With their excellent debut album recently released, we catch up with Simon from A Genuine Freakshow, purveyors of the finest post-folk, at their Bristol tour date to discuss a life-sized balloon man, Pink Floyd and Alan Partridge.
For al lot of people, A Genuine Freakshow has only just turning up on their new music radar, how did it all get started?
I guess the band’s genesis was way back in 2003 when Tim and I met at University in High Wycombe – he only spoke to me initially because I had a spare Radiohead ticket though! We began doing some recording in halls with acoustic guitars and a digital 4-track. We did various acoustic nights either playing solo or as a duet, but we didn’t actually play a show under the “A Genuine Freakshow” guise until some years later.
How did the band evolve from your acoustic projects to what audiences see today?
When we first formed the full line up we were doing a pop-folk thing that wasn’t terribly exciting for anyone. After a couple of years we took quite a sharp turn into playing pretty down-the-line post-rock, but we eventually got bored of having to take ourselves so seriously all the time. In 2008 we began writing songs that tried to take our favourite elements from both styles and throw them together. We still love those emotional, epic “walls of sound” that you get with post-rock, as well as the unconventional way in which the songs are structured, but we’re not afraid of hooks and melodies either.
Being a 7 piece, which im sure has space/travel/sound/space/catering issues, is it difficult to find a compromise between your sound and working effectively as a band?
Having seven of us certainly has its logistical nightmares, but we’ve never known anything different so it’s never really been an issue. I actually love being in a band with so many other people though, especially when you spend so much time together on tour. On our way to Bestival this year, Dunce and Madge had decided to travel down separately with friends so there were only 5 of us in the van, and it actually felt really empty… although it did mean we had exactly the right number of people for our favourite card game.
What was recording your debut album like? What were the highlights of recording oftentimes?
For me the best bit about recording Oftentimes was when it was finally all finished! We had taken the decision to re-record everything after being unhappy with what we did first time around. We had to do the second spell of recording in lots of different sessions, in between which we were touring fairly relentlessly. So the sense of relief when it was all done was quite satisfying.
You seemed to be touring almost continuously for the last year, was there any particularly bizarre experiences you had?
When we played in Nottingham earlier in the year one guy turned up with a life-sized balloon man, that was pretty amazing. We also crossed paths with a particularly angry parking attendant in Edinburgh who was ready to take on all seven of us – he was mental!
If you were to play the perfect gig, who else would be on the line-up?
Pink Floyd – purely because Tim managed to see them at Live8 and I didn’t have a ticket (he never lets me forget this). Alan Partridge would be the compère.
With your intense touring, do you still get to see many gigs yourself? Are there any acts you get really excited about seeing or playing with?
I definitely don’t get to as many gigs as I used to, but I do currently have tickets for Godspeed You Black Emperor and The National at the end of the year which I’m very excited about. As a band we always enjoy sharing a bill with our old touring buddies Cats and Cats and Cats, they’re really good fun and a totally engaging live act. We also take any opportunity we can to play with Vessels who are a post-rock band from Leeds and probably have one of the most accomplished live shows you will ever see – they are scarily good.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 6 months?
I’m actually excited about spending some time writing new material. We’ve been touring the Oftentimes songs for a long time now so it will be nice to go in the rehearsal room and play something different. We’re going to try a slightly different way of writing this time, so I’m also looking forward to seeing what effect that has on the new stuff.
Check out the ongoing tour and get yourself a copy of Oftentimes now, and download their debut single I Can Feel His Heartbeats on Fear of Fiction Mixtape 1 for free.
By Alexander Harrow.