Grand sweeping choruses, epic widescreen ambition, and soaring guitars. This is where Funeral For A Friend find themselves in 2007. Thriving on a new sense of drive and purpose, their new album, Tales Don’t Tell Themselves, is the boldest statement they’ve yet made – both a culmination of everything they’ve done to date and a breathtaking reinvention.
“We’ve never written anything like this before,” says drummer Ryan Richards. “It’s just the best music we’ve ever made. That’s really all I can say.” Singer Matt Davies-Kreye concurs: “We were adamant that we wanted to go somewhere different. We wanted to explore different areas; we wanted to push things a little bit further.”
But the album had a difficult birth. A two-month writing spell over the summer of 2006 had produced little of worth, as the band struggled for inspiration. “We wrote a bunch of stuff,” says Richards. “They were good songs, I suppose, but none of it was very different from the music we had written for our last album, Hours. We were just going over old ground. Matt was struggling for lyrics, too, and he didn’t seem to be particularly inspired by anything.”
“For the most part, we had hit a brick wall,” agrees Davies-Kreye. “I felt so detached from the songwriting because I’d been doing it the same way for so long. I had to really look at new ways of doing things.”
Fate intervened with a much-needed break for self-reflection. Richards took three weeks off from the songwriting process when his wife gave birth to a baby daughter, giving the rest of the band – including guitarists Kris Coombs-Roberts and Darran Smith and bassist Gareth Davies – an opportunity to honestly evaluate their summer’s work. “It was very frustrating,” says Richards. “We realized that we weren’t taking any risks. We knew we needed to be braver, we had to put ourselves out there.”
They returned to their practice room in their Welsh homeland newly charged, an intensive bout of writing leading to nine new songs in just two weeks. “We were just firing songs out,” says Davies-Kreye. “It was like we were possessed. All these songs were just flowing out of us.”
One of those songs was a multi-structured, heroic 12-minute piece initially titled “Reunion.” This marked a watershed moment in the genesis of Tales Don’t Tell Themselves and the album that it would become. The piece had a cinematic feel to it. Davies-Kreye had rethought his lyric-writing process, taking inspiration from his days as a film student. “I was writing in a semi-narrative script form,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in writing that way, so I tried to write a story in a play-style form.”
The vivid story that Davies-Kreye constructed tells of a fisherman lost at sea, forced to battle nature against all odds in order to survive and return home to his family. “Basically it does stand as a metaphor of being able to overcome the things you might be afraid of in life, the trials we all face, and finding the courage to carry on. Giving up on the things that are important is sometimes not an option.”
“I like the way stories flow,” Davies-Kreye continues. “I like the way country music tells stories, and I wanted to try it. I sang what I had to the band to see if they liked it and everybody stopped and went, ‘Fucking hell!’ It became one of the most direct and uplifting choruses we’ve ever written. We played the song six or seven times immediately after that because we didn’t want to lose the tingle we had down our spines. It was special.”
“That song gave us focus and purpose,” agrees Richards. “We ended up splitting it into three parts, which ended up as the first song (‘Into Oblivion/Reunion’), last song (‘Sweetest Wave’) and middle (‘Raise The Sail’ and ‘Open Water’). The rest of the album was built around that core.”
That storyline runs through the entire album not only lyrically, but also musically. You can sense the power of the ocean and its tumultuous waves in the searing guitar riffs in tracks like “Out Of Reach” as well as the aforementioned “Raise The Sail” and “Open Water.”
“It was almost as though we were writing the soundtrack to a film,” Richard continues. “We’d never written that way before. Listening back to the other tracks we’d written over the summer was odd – there was just no comparison to what we had been doing and where we were going. We scrapped nearly all of it and got on with writing the rest of the record. We felt born again; we felt like a new band.”
This rebirth meant making a record that will shatter any previous opinions or expectations about Funeral For A Friend, one that hums with a majesty and vision that defies anyone to still think of them as an emo band. “That just baffled me anyway,” laughs Davies-Kreye.
Formed in 2001 in South Wales, the band’s two early EPs saw them lumped into an easy emo pigeonhole. Their first album, Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation, earned them critical acclaim and commercial success (certified gold in the UK), but did little to change that stereotype, despite the band’s protestations that they were simply a rock band. Their last album, Hours, also went gold in the UK and changed some opinions. But it is Tales Don’t Tell Themselves that has placed them on the verge of breaking into the big leagues, a major album that both shatters their blueprint and expands it into something teaming with aspiration, splendour, and depth. A newfound mastery of melody and song structure is displayed in songs like “On A Wire” and “Walk Away” – while still undeniably FFAF, both are departures from anything the band has ever done before.
Some of the credit must also go to acclaimed producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Catherine Wheel, Foo Fighters), who forced FFAF to hone their songwriting in the studio, cutting the fat and streamlining their sound. Still, he found room for towering walls of strings, French horns and a 26-piece orchestra on several of the tracks to compliment the epic nature of the album. “Things really clicked between us,” says Davies-Kreye. “We wanted to do something that was braver, more out of the box, and more dynamic – and he instantly understood that.”
“We wanted to make a very big, fucking grand-sounding record,” he continues. “There’s definitely a classical feel to some of the stuff. It’s very cinematic too. It’s the Lawrence Of Arabia of records!”
The Story Behind Tales Don’t Tell Themselves
From Matt Davies
David is a fisherman who is captain of a boat that regularly trawls the deep waters. He comes from a small fishing town on the coast, where his wife Eleanor and daughter Isabelle await his return. A huge storm quickly approaches, hitting the town and then battering David’s boat. He is left shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, the only survivor. David spends days adrift, becoming delirious and wondering if he will ever see his family again. Meanwhile, the townspeople fear that the fishermen are all dead, as the Coast Guard’s rescue attempts have failed to recover any survivors. David becomes so delirious his life flashes before his eyes (he guides his younger self through his life as a blackbird). Eventually, he hits land and snaps out of his delusion. He is scared of the waters and the colossal waves and power that killed his crew, but he decides that doing nothing to get back to Eleanor and Isabelle is the cowardly way out. So he decides to build a small raft and brave the elements once again. This time, he is found by a lifeboat and reunited with his family. The End. Basically, it’s