Malmö four-piece FEWS, an American/British/Swedish kraut-inspired post-punk story, signed a record deal after sending a demo link to their Soundcloud page to a “random person” at record label PIAS, ending up in the release of their first album “Means” in 2016 – with that random person as their manager.
They also tried to reach out to Swedish international superstar football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic and wrote a song in his name, but Zlatan never replied to their homage or mentioned the song in social media. Maybe it’s just a matter of poor taste in music?
Working with legendary producer Dan Carey [Bat For Lashes, Franz Ferdinand, The Kills] they redefined the psychedelic and kraut-inspired elements from “Means” on “Into Red” and created a wave of glorious droney post-punk, drawing accolades from both fans and critics. “Into Red” pushes the sound further, and it might just be Fews’ most fulfilling collection of songs to date.
When the four-piece made a stopover in Hamburg to play Molotow Skybar we sat down with David, Fred, Rasmus and Jay and talked about their latest album “Into Red”, the financial decision of living in Malmö and David pulling himself out of the band.
Sweden: Cheap living, boring music scene
As a start, I’m just curious if Zlatan ever got back to you after you dedicated a song to him?
David: No, never (laughs). We didn’t really expect it to happen either to be honest, it was just a fun thing like “I wonder if he ever going to hear this?”.
Jay: Maybe we should approach him directly?
I read somewhere that you said that the Swedish scene is too crowded, there’s simply too many bands and they all sound the same which makes it a bit boring. But you live in Malmö. Why would you stay in Sweden rather than relocate to a place more interesting in terms of music and inspiration?
Jay: I just followed them and it’s a bit cheaper to live [in Malmö] than in the UK.
David: Things like that. You don’t need a full-time job to pay the rent, you can actually put your efforts into music, that’s why I live there. If you compare to Stockholm and Gothenburg, Malmö is much cheaper.
But we don’t play that much in Sweden, just a couple of shows in Malmö, one in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg, we mostly play in the UK and Germany.
Jay: It will probably be a million times easier to do this band if we lived in the UK, but not living in London because rent everywhere else is cheap as fuck. It makes the band a shitload harder being in Sweden because we could play loads of UK shows supporting bands there, and the cost of travel isn’t that much, but living in London is fucking ridiculously expensive. I guess it’s like living in Stockholm compared to Malmö.
In the UK there’s loads of bands coming from Nottingham or Sheffield and many smaller cities because it’s cheap rent. I guess that’s why people live in Malmö if you’re Swedish band.
But how is for you to come from the British scene to Sweden which is tiny in comparison?
Jay: I compare all the time to London because that’s where I started playing music. The main thing I miss is to go to a gig every night of the week, usually for free entrance or like six or seven Euros to see great bands. But you can’t really compare bigger cities to smaller places.
Isn’t it also that many smaller venues in Sweden disappear because of gentrification and that there’s not that many clubs to play?
Rasmus: I think that Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm got some help to survive but that’s all over Sweden just like Truckstop Alaska in Gothenburg. Plan B has been taken over but the same people will run it with a new ownership to make sure everything is legal.
David: They’ve had some legal problems running it, that’s why it was about to close down, out of necessity. They never had a license for selling alcohol and I guess that may be a problem (laughs), and once you’ve done something illegal you can’t get a license. Never sell illegal beer kids (laughs).
The story when you ended up on PIAS seems to be some sort of a fairytale, at least a lot of luck. Did it really happened that way that you just sent an email and then they got back to with a contract?
Fred: We sent a demo but not the A&R at PIAS.
David: We sent it to a random person that we just found a mail address to (laughs).
Fred: He was at label services at PIAS, and I just sent him a Soundcloud link to our “The Zoo” demo and said like “Work with us”, and he was like “Yeah, it sounds amazing but I don’t really do anything, I take care of the label” (laughs). But then he ended up being our manager.
David: He left the company and started working with us instead (laughs).
PIAS was the first and only label we sent our demo to. I don’t really know what happened, Craig talked them into signing us (laughs).
Jay: And there’s a lot of labels going through PIAS, hundreds of labels, and it’s kind of nice to have all of them as a label family. I guess that’s what makes it different to other labels.
“More music and more of everything”
The evolution of the music industry is destroying bands that play music mid-tier or lower. When you tally up the price of transportation, equipment, production, crew and accommodation, the total cost of a tour can quickly spiral out of control – especially if you’re not moving as many tickets as you’d like. That’s the harsh reality of touring, and today all bands have to tour to earn anything at all.
Although they just released “Into Red” Jay points out that their future goal is to release music more frequent and tour more but it’s always dependent on the costs of dragging a four-piece across Europe. What they do know already is that the next tour will be without David who’s leaving the band for working with other projects.
Let’s talk about the new album, that’s why you are on this tour. The sound on “Into Red” is quite different from your debut “Means”, which sounds much like you’re trying to find your identity.
Fred: Defintitely. We played so much live after releasing “Means” and the whole live situation after that album made us understand how we wanted it to sound like, where to take the music.
David: The first album wasn’t played live before we recorded it, except for a very few times. It was just a random collection of songs that we had and we just happened to get signed and had to do something, and we recorded the songs we had. When we toured with those songs we realized kind of quickly what worked out and not and just learned from that.
