Fearne have proven to be one of the most diverse bands around. After seeing several shows I can honestly say; no two have been the same. The first time I saw them they performed at the Alter Club, a once monthly music night held at Salisbury Arts Centre. Fearne performed an electrified set of original songs as a quartet, whipping up a frenzy when they ended their set with an unexpected old school Hip-Hop medley. Most recently we saw Fearne perform as a laid back duo at a Trowbridge folk club called The Village Pump. Alex (vocal & guitar) seemed to enjoy performing to an attentive audience, sharing with us amusing stories from his past, and explaining the inspiration behind some of his songs. After the performance I spoke with Alex who explained that although Fearne are not a folk band in the traditional sense, they love performing as part of the folk scene. The reason being that the audiences in folk clubs are respectful paying close attention to both music and lyrics. As folk venues are considered desirable places to play, I asked Fearne how they managed to get their foot in the door.
Back in the early days of the band we were invited to come and play an opening slot at Bournemouth Folk Club by Paul Burke. I believe that was the first time a room full of new people had actually listened to the lyrics I had written and I found myself performing the songs to a higher standard than I ever would think to at other venues. I remember it took Nick a while to feel as comfortable playing in that environment. Which, is ironic because he is now the sound engineer for that Folk Club. Answering your question though, folk clubs are excellent because you create your own opportunity. Most folk clubs have a few guest spots and providing the organiser can listen to you online it should be as easy as emailing the club and asking if you can play.
Folk Clubs obviously play a big part in Fearne’s career, but what have been their highlights.
I think my personal highlights revolve around the build up to one off events. Our first record deal sticks out and then touring all of the Borders book stores with the debut album was a steep learning curve at 17. Playing with Feeder, Athlete and being on stage much more recently with Steve Knightley, Stu Larsen and Passenger was a massive lift after treading water for so long. Thinking about it we are really lucky because I can't pick one single event that meant more than some of the tiny gigs or even some of the bad gigs that feel now years later like the most fun.
With such an array of highlights what is next for Fearne.
I think that we have shifted gears so many times that the next step changes all the time. I feel like Nick, Adam and I still get so much satisfaction out of what we do and because of that we are still striving to be better and still have the motivation to snatch opportunities when they are there to take. I think the next level is being an act that make appearances at major folk festivals. We know that takes a long time in the Folk/Roots world but I feel like we manage to make new friend wherever we go and we really value the respect we get from our peers. The most important thing for Fearne is that we continue to enjoy it and the people watching get something out of it when they listen to a cd or see us live.
When not performing Alex works in a music shop. So he seemed the perfect candidate to ask a few geeky kit question.
I am so impressed with what guitars you can get for under £500 that feel like a partner for life. Sigma's, Tanglewood's, Seagulls... I love my own instruments but I think the sheer amount of choice can be bewildering. I probably really did choose a J45 because I don't sell them and its heritage.
I find the Gibson acoustic guitars help me feel confident on stage. The J45 is such an iconic piece of music history that when I hear music I've written played on it it somehow authenticates the song for me. So many of my heroes played a Gibson and felt that it best expressed what they had to say. I guess I'm a bit of a sheep but it feels right. I had a Martin for about 8 years before this guitar and every time i play old songs I regret selling it. The guitar you use definitely affects how you express what you're feeling. I sometimes also play a Rob Armstrong guitar that he built with me in mind after I visited him in 2011. I do most of the studio playing for Fearne with that but I can't relax when I take it out of the house because it has so much sentimental value to me.
The strings I use are Rotosound jumbo king 13's because they are never rusty out of the packet, are manufactured in the UK and have the best heavy wound strings but I try all of the other strings on the market regularly. D'addario usually sound good on any guitar but I would suggest trying the cheaper daddario alloy bronze strings as they have a great old fashioned twang to them and lots of top end if you play in a duo and want to stand out. Cleartone strings are bright and pretty awesome as well but not enough shops sell them I have found. Same with La Bella, if you see them in your local guitar shop give them a try. Is that geeky enough for you?!
I used to use far too much technology on stage when we were playing more of the rockier venues with drums but now I use a Headway preamp clipped on my mic stand and a clip on tuner. I travel very light to make room for Nicks double bass in the car and on stage!
With Nick’s double bass taking up a great deal of space does it become tempting to just use an electric bass.
The Double bass is a relatively recent addition to the band. It sounds so rich and lush I think we would miss it if he left it at home now. The electric bass has its place but when you are playing without drums like we are now you need the double bass to add the missing thump you get from a bass drum and the clank you get for the cymbals and snare.
At the time of this interview Fearne were preparing to record their next album. How will this compare to their previous release.
This album is going to be a lot more introspective and less flashy than our last one. With Songs on postcards we tried to capture and produce a four piece band that played with the energy you get from having drums on stage. Whereas this album will (hopefully) sound like we sound live in 2014. I don't know about you but some of my favourite albums tend to be the ones artists clearly try to capture live? When I was a teenager I loved listening to In Utero by Nirvana a lot more than Nevermind and I still find the same thing when I look at people's back catalogues today. I guess the lads and I like to keep it fresh for ourselves.
The new album should be ready for around April/May!