Friendly Fires burst onto the dance-pop circuit last year with the infectiously uppity, drum-heavy track “Jump In The Pool.” With a musical catalogue reaching back to angst-y adolescent days in a hardcore outfit, the British trio has now evolved into one of the best bands to emerge from the new-rave, electro-rock dribble of the past few years. Lead guitarist Edd Gibson spoke with The A.V. Club about musical ADD, shitty band names, and breaking into swimming pools.
The A.V. Club: You started playing together as teenagers. What was your sound like back then?
Edd Gibson: When we were 13 or 14 I don’t think we knew what we were doing. We were playing a lot of hardcore punk songs and it was good fun. It wasn’t so technical though. It was really just a way to hang out with each other more. We grew up in quite a sleepy town and there were only so many things you could do.
AVC: What name were you playing under before Friendly Fires?
EG: Oh, it was a really shit name! We were called First Day Back. [Laughs.] But Radiohead was first called On A Friday, and that’s a really shit name as well. So at least we’re in good company.
AVC: What are your musical tastes like now?
EG: There’s still loads of stuff that we all love, but we each have our own tangents that we like to listen to as well. We all really like Gang Gang Dance at the moment. There’s a track on [Saint Dymphna] called “Vacuum,” which is fucking superb. Also, Wild Beasts. We played with them at the end of last year in France and it was a surprising, really different-sounding band.
AVC: What do you strive for in your music?
EG: We like to keep it as pop as possible. Just keep it trim, stick to the hooks, and get beats stuck in everyone’s head. It’s a lot harder to write this kind of music than before when we were trying to write more meandering post-rock. You only have tiny bits of time to get your point across, to make sure people aren’t getting bored of a particular hook or something. But it’s about building a catchy melody and then backing it with more emotive swirls. We like a song to be really compact—we all have really short attention spans when it comes to writing our own music.
AVC: Are there any acts you modeled yourselves on?
EG: I remember I once saw !!! play and they put on the most amazing show I’d ever seen. They were all there up onstage. I think that’s what we’d like to do if we had money enough to hire more help. We had a saxophonist and a trumpet player and we’d really love to do more of that. When we wrote “Jump In The Pool,” we were watching footage of all these Peruvian dancers shaking their feathers with all these drums. We found it very inspiring and decided to capture a bit of that.
AVC: What’s it like doing all these music videos after having only performed live?
EG: It’s really unnatural, I think. We’re not actors in any way. The most recent video we did for “Skeleton Boy” was the easiest because we were all just playing our instruments and doing what we do. Otherwise, it’s tough because it doesn’t really feel right—there’s a lot of awkwardness to it. We try to engage with the directors as much as we can before going into it and we’ve been pretty lucky with the ideas that have come forward. I mean, we don’t need any more bands with a video of them playing in a warehouse. I’d rather take my own life.