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Fickle Friends Make Pop Music That Can ‘Compete With the Katy Perrys of the World': Interview

Fickle Friends
Courtesy of Nick Walker

Rest assured: Fickle Friends have never, ever been bland. Their imaginative brand of synth-pop rumbles with a decidedly ‘80s disposition (think The Bangles and Cyndi Lauper), and they rarely spend their money on anything less than addictive, whimsical hooks.

I guess we should get a room / I don’t believe it / I think I have screw loose,” lead singer Natassja Shiner confronts on “Glue,” which anchors the group’s second EP of the same name (out August 15). “I think you have a screw loose, too,” she continues. The contagious, rave-ready beat glows up the lustful lyrics, a theme as old as time— but Fickle Friends’ hot take is irresistible.

The band—also comprised of Harry Herrington, Chris Hall, Sam Morris and Jack Wilson—cools things down, though, with an acoustic overhaul of the titular track, something they don’t exactly enjoy doing. “We really hate doing acoustic versions. We kick up such a fuss, and then, when we finish it we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty lovely actually,’” Shiner shares casually yet intensely. “This acoustic version took a while mainly because we spent ages trying to get the keys sound right. But hey, we got there in the end.”

Glue follows 2015’s Velvet EP, and while they never intended to put together another collection, it came as an apt primer for their impending full-length record. “We had a few songs kicking about that we really loved but didn’t know if they’d make the album,” Shiner continues. “So, we were like ‘an EP would be cool’ and maybe it would tease new songs for our fans leading into the album release.”

“Weirdly, the songs we chose to use coincidentally just seemed to fit together. I actually think they’re all in the same key, and we wrote them at such different times over the last few years,” she adds. “‘Vanilla’ used to be a different song called ‘Secrets,’ and we’d play it in label meetings praying for a record deal.”

From “Glue” to another new cut called “Sugar,” a thickly-sweetened, bass-heavy tune, the EP runs through cohesive shades of house-inspired indie-rock, but it’s never too much to handle. Fickle Friends, set to mount a headlining tour in the U.K. this fall, are inches away from a full-on breakout.

Below, Shiner discusses summer flings, where the band is headed next and why the incredible “Cry Baby” was left off the EP.

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In “Vanilla,” one lyric reads: “I don’t want to teach you s— you don’t understand.” What does that mean?
So, “Vanilla” is about a summer fling. And that lyric basically refers to the fact that there’s no point trying to change someone when it’s not going to last. Like… why bother trying to educate some guy on loads of rad music when clearly it’s not his thing, and it will all be over by the end of the summer?

What specific fling inspired this song?
I guess just any fling I’ve ever had…. Somewhich have dragged on far longer than they should have. It’s pretty nostalgic actually, throwing it back to my teens when I used to drive around in my s— 1996 Ford Fiesta all summer. I guess, it’s more that I knew what a fling was but I always wanted it to turn into something more…praying it wouldn’t go stale…or vanilla.

Why are such standouts as “Cry Baby” and “Hello Hello” excluded from the EP?
You can’t throw old songs on EPs, I don’t think. We just wanna share as much new stuff as possible. No songs go to waste. It was also that those songs got finished just as we needed a standalone single so we just rolled with it.

The EP has these titles: “Glue,” “Sugar” and “Vanilla”⎯⎯ all substances that hold things together. Was it your intent to have such a seemingly “sticky” concept?
Ha, not at all. Totally coincidental but quite funny, I think. The songs are written almost a year apart. But they’re all kinda relationship scenarios, and I have a thing for looking at love as something edible. Like a consumable substance. Sometimes it’s a bit bitter, sometimes sickly sweet. And sometimes it’s lustful and sticky (like glue).

How did these songs fall into place to represent where you are at in this moment in time?
We finished the “Sugar” and “Vanilla” demos ourselves and got a brilliant engineer called Dan Lancaster to mix them. And yeah, they’re in the same key… how mental! We’re super happy people get to hear these songs. We love them but there’s a lot of competition for album tracks so it just made sense to put these on an EP as opposed to the bottom of my personal iTunes.

How did “Sugar” come together?
When we signed [to Polydor/UMG] at the beginning of last year, we went to this big farmhouse Airbnb and wrote a bunch of stuff, including “Cry Baby” and “Sugar.” Then, classic Fickle Friends, we wrote about five option choruses for it. We never know when to settle on something. I think our next single has had 23 different choruses. But I remember it coming together super quick. It’s all about that verse bass line, man.

Where do you see this EP taking you next, professionally and musically?
I mean, I hope we make a few new fans from it. It’s pretty pop, but we’ve managed to retain a bit of that indie rough edge which has only been helped by Dan Lancaster (Bring Me the Horizon, Lower Than Atlantis). I think the lyrics are super relatable. I’d love to get stuck into making a kind of three part video series in the style of a John Hughes rom-com.

How do you plan on expanding your sound?
We’re super ambitious with our songs. We’re 100 percent a band but we’re keen to make pop music that has to compete with the Katy Perrys of the world. Our sound has been developing naturally depending on what we’re into. We’ve just written a dancehall vibe track because we hammer Major Lazer so much.

Will an album follow soon?
The album has been in the works for the last year. We could have put it out but we keep writing more stuff that we think would make it an overall better body of work so…. We’re aiming for early 2018. As you can probably tell, we don’t like to rush stuff.

How are you preparing for your U.K. tour this fall?
Learning some of our newer material, building more of a light show to fit in with our Faceless Girl artwork series. We just want this tour to be a big step up. We mean business.

Does the country you are visiting or venues you are playing inform how you approach your performance in any way?
I think we put on the show we wanna put on regardless of where we are. If there’s a bunch of families with kids, I won’t use profanity. If it’s 1 a.m. at a festival, we won’t play the slowies. That’s pretty much it. Obviously, it’s nice to have the luxury of a big main stage but I think it’s so important to have a show that translates on those stages, as well as the little ones at the back of a pub.

Check out Fickle Friends’ upcoming tour dates, below:

8/23 – Zurich Open Air 2017 – Zurich, Switzerland
8/25 – Reading Festival 2017 – Reading, UK
8/25 – Bramham Park – Wetherby, UK
8/25 – Leeds Festival – Leeds, UK
9/5 – Ibiza Rocks Festival 2017 – Ibiza, Spain
10/6 – Hub – Plymouth, UK
10/7 – TheKLA – Bristol, UK
10/8 – Engine Rooms – Southampton, UK
10/10 – Academy 2 – Dublin, Ireland
10/12 – O2 ABC Glasgow – Glasgow, UK
1014 – J2, Cambridge Junction – Cambridge, UK
10/17 – The Wardrobe – Leeds, UK
10/18 – Riverside – Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
10/20 – Plug – Sheffield, UK
10/21 – O2 Institue 3 – Birmingham, UK
10/22 – The Old Fire Station – Bournemouth, UK
10/24 – Manchester Gorilla – Manchester, UK
10/25 – Rescue Rooms – Nottingham, UK
10/26 – O2 Forum, Kentish Town – London, UK

The Best Songs of 2017 (So Far!):

NEXT: CHECK OUT FICKLE FRIENDS' EXCLUSIVE GUEST PLAYLIST

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