Hard-Fi - a band on a mission

A top ten single, a gold disc and a Mercury nomination – not bad for an album recorded for £300 in a disused taxi cab office in Staines. Lynette Alcock speaks to Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer.

Writing songs about where you come from is nothing new.

But with Hard-Fi there's a sharper edge to tales from Staines than painting a picture of a run-down town full of chain pubs and disenfranchised youth.

The debut album Stars of CCTV may be littered with upbeat, indie pop songs, but somehow every word is meant to be listened to, championing the British working classes.

But it is little wonder - lead singer and songwriter, Richard Archer, is a man extremely proud of his working-class roots.

Hard-Fi are not a band who have hit the centre stage through good fortune, but through sheer grit-teeth determination.

After the demise of his first band, Richard returned to his hometown of Staines determined to find another group of musicians.

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Over the next few months he recruited old friend Lancastrian drummer Steve Kemp, bassist Kai Stephens who was sick of killing things for Rentokil and guitarist Ross Phillips who worked in the hi-fi shop where Richard would go and pretend he wanted to buy things just to listen to demos on the equipment.

Then bored with waiting for something to happen Richard decided to record and release an album independently calling in mates, favours and pulling strings.

Finally the band wove together the debut album Stars of CCTV using a second hand PC that kept crashing in an old taxi cab office they could only use evenings and weekends.

Within weeks of pressing the CD the band had airtime on MTV and were getting calls from record labels around the world.

“It was mad,” said Richard. “We were on MTV, getting calls from managers, promoters and big record labels and we were on this tiny tiny label.

“Finally we went with Atlantic because they said we could make the album how and where we wanted. So we went back to the taxi office, spent some money on new leads and upgraded the computer and recorded the album.

“There were times when I thought are we ever going to release an album, then the other day we got a gold disc. It was like receiving a trophy of war,” he laughs.

But it is Richard's roots, watching his parents grow up in Staines, has left him with an unparalleled passion and determination to succeed.

It was his parents' dream for him to surpass in his life what they failed to do in theirs, but before Richard could show them just how good he could be he lost both of them.

This summer what should have been one of the greatest weekends of his life, landing a slot at Glastonbury and getting signed, Richard was at his mother's bedside as she lost her fight with cancer.

“When my dad died my first band had just fallen apart so all my dad knew was everything going wrong,” says Richard.

“But it spurred me on to make things happen. Then just as things were going well I lost my mum too.

“It was heart-breaking because a week later we got the recording deal and she never saw it.

“My parents always supported me and told me to follow my dreams. They didn't have that option, they had to put food on the table. But they always said to me that if I wanted to make music I had to work hard and make it happen. Now I see what I do as their legacy.”

But while the media frenzy continues to surround the up-and-coming stars from Staines, there is little room for Richard to find privacy or time to grieve. “I'm just trying to keep myself busy and seize opportunities because I want to get there for them.

“I'm not ashamed to say I'm hugely ambitious - I'm tired of being bored, I'm tired of living in a dead-end town, I'm tired of being skint. I want to get out there and see the world. My dad always wanted a Mercedes and the only time he got to go in one was when we hired one for his birthday. I want more than that,” he said.

t Hard-Fi play The Waterfont, Norwich on Tuesday November 1, and The Junction, Cambridge, the following night. Support comes from The Automatic who recently supported The Ordinary Boys at the UEA, Norwich. With a deal freshly inked with B-Unique Records, the four-piece are set to make a riotous fuss with the release of their debut single Recover on November 7. Tickets - returns only for both nights. Call 01603 508050 (Norwich) or 01223 511511 (Cambridge).

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