THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND
The Future Kings Of England are a trio from Ipswich, Suffolk, who, if there’s any justice left in this world, will eventually be held in the same regard as the Godspeed commune or Iceland’s Sigur Ros. The band consist of Ian Fitch (guitar), Karl Mallett (bass / glissando / tapes), and Simon Green (Drums & Percussion). Their eponymous debut was a frighteningly assured CDEP where their prismatic instrumentals live in the gaps between post rock, kosmische and oceanic genres.
Simon Lewis was dispatched to talk to them on for Terrascope Online in November 2005.
SL: Let’s start at the beginning, how did you all meet and then decide to form a band? Had you played in other groups before The Future Kings?
FKOE: We all met about 14 years ago to form our previous band ‘The Carpet Ride’. It was through a shared interest of putting something together in the Psychedelic mould but with singing being the main difference to now.
The Carpet Ride went through a couple of changes with different singers and came to a head when we worryingly started to become more mainstream and song based which we didn’t really feel comfortable with. It was our own fault really, at the time we we’re influenced by ‘The Bends’ era Radiohead - not that was a bad thing, but we felt we we’re forcing ourselves in to that area which wasn’t us.
Helpfully, our singer left the band and we thought we’d go back to the drawing board and play stuff which was true to ourselves. A clean slate, a new name for the band and we three as the core members because we all get on so well. We also decided that the band would be instrumental so that the music would speak for itself. Not having words is a lot easier in our opinion. We prefer the music itself to express moods rather than use lyrics which tend to spell things out too explicitly. Unless they're very well written. Our lyrics tend to veer towards comedy which isn't always suitable to the music. And none of us can sing.
Your debut album is a soaring and expansive collection of songs. How much is your sound influenced by the landscape around you, it certainly seems to reflect the sudden changes of light and the flatness of the area.
We are interested in the Suffolk landscape around us, but it’s not a conscious thing. We all appreciate the atmosphere of Suffolk and our latest tune ‘Dunwich’ wasn’t really influenced by Dunwich as a place - we just had to think of a song title and that seemed to fit the mood and atmosphere of it nicely.
Steve Mann, your producer, also plays keyboards on the album, did it help to have someone so in tune with the bands sound producing the recordings.
Oh yes, Steve is quite an integral part to the band really. He is opened minded to what we want to do, and understands where we’re coming from musically. Initially we will write the material and when we’re in the studio with him that’s we’re the magic begins because he is so willing to try new ideas.
Given the epic nature of your songs it must be difficult to re-create the sound in a live setting. How do you solve this problem and is it easy to find venues sympathetic to your sound? I imagine not.
Steve plays keyboards for us live, and he also has to juggle with the effects that we have stored on a digital 4 track machine that he fades in and out in various places. We do a reasonable job in recreating our songs live. Just don’t expect us to be leaping about while we’re doing it!
Your mainly instrumental songs are sprinkled with timely, unusual and sympathetic samples that add to, rather than detract from, the music. Are the samples chosen as the song is written or added afterwards, and is one person responsible for choosing them.
When the skeleton of a song is written, we find that the mood of the piece will suggest certain sound effects. We then discuss which samples would be suitable for each song or even if any are needed at all. We tend to have the same ideas when it comes to this sort of thing, which makes life easier.
Talking of songwriting, do you have a method of writing or does it vary from song to song?
Most of our stuff tends to be different fragments all stitched together to make a whole song based on a feel or mood. Sometimes it's all a bit random though.
Usually someone brings an idea for one or more bits and the rest comes from stuff we think of to fit with those bits.
Listening to your music bands such as Hawkwind, Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel, and Porcupine Tree are apparent, yet you manage to retain your own style and identity. How would you describe your sound and what bands have influenced and inspired you over the years?
Floyd, Hawkwind and early Genesis are big influences, them and many other bands. We try to create atmospheres in our music without being too retro. Our sound is governed by our musical abilities which aren’t virtuoso which but do lend us a certain sound. Though it would be nice to be able to play trickier material there’s a lot to be said for recognizing and working with your limitations.
What does the future hold for the band? Do you have any concrete plans at the moment?
We’re currently writing new material in a purpose built shed at the bottom of Ian’s garden, which will hopefully appear in the future on Backwater Records. We also have a gig at The Spitz in London on the 19th December 2005.
Can you tell us where the name comes from, any secret meanings behind it?
No secrets. We just thought it was a good name!
Finally, could you each name a couple of albums you are enjoying at the moment?
Karl is listening to a lot of Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy, Simon is listening to a lot of Acid Folk and West Coast psych. Ian’s iPod is set on random so he doesn’t know what’s coming up next and Steve is loving The Electric Light Orchestra and T Rex.
Contact the band: Steve Mann on firstname.lastname@example.org
Backwater Records, PO Box 51, Ipswich, Suffolk IP4 4AN UK
Interview by Simon Lewis, edited by Phil with an introduction by Steve Pescott © Terrascope Online 2005