For a while if you googled “sleazy moustache” this picture of Fred Macpherson was the sixteenth result. Sadly his moustachioed visage has now been usurped by others with more questionable facial furniture.
I had breakfast with Macpherson recently and realized I’d seen him in all his musical endeavors thus far. First there was Adventure Playground, a party hip-pop troupe which included his cousin, actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Charlie Fink, now the frontman of Noah and the Whale. Then there was the fall-about jangle of Les Incompétents which he followed with the glowering, sonorous Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man. After that things went a bit quiet on the Fred front in terms of music. He ventured into the world of presenting, working for MTV2 and getting punched in the face for money. Now he's 24, and performing with his Les Incompétents cohort Chris Burman as Spector. Think big, shimmery hooks. It’s insta-indie-pop. Download a mix of Spector's recent favorites and catch up with Macpherson, below.
Download: Spector’s Never FADER Away Mix
Drake, "Marvin's Room"
Frank Sinatra, "Where or When"
The Rapture, "How Deep Is Your Love"
Tinchy Stryder, Giggs, Professor Green, Tinie Tempah, Devlin, Example, Chipmunk, "Game Over"
Caravan, "Magic Man"
Liza Minelli and The Pet Shop Boys, "Losing My Mind"
The Vines, "Homesick"
Roxy Music, "Psalm"
The launch for your debut single "Never Fade Away" at Efes snooker club in Dalston (with Blood Orange opening) was very sweaty and well attended. Were you pleased about the turn out? I was pleased. Genuinely I felt the next morning that I could quit. We only had one song out and people always say it, but really I thought people might not turn up. At those early shows you rely on friends, but there were people there who weren’t friends—people who I look up to.
Like? Influences. Tom Vek, Ed Larrikin [of Larrikin Love], Davo from Pull Tiger Tail, Vincent Vincent [of Vincent Vincent and the Villains], Charlie Rumble Strips, Dan From Black Wire, Rory Phillips [who started Trash with Erol Alkan. Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine was also present]. True British indie lineage. It’s funny when you’re very young you feel quite competitive with each other and as you get older your realize you want everyone to do well.
Was there an artist that made you want to play music? The Strokes made me want to be in a band, but Frank Sinatra first inspired me to want to be an entertainer. What do you call those people who do lots of things?
A renaissance man. I wouldn’t go that far.
Are you not a renaissance man? Absolutely not! I’m still waiting for you to buy me breakfast so I can eat. Doesn’t sound like particularly good renaissance to me. Anything I’ve been doing is just to avoid getting a job.
Everything you do makes you the center of attention. That’s a bit of an accusation. As you know from television presenting, you cease to exist. You’re connecting the audience at home with the thing they’re interested in. It’s just two tin cans and some string. You’re the string doing your best to communicate from one channel to another. Getting punched in the face was a low moment. I needed the money and I spent it going to Coachella which inspired me doubly to come back and make a proper go of things with Spector.
Had you ever been punched in the face before? No which is another reason I wanted to do it. Now I’m not scared.
Was Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man your doomy existential crisis period? It was journey music—quite an unpleasant emotional journey. Nothing bad was going on in our lives we were just trying to make obtuse music. It was one of the only bands I’ve been in where we actually really didn’t mind if anyone liked it. But then a year and half into that process, with no one buying our records, there was no money anymore. It was a funny way to spend ones late teens and early 20s but a good one. I don’t regret any of it. Actually we’re still together. We’re just on hiatus.
Was O.E.L.M a reaction to the poppiness of Les Incompétents? I guess in some ways. I just wanted to get away from kids jumping up onstage and shouting. At the time I felt it was all quite brash, the brushstrokes were too broad, but it also coincided with me going to university and studying philosophy and theology and that had a negative influence. Now we’re back to more simple chord progressions.
Do you feel that you keep returning to the same subjects in your songs? Life keeps returning to the same motifs, whatever happens, however old you are, whatever relationship you’re in, you find things repeating themselves in slightly different ways. Things don’t change, people change, but you’re confronted by the same situations with new people and I think songwriting is a reflection of that. It’s the simplicity of the parameters of three chords and pleasant melodies. A D E are the three year cycles and then it repeats. Life is like a commercial chord progression—it always comes back to where it began.
Any plans to resurrect Adventure Playground? I know Henry [Lloyd-Hughes] is waiting on that call everyday. I’m just not doing so much rap music these days. I still listen to rap music. I’d say that Drake is probably lyrically one of the biggest influences. He really connects with me if I’m sad or excited or bitter or let down or heartbroken or yearning.
You released your first single on Luv Luv Luv which was founded by Mairead Nash [Florence Welch’s manager, former DJ/promoter and one half of Queens of Noise]. I wanted to work with Mairead because she’s been at the front line of London indie for as long as I can remember. I was at school going to her clubnight at the Barfly. That was the first time I saw Test Icicles, the first time I’d seen skinny jeans in my life. It changed the way I thought about music forever. I thought the best it got was seeing Pete Doherty falling around with a half tuned guitar with a string missing, caterwauling about Albion, then I saw three guys in bright pink skinny jeans rapping and rhyming Wiley with Carol Smillie [Scottish TV presenter].
And then you became friends with Dev— Fan more than a friend. The thing I learned most from him and the good bands of that era was to define yourself by who you are, what you are and what you write and let that define everything else. Don’t define yourself by one idea because then all you’re going to be is a cog in a stupid mechanical donkey. Surely being indie in the purest sense of the word isn't putting yourself under the umbrella of indie, but being independent of any big, preordained idea.