Funeral For a Friend's ability to write and perform music that addresses the angst, confusion, and frustration of adolescence is at times almost uncanny. Since its inception, rock music has always been an outlet for young people, providing a voice that empowers even the most unlikely of heroes. FFAF’s (Funeral For a Friend) fan base is defined by a demographic, making the strange bond between enthusiasts a unifying experience that sets them apart from the masses. It is perhaps that feeling of difference that draws these individuals to the band's wayward style of emotionally charged hard rock. However, it is in a room filled to the brim with others like themselves that fans are given the chance to discover they are not alone in their endeavors. FFAF provides a recognition of the times, an awareness that being young isn’t always easy. The band addresses a distain for endless rules and the painful tribulations associated with the coming of age process. To a room full of screaming kids, the loud prominent vocals, thrashing guitars and thunderous drums create an anthem for adolescent triumph.
I was ill prepared for what awaited inside FFAF’s live show at Chicago’s House of Blues last Thursday. As I slowly moved through the abundance of security I found myself shoulder to shoulder with a gaggle of brite-eyed youth, the likes of which I haven’t seen since high school. Studded belts attached to skin tight jeans, stretched over an array of various skate shoes, reminded me that many of these kids had commuted from the 'burbs. There was a level of extreme excitement, coupled with feelings of extreme awkwardness, as it seemed everyone in the room was continuously looking around to see who might be looking back at them. With Bud Light costing nearly five dollars, I thought I would pass on drinking and instead to try to meld with the crowd, the majority of which was underage. Young girls, awkward with their own bodies, flaunted their maturing figures by accentuating their midriffs. Meanwhile, boys of the same age clustered together with arms tightly folded across their chests.
Then with little warning the sound of a morbid church organ announced the arrival of the band to stage. A massive light show simulated lightening flashes as each band mate moved into place. What came next was like a massive explosion, as FFAF jumped into the first song of their set. Instantly, the audience was in upheaval, desperately attempting to move about the crowded room. It was simply too packed to mosh, but this didn’t stop many people from trying. I held my elbow out so as to block any rowdy rockers from possibly swinging into my face. Like savages on stage the band violently thrashed at their instruments with each enduring break down. This wild behavior excited the audience and encouraged youths to start crowd surfing. Body after body was raised into the sky as security frantically tried to fish the kids out. The boys of FFAF were aggressive with the crowd instructing everyone to, “put your fucking hands in the air.” It was while the band was performing that the awkward sensation originally filling the room began to dissipate. Everyone was squished next to everyone else, and I’m sure that for many it felt like “home.”
When FFAF’s set was over the band was herded to the back of the venue, where the sweaty and exhausted bunch sat at a table and began to sign autographs. I stood quietly in a corner and watched in amazement as the band shared a genuine moment with their adorning fans. FFAF had just rocked hard enough on stage to have whiplash and yet moments later, they were providing fans with a chance to meet their idols.
Then it was my turn, I had been awarded a chance to interview the band and it was now time to resume my role as the “music journalist.” I followed the band and their tour manager up a series of stairs and into the dressing room. An initial moment of ice breaking took place as the band finally had a chance to catch their breath. I didn’t waste time I just jumped into question form. Frontman Matt Davies and guitarist Kris Roberts acted as the voice of the band, volunteering to answer questions on the group’s behalf.
TW: How does it feel to play to an audience of 8000 (as with the No Name Festival in London) opposed to the much smaller crowds you may have performed for earlier in your career?
FF: It is a sometimes bizarre feeling, but we’ve toured hard for quite some time and feel that the success is deserved. This is what we are here for, this is why we play.
TW: How was it opening for Iron Maiden on their tour?
FF: Playing with Maiden was a scary experience, but also a great learning experience. We would walk out on stage to a crowd of people chanting Maiden. They had never heard of us and frankly many of them really didn’t care to. Maiden doesn’t have fans they have an army.
TW: Do you see a difference in audience participation from the UK to US?
FF: In the US you say “get your fucking hands up” and there up, but kids in the UK know us perhaps better simply because we’ve been around their longer. They anticipate what comes next and their hands are in the air before we say anything. We have to swear and be more aggressive in the states to make sure people are having fun. Our audience in the UK is about five years older than that of the states. We know we haven’t been in circulation as long here in the states because we see kids showing up with their parents at shows.
TW: How do you feel about shows that get rowdy with moshing, crowd surfing , and hard core dancing?
FF: No barriers means more intensity and perhaps a more personal experience. At big shows you have to work harder to get that intimate moment between you and the audience. One of our best shows was an in store we did a while ago with Taking Back Sunday. There was this kid psycho moshing who eventually broke his nose. When he left he had a big bloody smile, so I know it was a good time.
TW: Do you see success as an accomplishment, or an obstacle to be avoided?
FF: We like the fact that more people get to hear our music, but it is strange because people begin to perceive us different than we perceive ourselves. Back home we can’t walk around after our shows or we will get mobbed. It becomes harder to spend the individual time with fans we would like, and the next thing you know people start thinking you’re an ass hole. It is a casualty of the industry.
TW: What is it like being a British band playing a style of music largely dominated by American bands?
FF: It’s a nice challenge and something we take pride in. We are excited because we feel people, whether American or British are able to connect to the music. We want people to take something from our band and make it special for themselves.
TW: You make a distinction in FFAF’s bio that you are not an emo-core or screamo band, but simply a rock band. What is the distinction?
FF: We don’t think any band really wants the title “emo.” We write what we feel and it is the tool of the media to assign genres. But we understand why genre titles are there. However, we think we are more diverse than those simply categories.