Australia’s Gold Fields are in for quite a year. After being named one of 2013’s bands to watch by MTV alongside up-and-coming heavyweights like Macklemore, the band is ready to take their insanely catchy blend of synthpop and indie rock to the international masses. They’ve already toured the states with the likes of St. Lucia and Diamond Rings, and are gearing up for another US jaunt this February. We caught up with frontman Mark Fuller to chat about the triple recording of the band’s upcoming album Black Sun, their remix process, and the effect of their massive burgeoning buzz.
OS: You guys just wrapped up a US tour with St. Lucia a little while ago. What was that like?
Mark Fuller: It was awesome. We were already fans of St. Lucia before we heard we were doing the tour and how it actually happened was that they asked us to support them. It was a pretty short tour, I think it only was six or eight shows, but getting to watch them every night was awesome. And when you tour with great bands like that you learn a lot, especially from their live shows; theirs is very tight, and they’re almost perfect live. Even though they’re a young band like us, they’ve got their live thing down pat. Touring with a band like that lets you learn a lot, but at the same time it’s fun because we love their music. The shows themselves were in front of crowds that reminded us of crowds that we play in front of back home, and they were probably bigger. The show in New York was amazing. It was to a packed ballroom; Bowery Ballroom maybe? It was just packed and awesome. One of our favorite shows.
OS: You’ve been named a band to watch in 2013 by multiple big sources: MTV, MySpace, and more. What’s your relationship like with that buzz? Do you try to ignore it? Embrace it?
MF: We don’t really feel it at all. I know that reading stuff like that “ like MTV coming out and calling us a band to watch for the year “ is really weird for us, because MTV to us is like this massive American thing. It seems almost like it’s not real for something like that to happen, for them to talk about our band. Obviously we’re thankful that they’ve done that, and we feel very lucky that they’ve come across us and are thankful they’ve included us. At the same time, anything like that isn’t going to change what we’re doing. Since we’ve started, we’ve always tried to do what’s best for us and make sure we’re having fun and get other people to enjoy it as well. Any sort of things like that “ the buzz “ you have to take it in your stride, but it doesn’t change anything really. We’re still doing exactly what we were going to do all along.
If you have a life outside of the Internet, then there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. In that case, consider yourself introduced.
Del Rey, the handle of one Lizzy Grant, has become a figure of infamy within the online music world with unprecedented speed. Between the highly stylized videos, the songs about video games, Diet Mountain Dew and shooting her boyfriend in the head, the accusations of her image being a well managed concoction, the hipster baiting and”most importantly” those lips, it’s hard not to have an opinion about her.
A week ago today you could find me smiling ear-to-ear at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. Friendly Fires, one of my all-time favorite dance bands, played a solid sold-out show. My seventh time seeing the energetic trio, this venue proves particularly special to me. Hands down best date I’ve ever been on took place here nearly two years ago. And whom had we come to see? None other than the ever-catchy Friendly Fires. And White Lies, another UK-hailing favorite. Sigh. It was quite a night.
This time, I decided to fly solo, taking in the animated Saint Albans-based threesome all by my lonesome. I must say, though, that their performance style has somewhat shifted; while lead singer Ed Macfarlane still delivers the same sexed-up, hip-thrusting dance moves we’ve not seen since Elvis’ pelvis, which is oddly comforting, their delivery has taken a turn. In part I think the BB sound system was a bit botched, but the instrumentals were especially augmented. You know when you expect something to resemble your record, only live? Well, this was different. More so than the expected differentiation. I welcome change, and disappointed the audience was not (there were cheers, clapping and whistles aplenty), but it caught me off-guard. It wasn’t simply the new tracks that threw me, but the familiar tunes too. Regardless, I adapted.
Joining Macfarlane and his partners-in-crime Jack Savidge (percussion) and Edd Gibson (guitar) on stage were a second drummer, a saxophonist and a third on his horn. While they’ve been accompanied by additional backup band members before, still something’s tweaked. Live, they’re all around more, well, big band. Jazz. R&B. Our main man seemed to scat at times too. (Keep an ear out for Running Away, at least live.) As per usual, Macfarlane intermittently rocked two mics and, frequently, as is his signature maneuver, clunked himself on the skull with one. And, to be sure, there was no lack of cowbell or maracas adding texture to the set.
This show was the first time I’d had the opportunity to hear several songs from their forthcoming album Pala. I’d heard their single Kiss of Life live the last time they were in town, but, apart from that, their sophomore record remained a mystery. Of their thirteen-strong setlist, only five were classics (On Board, “Skeleton Boy, Jump in the Pool, Paris and Lovesick). On Board brought the club beat and JITP made the floor shake so much I thought we’d all fall through. Paris was essentially shouted in unison by the crowd.
FF went on a tad after 10:00 with a newbie entitled Blue Cassette and closed (a tad after 11:00) with Kiss of Life, which I’m counting as new too. During the latter, Macfarlane frequently bark-sneezed the word life and, after the song had essentially ended, he continued to shake that thang. Surprised? Of the new material, Show Me Lights proved extremely ’90s-esque R&B. Even the lyrics alluded to this similar aesthetic; Late night dri-vin’, Macfarlane crooned, showcasing his soaring falsetto whilst reinforcing the fact that indeed white men can dance, too. Hurting was another in this same vein. There were several fist formations, yanked down emo-female style. (P.S. Based on firsthand research, the next disc is poised to be the bomb for shower sing-a-long sessions.)
The direction Friendly Fires have taken lyrically is especially love- (and love lost-) centric, with titles like True Love and Pull Me Back to Earth, the latter a new favorite that maintains this same romantic strain. It’s all legit, I’ve just got to acclimate to the new tune of Friendly Fires. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’ve spun a 180, but they’re taking an audible risk a bit. Given how hard the world fell for their eponymous debut, I applaud them for challenging themselves and their fans. I personally cannot wait to hear Pala through headphones.
An acknowledged departure from my memories, Friendly Fires nevertheless remain the same passionate, sweaty, dance-y dream team I came to know and love so long ago. Macfarlane’s lost the slippers (which he used to don onstage, presumably to help him better bust a move), but cutie’s still a smokin’ sex symbol in the eyes of women and men, his gyrating body and facial contortions bypassing PG-13 and approaching R. At least some things can be counted on to stand the test of time.
Looking forward to their return to New York this spring when they’ll play Webster Hall in May and also be making cameos in several other cities across the country. Get your tickets stat, if they’re not all gone already…
Photo credit: Vincent Cornelli, PrefixMag.com.