Q&A With English Indie Rocker, Fyfe Dangerfield – Chats About John Lennon, Influences, Building A “Magic Music Machine,” and More!
Posted On 06 Aug 2014
Birmingham-born Fyfe Dangerfield burst on to the solo scene in 2010 with Fly Yellow Moon. His debut album includes ‘When You Walk In The Room’ which was the single of the week on iTunes in March 2010. Dangerfield is best known as the founding member of Guillemots, a BRIT Award nominated indie rock band.
Guillemots is currently made up of Fyfe Dangerfield, Aristazabel Hawkes and Greig Stewart. Bandmate, MCLord Magrao has since gone on to pursue other projects. Their first album together, Through the Windowpane was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2006. It received critical acclaim and Paul McCartney described the song Little Bear as “a very brave way to open an album.’ He also said he admired the track’s ‘beautiful orchestration.’
Guillemots have enjoyed success with a top 20 single in the UK Singles Charts while their second album Red reached number 9 in the UK album charts. The band have played at the likes of Hyde Park, Koko and many other prestigious venues in the UK during their time together.
So what made Fyfe go it alone? He says he always wanted to try some solo stuff away from Guillemots and started writing during their second tour in 2008. When it came to the end of being on the road, Fyfe says he wanted to force himself to write on acoustic guitars because he found that ‘boring’ and wanted a challenge. After 5 days in a recording studio with a friend, Fyfe emerged with 14 songs, 7 of which are on his debut solo album Fly Yellow Moon.
In 2009, Fyfe played the Latitude Festival in Suffolk and in 2010 he supported Corinne Bailey Rae at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire and then toured America playing in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Fyfe loves doing covers and on top of Billy Joel‘s ‘She’s Always a Woman‘ has covered The Beatles and Girls Aloud. He has said that he would like to work with Alicia Keys, Kelis and Beyonce, which I think would be an interesting prospect.
Check out All Access Music Group writer, Nicole DeRosa‘s interview with Fyfe below:
Where did you grow up? How did your location influence your style?
I grew up in the Midlands of England – I was in Birmingham until I was 8, and then we moved to the countryside in Worcestershire. It’s all rolling hills and meadows and woodland there, and I think being out in the countryside a lot had a big impact on me – even before we moved, as a family we’d go on holidays every year in the countryside, and walk and bird watch a lot. Cities have a great buzz to them but I definitely feel happiest and most creative when I’m really natural surroundings. I think it’s just closer to the source of the thing that creativity comes from – for me anyway, whatever that thing is…
Why did you want to get into music? Who are your influences?
We had a piano in the house and I just gravitated towards it really young. I’m not really sure why, it was just one of those things, I was just totally magnetized by music. In terms of influences – honestly I think everything gets soaked up, even things I don’t like. You take in everything you experience and it all comes out in the wash somewhere down the line. But as a kid I had quite a few years when I listened to the Beatles constantly, so I think they’ll always be my biggest influence, just because I think what you take in when you’re younger really stays with you, it’s like it’s part of your DNA.
And also, The Beatles were pretty incredible! The way they evolved so quickly, changing with each record and so on – that’s still a huge inspiration and every year at some point I go back to them and listen to all the albums. I think what made them so brilliant was that they just seemed to believe you could do anything – and so they did. They kept that childlike sense of big dreams totally alive as artists, they never seemed to get bogged down with trying to please people or be cool, and I think that’s absolutely the best way to be. It’s too easy to get diluted by becoming well-known and all the expectations that come with that, but they somehow managed it. And I think they probably broke up at just the right time. Maybe if they’d have carried on for longer, they wouldn’t have been able to keep that going. So yeah, they’re always there as a sort of beacon of how to get it right.
I don’t think I could say my favourite song. They all come from different places and have different colours. I think you can only name favourites if everything you’re comparing is attaining to the same goal, and I don’t feel like that with music. It’s like different people or foods or places – you change from moment to moment and respond to different things all the time, so it’s like that with music too, or whatever it is you do.
But, for the sake of this question, one I’m really close to from the last Guillemots album is a song called Southern Winds. You can check it out here .
It just sort of appeared one day in 2011 when I was having a little writing holiday right at the top of Scotland, in a tiny village called Lochinver right on the coast. I woke up and the tune was in my head, and it really felt like it had just blown in from the hills, it felt like it was of that place. It didn’t feel like it was written at all, it was just there. People often talk about the writing process being a bit like fishing, and I really relate to that. It was suddenly just there, but if I hadn’t been beavering away for days before trying to write then maybe that wouldn’t have happened.
So then a few months later we went out to Norway to our friend Jonas’s studio (he’s become a huge part of my & our musical world now) and started recording a bunch of things and this was one of them – I was procrastinating because I didn’t have all the lyrics but Greig just made me finish them as it was one of the last days of our trip, I think, and I remember him saying “if we don’t do it now we never will” – and I’m sure he was right. ..
