go to producer Gil Norton, who forced FFAF to hone their songwriting in the studio, cutting the fat and streamlining their sound. Still, he found room for towering walls of strings, French horns and a 26-piece orchestra. “Things really clicked between us,” says Davies. “We wanted to do something that was braver, more out of the box and more dynamic and he instantly understood that.”

“We wanted to make a very big, fucking grand sounding record,” he continues. “There’s definitely a classical feel to some of the stuff. It’s very cinematic too. It’s the Lawrence Of Arabia of records!”

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