In 2014, years on from their unexpected and tragic hiatus and with an album a month from release, Canadian duo Death From Above 1979 were doing the usual run of press in the lead up. I remember the content of one article vividly, reading it over breakfast in a poncey café in Chorlton, because drummer Sebastien Grainger got the hump after spying an arsey comment on the interviewer’s question sheet.
I found myself in a similar situation recently, sat down with a band at ArcTanGent Festival and staring down at my question sheet. It was then that I discovered that, days before when scribbling notes down prior to packing for the festival, I’d considered the four blokes in front of me – collectively known as FALLS – as a cuddlier version of the maniacal HECK.
“It’s a bit different. What they do and what we do…” Says bassist Ben Griffiths. “It’s a different world really.”
“We play songs and they don’t.” Laughs guitarist Martin Gallagher, as the others join in, though quick to assure me that it is in fact a gag.
“We said that to Jonny, it’s ok. Just don’t print that.” Adds Ben with a laugh. “No, it’s different. We’ve always been conscious that it looks a bit like HECK, but what they do is fuelled by aggression and what we do is – we just wanna be a little bit closer to the crowd.”
“We are the shenanigans to their warfare.” Adds guitarist Phil Kelsall, a quote machine as I would soon discover. “If they are war in the middle east, we are a stolen Twix from the co-op.”
“We try to be sexy and they’re fucking angry.” Says Martin.
“But they’re the loveliest guys in the world.” Phil assures me.
Shenanigans and attempts to be sexy versus anger and warfare would be a good way to describe the difference between the two. Physical fitness also plays a factor. I remember watching HECK at 2000trees Festival this year and feeling out of breath just watching guitarist Jonny Hall leg it past me every five minutes without breaking a sweat. Built like a butcher’s dog, that lad. Though as FALLS prove, it’s not just the athletic types that dabble in crowd antics.
“Bands have always gone into the crowd you know, they always have.” Comments Ben, with Phil adding “It’s a different tone – it’s cuddlier. So we’re not as athletic as them…”
“Jesus Christ! I’m so out of shape…” Laughs Ben. “I break out into a cold sweat when I’ve got to jump off a stage. Also, I’m terrified of heights.”
Unsurprisingly, in their history as a band, FALLS have come a cropper fairly regularly. Martin seems to hold the record, previously letting us know of his broken foot, torn sciatic nerve and thrice dislocated collarbone. Then there’s Phil and his eight broken fingers from slapping cymbals with his hands (“All my fingers snapped. They’re still fucked.” – Phil), as well as his broken tooth from a video shoot and a horrifying bout of getting his long hair stuck in the knot of his guitar. Drummer Steff Jones and Ben are a touch more reserved however.
“I don’t think I’ve injured myself ever. I’ve had colds…” Comments Ben.
“I’m protected. The only way I can hurt myself is to fall off my stool.” Adds Steff.
“I always get middle-aged women twisting my nipples.” Says Ben, upping the ante, going on further to add a number of arse gropes during their set at ArcTanGent.
“What you and your mother do on a Sunday…“ Laughs Phil.
“A while ago, we played a show in Leeds.” Martin continues, on the topic of horrific events in his life. “I stood on a table for the last song and as I tried to get off, the table slipped and I was fucking catapulted into the air and my back hit the side of the table. I thought I was paralysed. I carried on singing, which sounded like pain…”
“We were all worried then… We were like ‘Do we just keep playing? Is he dead?” Adds Steff, slight concern still in his voice.
“The main difference is, Matt from Heck wouldn’t have slipped.” Smiles Phil, as Martin agrees. “He’s agile enough to have done a front flip and landed on his feet while playing that riff.”
“We don’t climb stuff, we just kind of… We like to play out.” Sums up Ben. “Our Mums have let us play out.”
“Basically, a FALLS gig is where all of our mates have come to our Mum’s house, knocked on the door and said ‘Can FALLS play out?’ and then we go on the floor with them. We go and have a play out.” Adds Martin, with Ben quick to add. “Gotta get in before it’s dark though…”
“Gotta be in before the theme tune to Corrie.” Grins Phil.
At this year’s ArcTanGent, a fair few punters had a bit of a dilemma on their hands. There were a number of clashes across the weekend and FALLS were no different, going head to head with Japanese experimental, instrumental math-rockers toe. Whilst one band delicately worked their way through intricate, math-y delights on the main stage, four blokes with their tops off were in amongst the crowd across the other side of the festival, mostly tangled in the microphone cord of Martin. Another question scribbled down on my sheet was to find out if the quartet were anxious about going up against toe, though before I can just about finish the question, I’m abruptly countered by Martin. “I don’t know who the fuck they are, so no.”
The others fall about laughing as Martin adds. “Couldn’t give a fuck.”
“You’ve gotta clash with someone haven’t ya.” Comment Steff, with Martin quick to add. “Put us up against fucking toe.”
“That was on our rider. We’d only play on the condition we got eighteen beers and to play up against toe.” Laughs Phil.
As drummer Steff rightly points out, with any festival it’s likely that someone’s going to end up disappointed with a bit of a scheduling nightmare. The four discuss another issue, with guitar nerds across the festival having to decide between the final Cleft performance or Californian eight-guitar-stringed trio Animals As Leaders. With that pair, the style of music itself is the crux of the matter, with both being relatively similar. “I think it was decent scheduling, ‘cus we’re totally different to toe.” Comments Ben. “I think if you’re into that kind of thing, toe’s your band.”
“It’s an actual choice – you’ll be into one or the other.” Adds Phil.
“…We had a lot of people come and say ‘We went to see toe. We wanted to party, so we came to you’ I think that was the choice.” Says Martin. “The choice was: You get to see people actually playing guitars – or us.”
