The decision to put something that’s been such a huge part of your life to bed wasn’t the easiest of choices to make, but we always said as a band that when the wheels fall off or it becomes less fun and we know that we’ve reached that point, then we would stop. We don’t want to be flogging a dead horse. And we’ve always maintained the idea that being true to yourselves and your artistic vision of what you do is very important.
I think we realised when we wrote and recorded Chapter and Verse that there was nothing really left to give, in terms of our collaboration with each other, at this point. So we were all starting to do different things and our ideas were pretty much focused on different aspects of life – not just musically, but personally as well.
It got to the point where we sat down and said, ‘Well, we’ve got a bunch of shows already booked, so we’ll do those and then at the end of them we’ll tell the world that this is it.’ We spent a little while kind of preparing it and putting it together and making sure that it’s right, because obviously it’s such a big deal for us, and the decision to play the Hours and Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation albums was down to the fact that those records did a hell of a lot for us. They’re still dearly loved by everybody that we talk to, and a lot of those songs resonate with us – in a weird way – more than anything we’ve done since. It just seems like when we play songs from those two records, it’s almost transcendental. So it was a no brainer to go out playing them in their entireties.
We’re going to be playing all sorts of rare as rocking horse shit b-sides as well, and I’ll give you an exclusive right now: this will be the one and only time we’ll ever play 10 Scene Points to the Winner live, alongside a bunch of other b-sides that correspond to those records and all that lark. We want to get anything to do with those two records out there for people to enjoy. There’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of cheers, a lot of screaming, a lot of dancing, a lot of sweat, and a lot of blood. And hopefully it’ll be a really appropriate way to say goodbye to the last 14 and a half years of Funeral For A Friend.
10:45 AMSTERDAM CONVERSATIONS (Between Order and Model, 2002)
It would be rude of me not to start at the beginning, I think, because without this particular song I wouldn’t have had an inclining as to what the hell we were doing as a band. 10:45 Amsterdam Conversations is one of those songs that even floored me when we wrote it. I was like, ‘Fuck me! Did we just write that?’ When we put this song together during the first practice that we ever had when I first joined the band, I was grinning from ear to ear. So for me this song was a key starting point in terms of the journey of this band.
JUNO (Between Order and Model, 2002) / JUNEAU (Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation, 2003)
The next song that really struck accord with a lot of people was Juneau. But I’d like to pick the live version that we do, because it’s an amalgamation of the EP [Between Order & Model] and the album [Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation] version. If we’d had the opportunity to maybe spend a bit more time working on the song originally, it would’ve probably been more of a hybrid of those two different versions. So what we do live is kind of mash them together. But it’s a special song to me. I wrote the lyrics for it before I even joined Funeral For A Friend, when I was sixteen, and for them to still resonate with people is amazing. I barely sing the middle section of the song anymore because everybody in the audience always sings it way better than I do, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Even if I feel like I’m getting a little bit bored of the song, which you do sometimes when you play them day in day out, whenever that middle section hits it’s a game changer.
MOMENTS FOREVER FADED (Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation, 2003)
This is one of those songs that we very rarely get to play live. I don’t really know why, it’s just never found a consistent place in our set. I remember writing it on guitar in my bedroom. It just had these really simple chords and rhythms to begin with. And I remember bringing it to Darran’s garage where we’d all get together to demo songs, and showing it to the guys for the first time. It was a really cool moment watching the song come together with everybody else’s parts on it.
STREETCAR (Hours, 2005)
For the next one I’m going to go with Streetcar. It’s another song that’s synonymous with our band, and it’ll be the only time I ever use my own fucking personal dial tone on any song, ever. Somebody actually managed to figure out my phone number by playing the dial tones over and over, and they got in touch with me just before we were about to play a show in Cardiff. I’ve personally never been that determined to crack anything in my whole life, but fair dos to the person who did it. And also thank you to Orange for being very quick on changing my number. We wrote the song at the tail end of touring Casually Dressed and I was in a bit of a weird place. There were so many people around me and so many relationships coming and going, and it felt like I was being pulled in various different directions – both emotionally and physically. This song was my attempt to put an anchor in place and rationalise the crazy whirlwind that was going on around us at that time.
HOSPITALITY (Hours, 2005)
My next choice is Hospitality, which is also on Hours. With a lot of songs on this record I tended to really get into the dark side of my personal mindset and allow my socio-political stuff to develop more. Not everybody is fully aware that Funeral For A Friend has a lot of political lyrical content through a lot its records, and this one was my attempt to showcase a little bit of a frustrated period. Shortly before we released Casually Dressed I was hospitalised due to exhaustion and glandular fever that I had caught, alongside a giant throat abcess that developed during stressful nights recording the record. I was out of action for a fair few weeks, and I almost choked to death on this thing in my throat. After that I started to develop an awareness of my own mortality to a degree. I decided that I would no longer take anything that I ever did for granted, and Hospitality is about that. There’s a lot of very dark lyrical commentary in there to do with figuring out one’s own place in the world, and what happens if you die. It’s a little bleak, but it’s one of my favourites.
HISTORY (Hours, 2005)
This was a hard song for a long time for me to articulate, and I was never any good at it in the early days, but it’s a song about growing up in South Wales during the tumultuous times of the miner strikes. Myself and the rest of the guys were about four or five years old when that happened, and the impact of it was that it drove a sense of determination to never let anyone, anything, or any kind of authority tell you what you can or can’t do, and to always stand up for what you believe in. It’s another one of those songs that’s become synonymous with our band, and I’m really proud of that. It’s an uplifting song about triumphing over adversity, and every time we get to play it live it’s always an absolute joy to see the audience respond to it in such a positive way. I’ve got a lot of cool memories of playing this song over the years.
