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“Volume is a Sexy Crutch,” a Q&A with Future of the Left’s Andy Falkous

Posted by November 8th, 2012 1 Comment » Interview – Future of the Left
Q&A with Andy Falkous
Interview by Matt Ashworth 

Future of the Left is a Welsh band that makes clever, unique rock music the kind we music scribes like to call “post punk” – that gets stuck in your head while simultaneously pummeling everything in its path.

Led by Andy Falkous, one third of the renowned McLusky, Future of the Left has released three albums and a couple of EPs since 2007. Their newest long player, The Plot Against Common Sense, is their most adventurous to date, featuring a handful of what Falkous calls “first listen” songs (“I am the Least of your Problems” and “Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesmen”) alongside some denser tracks that initially left some critics (Pitchfork especially) scratching their heads.

There definitely are more odd, jarring tempos and vocal chants on this record than any of Falkous’ previous work, and many of those don’t connect right away, but each song is tethered by an epic chorus or refrain that eventually reveals itself. One example is “Polymers are Forever,” which starts with a couple minutes of herky-jerky keyboard and ends with an epic refrain of “Pulling me down and then I’m dead then I’m gone / They are pulling me down and then I’m dead then I’m gone.”

Repeat listens reveal the record’s true beauty. For starters, Falkous’ trademark caustic wit is more focused on specific ideas and individuals (“George Lucas won’t be kicking his heels / ‘til he makes some money from Howard the Duck,” he sings in the insane “Robocop 4”). That type of pointed vitriol might grow tiresome if Falkous goes to that well too much, but here it’s new and therefore a pleasant surprise. Then there’s the Roland Juno-60 keyboard that’s replaced guitar on previous Future of the Left tracks like “Manchasm.” On The Plot Against…it’s used in harmony with the band’s thundering guitars, most notably on the last half of the aforementioned “Polymers are Forever.” And Falkous’ greatest strength – his ability to not only turn a phrase but syncopate it in time with his band in a way that drills it in to your head – shows up nearly everywhere.

With oodles of singles and two proper McLusky albums under his belt on top of his growing Future of the Left catalogue, it seems like it would be impossible for Falkous and his current band – guitarist Jimmy Watkins, bassist Julie Ruzicka and drummer Jack Egglestone (who also kept time for McLusky) – to represent that entire body of work in their live show, but they did a damned good job of it at SXSW earlier this year. They even toss in a couple of McLusky songs.

In anticipation of their November 11 gig at Neumos, Falkous humored me with an email interview. Hey Andy, thanks for making time to chat with me via the Interwebs. How’s it going?
Andy Falkous: Aside from difficulties with my throat, superbly. Most shows on this tour have been fantastic and Andrew Jackson Jihad have been wonderful hosts.

NM: You’ve been on the road pretty much all year. With lines like “How many sound checks can a man ignore / before he turns in to a shadow of himself,” (from “I am the Least of your Problems” on The Plot Against Common Sense) I’m sensing that the rock and roll road life is wearing on you a bit.
AF: The rock and roll life wears thin not one bit, my friend. It’s the greatest adventure available to humans.

Future of the Left 2012NM: How long have you been at it? Give us the back story before McLusky.
AF: Back story before McLusky? Nothing. Nowt. Fuck all. Playing a bit then starting to take it semi-seriously in my mid twenties. McLusky, a band of barely-concealed sociopaths, made some decent records and then split up at exactly the right time, just before the killing spree. Future of the Left formed just after and, demand permitting, we play out as much as our bank accounts will allow.

NM: Will you get some downtime over the holidays and New Year’s? What do you do when you’re not touring?
AF:  I’ll be looking for a job and apologizing to the cat at every available opportunity. She’s really very annoyed that we’re away.

NM: Your Latitude 30 show at SXSW is my favorite set of the year. Have you changed things up much since then? What can Seattleites expect from your show November 11 at Neumos?
AF:  Well, it’ll be longer for a start and possibly contain some new songs. Seattle is usually the best crowd in the North America (and that’s what we tell everyone) but Cleveland was pretty mental – they’ll be tough to beat.

NM: Are you still coming up with new and innovative ways to eat sandwiches on tour? How do Seattle’s sandwiches stack up?
AF: I remember that German interview mostly because the first time we tried to film it the guy’s camera battery ran out and we laughed at him for about an hour. U.S. tours tend to revolve around diner food, usually evolving to Mexican the further West we find ourselves.

NM: You doing another in-store this time through? There’s great footage of the one at Easy Street last year.
AF: In general in-stores are the worst thing that can happen to a band. However, I’ll make honorable exceptions for Easy Street, Generation Records (NY), Spillers (Cardiff) and the wonderful Tym’s Guitars in Brisbane. HINT: I actually find myself in dire need of a couple of Easy Street t-shirts to replace the ones I lost on our last European tour.

NM: The new album seems even more adventurous than your previous work, musically. And you’re wearing your politics a bit more on your sleeve. Are those two things intentional?
AF: Not at all. You grow and you change. We can’t all be AC/DC.

NM: How come more loud, aggressive rock bands aren’t clever and funny like you guys?
AF: I think they probably are, it’s just that we don’t get to hear about them. Let’s face it, humor, whether overt or subtle, tends to aid pigeonholing and being labeled “a comedy band” is a fate worse than death.

NM: Did I read somewhere that you’re doing a comedy podcast? Can you tell the good people where they can find that?
AF: It’s on Soundcloud and it’s called The Pilot Against Common Sense. Just characters and stupidity interspersed with clips of songs. Others have been planned but in between band and jobs and life there genuinely hasn’t been the time or opportunity.

NM: What’s next for you? Another Future of the Left album? McLusky reunion? Contemplative acoustic record? No no, I got it, an album of piano tunes called Andy Falkous, Alone and Seated.
AF: A McLusky reunion is pretty damn unlikely. The next Future of the Left album is pretty much written, we just need to find a way to record it. As for the acoustic record, well, it’s safe to say that if it happens I won’t be touring it. Some might think volume is a crutch. They could be right, but it’s a fucking sexy one.

Future of the Left play Neumos Sunday, November 11 with Andrew Jackson Jihad. Tickets are $12.

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