One day, Friendly Fires once promised, theyâ€™d make it to Paris. They probably didnâ€™t envision themselves sleeping through it.
â€œWe got dropped off in Paris last night and I'm still in bed now,â€ reveals guitarist Edd Gibson, months into the promotional cycle for sophomore LP 'Pala'. â€œIt's about midday, but yeahâ€¦ I'm feeling a bit run down, so I'm going to try to recuperate rather than get out there and do things. It's difficult to pump yourself up and make the most of things.
â€œIt's a bit depressing, actually, isn't it? I should be out there. We rarely get an afternoon off to go exploring the world, butâ€¦ we've just had so many gigs and been on so many aeroplanes with coughing and spluttering people that it's taken its toll.â€
Lest he sound like the prototypical tortured artist, Gibson is quick to add that the fatigue rarely takes a toll on stage.
â€œIt's really odd. We've been on these horrible flights, because the earliest ones are the cheapest and they're the ones that get you to soundcheck, so we're waking up at 4am having had piss-all sleep and terrified about how the show's going to go. But there's something about actually being on stage that just always brings the best out of us.
â€œWe always throw ourselves entirely into a performance, and no matter how rotten you feel beforehand, actually being up there somehow brings something out from the bottom of you that gets you through it all.â€
It's this same positivity that imbues the band's music with its golden pop touch.
â€œWe never really want to make a buck by wallowing in our own pity for too long,â€ Gibson explains. â€œI don't know, we just always end up writing fairly huge choruses that always work in a dancefloor situation. I'm not sure we make a conscious effort, we just seem to end up writing them.
â€œWe didn't really have a particular focus or idea at the very start (of 'Pala'), we were just desperate to get in and make sure we could even remember how to write music. It'd been a good year and a half of just touring the same 11 songs. You get into a certain mindsetâ€¦ being on tour is so different to being in the studio. It's such a different brain. I wanted to make sure this other brain hadn't been killed off completely.
â€œI remember we were talking about wanting to write at least one good piano house song, which never really materialised. But I'm not really fussed about that.â€
Prior to 'Pala', the last two tracks the band had written were 'Kiss Of Life' and 'Jump In The Pool', which, despite the extended break, can now be seen as clear indicators of the band's new direction.
â€œI think so, yeah,â€ Gibson agrees. â€œBetween 'Jump In The Pool' and 'Kiss Of Life', it almost felt like we'd finally found our own sound, and become good enough at writing and recording to nail something particular to us. Something a bit more unique sounding, a bit more personal.
â€œIn hindsight, when we talk about it, 'Pala' almost feels like it's our debut. It's the first time we sat down to actually write an album as a whole. The first record just came together as the best material we had since we decided to call ourselves Friendly Fires, and we'd written it while we were gigging and touring. I think the first one had a lot of nods toward the DFA soundâ€¦ this has something all of its own.â€
Critics have also been quick to describe 'Pala' as a more 'mature' album. It's a tag Gibson can't really relate to.
â€œIt's sort of a weird word, 'mature', isn't it? It just impliesâ€¦ I don't know, that you've gotten fucking boring. Maybe it's more technically skilled on the production side, perhaps, than the first one. When I listen back to the first record, I think, 'oh God, we should have done a better job of that', although I guess that's where it gets half its charm.
â€œContent-wise, there's nothing much more mature about 'Pala'. Perhaps we've just gotten better at making pop music. I mean, we've always said we were a pop band, but it feels like it's only now that we're coming up with the goods to justify it.â€
Friendly Fires play Splendour In The Grass on Sunday July 31. â€˜Palaâ€™ is out now.