[INTERVIEW] ... With False Heads

False Heads    Photo: Alex Hurst @alexhurstphotographer

False Heads' Luke Griffiths "I love writing lyrics and I write a lot of them. Some of my lyrics are politically charged but they are just never black or white, grey morality is the biggest motivator of lyrics for me and I would like to keep it that way really. It is weird how it comes in stages for me, very much like the music. I will have a few months where I struggle a bit and then I will have a burst of creativity where I write a lot of songs. I hope that sort of pattern continues."

Luke is a strong and fascinating character. It is no surprise that his songwriting and creativity would follow such a shifting pattern and his character makes up a good portion of False Heads' appeal, which so many people noticed many months ago.

When Iggy Pop described False Heads as "one little tough band" and Danny Fields came out with his recent verdict saying they are "the best live band in the world" the two legends could easily have referred to the glimpses of 'insanity', chaos, disorder and incontrol audiences get to see during the band's many vivid and deeply intense live shows. 

In reality, a False Heads show is anything but messy or disorganised and that is the art, or beauty, of it. Making things seem spontaneous or messy as opposed to actually being that way, is not only clever, it makes them stand out from a lot of other bands. 

Not many bands are as meticulous and organised in their approach when preparing for a gig. When It's All Indie spoke to False Heads back in October 2017, the alternative rock trio mentioned that they do not use tend to use setlists the way most other bands do. In a way that is true; only they do use them, in fact, they use them to obsession. 
The lack of printed setlist copies on stage does not mean they do not exist. Working tirelessly on their music, continually questioning the quality of everything they put out, clearly matters a hell of a lot. Viewing it as a sign of perfectionism is not out of order.

It is punk rock in terms of sound and attitude but not necessarily as we know it. Applying what resembles a business or commercial and super logical approach to making and promoting their own music is omnipresent and it could not make them stand out more. They are efficient, very strong communicators and they possess a thorough understanding of how to build long-lasting professional relationships with a range of contacts. 

It is cool and refreshing to see such qualities in a contemporary young band who are doing well and are on their way to achieving loads more. Keen to hear the band's own perspective on how things have been going since last year's interview and make sense of it all, It's All Indie decided to catch Luke Griffiths for a chin wag in north London.

Following what can probably be described as a 'transition' period, a spell of uncertainty, the band are definitely in good shape, they are ready to deal with what looks set to become an even brighter future. If all goes to plan, there should be lots of exciting news due to be announced soon. 

With a newly appointed music biz management duo personified by industry heavyweights Jennifer Otter Bickerdike and Richard Chamberlain behind them, False Heads could not be better placed for achieving success. 

former employee of Interscope Records, Jennifer worked with none other than the likes of Eminem, Pearl Jam and Nirvana and it makes her well placed to pick up False Heads. Equally, impressive is Richard Chamberlain, who brings a wealth of experience in licensing and sync, having worked with Primal Scream and many other high-profile acts, the combination of his knowledge and skill set is already proving invaluable to False Heads. A team is definitely being built in and around the band and it is starting to pay off. 

"It does feel like finally we do not have to worry about anything, some things are already happening and others are due to happen. There is support and some people are helping us out. We have a team."

"Jennifer has been amazing, it is so great to have her around. After her career at Interscope Records as their head of marketing, she left the States and moved to England. She started a writing career here and she does a lot of interviews and research. She had been around us for a while, what happened was she interviewed us at a festival called Off The Record in Manchester, she saw us play live that same day and she was like 'these guys are brilliant' and expressed an interest in becoming involved."

"Initially she was like ‘I’m not sure I can do it all on my own’ but then Richard came along and they had worked together before. They both love our band and our music. They had a meeting and that is kind of where it went. Perfect really, it is just brilliant so that is where we are now." 

Then there is the satisfying prospect of new music being due out in the form of an EP, the tracks  sound absolutely stunning, not wanting to diminish previous releases, this is clearly a step up from what the trio has recorded before and with Jonathan Hucks, "our Nigel Godrich" as they refer to him, in the producer's chair, that should be no surprise to anyone.

"I think it sounds really good and Jonny deserves so much credit for that. What is great about him is that he is not afraid to say 'I don’t like that beat guys, I think you should change that, rework that bit and you know that is a good thing, it is good to have that kind of perspective. It is such a comfortable environment to be in."

"I hope the more successful we get, the more he recognition he gets too because he should be up there with the best producers. I know he just did Sisterday’s new EP  and a few bands have come to Jonny off the back of that work and Retina, so I hope that he gets even more work from bands because he is a such a talent."

"During the period with no management we knew that some labels really wanted our demos and Jonny found a way of handling things so the vocals were done in his house. One of his friends has this small studio and we also went into Grand Cru Studio and did the drums there and everything else in other parts. We did the demo in our shipping container. The guy can get a sound out of anywhere really, he is so resourceful. I genuinely can’t see us working with anyone else for quite some time."

