Future of the Left: Every Minute Matters

Consider yourself lucky. Chances are you missed out on McLusky. The Welsh trio was the mightiest band of its day. It made three albums of sinister, biting, bone-jarring tunes, including 2002's flawless "McLusky Do Dallas." The problem was that people didn't catch onto the band's greatness until the band was no more.

The reason you're lucky is that singer/guitarist Andy Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone, along with new bassist Kelson Mathias, have re-emerged as Future of the Left. This trio manages to take everything awesome about the old band and make it exponentially more awesome. Surprisingly, keyboard is somewhat prominently involved. But mostly it's the same unique combination of heavy -- heavy -- funny, evil and catchy.

Future of the Left's second album, "Travels With Myself And Another," is the most perfectly efficient record you'll hear this year. (It's out on June 23, but you can pre-order it now and get the MP3s instantly -- while possibly saving your life in the process. Read on.) Twelve songs in just under 33 minutes, and there's not a single wasted second or sound. That's certainly by design.

"If there's one bass note through the entire song, that's just what works," Falkous says. "You need to surrender your ego to the process and simply let the music come through as well as it possibly can." It's a serious statement from a guy who is responsible for songs like "Lightsabre [Expletive] Blues" and "Dave, Stop Killing Prostitutes." But even though he can make you laugh, Falkous is deadly serious about his band. "There's not a band on this Earth that we wouldn't be scared of following or proceeding and blowing them off the stage," he told me. Thing is, there's no hyperbole there.

I saw dozens and dozens of bands down in Austin in March. I enjoyed most of them, and that probably would have been the case even if I wasn't waking up drunk. But none were in the same class as Future of the Left. Listening to the album is one way to appreciate the band. A great way. When the guitars kick on album-closer "Lapsed Catholics" it's like getting hit with a cannonball fired from just a few feet away. But when you see the band live, it's much more personal. It's like getting kicked in the face. In the best way possible. To miss their performance at tiny DC9 on July 19 would be a mistake. A big one. This is a band at the peak of its powers. I will give you plenty of reminders between now and then.

While I was down in Austin I talked to the band about avoiding the same fate of McLusky, where the anger comes from and murdering illegal downloaders. (All quotes are Falkous, unless otherwise noted.)

A lot of times when McLusky comes up, someone will say to me, "Oh, I love them but I didn't know about them until after they broke up."
When you hear that it is difficult not to feel a great deal of regret. But I'm determined it's not going to go the same way with this band. We'll almost go to any lengths. We're perfectly prepared, especially Kelson, with his python arms, to go around punching low-grade indie celebrities in order to get our band more publicity. In fact, we must be one of the only bands on the planet to gladly sleep with models in order to sell more records, as opposed to the other way around.

Well there are a lot of feuds these days. You can always start a feud.
We don't want to feud. We just want straight violence. Feuds, all that build up -- "Oh, he's got weird shoes" or "I don't enjoy his forehead." All that [expletive] can only get you so far. But it won't be personal. You can't really separate any bunch of pointy-shoed, indie haircut [brats] from the other. It's not their fault they were born rotten. It's the people who buy their records, you know? Ultimately, people get the bands they deserve. We're a band who maybe require a little more time and energy but, you know, our record should hopefully dispel any notions of being enthralled to the whole McLusky myth.

So, how about the new record?
Kelson Mathias: It was pretty easy, really. It just took us 10 days to do it, to record it. Same setup as the first record, the same engineer, Richard Jackson, the same studio. And 85 percent of the record, give or take, was written in the past two months, which was bizarre for us. It took us some time to move on from the first record, when you record it then you go out and you tour it, and you continue to tour it. You have to shed the skin of the first record to write the next songs. It did take time. There was a while when nothing was coming.

