The Fierce And The Dead have had a great couple of years. Interest in their third album ‘The Euphoric’ was far greater than expected and higher profile live shows have really seen their fanbase grow. At Real Gone, we’ve been fans of the arty instrumental band’s work for some time, so the opportunity to catch up with Matt Stevens (guitar/loops) and Kev Feazey (bass) was something we couldn’t miss. With the release of a new live album just around the corner, they had a lot to say…
Thanks for joining us today… We’ve been fans since ‘Spooky Action’, so it’s great to finally get together and talk properly.
Matt: Thanks for your support. Means a lot to us. I’ve been amazed really. We read Real Gone, so it’s cool to be in there.
Kev: You’re welcome…it’s always good when people are interested in what we’re doing.
So, it’s been a busy summer for the band with appearances at the Kozfest and New Day festivals. How did those go for you?
Kev: Both were great. We love playing shows, but the festivals always feel like a bit more of a social club. We often bump into friends in other bands we haven’t seen for a while or make new friends. Festival audiences tend to be a little more ‘up for it’ too. They’ve left the world behind and want to have a party. Kozfest and New Day are both really well organised, which makes us so much more relaxed. They’re both just good fun to do, very unpretentious.
You’re about to release a new live album, recorded in America back in 2017. Was that your first trip to the US? What do you recall about the trip?
Kev: Where to start…? There are so many memories. It was our first show in the US and it was a real roller coaster of pride, happiness and mild anxiety. We made a lot of new friends and the trust that George and the RoSfest crew put in us as a relatively unknown weird noisy band was remarkable. I particularly remember that feeling about two or three tracks in. It was about then that those in the audience who didn’t know us started to get on board and understand what we were doing. By the end it just felt like a party. There was loads of good energy in the theatre.
Matt: We loved playing in the US we made a lot of friends…but going through customs and seeing a geezer with a gun and being asked a load of questions was a…moment. We had all our work permits so it was fine, but it was a bit of an eye opener for a lad from Rushden!
That must’ve been huge… You went from playing small venues in the UK to being on the bill at a well respected prog festival.
Matt: We’re not a real prog band so we definitely stood out! The guys at RoSfest were just fantastic though. Progressive music is just a small part of the music we like. So, yeah, we stood out. Much as I love King Crimson, I love DJ Shadow and Carcass…and The Dead Kennedys just as much. I always feel when people describe us as “a prog band” we’re not really fit for purpose…that we somehow fail to tick all the boxes.
That’s not stopped Prog magazine championing you, though, has it?
We’re always surprised at how much they love you considering you don’t fit their “typical” remit.
Matt: They champion bands that they consider progressive. The team at Prog have been really good to us. They’re really trying to expand the music. I totally want to aspire to be an ambitious and progressive band; I’ve just no interest in playing 1970’s prog re-enactment group. Why do what’s been done before? If those bands had done that they would have been copying big bands. You can’t look back. Nostalgia will never get that magical feeling of the new.
Those guys at Prog really seemed to get behind your 2018 album, ‘The Euphoric’.
Matt: The attitude of the guys at Prog…they want to hear music that’s actually progressive rather than recreating stuff from the 70’s. I really appreciate their enthusiasm for us; they’re open minded. We’re a small cult band and we’re pleased if anyone likes the album really but, like I say, we’re never gonna appeal to the trad prog fans. Some of the trolls in the prog rock groups hate us. I don’t care, though, as long as they’re talking about us…
…Some of those prog rock forums are so tightly knit and set in their ways – completely unprogressive in their attitudes and what they want to hear – you were never going to win. To some of those guys endlessly debating which is the best Yes album, The Fierce And The Dead are probably “a heavy metal band”…
Matt: I don’t care. If people want to call us heavy metal, though, I’m fine with that. I grew up on metal. …Although I’ve been surprised at some of the personal attacks. Even if you have the lowest level of popularity, you still become a target for some people. It’s just weird…We’re not exactly Metallica or Led Zep.
Some people aren’t happy unless they’re punching downwards. ‘The Euphoric’ has been TFATD’s biggest success to date. Was there any point during the recording sessions where you felt you had a potential breakthrough album on your hands?
Matt: Not really…we just wanted to make a new record. The success of the band has been so gradual, but every year we seem to be doing more stuff, whether it’s an award nomination or playing a big festival, visiting another country or opening for Hawkwind, or whatever. We’ve been lucky, but we’ve also put the hours in. But at no point has it ever felt like a breakthrough, though. For me at least.
It’s not a surprise that Hawkwind have taken to you. They’ve been a truly open minded and progressive band. What they’re doing now is as different from ‘Quark Strangeness & Charm’ as that was from ‘Hall of The Mountain Grill’ and the earliest stuff.
Matt: Yeah, a truly progressive band! I love that they have has lots of different eras, all of them remarkable. There’s no real point in repeating the past!