"I really want Jonny to do our album when that time comes, I feel like we have grown and developed to that point, we have management and there is going be a record label at some point soon so I am going to push for jonny as much as I can."

False Heads at Camden Rocks Festival   Photo: Jon Mo @jonmophotography

There remains to be a strong melodic element to False Heads' music and it seems more pronounced than ever before. Luke tells us that the band have been listening to a range of pop music. Pop music of the highest quality, pop songs with actual hooks. 

"We kind of got bored of listening to the same kind of rock, hip hop and rap and I think that is partly why Help Yourself on our new EP is very poppy. It has got a big poppy chorus. We already have that element in our music with hooks in there coupled with some big heavy guitars, drums and riffs, so it is already present on a few tracks, for example, Yellow and Retina are very catchy songs." 

"There is a lack of really good pop songs in music today. There is nothing better than a decent melody and for me that is the problem with a lot of pop music today, it is all written by the same team of songwriters but with pop songs from the 1990s and 1980s you can tell the artists were really passionate about what they were doing and so the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson are good examples of artists who performed very good pop songs."

False Heads definitely have the songs under their belt. Managing how and when they introduce new songs to their live sets is something they really care about and put a lot of thought into. 

"We have been writing and putting a lot of work into a our different sets, considering how they flow because some of the songs are quite different and it is more challenging to weave them into the set, so we are trying to find good ways of doing that. Obviously, the new headline tour we just announced should be easier because we will probably have 45 min sets instead of half an hour. But this remains a big priority for us, which is kind of a double edged sword the way I see it."

"After Sound City and other similar festivals it has become a bit like 'Luke just dives into the drum kit' and like I don’t want things to start becoming too predictable. I love doing it because it is great fun for a start and it always annoys Barney. At Sound City Barney was like 'do not jump into me' and I thought why would you say that because you know I am going to jump into you now and of course I did."

" We are known as a live band and there is a level of unpredictability. I like to always try and use a prop because I don’t really know what it is going to look like on stage  I always try and use something to climb on to, use it as a prop just to make it a bit more unpredictable. I do feel a lot of bands are just standing there but the jumping into the kit thing has kind of started to annoy me a little because now it has become a thing people talk about and I am not sure I like it that much, so I might have to find something different to do on stage."

"It has also taken its toll on me a little bit. At Sound City there was a hard thing at the back and I slammed my shoulder on it. But it is fun and the idea came from when I was a 13-year-old boy I used to absolutely adore Jackass and Johnny Knoxville so that is how I weaved that into the set, it was me and my friend and we used to do stunts, like jumping into bushes and hitting each other with belts."

"I thought Johnny Knoxville was the coolest person and that is probably why I half respect people like that is because they know that they are being silly. They know they have no career ambitions, so they just mess about, it is like 'we are just going to smash the sh*t out of ourselves and we will make a career out of it', it is like, you might as well go for it so that is the story behind it. Although he does go to a stage that I am not quite ready to go to, like being run over by bulls etc. but we shall see, if we get to headline Glastonbury then I might agree to get hit by a bull."

False Heads may not be scheduled in for a Glastonbury headline set just yet. But this weekend they are playing Liverpool Calling Festival. They will be making a main stage appearance at this year's InMusic Festival in Zagreb, in Croatia. It is a huge opportunity for the band and with the likes of Queens of The Stone Age and Nick Cave also being part of the lineup, it is an event they want to cherish and look back on with joy. So they have been taking their preparation and rehearsals to new extremes. 

"I have been getting anxiety because of it and I am a little nervous. We have been on big stages before and I think our sound is good enough to carry it but I keep having dreams of my guitar cutting out. We are on at about 6 pm on the main stage and I imagine there will be a few thousand people there, so it is a bit nerve-racking but hugely exciting. It is a big big moment for us."

"It will also be interesting to see if Josh Homme remembers who we are, we played with him at A Peaceful Noise, a charity event at ULU in London at the end of last year. InMusic Festival has  amazing bands playing and I think European festivals have really smashed it with some very good lineups. We want to focus on playing more European festivals next year because they are very good." 

It's All Indie sees no boundaries when it comes to what and how much False Heads can achieve, the world is their oyster. Below are some thoughts from Minky Très-Vain, fellow musician, Brain Ape frontman and friend of the trio.

"I have had the pleasure of seeing them behind the scenes, spending time with them on tour. During that time, I saw a different side to them. On stage they are carnage but in the van they are studious, entrepreneurial and forward-thinking. They treat the administration of the band like a business and I predict that is going to help them take their project as far as it can possibly go. I would not be surprised if they took over the world and they could not be more deserving."

"In my eyes, the thing that makes them stand out as a band, from watching them play, is that they have sunk a lot of hours into what they do. There is not a point in their setlist where one of them is unsure what is happening. All three of them know exactly where their place is and that comes from  spending hours and hours in the rehearsal room."

 Liverpool Calling Festival - 10.45 pm 22 June at EBGBS

InMusic Festival - Zagreb, Croatia - 25 June (Main Stage at)

UK/EU Tour details