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Friendly Fires: Hawaiian Air Live at LightBox

We caught up with two thirds of the band to find out about their latest album, Pala, and why they think that lyrically it's way better than the last one

It’s hard to believe that Friendly Fires have only released one album. The St. Alban’s trio went viral in 2007 with their single ‘Paris’, before the subsequent self-titled debut was released. Extensive touring and heavy schedules have meant that it has taken three years for the follow up – Pala – to be produced. Developed in stark contrast to their eponymous debut, the album, which has been produced by Paul Epworth, brings any extrovert elements that Friendly Fires have shown in the past right to the fore – mixing 80s pop to a tropical beat. We caught up with singer Ed Macfarlane and guitarist Edd Gibson to find out more.

Dazed Digital: How is this album different to the first?
Edd Gibson: We definitely approached the writing from different perspectives - we’d never tried writing based on samples before. It was chopping up whole tracks so you’d get the sound of the entire band but just a snapshot. Then write a new line on top of that. It’s a way we’d never approached up until now.
Ed Macfarlane: There’s something really joyous sampling an idea that you may have written years ago and chopping a specific guitar line or a snippet of music and then putting it with something new that you’ve written. The magic of how the notes might work really well together – that you may not have thought of if you had a piano in front of you. It’s pure serendipity.

DD: Where did that idea come from?
Ed Macfarlane:
I listen to a lot of Hip Hop - stuff like Pete Rock, J Dilla – it’s an aspect that we’ve really wanted to incorporate into the new record. With other stuff we’ve ran it through old tape machines: Nagra IV-SJ and some field recording - using the saturation that grainy tape creates. Every track has its own production style.
Edd Gibson: We’re quite greedy at consuming music. We cast the net wide and incorporate as much as possible into what we do. 

DD: Is that a change from the last album or do you just feel a lot freer now?
Edd Gibson: It’s something we grew into during the first album but never really had the skills, the know-how or the equipment to do it with. So the first album was quite a learning curve.

DD: What do you think to the premise that the internet is now the primary musical influence in a musician’s life?
Ed Macfarlane: Yeah, I’d agree. The end drum riff of ‘Jump in the Pool’ is a background percussion sample from a live recording taken a samba performance so I think that’s a direct example of it. Especially growing up in a town like St. Albans where there isn’t so much of a scene around you.

DD: Going back to your first release, did you see it getting so big? How does that compare to now?
Ed Macfarlane:
I remember when we brought out the first record and just thinking that I’d be happy if XL don’t drop us. Then we went gold and I was over the moon, and then double gold and just thinking it was crazy. Now my attitudes have completely changed – we’ve written an album that I think is way better than the last one.

DD: Any Pressure?
Edd Gibson: There is an element of pressure about it but, because we’re so proud of it, we’re not so bothered if it’s not met with huge applause. I personally love it.

DD: Have your experiences affected your writing?
Ed Macfarlane: I’m never affected by amazing, beautiful places that I travel to because when you’re there you’re too focused on the moment to pull out a notepad and start jotting stuff onto it.
Edd Gibson: That can be really frustrating. Like when you’re at a gig and the whole crowd have their phones out recording it. Just enjoy it!
Ed Macfarlane: You should remember things in your own way. I like the idea of it being warped and hazy and exaggerated. Not necessarily reality.

Photo by Sastoshi Minakawa