Fred: “Means” turned out more poppier than it felt. It’s much more fun to play the songs on “Into Red”.
David: But maybe it’s just how we feel right now because we have changed and know how we want it to sound like today. And the songs to “Into Red” were written in a more linear way. Fred had some kind of demo for us and took it to rehearsals and we just jammed.
Or what do I say, I don’t know how we really wrote the songs (laughs). You had a demo [turning to Fred] and we just figured it all out during rehearsals, right?
Rasmus: Wasn’t it more ideas that we brought together in a live situation? The first album was already done before we recorded it because all the songs were already written. This record feels more like we’re collaborating.
I know that you worked with Dan Carey on the albums and you also said in another interview that he shaped the sound of the first album, but how important has he been for your overall development as a band?
Fred: He has been very important because it feels like he was in the band, a bit, when we did “Means”.
David: We did “Means” with him in his studio and were there three different times to record. His energy and his ideas, working and getting things done, just ends up in music, and we ripped that off and made it into something of our own.
But what can we expect in the next one or two years after David has left?
Fred: A new album but I want to do an EP before we do another album.
Jay: Putting out new music sooner and not waiting three years again, because everything moves so quickly. I think the stop after “Means” made us step back a little bit from where we was at the end of 2016, and we’ve kind of done nothing in between, just a couple of things.
More music and more of everything, especially touring more. Right now this year’s future depends on this tour and album. We still have many months left of the year and whatever the outcome of the tour is will set the future of this year.
If you want to get out music much quicker could that mean that you will release EP’s instead of an album which is kind of what many bands do today?
Fred: I don’t want to do that, I want to do an album. I just want to do one EP (laughs) with three songs and after that do an album.
Jay: I agree but no album after this tour, we have no songs (laughs).
David: That’s actually the most difficult thing of having a band because you have to be on tour and it’s difficult to make music, or you have to make music to be able to go on tour
It’s interesting what you say because maybe that’s what’s necessary, to do new music on tour.
Fred: I try to record stuff as much as possible on my phone, just a tiny few seconds.
Jay: It’s a hard thing to do because we’re usually in a van and drive ourselves around, and everyone is a bit fucked and dying (laughs). When we do have some time to have fun it’s about playing a show and hang out after the show, and then it’s back in the van.
It’s not really possible to jam in the back of the van, it just doesn’t happen except for one time. We had a rehearsal in the middle of a tour because we had several days off in Amsterdam, and were not just allowed to hang out for three days (laughs). We wrote a song to our album in Amsterdam in a rehearsal space at Paradiso, so maybe we can at least try to write one new song per tour (laughs).
David: Maybe we could have every other day off and just write a song (laugh). We have one more day off on this tour, don’t we?
Jay: Yeah, maybe we can write two songs this tour.
David: We already had one day off and we didn’t write anything.
Final tour with David
You are on tour until the end of the month, at least what’s official. What is happening the rest of 2019?
Jay: I think we just have to wait and see what shows we will get of it, what comes up next. We’ve been offered a couple of festivals but with the travel costs for one off festivals, to get four people on planes with equipment to the other side of Europe and back, and paying for hotels and vans, is pointless to do. But as soon as more of that comes in or another tour, then we will just go out and do it with the new guy.
It’s tough to get it to actually earn anything. David can obviously do that, he does live off music. Just us, four guys in a band, touring and making one record every three years (laughs), that’s not much money until you become huge all of a sudden and you do two weeks of stadium tours.
David: I think you actually can do it if you find the right booking agency. I’m not saying that we don’t have the right booking agent, don’t mention that (laughs), but if you have the right booking agent and figure out how to tour efficiently, like not losing money on tour, then I think that FEWS definitely can live off it.
You’re leaving the band after this tour, David, to do other things. What’s happened? And do you have a replacement already?
David: Other things in life that I have to do at the moment (laughs).
There is a replacement for now but who knows what happens in the future. Maybe I’ll be back, maybe they won’t let me come back (laughs). But there is someone else filling in for me, a friend of ours.
Fred: We probably have someone for some live shows but we don’t know yet. But it’s really hard to hang out with a person, it needs to work out in a band. It’s not much playing, it’s more hanging out and waiting to play a show. We’re sort of used to this guy (laughs).
Don’t you think it will be a problem for that new person to come in and fill in for David that’s one of the co-founders of the band?
David: No one can obviously replace me (laughs).
This bands is a lot about touring and I’m in a position where I can’t tour that much. I would love to stay in the band but I feel it won’t be right that these guys should wait for me to be able to tour, it’s better that they continue without me. The guy that replaces me on tour is a friend and it will work out.
Fred: He’s playing with a really great band called Useless Eaters, a San Francisco band.
Jay: Now we’re announcing it like it’s all out. I hope he wants to play (laughs). But as long as he feels good playing the parts I don’t think there’s going to be any pressure if it’s not any weird people in the audience not liking him because he is not David, but that’s their problem.
Do you really have that kind of hardcore fans that care that much?
Fred: There’s this one guy who loves David (laughs).
Jay: Just one guy and girls like the rest of us (laughs).
Photographer: ©Alexander Schmitz