Tuesday 3 April 2012

Failsafe // Interview & Live Review

Failsafe, the Preston rock quintet, are back with album number three and are taking to the road on their first gigs of 2012. Yes, you may recognise these guys from The Inbetweeners episode they appeared in or from their slots playing with famed American "post-punk laptop" rapper MC Lars. Est.1987 caught up with lead singer Jim Norris ahead of their Manchester show to chat all things"Routines", music videos and the infamous British sitcom!

So, tonight’s the first night of the tour? Are you looking forward to it?
JIM- Yeah, definitely. Strangely enough, this is the first gig of the year for us. We did a big tour at the end of last year which went really well and we’re just raring to go. We’ve got the new albums with us and can’t wait to start playing the new songs and getting out there.

Your new album is out in May, and you’re offering it to fans to buy on this tour. How will the setlist work in terms of which songs you’ll include from your catalogue?
JIM- Yeah, we’re actually in the fortunate position to have them with us at the moment, quite early. The official release it May, and we’re really proud with how it’s looking and sounding. It took a while to formulate the setlist, but there’s quite a big mix of old, middle and new I guess. Like I say, we’re itching to play the new songs, so it’s hard not to play the whole album.

I’ve read that you said you never want to write the same album twice – how easy or hard is that progression from one record to the next?
"Routines" the new album out in May
JIM- I think we find it easy not to, because we started the band and recording stuff so young. We’ve grown up a lot between each album and tastes differ as you grow. I think we’ve been quite conscious of not wanting to do it; in practice, if someone comes up with an idea for a song we’re always asking the question “is this suitable? Is this where we want to be going?” So, it’s been easy not to churn out the same stuff that we’ve already done.

And what can fans expect from album number three?
JIM- They can expect a lot of melody actually. We’ve always been quite a melodic band I think, but this album is very melodic. We’re really proud of it and we think the songs are really finished articles and really rounded. And, yeah, big hooks hopefully.

The title “Routines”- how did that come about?
JIM- It was our guitarist, Matt, quite early on in the process for once. We were trying to think of a catchy name and every other time it’s been really last minute. But, early on he was like, “We’ve written the song Routines and that’s a snappy title for the album as well”. Also, it’s the same number of letters as Failsafe, so it fits nicely and it’s instantly recognisable and memorable.

Failsafe onstage in Manchester
You’ve just released the video for “Routines” – how important is it to you to have that visual side to the music? And do you enjoy making music videos?
JIM- Yeah, definitely; I’m a bit of a sucker for watching music videos; I’m always watching Scuzz and Kerrang! and really like that side of it. It was really cool to work with Mark Forrer on this video, because he’s more of a friend really and it was great to work with someone who really cared what he was doing. It can be a bit stressful and a bit strange sometimes, miming to a track and really going for it without any audience there, but I really enjoy doing it.

You guys are from Preston- how did the music scene there affect the formation of the band and your development?
JIM- I think it made us a bit tougher in a way, because we sort of leaned on Manchester and Stockport and played a lot of gigs there. There isn’t a massive music scene in Preston. I mean we all liked music and grew up listening to pop punk bands but there wasn’t much of that going on in Preston. But we stuck to our guns and were determined to do what we wanted to do. In a way that helped us and got us further afield to Manchester and eventually all over. I’d say Preston is a great place and I love playing there. There is an up and coming music scene, but I just feel it’s a little bit confused at the moment. I think in the next few years it’s going to come good and it’s going to be back in the game!

We first saw you guys when you played with MC Lars – are you still in touch with him and any plans to go back on the road playing with him?
JIM- Really? Wow! Lars is a great friend, he’s such a kind, generous guy and we really appreciate the opportunities to play with and for him, especially at big events like “Give It A Name”. We still keep in touch with Lars and think he’s still in talks with our drummer about a surprise, maybe this year to hook up again. But, yeah, we’d go to the end of the world for Lars, he’s a legend.

You’ve been on the bill with bands from a lot of different genres- playing Ghostfest, to then playing with MC Lars- do you think it’s a testament to your music that you can cross genres?
JIM- Yeah, we can go down well at a Lars gig or more hardcore gigs like Ghostfest. I think maybe it’s the live performance; the music isn’t necessarily that heavy, but we do like to have a good time and rock out on stage. I think it’s a testament to the variety of our music.

As we said you’ve got the album out soon, so what else have you got planned for this year?
JIM- 2012? Yeah, so we’ve got the album coming out and plans to do another video and another single. We’re also going to the States in June and July with our friends in Hawthorne Heights who kindly put the album out over there, so we’re doing a tour with those guys. Hopefully we’ll play a few festivals over summer and then another bigger headline tour later in the year, maybe get down South a bit and Leeds hopefully!

Failsafe on set at The Inbetweeners
And finally, we can’t leave without asking about The Inbetweeners – how was that experience and do you think it helped get the Failsafe name out there?
JIM- It really did. We actually didn’t manage to catch it when it was aired; we were in Bristol playing a gig but we managed to Sky Plus it. That night we were a trending topic on Twitter and people wanted to know if we were a real band or if we were just made up for the programme. But, yeah it was an awesome experience and awesome meeting the guys. The show approached our manager and said “we’ve heard about Failsafe, would they want to be on the show?” Our manager was like “hmmm let me think about that- YES of course”. It was great to see how it all worked; we were down there for two or three days watching them mess up their lines and stuff and great to be involved in that. It was really good for the band because some people came to gigs, and are still coming to gigs, off the back of that. So it was brilliant to be involved. 

And here's what happened when Failsafe took to the stage...

After catching up with front-man James [Jim] Morris earlier, and him revealing what we can expect from tonight’s show we were pretty eager for the Preston quintet to take to the stage in Manchester’s Sound Control. With a new album on the horizon, which is set to be their best yet, we are intrigued to hear these tracks at all, let alone in this live arena where Failsafe can really come to life. One by one the band take to the stage; the drum starts the beat and guitar chords are strummed. As soon as final member Jim storms the stage, a surge of electricity envelopes it. It may be their first show of 2012 but they are starting things with a bang.

Failsafe bassist Andy Sprake on stage
Jim is a strong and passionate lead for Failsafe, guiding them through “Guilt on Dirty Hands” and the soaring “When Words Run Out”, both taken from their 2008 offering “The Truth Is…” As Jim throws himself around both on stage and within the audience, the rest of Failsafe command the stage, taking us through their back catalogue of songs.  The poignant and epic “Cities and Headlights” with the crowd singing along, marks a turning point in the set as Failsafe move on to their forthcoming album.

The new songs from third album “Routines” fit neatly into the set alongside former hits and crowd favourites. This new material such as “Early Hours”  have a more anthemic and melodic tone driving them. “Skin and Bone” blends heavy guitar riffs with captivating instrumental breakdowns. “Live in this city, die in this city, make enough money, spend it on nothing”, resonates Jim on the infectious “Sleepwalker”. Ending with lead single “Routines”, Failsafe prove that they are looking towards the future of the band; and if the album contains songs as strong as the selection previewed here tonight then their future is looking bright indeed!

Catch Failsafe on tour...