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INTERVIEW: Felix Hagan & The Family

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Completely marvellous, thanks. We played Southampton last night. We’ve never played there before, and we had a big old crowd of beauties singing all the words at us, so we’re pretty damn delighted.

Can you talk to us more about your new single “Attention Seeker”?

It’s the title track of our new album, and it’s a great big hymn for all the world’s wonderful show-offs, a rallying cry for those people, trapped in a world of social anxiety, who are just dying to connect with others.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

Oh, it’s a lot of things. It’s me tipping out my mental cupboard and making all the strange little monsters that live in there dance. I can’t speak for all performers, but for me certainly our music is the means by which I am able to approach the world and people within it. I’m tremendously shy in lots of situations, but when I am able to contextualise my existence through music and performance it all makes sense and I feel really, truly alive and connected to people. And the song is an exploration of that feeling, how music is the way to reach people and not be so fucking scared all the time.

How was the film experience?

Oh, it was so much fun. The video was filmed at a couple of different shows, but mainly at a charity benefit we did with our buddy Frank Turner for the Big Issue at the Ritz in Manchester. We got my film-making friends Andrew AB and Ste Webster down to hang out and film the whole process of us dressing up, glittering up and then losing our minds on stage. I wanted to somehow bottle the happiness that we derive from our gigs, how much fun it is to do such a preposterous thing with one’s best friends, and what a marvelous thing it is to be able to share it all with so many people. At the end of that gig we came on during Frank’s encore and played a bunch of cover songs, and I swear I could have sailed away on the euphoria of it all. What a wonderful night it was.

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

Because it so perfectly encapsulates what we do. Our music is designed to never, ever be boring, to grab you by the soul and make you dance. Our whole existence, from the song arrangements to the glitter on our faces, is designed to shout “Look at us, we’re having a fucking awesome time. Come and have some fun too”, and we wanted to reflect that in all aspects of this record. This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done, and we want everyone in the damn world to hear it.

How was the recording and writing process?

It was joyful, and very long. This is the first record we’ve done that was actually recorded in a studio. The last two EPs were recorded in various attics, with overdubs happening all over the country. But for this one, thanks to our glorious Indiegogo backers, we were able to record it at WR Audio, which is a truly wonderful space run by our good friends Dan Watkins and Biff Roxby. They have the most beautiful sounding live room, which is such an essential thing if you want your records to really sound exquisite. Our producer and keys player Joe Davison was able to really build the thing from the ground up with wonderful gear and awesome sound, and we were able to really nail all the rhythm tracks over the time we were there.

The writing process for me was great fun. I like to write songs in batches, where I’ll spend a few weeks working up masses of ideas and arranging them in my own little studio, then I send them all to the band and we get very surgical, taking them apart and honing, honing, honing until the songs are absolutely as good as they can be, then the band take the parts away and make them their own. On this record I really wanted to paint in very broad strokes when making the initial arrangements, so that the band could totally deconstruct the instrumental parts and infuse them with their own brand of magic.

How did you capture the theatrical aspect of your music on this record?

We recorded the majority of the rhythm tracks live, with me on guitar and Chris and Stu hammering the shit out of the drums and bass together. We started off in the same room, playing off one another so the initial tracks always have that element of breathless energy that we like. We also spent an enormous amount of time on the arrangements and the feel. One particular song (On The Double) changed entirely over the course of one very long night of fiddling with the groove until it became this monstrously sexy funk song. It was so much fun. The other thing we focussed on is the voices. Our live sound is comprised of three singers, with me, Ellie and Tash doing our thing out the front. And we wanted that to be very prevalent on this record, the tangible sound of three voices blasting out the lyrics. So the girls had a lot more to do, and a lot more lead singing, and god they sound so good.

How has D’Angelo and New York Dolls influenced your writing?

I like to deal in extremes. If a song is a rock song, it needs to be a MASSIVE rock song. If it’s a sad song, I want to make everyone properly weep. If it is a funk song, it needs to be a STANK FACE funk song, that makes you groan with the beauty of the groove. And artists like that were huge for me whilst writing this record. The Dolls just deliver all their songs in such a wonderful barrage of sheer joy and volume, and every note D’Angelo has ever produced is perfect in its delivery, placement and feel, and that is the rigour and spirit that we look for when making music.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

A lot of the songs deal with the various mental peaks and troughs that one encounters as an artist in their late twenties. It’s about realizing that the crazy dreams of youth aren’t real, but the reality can be so much more deeply rewarding. It’s about guilt, sex, shame, loss and depression, but taking those negative things and yelling them at the top of your voice, turning hardship and sadness into joy. The various events that inspired these songs, from the addiction and withdrawal of Delirium Tremendous to the tremendous sickness of my most precious person in Burn Down This City, have all provided impetus towards a greater understanding of what truly matters to me, what really makes for a better life. It’s friends, family, making music and making people happy. That is what this record is for.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’re hitting it right now, with shows coming up in Keighley, Preston, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol. And we’ll be out next year again to come and sing and dance for all the people once they’ve had a chance to learn the words.

What else is happening next in Felix Hagan & The Family’s world?

We have no plans aside from keeping touring, covering the UK in glitter and then who knows? We are ready for whatever beautiful surprises the universe might bring. This time two years ago we were playing to tiny crowds in little pubs, and now we’ve bringing in full houses in places we’ve never been. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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