I first came across FES through their live performance of ‘Tongue Tied’ on The Noise Cabin YouTube channel and immediately knew that they were a band I needed to follow. Tongue Tied integrates slick tempo changes, melodic grooving bass and an undeniably catchy vocal resulting in an awesome math-pop tune reminiscent of Tubelord and early Biffy Clyro. I was sold.
One initial note to make is that, at the time, they were called ‘Flat Earth Society’, but have recently changed their name to ‘FES’ due to them receiving attention from people who actually believe the world is flat. Yeah, that’s a thing apparently. One prime example of this being a comment on the aforementioned Tongue Tied video:
“Thumbs up for the name alone, but do they believe? Great track guys, added to my 2016 Flat Earth music playlist“.
Yes, ‘2016 Flat Earth Music playlist’. No words. Intrigued by what flat earth ‘music’ sounded like, I had a look at the commenter’s playlist. Turns out the sound of flat earth music is an old man parodying, in a tone-deaf voice, Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, or ‘Flat Earth Prison Blues’, as his version is called, singing about how NASA espouse ‘pseudo-science’. Irony’s still alive and kicking, people!
Fortunately for us, their name change, nor the attention they garnered from flat earth-ers, has diminished their ability to write awesome songs. The EP opens with ‘Sarah Michelle Gellar’ – an ode to Buffy perhaps? Drummer Tom dons a Buffy t-shirt in some of their promo shots so the band are clearly fans of the show – opens with a brief guitar intro before the drums and bass kick in, driving the track forward as “woahs” emerge from the background. This big opening segues into the verse in which Pollyanna’s vocals sync up neatly with her guitar parts. At the 1.35 mark, the band’s math-rock influences are first displayed as a syncopated instrumental break brings us away from the verse. This isn’t something they indulge in for long however. No sooner has this part begun, they are off again, as Pollyanna’s high-register vocals shoot the song forward and the instrumentation picks up the momentum of the song. The driving intro is then reprised with greater force this time before the band turns to a triplet-feel to provide a lilting outro for the song.
This is something I love about the band: they aren’t afraid to ditch the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure in favour for something less standard, more interesting and dynamic. This doesn’t provide us with the usual resolution we experience in standard pop songs but instead gives the feeling of being taken somewhere else: we are away from where we have started, moved on to another place and left in great anticipation for the next song to propel us along again.
The second track ‘Talk It Out’, doesn’t disappoint this anticipation either. It enters with a punch, the tight drums and bass pushing the song forward alongside bright guitar chords. Throughout this track – and indeed the EP – bassist Matt West’s playing is really melodic, providing a lot of interest and energy where indie-style bass playing can often be quite bland. This is in no doubt thanks to his love of reggae: a style in which the bass is often the most prominent melodic instrument. In fact, the band have stated that they began life as a reggae band! Once again, on this track the trio display their virtuosity on their instruments with some of the math-inspired sections reminding me of Delta Sleep’s ‘Twin Galaxies’ album.
‘Go Easy’ is the third of four tracks on this EP and it’s got this upbeat, almost frantic, Johnny Foreigner-esque feel as the band jump from section to section propelling the song forward. This one’s definitely one to rock out to. EP closer ‘Flesh Out’ brings back use of those slick tempo changes that I really loved on Tongue Tied as well as some big-riff moments. When the song breaks towards the end of the track, Pollyanna’s guitar lines are reminiscent of Colour’s guitar work. Of course, as with the rest of the EP, they take cues from other great bands without ever sounding like they are wannabes of these great bands: they are a great band in and of themselves and have carved out a killer math-pop sound of their own. Paired with Will Cook’s production, which brings to life the bright and glossy aspects of FES’ sound without compromising any of their bite or drive, this EP is sure to be welcomed by fans of the math-rock bands mentioned, as well as wider indie and alternative audiences.
‘You Do You’ is out on 22rd March but you can exclusively stream it through Birthday Cake For Breakfast over here! It can be pre-ordered digitally on their Bandcamp or you can also purchase a physical CD which comes with a bonus track – a live version of Tongue Tied, which isn’t on the EP. If you’re a Cambridge local then head down to their EP release show on March 25th at The Corner House alongside a host of killer bands: Exploder Than You, Bearded Youth Quest and Goldblume.