“You can go and see some music or ‘other’. A surprising amount of people fancied ‘other’.” Smiles Phil.
“They’ll never know about us. We just won’t come on their radar.” Laughs Ben, as Phil adds. “This is a rivalry they have no idea exists.”
Their set itself was a treat to behold, with the emphasis certainly being on partying. It’s hard not to get in the spirt of things when three topless, hairy blokes are going sick on their instruments in the middle of a crowd. Bodies went flying throughout its duration, with Martin himself even assisting with helping someone up to crowd surf during one of their songs.
“It was a bit of a mad one.” Comments Ben. “It was really, really great. The vibe and the atmosphere is always brilliant.”
“It’s my first time here, so everybody was dead nice.” Says Martin. “Leading up to us playing, it was really fucking cool. To be honest, this was the first gig I was nervous for for a long time. Then I kinda walked out and – there’s people… Fucking cool! Then more people came along. Can’t really answer more than that, we had a full tent.”
The full tent can be attributed in part to their partnership with Venn Records and the release of the ‘ONE HUNDRED PERCENT STRONG’ EP earlier this year. The four-track banger, loaded with all manner of Sasscore hits, saw the quartet work with a real heavyweight of the UK Hardcore scene.
“It’s mad that a guy from a band who we fucking love – Lags from Gallows – wanted to put out our record.” Comments Ben. “That’s just… It was a bit barmy to me. Like, I’ve seen the man at Leeds Festival when I was like 20.”
“My head ended up inside his cab.” Adds Martin, very nonchalantly, as the others laugh. “He threw it on the crowd at Leeds, my head was in it and then the crowd who were walking toward the main stage were like ‘Let’s set it on fire!’ and I was like ‘NO! I’m in here! NO!’ But yeah, Gallows are one of my favourite bands and that was a fuckin’ cool deal, man.”
Their first foray into the vinyl club came last year, with the Too Pure Singles Club getting involved and putting out an exclusive 7” of the giant ‘MASTIFF’ single. On the working relationship between FALLS and Too Pure, it was again a dream come true for the band, following in the footsteps of the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses and DZ Deathrays. “When they said ‘We wanna put out a song of yours on a pink 7 inch’ I was like ‘absa-bloody-lutely, of course you can.’” Comments Ben.
“Paul is one of the nicest guys.” Adds Martin of Too Pure head honcho Paul Riddlesworth. “It’s nice, as we’re getting around, that we’re meeting really cool people.”
“The ratio of darlings to arseholes is – We meet very few arseholes and a lot of darlings… I think darlings to arseholes are on at quarter to 8 on PX3.” Says Phil with a laugh.
“It’s surprising, ‘cus you think you’re gonna be surrounded by fucking dicks. Nah, dead cool.” Comments Martin.
“We have so many ‘No Men’ as well, we’ve no Yes Men.” Laughs Phil. “ It sounds wanky, but we’ve got pretty decent management now. I still haven’t met one ‘Yes Man’”
“But yeah, vinyl is cool – being on a vinyl.” Sums up Martin with another laugh.
“Vinyl is cool –there’s your soundbyte.” Smiles Ben.
Martin confides that he’s not listened to any of their output on vinyl – or any vinyl for that matter (“Could be anything on that record” – Ben) – but was more than happy to go along for the ride, getting the work mastered at the infamous Abbey Road Studios (where they now get the majority of their mastering done.) A major plus point of the Too Pure Singles Club involves mastering man to the stars Christian Wright (“The Ed Sheeran guy” – Martin) working on your stuff, with FALLS quick to jokingly namedrop his recent output involving the Suicide Squad soundtrack and, most importantly, Kylie Minogue’s Greatest Hits.
“When you see Christian Wright fucking do his shit, it’s amazing.” Begins Martin as the others nod in agreement, though suddenly add they haven’t the foggiest idea of what mastering actually is.
“I know that they press a button and then there’s money.” Laughs Phil. “Money exchanges hands, some buttons are pressed, then it sounds like… a bit louder. That’s mastering.”
At the time of writing, FALLS have just announced yet another batch of new songs, this time under the watch of Tom Peters, he of Alpha Male Tea Party fame. ‘Cream’, their brand new EP, was recorded at The Grand Studio in Clitheroe and is set for release this December through their own label Naughty Strawberry, with a comicbook included for the listener’s reading pleasure. Back in the press tent (shed) at ArcTanGent, the fact was still under wraps, with details of its release on the hush-hush.
(“Do you want my media answer? We are entering discussions. There you go. There’s your media answer. ‘Entering Discussions’ – New record from FALLS.” – Ben.)
Though they were able to let me know exactly what level of weird people can expect from the new EP.
“It’s a little bit longer, it’s a little bit weirder, it’s a little bit poppier, it’s a little bit more us.” Confirms Ben.
“Management said ‘Push the boat’ so we did. I say we – Phil did, when he wrote some riffs. We pushed the boat collectively.” Comments Martin, with Phil agreeing on not only pushing the boat but its tone.
“It’s a strange record.” He says. “It’s the most ‘us’ on all extremes. It’s heavier than we’ve ever been, it’s poppier than we’ve ever been.”
“All bands say ‘Our new record – it’s heavy, it’s bluesy’ Yeah, fuck off. It is just us – but better. It’s just better than the other stuff we’ve done, ‘cus that’s what it should be.” Adds Ben. “Heaviest we’ve ever been and poppiest we’ve ever been at the same time. It’s just a good progress. ‘100% Strong’ was good, but this is fucking miles better.”
Cream is available 2 December 2016 through Naughty Strawberry. Pre-order the new EP here!