It’s fair enough, when bands like Fenech-Soler come along, for one to recoil and shrink away, whilst muttering inaudibly about “having enough Friendly Fires in my life”. They are carving their occupations from common niche, and one that Klaxons, Friendly Fires, Two Door Cinema Club and Delphic have all dipped in far too recently. I approached tonight’s gig with this premise, and it was emphatically rubbished from the off.
Although the foundations of the Fenech-Soler sound may strike familiarity, their delivery and execution of these songs in a live setting discard any thoughts that they may simply be another caricature of the indie/electro-pop formula. It’s not like this was an easy gig to play. October Sundays in Eastern Scotland are often wet, dark and deserted. This was a school night, and the numbers showed it. But as 10pm approached, Dundee’s Doghouse venue began to swell, and if everyone agreed to dance eccentrically whilst moving around each other in set algorithms, it would most definitely have looked full. Fenech took stage and ‘Battlefields’ began. It’s calm choral introduction exploded into a deep bass-laden synth hook, before swiftly driving straight into the infectious falsettos of current single ‘Lies’. Perhaps the dedicated enthusiasm of lead singer Ben’s tin percussion thrashing had become contagious or the distinct smell of poppers was genuine, either way, by the time ‘Stop And Stare’ came to pass the crowd were truly engaged.
Before the gig had even began, we’d cornered Fenech-Soler for a few words. In a dark corner of a quiet pub, with more staff than custom, we implored Ben, Ross, Dan and Andrew to tell us more on the topics of: how, why, who and when.
This year has seen you write, record and prepare your debut album, whilst beginning your first headline tour. Has it been a whirlwind, or have you kept level-headed throughout?
Andrew: Up until March, Dan and I were both still in full time jobs! There’s had to be a few candles burned at both ends to achieve this.
Ben: Actually, starting to work with B-Unique, up to releasing our first record was a very short period of time. I think quite a lot of bands get signed and then have a good amount of time to get the album right. But for us it was a very short period.
Ross: Yea, for us we had to record and then tour straight away really. We had to keep the momentum.
Do you feel pressure finally recording your debut with a label, knowing that your creativity is now being fundamentally strapped to deadlines?
Dan: Actually, the album was more or less written before we signed our deal.
Ben: I think that’s almost how we got signed so quickly.
Dan: Yea, and because of that, it wasn’t us acting to deadlines. We genuinely wanted to get our album recorded and polished as quickly as possible to get our careers moving in the right direction.
Do you base a lot of your judgement on how they are received in the live performance? Are songs ever scrapped or considered for a single based on how well they go live?
Ben: ‘Lies’ is probably the oldest track on the album, and that’s the current single. We’ve been playing it live for a long time, and it’s always been a staple of our set. However, sometimes it does get to a point when recording, where you need to cut down and figure out which songs are sounding the best.
‘Demons’ is the next single. What can we expect from this track?
Ben: It’s very upbeat. It’s definitely one of our punchiest tracks. Fingers crossed, it should be out in January.
Andrew: We were making it during the summer, and that vibe comes across.
Does the album maintain this high energy, punchy indie-dance tempo throughout?
Andrew: There’s a couple of slowys, but they still contain the elements that make our tracks ours.
Dan: It’s not samey!
You guys have turned your hand to remixing for a few bands. Now it seems you are on the receiving end, with Alex Metric and a few others re-working some of your tracks. How does it feel?
Dan: We get excited about listening to them. And then we’re either amazed… or disappointed. Or occasionally, we just think it’s alright.
Ben: Hearing certain sections they choose to highlight more than others is really interesting for us.
Is it a collective effort when remixing, or one operating under the bands’ guise?
Ben: It constantly differs which one of us will do it. We have two studio set ups, one much more complex than the other. Ross and I have a very minimal studio, just for songwriting. And then Andrew’s is much more complex and equipped. So when it comes to Fenech Soler stuff, we try to divide it all as equally as possible between us.
The band’s name sounds French. Do you speak French? Are you French?
Andrew: I did A-level french, but I can offer nothing from what I learned.
Ross: Soler is actually part of Dan’s name.
Dan: I think a lot of people glance at ‘Fenech’ and simply assume the word is actually French. We just say Fenech Soler (pronounced solar).
I’ve heard quite a few people add a little pronunciation to it, Fenech Sol-aire perhaps?
Ben: Yea, we’ve heard that a few times on our tour.
Dan: You would think English people, even if it was pronounced as such, that they would ignore it and give it an English pronunciation anyway. But they don’t. They all attach this French accent to it. Our first single was on a French label (Kitsune), so perhaps that tipped the balance a little bit.
The album itself wasn’t over publicised at all. In fact, one could say it crept up?
Dan: The idea was to keep it levelled.
Do you think over-hype can be damaging?
Ben: Definitely. From the perspective of now knowing people in the industry: it’s just so much extra pressure at a time when you really don’t need it.
Dan: With the way music is consumed today. It doesn’t need to be this big hype build up to release anymore. An album can chart 36 weeks after it’s release these days. The other thing is that consumers aren’t stupid these days. People realise when an album is being pushed too hard, and flaunted everywhere. It gets annoying and it devalues. We’re doing it slowly and building it properly. That’s why we’re doing a six and a half week tour!
If the album was all written at the start of the year, can we expect more from Fenech-Soler sooner rather than later?
Dan: The plan is to start writing again by the end of this year. Most of this album was written almost a year ago. It feels weird now that we haven’t been writing for a while, so we want to get on it as soon as we can.
Ben: That’s what we enjoy foremost. The writing.