I guess I read on the blog that you canceled some shows so you could focus on the record.
Well, we didn't cancel the shows. The shows were canceled on our behalf by people who believe themselves to be acting in our best interests. Ultimately, it worked out. We weren't very happy about that. I particularly enjoy shouting at people and holding people to account, and there was a lot of shouting and holding to account during those few days. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that the shows got called off at all, but I was especially embarrassed that the shows were called off with such short notice. It makes us look like, to dip into the jargon, a bunch of [bunts]. And I wasn't at all happy with it. Because the problem is then, say our next tour there's a genuine illness or something, and then those shows are canceled. Then all of a sudden you're the band that cancels shows. I don't cancel shows.

You're not like Morrissey.
(Pauses.) In a lot of ways I'm not like Morrissey. In a lot of ways.

(Much more after the jump.)

So there's definitely some anger and hostility in your music. That seems to be drifting out of indie music these days. Why are people so afraid to be angry?
I've no idea. I couldn't possibly comment, really. In so-called indie music there's more of an explicit desire to have a career and sell records than there is to actually express themselves. And I suppose if you wanted to get all sociological about it, it's probably a lack of rage in general in young middle class white males and females. There's a certain level of comfort and a distinct lack of real things to rage against. And people who do have things to rage against probably don't put it into music anymore. They probably put it into genuine, explicit activism. I don't have a particular cause, that's not really the way for me to go.

So what is for you? Where does your anger come from?
It's just ourselves. With the band there's no mission statement as such. There's no, "Well, we must write four songs on this record about the Conservative Party, climate change is an issue, this girl annoyed me with her oddly shaped [bits]." There's nothing like that.

More of a mindset than specifics.
Yeah. It's more making sure that our music, our albums, they represent our personalities. Without breaking it down and going, "Oh, it needs to be 18 percent funny" or whatever. You know, without analyzing something when it's self-evidently right. We've written a couple songs which probably are as commercial as anything we've ever done and we've ended up not going through with them because they weren't our band. And that's not being scared of success. That's realizing you were doing an impression of other bands and not feeling entirely comfortable with it.

You mentioned "18 percent" funny as a joke, but there is a lot of humor in the songs. There are a lot of jokey bands, or bands where there are levels of irony, then bands that are painfully sincere -- how do you guys manage the humor aspect of things?
Mathias: I think as long as it doesn't come off as the main focal point. You don't want to be [expletive] Bloodhound Gang. You know what I mean? There's a thin line. If you write 12 songs can you have serious lyrics about [expletive] knows what? I don't know, you need something to latch onto in a song, be it the melody, be it the riff, be it good words that conjure up something that you wouldn't necessarily be thinking about it. So I think humor is a good thing.

Falkous: There are some particularly ridiculous lyrics on the new record. Lyrics about Ethiopian colonies, dinosaurs, plastic forks.

What about sporks?
(Laughs.) What is a spork?

Jack Egglestone: It's like a spoon-fork!

Falkous: That's another level of yankee madness I don't want to even engage in. But yeah, the lyrics on the new record are more streamlined in the sense that should you have the time or inclination, you'll find less a collection of lines jumbled together to create an overall impression and more of, dare I say, a story. At least it is to me. I'm sure most people would find it totally incomprehensible. The humor thing scares me a little, though, because I think that it allows people to categorize our band. Like he was saying, the Bloodhound Gang is a comedy band. We're not a comedy band.

I don't think anyone's going to confuse you with the Bloodhound Gang.
I don't mean you, in particular. But, generally, I've seen us rather offhandedly dismissed in that sense. And you know, we love to take the piss out of people when we're playing. It's an essential part of the band's character. But we really are very serious about being a band. And we're a very serious band to the point where even though there are bands out there we admire, and are very good live bands, there's not a band on this Earth that we wouldn't be scared of following or preceding and blowing them off the stage. Which probably sounds arrogant but if you're not in your own favorite band, then...

Since every band in the world is doing a reunion now do people ever pester you about McLusky doing one?
Egglestone: They ask us to play songs. They tell them no.

Falkous: I understand that it happens and it's inevitable to a degree. And I'm certainly not ashamed. It was a big part of my life being in that band. But I think anyone who shouts out for one of the songs at one of our shows is an ignorant [bunt]. It's just as simple as that.

Mathias: It's like you said previously, people got into McLusky after McLusky broke up.

