Fear of Men entered Black Tar’s world under the seemingly cursed ‘lo-fi’ moniker, laying down slabs of scuzzy indie pop onto a bunch of sold-out tapes through Sex is Disgusting. But, underneath this hazy exterior was a strong sense of melody; a pop aesthetic that cut through the waves of sonic fog. Following on from the critically acclaimed release of ‘Ritual Confession’- on the ultra-hip Italian Beach Babes label- this murky veneer was lifted, and in it’s place stood a glistening pop gem and a band fully embracing both their love of melody, image and artisitic direction. Black Tar had a chat with Daniel
BLACK TAR: Hi Daniel, could you briefly introduce us to the world of Fear of Men?
Daniel: Hi we are a four piece band comprising of two girls and two boys. Jess sings and plays guitar, I play guitar, Alex plays bass and Mike plays drums. Jess and I both live in Brighton so we consider it to be the band’s ‘home’.
BT: How did you guys get together?
D: The band started a year ago when Jess was doing an art degree at Goldsmith’s university making films and writing her own soundtracks for them, which were pretty abstract instrumentals. I heard them one day and really liked them, we began trading mix tapes and it evolved into a more ‘pop’ focused project. Then we got Alex and Mike involved to complete the lineup.
BT: What are you currently up to?
D: We have been doing a lot of recording recently, lots of demos to try and push what we can do as a band, but also tracks that will be released this year. We’re hopefully releasing a 7″ pretty soon that we are excited about and we’re thinking a lot about the video for that now.
BT: What would you say were the main influences on the band?
D: Jess is really interested in things that are quite abstract from pop music – she is often inspired to write a song by a podcast or biography she is reading at the time. She is really interested in people such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Goshka Macuga, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, and exploring issues such as mortality anxiety, and many of these things have appeared in our lyrics or inspired our aesthetic at some point. Musically we like Mount Eerie, The Breeders, Grouper, Neutral Milk Hotel… lots of things! Guitar wise I like Peter Buck, John Fahey and Chirs Brokaw.
BT: How important is the visual aspect of your music? Your use of Egyptian imagery etc?
D: We want to build an aesthetic world for Fear of Men, and music is one part of that, but the design and visuals are very important to us too. Our use of Egyptian imagery comes from Jess’ interest in the sorts of things I was talking about before such as mortality anxiety and Freud’s concept of the uncanny and mourning for ourselves through statues.
BT: What are your opinions on tape culture? I read somewhere that you plan on releasing more tapes between studio releases. Why is that?
D: We really like tapes because it means we can release our music physically really quickly. You can send off your tracks and within a week and a half they’ll come back to you on tape, there isn’t the issue of time or expense as there is with vinyl. We think tape culture is a really good thing for these reasons and it has allowed labels such as Italian Beach Babes to put out a really diverse mix of new music that otherwise might not have necessarily got a physical release.
BT: Since the release of the “Ritual Confession” single the sound of the band moved strongly away from the ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic. Was this a decision you consciously made , or was it just new opportunities in recording?
D: Well we never wanted to be a ‘lo-fi’ band – the early demos just sounded like that because of necessity and a lack of technological know-how but at the same time we like texture to production and we like the warmth of tape. Going in to record Ritual Confession was quite a weird experience for us because it was our first time in a studio and it did end up feeling too clinical and clean for our tastes. We’ve been in the studio quite a lot recently and working out how to get the warmth and intimacy we liked before but still have clear and well-produced songs.
BT: Have the band found their ‘sound’, or is experimenting with recording methods and other things still influencing the sound of future releases?
D: We are currently feeling a lot more confident that we are happy with what we are recording and how we sound. Luckily we’ve had the opportunity of some free studio time recently and that has really allowed us to experiment with tape echo and how we record the vocals and things like that. I think we will always experiment though and push ourselves on every release to explore new territory.
BT: Any bands we should be keeping a look out for?
D: I’m not sure about bands but I’m really excited about the next U.S. Girls release.
BT: Finally, what have we got to look forward to from the band in 2012?
D; We’ll be releasing two 7″s, one either side of the summer and hopefully in that time we’ll be recording our album proper so hopefully some material from that if not the whole album by the end of 2012.
A big thank you to Dan for sparing the time to do this interview!
Words: Alex Hall