As a third wave of artist announcements has rolled in, and little more than a month separates us from the start of Sŵn Festival, the multi-venue musical event to take place in Cardiff on the weekend of the 18th to 20th October is shaping up to be one to remember. Our previous entries in the series of interviews that have shed some light on some of the acts taking part in this year’s edition have also highlighted what is possibly one of the most interesting features of Sŵn – that is, the great variety of different sounds and genres the festival encompasses. From electronic music to Welsh-language hip hop, from old-style blues to soft indie rock, from local punk outfits to international singers-songwriters, there is likely to be something to satisfy every taste. And then there are those bands that have demonstrated an ability to think completely out of the box, making their own strongly individual sound and challenging their audience to find a definition for it.
There is no doubt that FEET are one such band. Their past singles have shown an impressive variety of different influences and explored a number of wildly diverse avenues, from britpop to punk to psychedelia. It is an unlikely mix and a heady one, one that takes a certain amount of courage to attempt and that ends up working remarkably well both in its live and studio versions. FEET certainly have their own sound, and there is a feeling that they are constantly working at building it up in new and often unexpected way.
It is a momentous time for the alternative Coventry outfit – their debut album, What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham, is slated to be released on October 4th, just in time for listeners old and new to familiarise themselves with its quirky, ambitious contents before seeing their live set at Sŵn. The festival will also mark the first date of a UK tour that will continue through the months of October and November, touching upon – among others – London, Brighton, Manchester, and Leeds, with a single Irish date in Dublin. With all this in mind, the band is certainly surrounded by the buzz of expectations at the moment, and their performance as Sŵn is likely to be of the ‘not to miss’ variety. I talked to the band about their hopes for the future, their upcoming debut on the Welsh live scene, and all things album and tour-related. As it was to be expected, the conversation turned out just as quirky as the music.
Sŵn Festival is a big event for the Cardiff scene. What are the things about playing at the festival that you’re looking forwards to the most?
FEET: “It always seems to be the case with most festivals that we miss all of the acts we say we want to see. So, with that in mind, we don’t want to see Orielles, Do Nothing, Porridge Radio, Black Country New Road and Dry Cleaning.”
Are you familiar with the Welsh music scene in general, or do you have any experiences with it or thoughts about it?
“Sŵn festival is taking our Welsh gig virginity. Harry’s dad is a big fan of Stereophonics and used to go drinking with the singer famously called Kelly Jones. Boy Azooga are cool. Last year we were at the same festival, Port Eliot festival down Cornwall way, when we saw them in the queue with Robert Webb from Peep Show. Instead of being overwhelmed and starstruck, they admirably balls’d up and shook lovely Robert’s warm b list hands. Spent the rest of the fest looking for his hands and so missed their set (sorry).”
Your set at Sŵn also marks the start of a big UK tour in the Autumn. Where else are you playing, and what can we expect from the rest of the tour?
“There’s a fine line between chaotic unprofessionalism and a finely curated artistic expression. We sit below the grey area between the two, celebrating a show when we all manage to play in time.”
The tour is coming on the heels of the release of your first album. Can you give us a sneak peek into the record – what mood does it capture, what vibe will audiences get from it?
“We wore suits for the first half of the album and sports wear for the second half. If you listen closely to the end of ‘Petty Thieving’ you can hear very faintly, panned to the left, Callum loosening his crocodile leather belt.”
What is your process in writing music and bringing it to the stage, and how has that changed when working in the studio? How was the experience of working on the album, in general?
“We didn’t have a fully written album three days before we were going into the studio. We managed to rattle out the title track of the album under immense brow-sweat-bringing. Like homework, all material is scrubbed together the day before hand in.”
Are there any particular influences or inspirations that worked their way into the album?
“The main influence that memory recalls is for the title track; initially named ‘Hot Dog,’ ‘What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham’ is two parts direct Frank Zappa influence, two parts Back To The Future doo’wop (when in doubt). Oh, and one part the biggest pisstake to make it on to an actual album since Robbie’s opus ‘Dickhead’.”
Your sound has being described as going beyond Britpop while incorporating a more visceral rock feel. Do you see yourselves in that description? How would you describe the kind of sound you’re going for?
“With little attention span and influences broad and impulsive, we’re fully prepared for the problems we’ll face releasing an album with no central sound (projected to chart at 59 on a good day). But we’ll stop beating round the bush… even though Callum once reckoned that we coined ‘Modern Psychedelia’, there’s an obnoxious blend of ’70s rock, dance, not so modern psychedelia, and of course trap.”
Your music also comes across very energetic and urgent when played live. Can you tell me something about the connection with the audience during gigs, and the way that audiences have been responding to your sound?
“In embarrassing ourselves on stage we hope the crowd feels un-awkward enough to shake off the signature ‘London stationary dance’. It’s proved to work the further away from the south we venture.”
What are your views about the independent music scene right now? Do you feel there really is some kind of guitar band renaissance going on, and what’s your perception of how the scene has been changing?
“It’s definitely changing, but it’s not like small bands are gonna dominate the charts or sell millions of records possibly ever again. It’s important to remain hopeful though, because sooner or later people will surely get bored of current generic pop bollocks. It’s not all bad, mind you.”
What’s your favourite festival memory, or a moment from a festival that stands out for you? It can be good, bad, or just weird.
“We filled out a 200 person tent at Boardmasters once, which went a little to Oli’s head. It resulted in hours of pissed-up nonsense in which he proclaimed FEET to many as the ‘sound of the 2010s,’ brandishing a then unreleased MP3 of ‘English Weather’. After the Cornwall climate had exhausted his iPhone speaker’s capability, he fell asleep and glazed the communal Argos airbed with his lukewarm piss.”
Beyond the album and tour, what do you think is the direction you’ll be going next as a band?
“After the incredible success the debut album is undoubtedly going to achieve, think of the next record in the same unlimited budgetary restraints as that of Fleetwood Mac. If album two isn’t recorded from a purpose-built studio suspended from the Shard, then we’ll be disappointed. Any aspiring architects see our management for details.”
Sŵn Festival will be held at various venues in Cardiff from 18/10/19 to 20/10/19. Find details and buy tickets on the Sŵn Festival website.
Photo Credit: Dave Willis