Indietracks interview #12: Fear of Men

By Stuart Huggett

Brighton’s Fear of Men came together after Daniel (guitar) attended an exhibition of filmwork by Goldsmiths student Jess (vocals, guitar) that featured her home-recorded soundtracks. After swapping mixtapes, the pair started Fear Of Men, a highly melodic group influenced by the bright guitar sounds of the 4AD and Flying Nun labels, American college rock and contemporary artists such as Grouper.

From 2011 to 2012, Fear of Men released two cassettes and three 7”s – ‘Ritual Confession’ (Italian Beach Babes), ‘Green Sea’ (Sexbeat) and ‘Mosaic’ (Too Pure). Earlier this year, Brooklyn’s Kanine Records compiled their singles on the album ‘Early Fragments’.

The Fear of Men line-up is completed by Robyn (bass) and Mike (drums). The band have recently been recording their debut album in Hove’s Church Road Studios with Julian Tardo (formerly of 90s groups Earwig and Insides).

Jess took time out to answer some questions for Indietracks.

How’s the album coming along? What are the advantages of recording near home?

We’ve been recording on and off for a few months now. It’s a lot easier for us, as we can walk to the studio and save money. I guess it might be nice to go somewhere in the middle of nowhere but having jobs we need to fit our music around that. Church Road Studios is a great place to work, we feel really comfortable there and that was important as we’re producing the album ourselves. Julian, who’s engineering, is a great guy and is very happy to go along with what we want to do.

Have you settled on a label to release it?

We want to finish the album entirely ourselves before we show it to anyone. It’s important that we make a record we are proud of and we don’t want to confuse that with outside influences and opinions until we’re ready.

How did Robyn and Mike come to join the band?

Mike is an old friend of mine, we’ve been playing in bands together since we were teenagers and Dan and I knew we wanted to work with him on this. Robyn we met in Brighton and she learnt bass to join the band.

Are the lyrics all written by you? Which of your songs are you most proud of?

Yes, I’m the main songwriter and all lyrics are my work. I’m proud of ‘Green Sea’ – I think it was a song that we all fell in love with, and helped to shape the direction we wanted to take. It worked well as an early demo, but we all really pulled together on the instrumentation to make it more than that. I’m excited by the new songs we’re in the process of finishing off, where we’re really challenging ourselves.

How healthy is the Brighton scene is at the moment?

The Brighton music scene is always healthy, as it seems to be a place that musicians gravitate towards to play with other musicians. It’s also very diverse, which I think’s a good thing.

What other musicians have you become friends with?

Kip from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is really nice and really excited about new music. Frankie Rose and her band are also really cool – a lot of them play in other groups too, so it’s a nice way to hear about other projects. We’ve played quite a lot of shows with Mac De Marco too. We all really like his album and had fun hanging out in Mexico when we were playing Festival Nrmal.

Why do you use historical and religious artefacts on your sleeves?

We like a considered, archival, timeless quality to our artwork. In brief, it’s about fragmentation and melancholy – mourning for our mortality through statues, an idea I got interested in from reading Freud’s (essay) ‘The Uncanny’. We find them by visiting museums, charity shops for second hand books, library trips… So far it hasn’t been too hard to retain control over the art, we’ve been lucky in choosing to work with labels who support our vision. We’re not very flexible though, so I doubt we would work with anyone who wasn’t into the same things as us.

How was Fear of Men’s trip to SXSW this year?

SXSW was great – we’d been warned that the crowds are very ‘industry’ so they might not be too responsive, but it didn’t seem like that at all. It was great to get to meet people like Chris from Gorilla vs. Bear and Duncan from The Fader, who’ve supported us for a long time. We’re going back in the summer to play Seaport Festival in NY and FYF Fest in LA, so those should be fun.

Have any of you been to Indietracks?

We’ve never been before as it’s quite a way from Brighton but we’re really looking forward to it! I’m excited to see Still Corners and The Wave Pictures.

How important is the DIY scene to you?

DIY culture is important to us, and we’ve released most of our material so far on DIY labels. We’re more comfortable in that world than with some other aspects of the music industry. People like Conan from Italian Beach Babes are in it for the right reasons, to just put good music out there and promote new music. We’re not part of any scene but DIY culture in general has given us a sense of freedom in what we do.

What are your current non-musical influences?

I’ve been reading a lot of Philip Larkin poetry and the writings of the artist Louise Bourgeois, which I’m sure are seeping into my songwriting.