The Futureheads are notoriously difficult to pigeonhole. The lyrics have ranged from being dressed up in frantic barbershop quartet style harmonies (typically on their first album), in sparser structures (on News And Tributes) or in bigger radio rock anthems (on their latest LP). The one thing that’s remained is a general feeling of distance from the world around them, a frustration – even an obsession - with broader issues that are out of their control.
To me, this album feels the most personal. I’m not sure if I’m right on that one?
Jaff: Yeah, I think it is. It came out of a conflict. And when Barry and Ross write the words three albums in they’re not scared to say certain things. They realise it’s ok to have certain ways about you. It’s ok to talk about feelings so long as you don’t use the word ‘feeling’. I do think it’s a lot more personal, you can see into the band’s psyche a little bit more.
David: We’ve got more involved in this album with us doing it all ourselves, like. As far as myspace and getting involved – we do stupid video clips and stuff. It’s something we’ve never done before.
Had you ever contemplated doing that sort of thing before?
Jaff: We couldn’t, we weren’t allowed to.
David: This album’s been fun in that way – we can finally get the fans to observe what we’re about and how we do it. Yeah, it’s a good thing.
I’ve noticed how much time crops up as a theme on all of your material.
Jaff: You are probably the first person that’s noticed that.
You must be joking?
Jaff: No! It’s true - ‘Broke Up The Time’ on this album, half the songs on the first album – ‘Trying Not To Think About Time’, ‘He Knows’, ‘Meantime’… And ‘Everything’s Changing Today’ on This Is Not The World.
Why does it figure so much? It’s a pretty bold, all-encompassing thing.
Jaff: Barry is pretty scared of getting old. Though most of the time ones are Ross’s.
David: Yeah, the ones from the first record.
Do those two come to you with the lyrics then? Do you always know what the songs are about?Jaff: Yeah, yeah we do. I mean, you know what they’re about. That’s the thing about lyrics though – if you don’t know what the song’s about then you can’t relate to it. And if you can’t relate to a song then it’s not a very good song. Why would anyone from Sunderland ever listen to American bands if it wasn’t for lyrics? Our lives are so different. People like foreign music. It doesn’t matter where the people are from, it’s how they write the song.
I’ve noticed that there seem to be a fair amount of external forces you’re switched on to. Stuff around you. What inspires you to fight against them?
David: What do you mean?
Jaff: Like what?
Well of course I mean time as one example, but lyrically The Futureheads are extremely challenging. It’s nigh on abstract concepts sometimes; deep stuff that you don’t really tend to hear from artists that’ve broken into the mainstream.
Jaff: Yeah I think you’re right. We write about things that affect us. Things we care about. I think we are quite easily affected by things. We don’t have to have to have a vision, we comment on things - especially lyrically. Yeah you are right. You’re quite good at this, like! People don’t pick up on this sort of stuff normally.
David: She’s good. She’s very good.
Jaff: We never get asked these types of questions!
David: It’s normally ‘What shoes do you like?’
Jaff: Seriously, you’re right. We do care about things. It’s that observational thing we find interesting.
David: I think Barry and Ross are very aware of not writing about going out on a Saturday night and getting bevvied up and all that crap. There’s no blasé lyric writing.
Jaff: With the first record the lyrics were very much a means to an end, to getting the song finished.
Wow, I find that surprising.
Jaff: The riffs would normally come first.D
avid: And then the lyrics.
‘Radio Heart’ – it’s pretty bold. Do you want to want to change the way people think or is it just an observational thing?
Jaff: It’s observational, yeah. I wouldn’t like the lead quote on this piece to say “The Futureheads want to change people”!
I’ll try rephrasing that question – how about, do you want to make people more aware of the world around them or is it just an observational thing?
Jaff: Better. Yeah, I think that is why you write songs. Though you write songs and you know they’re not listening. You write lyrics ‘cause you want people to notice. It’s all about a point of view.