London four-piece Fiction make sharp-cornered and unfussy indie that pulls at the hem of the genre's best: Talking Heads, Postcard Records, and the erudite wordplay of early Pulp. Their debut album 'The Big Other' is released on March 4 on Moshi Moshi, with 11 noodling tracks that reveal their layers as you dig deeper. New song 'The Apple', for instance, is a tribute to WW2 code-cracker Alan Turing, who was put on trial for being gay and may have committed suicide by a cyanide-laced apple.
When Dazed last spoke to the band in 2011, they talked of their music as "a fragile blend of awkwardness and release". Now, it's written all over their album artwork, which depicts a delicate mise-en-scene where objects hang in the stillness before - perhaps - a Mousetrap-like collapse. Here, we stream the band's debut album in full, exclusively on Dazed Digital.
Dazed Digital: What's the story behind your amazing album artwork?
Fiction: We’ve always admired album covers that manage to distil the musical contents without the need for titles underneath to remind you who it’s by; Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis are obvious influences. The Big Other artwork is essentially a strange combination of familiar colourful objects in a dark room, which could well be a description of the music it contains. We were thinking in particular about the balancing act that playing live music can be – how there’s often a fine line between things sounding amazing and falling apart.
We borrowed a lot from Fischli and Weiss’ incredible video ‘The Way Things Go’, and their Equilibres series, where precarious combinations of objects are photographed in tense state of near collapse. On our cover there’s a potential chain of events that will be set off by the parrot landing on the spray-can nozzle and igniting the spray over the candle. The rest, as you can imagine, will be pretty messy, milk-in-the-face and all.
DD: The video for 'Museum' is very good and weird. But if you were going to open up a museum, what would be your first exhibition?
Fiction: The song itself imagines everyday objects from now in a museum of the future, with the opportunities for misunderstanding and misappropriation which that entails. Our culture has archive fever – hence the row of camera phones at every gig – and Daniel Swan did an excellent job of drawing this out from the music. Perhaps our museum could be the 21st century itself, and in its 200th year there’ll be a special show on the subject of memory, at which you can queue to take off your headset and have your brain stimulated in a way that gives you an insight into what it must have felt like to remember something yourself.
DD: I've read you described as "outsider indie". What does that mean to you, if anything?
Fiction: If ‘outsider art’ acknowledges the charm of untrained, naïve paintings by children or those in mental asylums, then we’ll take ‘outsider indie’ as a compliment of sorts. Even so, we don’t exactly operate on the outside of the music industry (what with our album coming out on a record label and all). Right now we’re probably on a wispy outer layer, but whatever happens, we certainly feel it’s important to maintain a certain distance from the ‘inside’ when writing.
DD: Your band are impossible to Google. Didn't you think about that beforehand?
Fiction: We were looking for a single-word name and Fiction seemed to fit the bill. Maybe we’d been listening to too much of The Cure. Over time it has become part of the band’s subconscious and it seems more relevant to us now than it did then. In hindsight it was probably not the wisest decision in terms of PR, but it’s been nice of Waterstones to dedicate so much of their shelf-space to us.
DD: You've been playing as Fiction since 2009. Why has your album taken so long to come out?
Fiction: As Fiction, we’ve been playing for around 4 years, but much longer if you count our previous incarnations. Along with a few changes to our line up, we’ve come up against the familiar delays that most bands face when trying to put out a record, but we’ve learnt our lessons and think we can do everything much more efficiently next time. We never felt there was a particular rush anyway. We’re already quite deep into writing our second record, which we’re all really excited about.
DD: What's your favourite work of fiction?
Fiction: Mike and Nick: anything by Milan Kundera
Dave: John Steinbeck - Cannery Row
James: The Master and Margarita
Jacob: Oliver Twist
DD: Apart from music stuff, what are you looking forward to in Spring?
Fiction: Mainly some warmer weather coming along to banish the S.A.D., but our cramped rehearsal studio could definitely do with a spring clean. Hopefully we'll be too busy touring to have time to be concerned with that.
Follow Owen Myers on Twitter here @owen_myers