Falkous: Two hundred thousand pounds, or the dollar equivalent, gets me for three months. That's it. That's my pitch. And (McLusky bassist) Jon Chapple has to be paid less than half of what I get.

Maybe you're more like Morrissey than you think.
(Laughs.) That's my only stipulation.

Lots of bands go on too long, don't you think?
The thing about McLusky is that it didn't just end on a whim. There were a lot of factors that led it to ending at a particular time. What is funny is looking on the Internet and seeing that it was due to tensions over an equipment theft. We did have an equipment theft. And it was tragic for us, personally and financially. But that's not why the band split up. The band split up because of fundamental differences between people. The inevitable was in play long before [the equipment theft] happened. It would be disingenuous to claim that.

But yeah, bands go on for as long as they do. Sometimes they go on for an album too long. I'm more than happy that McLusky ended when it did. Because it means that now I'm not in a band with someone I have to motivate to get on stage. And without sounding too much like a management consultant, everybody's headed in the same direction and we just want to be in a great rock band. And none of us, as far as I can tell, and if it's hidden it's very well hidden through years of relative poverty, there's just nothing else we want from it. Nobody in this band is in the band purely to get their [expletive] sucked.

Mathias: Because we can all do it ourselves! (Laughs.)

Not purely. It's like fifth on the list.
Yeah, absolutely.

Mathias: The thing is, we tend to find, the people who get into bands, they always romanticize the past. Particularly if they never saw the old band. Because they believe the hype and the stories that go around. They just want a piece of that action.

Falkous: We were talking about this the other day. People talk about "McLusky Do Dallas" as this classic album. Nobody said that when it came out. It was a classic album when the last McLusky album came out. And the last McLusky album was [expletive]. And then when [first Future of the Left album] "Curses" came out, the last McLusky album was an underrated classic, and "Curses" was [expletive]. And now when the new record comes out I'm sure "Curses" will be reevaluated as well. It's not taken personally but people must, must work in terms of crazy nostalgia.

Mathias: And also, we blogged about this, but when people come up to us and say, I don't understand how you're not playing more shows or why you're not on tour and why you're not doing this and then they tell us that they downloaded our album. And it's like well the reason is that ...

Falkous: The next person that says that to me gets killed. Beaten to death. Then resurrected, then killed again. Then I go Keyser Soze on all their family and friends and everyone they ever met or thought about. (Laughs.)

What about the theory that the more people simply hear the music, the more people will go see the band on tour, and that's where bands really make money. A cop out?
I don't care how people want to rationalize it. Theft is theft is theft. Yeah, sure, if people then want to buy the record, that's cool. But they still committed theft in the first place. You can dress it up all you like and justify it to yourself but there's no free right to anything in a first world economy. And we all exist under its confines and we all have to buy goods and services. Maybe we should all have a right to free food and perhaps free clothes. Maybe I can walk into Gap and say, I can buy two of these t-shirts. I did steal three last week. But I've come back now to buy two, so that's OK, right? It doesn't make any sense unless these people are actively proponents of a communist system, which I'm guessing they're not, so they can drink a big, tall glass of shut-the-[expletive]-up.

By David Malitz |  June 1, 2009; 2:17 PM ET Interviews , New (?) Smell
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Great, great interview. With so many good quotes it's hard to pick a favorite but I'm going with "Ultimately, people get the bands they deserve." So true.

I'm still kicking myself for not seeing them more than once at SXSW. Anyone who missing their DC9 show is a fool.

Posted by: DanCorbin | June 1, 2009 3:04 PM

Personally, I'm going with "We're perfectly prepared, especially Kelson, with his python arms, to go around punching low-grade indie celebrities in order to get our band more publicity."

That and somehow making the spork something to be ashamed of as an American.

Posted by: rogo2000 | June 2, 2009 12:36 AM

Seeing Mclusky remains a highlight of my existence. They had a focused energy/agression like no other band I've ever seen.

Seeing Future of the Left will be another highlight.

And the interview was pure gold.

Posted by: M__N | June 2, 2009 10:11 AM

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