Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:07 PM ( 1200 views )The Futureheads is one of my top ten bands ever, hands down. Combining melody, harmony - how do you describe something that you just have to listen to and let it take over your world? For the Futureheads create worlds in each song in the way film plays before your eyes. It jars, it snaps, then it caresses. Their second album, News and Tributes, released on June 13th in the States, seals the deal.
Ross Millard, singer/guitarist/writer and one quarter of the Futureheads, spoke with me just before a show he was set to do in the U.K. There are many things I want to know about the Futureheads, and so narrowed my questions down to a few for Millard, whose voice is perfection spoken and sung.
How did Return of the Berserker come about?
Millard: That was more or less fully improvised. We were very conscious with the new album that it was a little bit more controlled, well, a little bit less crazy in a way. So we made an effort to have certain songs or certain moments on the album that were completely the opposite of that, very much a hark back to the earlier days maybe. We had a couple of rules: Barry would keep a riff going and the rest of us would count in and out at random intervals and he wouldnít have any idea when we were going to join in again. It was just like a little project at first and then it became a really nice piece of music to have in the middle of the record because it was so contrasting with the songs on either side of it.
Thereís singing in it also - in the background.
Millard: Thereís like a lead vocal really heavily distorted.
You did a version of Fit But You Know it with the Streetsí Mike Skinner
Millard: Heís on the same label as us and he wanted a live band to do a version of that song for the single. Heís not really the kind of artist who works with live musicians so much. So 679 asked if weíd submit a version and people liked it enough to use it as the version with a band recording. We didnít actually meet him in the flesh until much later - we just got the track sent to us in the studio.
Would you do another one?
Millard: I donít know. Maybe - it would be nice to see if we could work the other way around. Someone like that remix one of our songs rather than us always reinterpreting other peopleís songs because as much as we like doing that with other musicians and stuff, thereís a temptation to want to just write your own music. Weíll have to wait and see.
Millard: What song would he do?
Area would be a good one, I guess - a similar sort of subject matter to the kind of thing that he would sing about - the town he grew up in, the state of play that itís in. It would be interesting to see what someone like that could do with one of our songs but I shouldnít hold my breath for it to happen.
You never know.
The Song Man Ray, is it about the artist?
Millard: It is absolutely [inspired by him] - itís not really about him. I think the premise of the song is - I didnít write that one - to try and woo a girl by getting into Man Ray and Weston and stuff. Discovering art as a way to woo a woman.
Meatyard article was impressive. You are interested in photography? Have you studied it?
Millard: Iíve never studied it or anything. Iím sort of at an amateur level - Iím very much interested in it. I do always have a camera with us - itís more exciting to take pictures when youíre out of the U.K. for some reason. I never seem to be struck with too much inspiration. I guess because all the towns you end up playing in the U.K. youíve been to a million times before. Itís more a way to document what weíre doing rather than anything else. As far as techniqueís concerned Iím not particularly well versed. Itís nice to keep your fingers in the pie so as to speak.
What did you study at university?
Millard: I did English literature.
Millard: I really like hard-boiled fiction, noirish stuff. Raymond Chandler. Dashiell Hammet. I also like Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man - I love that book). Itís really hard to pin down specific people.
Letís talk about News and Tributes.
Millard: I guess it works in a similar way to what Danger of the Water does in the first record. Itís about the Munich air disaster that involved the Man United Football Team. Itís not at all about that incident because of it specifically being Man United or football but more because thereís elements of a real human tragedy in it. Everyone likes a good tragedy every now and again - itís nice to sink your teeth into something that poignant. Itís a bit of a challenge to write about as well cause you look at the landscape of rock n roll lyrics and itís a bit two dimensional to say the least, isnít it? Iíve always liked bands and artists who write songs about things that you never really would expect to be written about.
Are you a Man U supporter?
Millard:Yeah, I am - thatís kind of where the song started out more as kind of a project to see if I could write a song about that without it necessarily being a Futureheads song in the beginning. When we came to record the other lads liked it enough to want to work out the version for us to do as a group sort of thing. There are a lot of songs like that one of us will have that stylistically would never work in the band so itís always nice to eventually work through that . . . something that doesnít sound like it would work in the band eventually becomes important for the new record.
You said you had a goal to Nasty and abrasive music? Has this changed?
Millard: A little bit in the sense that you donít want to do the same thing too often. Weíre very concerned with being regarded as one of those bands that can be around for a long time, and being known for one thing and one thing only is never very good for that. We love a challenge so there was something nice in trying to prove that we were a band that could be more than just abrasive. Thereís elements in the new record that are still quite s similar to the first album but I think thereís a lot more ambition to the song writing on the second album.
Are the lyrics available?
Millard: Theyíre in the artwork this time. I think weíre a bit more sure of ourselves in terms of what weíre singing about this time. Itís not embarrassing having every one know what youíre singing about - itís quite nice in a way.
What did you get up to last time in Seattle that you might do again?
Millard: There was a vegetarian restaurant that we went to. Last time we had a day off we went to see the baseball. Doing something like that makes you feel like youíre somewhere special. Weíve got a couple of instores lined up, too. Weíre playing Easy Street Records.
What side of your family do your dark looks come from?
My dadís side I think. Thatís an unusual question. The lads sort of slightly take the piss out of us because they think I look a bit Mexican or something. Weíve got this lad for the minute doing merch with us, heís Peruvian, and people say me and him look like brothers.