You were great when you supported them in Margate…
Matt: Thanks… I loved those Hawkwind shows and we’ve definitely picked up on some more people due to those. The Hawkwind guys were awesome, they seemed really in to what we were doing. Top people!
You’ve more than hinted at a new album in the works. How’s that going…and what can we expect from that?
Kev: To be honest…we don’t know ourselves! [laughs]
Matt: We’ll only put out music when we feel it’s ready. I’d rather not do another album than put out something I’m not happy with, but we’ve started working on new ideas…
Kev: We very rarely approach any project with anything other than the bare bones of an idea. We start playing and ideas form and eventually they all seem to gain some sort of sonic time stamp that mean they all fit together as a cohesive piece of work. A band like Faith No More is a great example of how eclectic you can be without worrying about it all sounding disjointed. We’re lucky that we’re not good enough players to sound like anyone other than ourselves!
Matt: The whole point of all the work we’ve put in was to create a reputation for making interesting records and gain a small cult following. I’m really pleased the audience has grown with each release. We invest everything back into the band so I hope it’s all working. Really, though, we’ve achieved everything we wanted to do. I wanted us to put out some good records and play festivals, to do decent shows and to play internationally.
All those boxes have now been ticked.
Matt: Yeah. The sell out headline shows this year really surprised me. I still want to do some more touring and..like I say…if we come up with ideas that are worth it we’ll continue to make records. I don’t want to repeat what we’ve done in the past. I’d like to do more electronic stuff and use different tunings and vocals and different sounds. I’ve not interest in doing ‘The Euphoric 2’ just because it was successful. The process of releasing records drives me somewhat nuts, so the music has to be something I’m really into, to make it worth it. As it is, I’ve got hours of demos…
Anything you’ve got earmarked for the next album?
Matt: Maybe, but it’s hard to say right now. Some of them are just riffs on acoustic guitar, some are rough orchestral arrangements. Some are us jamming in the rehearsal room and some are electronic tracks. By the time we finishing jamming on them and working on our parts, they’ll be very different anyway. No one in this band is given parts to play…we all work out what we do ourselves. The other guys come up with stuff I wouldn’t have thought of and vice versa. We’re all very open to ideas. Boredom is the enemy…and I don’t want to knock out album after album of instrumental guitar records…what’s the point?
A couple of your pre-Fierce/Dead solo records of instrumental guitar stuff have gained a cult following.
Matt: The ‘Ghost’ album was pretty popular on the interweb and I did a solo record for Esoteric/Cherry Red in 2014 that did okay. It was a weird thing, in that when I played live I didn’t have a band…it was just me messing about with a guitar and pedals. That becomes limiting. Also I didn’t like it having my name on it…I much prefer playing in a band. I like having other people to bounce off.
Looks like we’ve all got a lot to look forward to, whatever happens. In the meantime, it’s been great chatting with you.
Matt: An absolute pleasure, mate.
As a final thought: we once heard a rumour that you half cleared a room at an indoor festival because you weren’t what the typical prog crowd expected. Is there any truth in that story?
Kev: Yeah, we’ve heard that one too. I think it was a bit of confirmation bias from a few people. There were plenty of people having a great time down the front. And yes, some people want to hear things that trigger a comfortable nostalgia…and that’s fine, I guess. We’re probably not for them. I know there’s plenty of bands I can’t be objective about because they hooked me at a particular age. But really, music is subjective and there is no right or wrong. Take art as another example, a modernity gallery may have 50% of their display that appeals to me and 50% that doesn’t. But the difference is that I’m very glad that both halves exist because without that variety, everyone suffers. If I only listened to music that was bespoke and tailored specifically to me then it would diminish my understanding of the world for sure. Ignorance is the enemy. I don’t mind people not liking us, but I do actively object to people having a prejudice…making no attempt to understand new perspectives. We’ve never claimed to be prog…or anything else for that matter. We’re a rock and roll band, I guess. Our friends in the band Good Cop Bad Cop many years ago coined the term ‘Whatevercore’. I like that.
Matt: To be honest I’m not bothered what genre we get called as long as people are listening. Wherever we play we get a bit of odd bias. We played a post rock festival and somebody said to me that they only liked “traditional” post rock. God know what that is. We have elements of psychedelic, metal, post rock, progressive, US hardcore. Stuff that’s influenced by Warp Records. We just like loads of music and that comes out in our sound. One thing that annoys me is that some people even want a dress code – “I can’t like a band unless they are dressed as heavy metal pirates”, or whatever. I know some people don’t like us…and that’s fine…because the people who are into it are really into it.
As in ‘I Like It, I’m Into It’? We’ve always seen that as kind of being the band’s anthem…even though it’s instrumental.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. I’m not saying we’re great innovators, but we try to do new stuff. Just to keep ourselves interested really…and if the audience gets it, then that’s great.
The Fierce And The Dead’s ‘Live USA 17’ is released via Bad Elephant Music on October 4th 2019. You can order your copy from Bandcamp here. Album artwork by Mark Buckingham.