I remember him saying that he got this feeling from the song of boats carrying people far across seas, like when people would emigrate in huge groups from Ireland to America and the kind of sense of the unknown in all that, and the sadness of leaving something behind. I couldn’t really say what the song is about but that helped finish the lyrics for sure. It’s quite often like that with a song. I find that it’s more about capturing a feeling rather than describing a specific scenario, but you can imagine a scenario that fits with the feeling and that can really help.
So then we put the basic track down live – Arista was playing double bass, Greig was on shaker, I was playing acoustic guitar and singing, and Arista & Jonas joined in on a little harmony that happens a few times too. It was raining outside at the time and so straight away after that, I stood in the doorway and recorded a double track vocal, so we got the rain happening on the track as I was singing. And then I put down a muffly piano on top of that – Jonas has one of those lovely pianos with a felt dampener on it, which gives things this really dreamy, gentle tone – and that was it for that night.
And then later, the next year, we found this flute group, the Norwegian Flute Ensemble, to play on the album we were making at the time (“Hello Land!”) and that was a huge buzz, writing parts out for them and hearing them back. It’s a really unusual sound, a bunch of flutes – kind of like a strange little pipe organ blowing across to you from over the hills. So we did that, and then Jonas just added a couple of tiny synthy noises and that was it, I think. I know you didn’t ask for a piece by piece rundown of the recording but there it is anyway!
It was just a very simple process that one, it just kind of fell out, and it always feels great when that happens. In fact I think generally all the good moments creatively are things that happen very quickly, it’s just that sometimes you have to spend a long time stitching them all together in an interesting way. But this was one of those ones that just sort of took care of it self.
Probably “I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles. It’s one of the first things I remember hearing, and just the energy of it, right from the count in – that was kind of a way in to a whole world for me.
If you could meet any musician that isn’t alive anymore, who would it be? Why? Where would you go? What would you do? What would you ask him or her?
Well, I guess I’d love to meet John Lennon, but God knows what I’d say to him. But you feel close to people when you love what they do, so I feel close to him, if that makes sense? Again, though – there are so many! Erik Satie would have been an interesting one to meet. Eric Dolphy, who played with people like John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, I’d love to have made music with him. It would have been amazing to play piano for Judy Garland too. I mean, the list is endless, you know?
How has life on the road been treating you all? Can you share with our readers any memorable stories from the road so far?
Well I’ve not been on tour an awful lot recently. I’ve been idea-harvesting instead! Although I’ve just been out on tour with Slow Club this month playing bass, as their regular guy is away and they’re friends of mine – so that’s been lovely. Stories – well, they’re normally the kind of things that you have to be there for them to make any sense.
Here’s another fun one: If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?
Well I suppose some kind of magic machine that concocted all the food & drink I’d ever need. A pair of binoculars to look at all the wildlife through. And another magic machine with that physically turned into any instrument I’d like, which could make any sound I dreamt of, and recorded it all.
What is in your current music playlist? Any guilty pleasure songs?
I don’t get the guilty pleasure thing! If you like something, you like it, if you love something you love it. Guilty pleasure implies that what you get off in private isn’t something you’d admit to other people, and that just seems daft with something like music. And the things that are considered “guilty pleasures” in one generation then become super hip in another. I mean, one song I’ve listened to quite a bit recently is Fantasy by Mariah Carey. Now when I was a teenager that probably would have been considered the height of uncool, amongst people I knew anyway, whereas now everyone’s name-checking her as a legend. So, all that stuff just seems irrelevant.
But anyway – that’s just a brilliant, brilliant few minutes. It’s sort of perfect really. Her voice is just insane in how musical it is, and it’s so joyous and energetic. She has this feeling in her voice like she’s about to burst, it’s so brimming with energy. And the lyrics too – “i get kind of hectic inside” – that’s such a great line! And the production just sits there with it like it should, and to my ears it doesn’t sound remotely dated. It just really grooves and moves and hits you. And they use the elements from the Tom Tom Club track that it draws on in a really inventive way, rather than just sticking in a boring sample. It’s just – yeah! It always makes me feel great when I listen to it.
Ach, I don’t think so. I’m okay at impressions – there’s been quite a lot of that going on in the van on the Slow Club tour. But you know, I don’t think I could make a living out of it.
What’s on tap next for you this year?
Well, I’ve kind of had a couple of years of gathering loads of ideas and things, travelling a bit, hanging out with people and so on – so come September I’m sort of treating it like a new school year and getting down to the business of starting to finish some things off and get the wheels turning again. The whole game of releasing music has changed so much over the past 10 years and I think it’s a tremendously exciting time, because really you can kind of do anything now, in any way you like.
It may be harder to get noticed now in some ways, but it is possible, and in terms of actually making stuff, and making it available for people to hear, it’s so much easier now than ever. So I feel like I’ve waved goodbye to the old way of doing things, and from now on it’s all about building up a constantly evolving, new way of operating and keeping free from any of the self-consciousness and nonsense that can come with being in “the music business”. I’m seeing it as my own magic factory, which can travel on wheels when necessary! There’s so much music that I’ve gathered so it’s just a case of starting to make some kind of sense of it all, putting this with that, and so on .. So, yeah – that.
To keep up with the lastest with Fyfe Dangerfield, visit his Twitter here