Sunny, sinuous and irrepressibly melodic, Fickle Friends’ nimble brand of alt-pop poses the perfect soundtrack to modern alienation. Continuing in the electronica-tinged vein of their earlier work, the Brighton mob have emerged emboldened with two riotous new singles, and caught up with Gemma Cockrell as the shimmering EP looms.
Brighton quartet Fickle Friends rose to fame with their critically-acclaimed debut full-length You Are Someone Else in 2018, establishing the band’s shimmering, euphoric, electronic-fused alt-pop sound. Two chaotic years and a lot of hard work later, and lead single Swim now sits comfortably at twenty-four million streams on Spotify. Now, at the break of the decade and amidst a global pandemic, a forthcoming EP titled Weird Years: Season 1 is on the horizon, and Natassja Shiner (vocals) and Jack Wilson (keys) remain remarkably jubilant.
“We’d been building up to that our whole lives really,” Wilson explains, when asked about the landmark achievement of their debut record. “It makes you a real band – when you’ve got an album out it’s like ‘Okay, there’s no going back now.’ Up until then, that’s the time when bands usually quit or break up, but to get to that point is cool – we were established.”
“People should expect at least one classic Fickle Friends indie-pop bop for sure, but then there’s something a little bit deeper.”
Fast forward to 2020, and lockdown has put the music industry on bitter hold: “We took the first few months of lockdown off, and stopped everything. Everyone was confused, and no-one knew what was going on,” Wilson confesses. “Having that break was good, because when we came back in June, we started writing loads,” he continues. “We can still write at home. It’s the only thing that’s keeping our sanity,” Shiner laughs. “We decided that Zoom writing sessions wouldn’t work, so we started doing stuff in person. It’s been just me and Jack for most of the year.”
It was during these twosome song-writing sessions that the concept for Weird Years: Season 1 was born. All penned during the last couple of years amidst a seemingly never-ending spiral of unexpected and unbelievable occurrences, the EP is a candid amalgamation of a strange, novel era. “It just has been a weird time, hasn’t it? That’s what everyone is saying at the moment – we are living through these weird years! So, it just felt right,” Shiner laughs.
“We were thinking about this whole TV show set up, and it sounded like a 90’s sitcom.”, Shiner explains in regards to the EP’s gloriously musing and topical title. When asked whether fans should anticipate Weird Years: Season 2, as a future instalment, she confirms, “Absolutely! Definitely – it’s happening!” However, the series will not conclude there: “There will be a full-length Weird Years record,” she declares. Wilson adds, “EP’s are just bridging the gap while we can’t play live shows.” Shiner nods in agreement; “We wanted to keep releasing music while the world is a bit mixed up.”
Shiner pithily surmises the EP as capturing the “ups and downs” of these years. “This is my most overused phrase, but turbulent. In a nice way though – musically turbulent, it’s going up and down, you don’t know what’s coming next,” she elaborates. “Considering that there’s only five songs, there’s still a lot of variation,” Wilson adds, furthering the notion of the EP as an embodiment of wider volatility. “I love all of these songs on Season 1. They’re all quite different, they’ve all got their own little vibe.” She continues jovially: “People should expect at least one classic Fickle Friends indie-pop bop for sure, but then there’s something a little bit deeper.”
“It gets to 9pm and we have whisky, and that’s where the actual good stuff happens!”
The EP’s second single 92 embraces a chilled, mellow vibe – a style somewhat unfamiliar territory to a troupe renowned for their mirthful, high-energy sound. “We don’t love writing slow songs,” Wilson admits. “It was one of the first songs we wrote when we decided to have the year off and do some writing. It came together really quickly; we didn’t really think much about it.”
“We found the sample and the song basically just wrote itself,” Shiner continues thoughtfully. “Normally we have to force ourselves to write ‘slowies’,” she laughs. Despite the Brighton tribe’s typical avoidance of the style, the EP’s tracklist surprisingly houses two slower songs – “Would you believe it? I can’t believe it!”, she quips. “The song is like ‘I’ve been waiting since birth to find someone’ – ninety-two is my birth year.”
