Fyfe Dangerfield Interview

"There’s good music everywhere. People knock it, but it's mainstream for a reason."

Guillemots have played the likes of Hyde Park, Koko and many other prestigious venues in the UK. Now, lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield is on a mission of his own to make his mark on the music world as a solo artist. Having just released his debut album “Fly Yellow Moon” and grabbing the opportunity to have his new single “She’s Always A Woman” featured in the latest John Lewis advert, it seems he is already well on his way.
We caught up with Fyfe at his one off show in Toronto, Canada.

So, Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots fame!
Well I wouldn’t call it “fame”…

Well you’re pretty big in the UK.
Are we? [laughs] Well I dunno, we’re sort of medium… medium rare.

What made you decide to do a solo project?
Vanity! No not really, it just kind of happened. I didn’t really think about it much. We had just finished touring our second record with Guillemots. It came to the end of the year and we had some time off for a few months. I’d been writing songs here and there on the road. I’d been trying to write quite a few songs specifically that year just because I really felt like I’d been focusing on sounds a lot for the past couple of years. And this was in 2008, so I was in quite a different place to where I am now. I had to kind of try and force myself to write on acoustic guitars ‘casue I tend to get quite bored doing that. I always tend to need sounds to get excited by. So I wanted to write on two or three acoustics which is pretty boring and somehow make it exciting. I did that, and had a bunch of songs so I phoned my friend Adam who worked on both the Guillemots records and just said ‘Do you want to book some studio time for five days, record and see what happens?’ So we did that and in the end we came out of it with about 14 songs and about seven of them are on the album now, and about five or six of those I didn’t need to change at all. We just left them as we had mixed them in five minutes. It was more like a demo session which had then become a record. So it wasn’t really a “plan”.
Also I really wanted to do this by myself, I mean I love playing in Guillemots but I also feel the need to do something completely different. Guillemots are four very creative people and they all really inspire me. I mean I can’t ever imagine the band splitting up but it is just nice to do something where I knew what bass line I wanted, and I knew which beat I wanted and I could just play it. It was just kind of different I guess. Also most of the songs on the record are fairly acoustic anyway so I don’t really need a band behind me.

So the new album ‘Fly Yellow Moon’ is out, how would you describe it to someone who has never heard your music?
I’m terrible at these kind of questions, we’ll just leave that one for the people.

I saw you at the O2 Wireless festival in 2008 and that was a massive show, whereas tonight is a more intimate show. Do you prefer playing large venues or smaller shows?
Yeah this one’s really tiny but I quite enjoy that. They’re very different, I mean Guillemots haven’t been over to Toronto since 2006. We did a lot of gigs before our record came out and then it kind of slowed down. We had a few problems with our record company, and then we couldn’t get a tour support to come over with us, so you know it’s pretty much like starting out again from scratch, so I was expecting it to be quite a small gig. It’s kind of nice doing a smaller show, it’s a lot more relaxed.

If you could host your own festival who would be in your dream lineup?
I’m really bad at these questions, they’re really good questions, but I just go blank. It’s like when someone says “Tell me a joke”.

Ah that was going to be my next question!
Ah no don’t ask me for a joke! [laughs] I’d like to see Animal Collective again. I’ve seen them once, but I’d never heard of them. I saw them at SXSW in 2006 and since then I’ve really got into them so it’d be quite interesting to see them again. Something like Bob Dylan with Animal Collective as his backing band singing completely out of time with each other. And then MIA would just run across the stage shouting. [laughter] Something like that would be great!

Obviously you play a lot of shows with Guillemots, but do you ever to go to shows yourself and watch from a fans perspective?
Not as much as I’d like, but I do get to yeah. I’m trying to make more of an effort to get out to gigs actually. I saw a band the other night in New York, Savoir Adore they were called. They were really good, a little tip for you!

You’ve already covered a song by Billy Joel, are there any other covers you would like to do in the future?
Well we’ve done various covers in Guillemots and I’ve been covering a song by Girls Aloud.

