There are really two kinds of what I like to (conversationally) refer to as “the best kind” of pop music.
First one is just straight up syrup. Pure sugar, no shame, no excuses. Think of every and any Annie song you ever heard or Icona Pop or Charli XCX or (yes!) Katy Perry – you get the picture. The sticky tightness of it all is walking that thin line between making you nauseous and permanently high on that sweet, sweet catchiness candy. The superficiality though is done so well it is not superficial at all. It is the best kind of pop music to have a crush on. It crushes right back.
The second kind is the kind of sugar that makes the medicine go down (in an al-most delightful way). Think of your (then new) favorite song that you didn’t even realize was dark because at first, the saccharine coating was doing its job all but too well. And not just any kind of dark, pretty real damn dark. Some of those songs for me are: Ladies Man by Pulp, Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken by Camera Obscura, Sunday’s Pretty Icons by Belle & Sebastian, Fallen Snow by Au Revoir Simone, Been It by The Cardigans, Clark Gable by The Postal Service… the list goes on (and it is a good one).
These are the kind of pop songs you don’t necessarily get sick of (ever) because unlike the first category, you can’t overdose on them – that slight sense of discomfort keeps you at an arm’s length and feeling, well, a little shy around them, and so you know every time you revisit them, they will feel almost brand new. It is the best kind of pop music to emotionally invest in. It pays back in dividends.
Fear of Men make that kind of pop music.
Their barely-a-month-old debut LOOM plays undeniable pop laced with real, true, live, art-school-level-of-navel-gazing feelings. Coming from Brighton (where, full disclosure, I went to high school and relate MOST of my best pop music memories to), it is exactly the kind of music a British beach town can produce – sunny but not too sunny, carefree but still wind and water whipped, and filled to the brim with youthful anxiety that these kids are not quite yet ready to shout about, so they whisper it.
Needless to say, I/we love it, and since they’re coming to both DC & NY in the next few days, and since their phones don’t work too well in the US, we emailed them over some questions and they were kind enough to respond. Below, get to know FEAR OF MEN (just) a little better, and then: Fear of Men are playing (alongside Pains of Being Pure at Heart) RNR Hotel this Wednesday and the Bowery Ballroom this Thursday. Show up on time for them. Also, grab LOOM on Kanine Records now. BONUS: we have a PAINS interview happening tomorrow AM too.
Your name is in reference to the actual disorder, right? How’d that name happen? (btw, we think it is a great name)
Jess was researching personality disorders as part of her degree at Goldsmiths, London and came across the term ‘androphobia’.
She liked that it seemed quite mysterious and enigmatic, and is complicated by having two boys in the band. It’s kind of anti-macho, and strong and simple.
RELATED: What are you all afraid of? Biggest phobias. NOW!
None of us have any actual phobias (it seems). We’re probably most scared by people who try to impact on the way other people might try and live their life.
If you were trying to describe LOOM to someone who has never heard it, what are the 3 songs you’d tell them to listen to and why?
Green Sea is an important song for us and the album because it was a song that helped us to understand a lot about our band. We incorporated production techniques into that song that we used throughout the rest of the album such as distorting the backing vocals through recording them hot on to an 8 track. That song also defined the way we try to approach drums, which is to ensure that they are as stripped back but as interesting as possible.
Descent is also a song which incorporates elements that we use throughout the album and is probably a good song to sum up what we were doing on ‘Loom’.
Alta and Waterfall go together and I’m really proud of those tracks. Again we spent a long time on the production and I think they are both brave songs because of that. We took totally different approaches to them but for me they work really well together and set the album up nicely.
What is the one pop song you wish you had written (it is cool if all of you answer this-we can make a little playlist)
Mike – Ariel Pink – Round and Round
<p>Daniel – Don McLean – Vincent</p>
Jess – Katie Perry – Roar
Fear of Men didn’t used to have a full-time drummer? What’s that addition/collaboration been like for you all?
It was only in the early demos we didn’t have a drummer, Mike has been with us since our first tour and is a really important member of the band. He’s very open to hearing our ideas for what the drums should be doing, and at the same time has great ideas for things to do we wouldnt otherwise think of. The band has gradually got more collaborative and one of my favourite things is working on a new song together.
Would you say there’s a central theme to “Loom?” What would that be?
Self exploration, introversion, trying to understand yourself and your relation to others.
How is playing with Pains of Being Pure at Heart? How did you all find each other?
It’s quite a funny story. Our record label Kanine meant to send our music to a publicist in New York, who was called Kip but they accidentally sent it to Kip from Pains. He seemed to like it because we were asked to support them in Europe on a few shows. We had a great time with them then and we became good friends. Kip’s a funny guy so we spend most of tour laughing, it’s a real joy to be touring with them. Their live set is also brilliant, they’ve been killing it every night and it’s cool to watch a band of really good musicians and see how they put on a show. I feel like we can learn a lot from them
Tour talk. How’s that been? Craziest story from the tour so far?
Tour has been great, so much fun. We’re all in one big van with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the other band on the tour Able Body and it’s like one big family. Kip, the frontman of Pains, is the best most supportive big brother you could wish for, and did everything to ensure we could do this tour, which we’re really grateful for.
We haven’t really got any crazy stories but we’ve had the obligatory van break in, and Kip got his laptop stolen. That van was awful anyhow, the air conditioning was broken and would just empty rain water into the van, which wasn’t ideal when driving through Seattle!
What has been the best and worst thing about America thus far?
The best thing has been getting to see so much of the country – from the snow capped mountains of Montana to the deserts of Arizona. Getting to see places we’ve always dreamed about visiting like Seattle, Portland, and Washington DC, places with such incredible musical histories.
Worst thing has probably been the difficulty in avoiding junk food. UK’s service stops have improved a lot in recent years and it’s easier to find healthy food so we’ve been spoilt a bit.
You guys have been described as shoegazey and twee, as lazy and predictable as those adjectives sound these days. Do the bands that inspire you have those same qualities? What bands do you look to for musical guidance?
We don’t really think in those terms. I think people probably only describe us as twee because we have a female singer, if you listen to ‘Loom’ I don’t think there’s anything on there that would be described as ‘twee’. There are a lot of bands that we like and look to for guidance, though they aren’t necessarily bands that we sound like. Bands and artists we all agree on are Deerhunter, Neutral Milk Hotel, The National, Grouper. Those all took the time to find their own sound and now sort of exist in a world of their own, which we really respect.
Jessica and Daniel, you guys went to art school together. How much is your music a product of that environment? Does your art school background temper your music?
I think our arts backgrounds have given us an inclination to try and push things and experiment. Jess also sometimes likes to frame her lyrics within theories of art and philosophy, although her lyrics have become more personal as the band has gone on.
And ART SCHOOL BAND is a legitimate band category, the godfathers being Pulp probably. What are some of your favorite ART SCHOOL band songs out there?
Jess loves Pulp, they are probably one of her favourite bands. Art school has played an important role in UK music, name an influential bands and they’ll more than likely have a member who went to art school.
And finally, share some tour instagrams – a mini album of sorts and finally – a shout out – to anyone, anywhere...
Not sure how to link to individual Instagram shots but our Instagram is Instagram.com/fearofmen feel free to take anything from there.
reminder: Fear of Men are playing (alongside Pains of Being Pure at Heart) RNR Hotel this Wednesday and the Bowery Ballroom this Thursday. Show up on time for them. Also, grab LOOM on Kanine Records now. BONUS: we have a PAINS interview happening tomorrow AM too.