By Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
Few bands go the distance these days. From next big things to yesterday’s heroes, most crash and burn within a few years of the first hints of success.
But not Funeral for a Friend. The Welsh post-hardcore band who first came to fame on the NME tour of 2004 alongside the likes of Franz Ferdinand, are still going strong , as their new album Conduit, their sixth, amply illustrates.
Amazingly, the enduring popularity of this energy-packed rock group in the ephemeral world of pop has happened despite numerous changes in line-up. It may be a bit rash but I put it to their lead singer Matt Davies-Kreye they’ve lost so many members that they’re the Spinal Tap of the modern era.
Matt laughs the remark off talking to me the morning after playing a show in Belfast.
“The band is the strongest it’s been in a long time. The new members all share the band’s influences and they all contribute ideas. We’ve come full circle back to our original sound. ”
Early success with debut album Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation on a major label did lead to a crisis of faith as the pressures of constanting touring and recording took their toll eventually, Matt admits.
“The major changes in line-up happened came after the third or fourth records. We were burnt out and tired and allowed ourselves to be affected by outside influences who tainted what we did. It got to the point where I didn’t recognise my own band anymore.”
With the steadying presence of other surviving original member Kris Coombs-Roberts on guitar and the injection of fresh blood in the shape of more recent recruits Gav Burrough, Richard Boucher and Pat Lundy, Funeral for a Friend are back on the road with renewed vigour, as fans will see for themselves when they play The Duchess in York next Monday and The Cockpit in Leeds the following evening.
It need not have been that way, however. The band may have fallen from the wayside like so many others.
“I did think about stopping altogether during the worst period but I realised eventually myself and Kris still had the same self-belief. It also helped that the new members gelled as personalities on our last album, Welcome Home Armageddon.”
Now recording for an indie label, the new album checks in at a fast-paced 30 minutes.
It does, indeed, sound like a return to Funeral for a Friend’s punk roots more than ten years after they first formed.
“We’re very selfish in the sense that our devotion is to our music, no matter what the audience might like. We didn’t start out to be rock stars or famous. ”
I ask Matt which acts he would book if in a quirk of fate he was asked to curate the Meltdown Festival on the South Bank.
Alongside the expected nods to Minor Threat, Husker Du, Henry Rollins and Gorilla Biscuits, he also suggests The Beatles, though I point out, like FFAF, they only have two original members.
“We know what we stand for. I’m from a working class background. We don’t have flash cars. We’re just happy to make music that matters to us.”