What! Girls Aloud?
Hey, don’t knock them! Girls Aloud are great! I’m not saying what song it is though. I think tonight would be a good place to play it. It sounded really good in this venue when I tried it at the sound check. Yeah I really like them! I’ve also been covering The Beatles “A Fool on the Hill” as well. I actually got to play it in front of Macca which was pretty crazy. He came to see my show, and he came backstage just before I went on so you know, that didn’t make me nervous at all! [laughs] I didn’t really listen to anything but The Beatles ‘til I was about eight or nine because my brother had got me into them, so it was pretty much playing in front of an idol. There are lots of songs I’d like to cover. I love “No One” by Alicia Keys, I think that’s a really good song but I haven’t got round to it yet.

I there anyone else you would want to work with?
Loads! I’d love to work with Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. I’d just love to write with all these great vocalists that are around at the moment in the R’n’B scene. It’s really hard to mention just one person, I mean Kelis would be great. “Accapella” is a great song.

That’s not what I was expecting you to say! I expected people I’d never heard of…
Well that’s the thing, I like a lot of mainstream stuff and I like a lot of other stuff, it just depends. There’s good music everywhere. People knock it, but it’s mainstream for a reason. Having said that, I’d be quite happy to listen to an hour of White Noise or some trash metal band or Jazz. If it’s been done with the right intentions, with the soul and energy, I tend to like it generally. I think you can hear that in pop music too. Some pop music you hear, it sounds like it’s been made quite cynically but then some of it sounds like it’s been made with real guts in it and real talent.

As you’re doing this solo project at the moment, does this mean you are taking a break from Guillemots?
No, we’re actually just about to start making our new record in two weeks time. We’ve been writing for over a year so we are figuring out exactly what we are going to do. I’m really excited about it!

I’m going to put you on the spot now – if it was a life or death situation and you were told you could either play with the Guillemots forever or as a solo artist forever, which would you choose?
When would that ever happen? Who is gonna put a gun to my head and go ‘I want all your money unless you choose?’ I mean that’s like asking ‘who would you kill, your Mum or your Dad?’. You’d be in a pretty fucked up situation if that did happen [laughs]. I think answering that question would be the least of my worries, I’d be thinking ‘how the fuck do I get out of there?’! I don’t really imagine Guillemots ever splitting up, but I’ve always intended to do things by myself as well. And I think doing this has been really important for the health of the band actually. I needed to do something myself for a break and I certainly will do so again.

Why should people go and buy ‘Fly Yellow Moon’? This is your chance to sell it!

I’m terrible at this… again. I’m terrible at both describing myself and selling myself. The questions are great, I’m just bad at answering them. Erm, If it was in the UK I’d say buy it ’cause it’s cheap, because it’s just been re-packaged now. In fact, I just found out today it’s number 12! That’s pretty exciting for me!

That’s amazing! Well done! And your song “She’s Always A Woman” has been used for the John Lewis advert.
Yeah! That’s why people should buy it, ’cause I’ve had a song I didn’t write which has been used in an advert, and because it’s cheap. I can’t think of any other reasons. If I say “It’s good” it’s not really gonna sell it, is it?

But it is good! I’ve had a listen to your MySpace, and it’s great! You should be proud.
Wow! Thankyou. I just really don’t know how to sell it though. Maybe because it’s got a nice bright yellow field on the cover of it? And in America you don’t get rape fields apparently. So for Americans/Canadians, you can buy it and see a rape field and listen to some nice music at the same time.

What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m gonna be focusing on the band quite a bit I think. There’ll be a Guillemots tour, but probably not ‘til next year. I hope I’ll be back later in the year doing some solo shows in America. The plan is to record the next Guillemots record for the next two or three months and then do some more stuff for my solo record but plans always change.

Describe what music means to you in three words.
Close to sanity!

Click here to visit the Fyfe Dangerfield MySpace.

Interview by Tanu Ravi