Futureheads Interview - Futureheads on tour with new album

EMMA LEE Sunderland rockers Futureheads are back with a new album and are heading for the UEA. Singer and guitarist Ross Millard tells Emma Lee what Kate Bush thought about their cover version of Hounds of Love.


“You know for a long time we were scared about what she thought. If the report wasn't very good it would affect the way we perceived it,” says Futureheads singer and guitarist Ross Millard.

The aforementioned “she” is the renowned singer-songwriter Kate Bush, and he's talking about the band's cover version of her song Hounds of Love, which won the Sunderland quartet their first top 10 hit.

It turns out he needn't have worried. While they were recording News and Tributes, their second album, at a farm in Scarborough (more of which later), she called them up.

“Unfortunately no-one answered the phone,” Ross laughs. “She left a voicemail saying 'hello Futureheads. I just wanted to say thanks for doing the cover version, I think it's brilliant and hope you have a nice Christmas.' The message got deleted, though.

“In a small way we might have done a little bit for her - brought her to NME readers. Yeah, we've given her a leg-up!” he jokes.

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The band met at the Sunderland City Detatched Youth Project - a lottery funded music scheme for getting kids off the street.

Ross, guitarist and singer Barry Hyde, bassist and singer Jaff and Pete Brewis, the then drummer, played their first gig at a cricket club in 2000.

When Pete left the band Barry's brother Dave was recruited to keep time.

Ross cites Devo and XTC among their influences - and gets a bit excited to hear that an exhibition of art by Devo's frontman Mark Mothersbaugh will still be on at Norwich Arts Centre when they visit the city.

Named after a record by alternative American band Flaming Lips they initially signed to the indie label Fantastic Plastic, which recently released a single by the Norwich band Bearsuit.

In 2003 the band was picked up by 679 recordings, which is also home to the Streets.

They released a download only version of the song A to B in the autumn of that year, followed by their self-titled debut album, a collection of energetic, spiky and catchy three-minute pop songs, co-produced by Gang of Four's Andy Gill and Paul Epworth in July 2004.

Some high-profile support slots followed, including a tour with Franz Ferdinand in the US, shows with the Pixies and Foo Fighters, last year's NME Awards Tour with Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and the Killers and a turn at Glastonbury.

The album went gold and NME named the aforementioned Hounds of Love cover as its song of the year.

What are Ross's personal highlights?

“When we played Glastonbury it was Barry's birthday and he's still holding the fact that we didn't mention it on stage against us. It was a really important gig for us - we hadn't played an outdoor show to that many people before. “There were 25,000 people there and it's one of the best feelings, such a thrill when they sang the songs back to us. And me mam and dad got to see us on the telly.”

They changed producers for News and Tributes, choosing Ben Hillier, who has worked with Doves and Depeche Mode. It took just six weeks to record.

“We didn't want to record in a city and Ben Hillier suggested trying to find an unusual space to record it in,” Ross says. “All the studios in London have to be massively soundproofed. We were in the middle of nowhere and could be as loud as we wanted and work through the night. Each room had its own charisma.”

Ross says that they made a conscious decision to move on from the first record.

His bandmate Barry has agreed saying in an earlier interview: “Our first album was made by giddy teenage boys, but this one has been made by big strong men.”

As Ross puts it: “There's not so many stops and starts and the actual sound is bigger. I guess it's a bit less of a punk record.

“We've been in this band since 2000. I think there are a few bands around like ourselves who make this kind of music now and it's become popular. Now you can't really turn the radio on without hearing that disco backbeat and angular guitars. It's a cliché to make the first album over again and it ends up defining the band as a one-trick pony,” he says.

Did they consider putting another cover version on the album?

“Absolutely not,” Ross laughs. “We've already got that one round our necks. Although we have done a cover of Let's Dance for Q magazine.”

He says he's looking forward to getting out on tour.

“We've been to Norwich a couple of times. We supported the Zutons and played the NME tour but have not really seen much of the city to be honest. But there's quite a good all-weather football pitch near the venue.

“We played against the Zutons. Russell from the Zutons ended up twisting his knee and had to play the rest of the tour sitting down.”

And will there be lots of partying?

“We are not really a particularly rock and roll band. We shun all the excesses for early nights. We just become tourists, we get up early and go out with our cameras,” he says. t

t The Futureheads play UEA, Norwich on Monday, June 5. Support comes from Field Music. Box office 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. The new album News and Tributes is out now.