MAYBE I AM? (Memory and Humanity, 2008)**
Again, this was another song that was written during a whirlwind period of time. We’d just left our then record label off the back of Tales Don’t Tell Themselves, which got to number three in the charts – I’ve no idea how – and it made us acutely aware of the direction that we were heading in and the difficulties that we were internally facing as a band at that point. We started to realise where the differences in what we wanted to achieve as a band lied, and Maybe I Am? is an extrapolation and analysis of the fears of being driven towards a place where you don’t feel comfortable – creatively or personally – going. It’s about trying to maintain your own sense of self and integrity, and the whole record was a tipping point for us. It didn’t fracture the band as such, but it made us aware that the band we were heading towards being wasn’t the band that we all wanted to be. So this was the start us pulling away from the more commercial stuff, and trying to find our way back to the stuff that engaged us on more than just a sonic level.
SIXTEEN (Welcome Home Armageddon, 2011)
For me, this was a song that really reflected the changes and the first steps in re-evaluating what kind of band we wanted to be. It was obviously off the first record that Gavin [Burrough] and Rich [Boucher] were with us on, after Darran [Smith] and Gareth [Ellis-Davies] left. It really invigorated myself and Kris [Coombs-Roberts] at the time, because we were very uncomfortable with the way the band was heading before that, and we felt like this was getting back on track to where we wanted to be after the first couple of EPs and albums. The song itself is about looking back at the person you wanted to be when you were that age – sixteen – and the things that influenced you to be in a band in the first place. It was about getting back to the music that made me want to pick up a guitar and write words, and I really love this song for that reason. I don’t think we play it enough live to be honest, but we’ll sort that out when it comes to the last shows, I’m sure.
DEATH COMES TO US ALL (Conduit, 2013)
This was a time when we were really getting back to the roots of our band and the seed from where we grew, and as much as people criticiseConduit for being too short or too one-dimensional, I think it was necessary for us to make a record that really pushed our hardcore roots to the forefront again. Around that time I really put myself back in the scene after being distant from it for a long time, and just acknowledged how important hardcore music was, and still is, to me. This song is almost like the death of the old Funeral For A Friend to a degree, and the rebirth of the intent that we had when we set out to record the songs on Between Order & Model. And I couldn’t help but channel ‘90s hardcore into it.
CONDUIT (Conduit, 2013)
I’m going to have to go with the title track off Conduit too. It’s just an absolute, unashamed slice of beat down hardcore for the majority of the song, and for me it encapsulates the idea of what a live show is, and also what this band is to me, and what I hope it is to our audience. The line, ‘We’re all strangers but we’re all in this together’, really cements my feelings towards how inclusive I want and need hardcore and punk music to be. I don’t like it when it’s trying to be cliquey and too cocksure of itself, you know. I like it when it allows people to come and experience the fucking incredible feeling of openness, honesty, passion and integrity present in that scene, and Conduit is a bit of a love letter to that notion. That album may have confused people, and people who liked our band for other records may have been turned off by it, but for me it was true to the idea of what this band is, and should be.
DONNY (Chapter and Verse, 2015)
By the time we got round to making this record, things were changing. People’s attitudes were changing, and we were all getting older. We all wanted different things, and creatively we were all going off and doing different things around that time as well. And family had become more important to us, and other things apart from music. Every record we’ve ever made has always been stressful, but with this one we just knew that things were changing and this would potentially be the last one that we might ever do. I felt that at the time, and that feeling gave me a sense of relief. It was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders, and it felt like we could approach the record in a very pure way. If it was going to be our swan song, then we could do whatever the fuck we want. So we tried to make it as raw, honest, and transparent as possible. And we wanted it to be a statement of intent to all the bands that have come after us who are citing our band as an influence, to know that you don’t need to hide behind a million guitar tracks to make a good record. You can just have five guys in a room playing together at the same time, staring each other in the eye and feeding off the vibe of what you’re doing. Donny is one of the key moments for me of that. It represents pure adrenaline, and just bouncing around the room with pure abandon. It’s about throwing caution to the wind, and it’s also a big fuck you to anybody who thinks that things should be done a certain way. And we haven’t played it live yet, so we’re definitely going to be busting this fucker out during those final shows.
1% (Chapter and Verse, 2015)
1% is the last song I’d like to choose. It’s a very unapologetic song, and that’s something that I was determined to be on our last record. Having played it pretty consistently this year around the whole development of what’s politically and socially gone on in this country, it’s really taken on a whole life of its own. It’s a call to arms, and it’s a laid bare, open statement to anybody out there who really wants to fight for change, commit to it, and never give up the fight and always struggle through. There’s so much apathy in this country towards a lot of things, and giving up the fight is something that happens way too often. I just want people to be reminded that sometimes it’s worth fighting to get to the other side. With everything that’s going on in this country, I don’t want people to feel shut in or like the UK is going to be some fucking isolated country in the middle of a sea of progress. If Funeral For A Friend can stand for anything, I’d be very happy if it was a message like that.
Matthew Davies-Kreye was speaking to Matt Stocks. Funeral For A Friend are on tour now.