The online buzz surrounding the release of current single “Mosaic” was uniform in the way the agreeable (and occasionally obnoxious) tastemaker blogs began to fall in line with praise. This was slightly akin to a group of music nerds being played the track at the same time, with cries of “Oh this is really great, isn’t it?” before running off to their computers. It’s not exactly like Fear Of Men had Jack White shaking in his boots, but it made a change from the same old, same old. A song selling a band, rather than the other way round.
Fear Of Men sound unabashedly in love with 80’s indie guitar bands, and I could rattle off half a dozen names of long forgottens like The Parachute Men and The Popguns, bands that weren’t trying to change the world, just wrap you in waves of guitar and tell you what was on their mind. There’s no artifice behind the art with Fear Of Men, despite the oddly riot-girl suggestive feminist trail-blazing name, but a certain open-ness and fragility in vocalist Jess Weiss’ words that finds a hope-filled home in the chorus of their new Too Pure single “Mosaic” — “break me into pieces to feel safe/life is normal”.
With a growing list of impressive releases (and from the sounds of it, a forthcoming compilation to collect them all) this Brighton/London four-piece have got it all worked out. We asked them to give us the inside scoop on themselves and what makes Fear Of Men tick. This is what they said.
Can you tell us how the band began and how you decided on the name?
Daniel: The band began when Jess and I met and started making music together after meeting each other at an art exhibition where Jess was exhibiting some work that was accompanied by soundtracks she had made in her bedroom. We started talking about music and then we started the band. Jess decided on the name when she was reading about various weird ailments and disorders.
How would you describe the sound of your band?
Daniel: This one is always difficult to do. People have been using the word dreamy or dream pop and that’s fine by us.
What are some of the albums/artists/books/films/authors/etc, that you find a source of inspiration?
Jess: At the moment I’m re reading Literature and Evil by Bataille and I just finished Youth by JM Coetzee, who is one of my favourite authors. Youth encapsulates something great about being young and restless and creative but being hampered by your own procrastinating and excuses, so I’m trying not to be too much like the protagonist! Fassbinder’s films are beautiful, particularly his later work, the way he uses colours and composes his shots with such attention to detail is inspiring and the content of his films is really insightful of human nature. Maria Braun and Fear Eats the Soul are my favourites. Marlene Dumas and Gerhard Richter’s paintings can be really beautiful but also really disturbing, which are dual qualities I admire, and I like Goshka Macuga’s rigorous approach to making art which seems quite self contained and doesn’t hand the viewer easy answers. Also a walk on the beach always helps to clear your head for inspiration.
What made you first want to make music?
Daniel: When I was young I used to make songs up and try and convince my younger brother and sister that they were new chart songs, I was fascinated by pop music when I was a child and I still am so I’ve just kept going I suppose.
Jess: That’s really funny because my older brother used to do the same thing but in reverse- I remember when he sang me “Wonderwall” by Oasis, and claimed he’d made it up. I was 5 years old or something so I had no idea for a really long time…
How would you describe the band’s first live show?
Dan: The first live show was fun but nerve wracking of course. We emailed local DIY promoters Sex is Disgusting for shows before we even really had a full line up. We had to train a drummer and bassist up in a couple of weeks but it went well.
Can you tell us about the last song you wrote?
Jess: I generally have a few on the go at once. There’s one that’s half written that we’re really excited by. I started it when I was in Sweden on my own reading Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” book and walking around feeling lonely and taking in the city, so it’s kind of absorbed that atmosphere, and today I’ve started a new one which is feeling good. Gonna play it to Dan later.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a band so far?
Dan: Probably just keeping this thing going while we have rent to pay. We’ve always wanted to do this exactly our way, we’re quite uncompromising in how we want to do things, and that has probably made things slower. We re-recorded about three different versions of ‘Mosaic’ before it came out so we’re probably our biggest enemies, we’re probably our biggest obstacle that we have to continually overcome to actually release music!
What plans are in store for the band as far as releases/shows?
The single is out on October the 15th and we’re playing a launch show at Old Blue Last in London on the 16th and Green Door Store in Brighton on the 20th. We’re also playing a couple of shows in France with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart which we’re excited about and doing SWN festival this year.
Early next year a compilation album of our singles is going to be released in the U.S.
You’re making us a mixtape. What’s going on it?
We make a lot of mixtapes for ourselves and we like to try and make them thematic and coherent so we’d have to think about that (!) but songs by these artists tend to find their way onto them: Julie Doiron, The Chills, Daniel Johnston, Pulp, The National, Grouper, Modern Life is War, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pale Saints, Deerhunter, Lotus Plaza, Atlas Sound, Graffiti Island, Ultra Vivid Scene, Neil Young, The Smiths, U.S. Girls, R.E.M, St. Vincent, The Pixies, the Breeders, Throwing Muses, Bon Iver, A R Kane, Beach Boys…..
First time listeners, where should they start?
I think it’s probably best to start with our most recent songs (our last single “Mosaic”) and work backwards. The upcoming compilation will make things easy for people in this respect!