Thrust apart and locked-down, the band had to think creatively and unconventionally when it came to videos for the newest singles. “We can’t really make videos the way we want to this year, and I remembered that I’d seen lots of home videos that my parents had, so we got them converted and Jack had to sit through my entire childhood!,” Shiner laughs. The result – a rousing and nostalgic visual depiction of adolescence – was thoroughly worth it nonetheless.
On the other hand, the visuals for What a Time compile colourful, intoxicating clips of the band filmed when the lockdown rules relaxed. “It was quite like no plan, let’s not worry about it, we can’t really do anything, so let’s just take a camera out for the evening and just film stuff.” Wilson chuffs. “It was like ‘bring the rollerblades down, we’ll have a few drinks, and see what happens!’” he continues; “drinks and rollerblades don’t mix!”
“There’s a loose plan for next Autumn and into January. So, end of 2021 into 2022 – which is terrifying to say!”
Chuckling, Shiner adds: “Just escaping no matter what happens in life. Everybody has their own little escape. I get my escape from dancing, parties, music and drinking too much, so that’s what the song’s about.” Expanding on the song-writing process, Wilson continues, “It was one of our late-night ones. We tried to write a song all day, failed, and then in the evening, it was really quick – we just did it.” Touching on the band’s tipsy escapades, Shiner explains: “That’s how we do our main songs. It gets to 9pm and we have whisky, and that’s where the actual good stuff happens!”
The band are inspired by a multitude of influences which ebb and flow with each of the member’s current listening habits: “It’s like ‘That song was inspired by that, because that’s what we were listening to that day’. But it changes every week,” Wilson admits. “We’ll come in and we’ll show each other a new song, and then later on you’ll be subconsciously taking influence from it without even realising,” he expands. “We take influence from absolutely everything. Just music that is inspiring or is doing something a bit different,” Shiner clarifies with a smile.
In particular, on the vehement single What a Time, the band drew inspiration from Mura Masa’s R.Y.C (2020). “We have really enjoyed the new Mura Masa record, and the way it sits in its own little area of music. It’s indie but it’s dark – it’s sick!” Shiner enthuses. “We really love that album,” Wilson nods in agreement. Looking instead to their visions for the future, the band speak hopefully of a tour: “There is a loose plan for next Autumn and into January as well. So, end of 2021, into 2022 – which is terrifying to say!,” Shiner laughs, “But that’s the plan. Who knows what’s going to happen with festival season? I don’t think it’s going to happen the way we are used to, but people are full of ideas, something is going to happen.”
She has a staggeringly positive outlook, appreciating that despite things seeming impossible now, there’s hope for a brighter future. Reflection and introspection have been at the heart of this, and the band rave excitedly over never-ending fond memories from their time on the road. “There’s so many. We’ve done so many shows, I think about it all the time. Looking back at the good old days!, Wilson rambles excitedly. “My favourite ones are the ones that I can remember, because on a tour they all blend in,” he explains. “Like a gig that we were really late for, and everything went wrong. But because I remember it, it’s a fond memory.”
Even in the wake of the devastating announcement of a second UK lockdown, Shiner remains glitteringly positive and optimistic
Whilst Wilson talks fondly of the band’s US tour, Shiner’s most notable memories were born closer to home, including a stand-out Halloween show in Manchester back in 2018. “Our album tour stands out,” she reminisces, “it was a month long and during the time where we got loads of snow. It was absolute chaos but the best memories.”
Despite being unable to tour, and even in the wake of the calamitous announcement of a second UK lockdown, Shiner remains glitteringly positive and optimistic: “I ordered some new candle scents today, and I’m also going to take myself for a nice walk in the park now!” And with an electric new project, the Weird Years: Season 1 EP, on the horizon, the band and their fans have a lot to be excited about. “Stay cosy, stay safe, play some games, bake, make some handmade Christmas presents,” she advises warmly, “and pre-order our EP! It makes a great Christmas present.”
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