When one talks about the modern Welsh music scene, you’d be hard pressed to avoid mention of Funeral For A Friend. Over the past twelve years, Funeral’s emotive post-hardcore has inspired multiple generations, both in Wales and beyond. Tom Connick caught up with Gavin Burrough [guitar] and Rich Boucher [bass] ahead of their homecoming show at Cardiff Union’s Great Hall 2.
Welcome back to Cardiff! Obviously, you’re quite local boys – what does the Cardiff scene mean to you? Is it nice to return?
Gav: Yeah! It’s where we were all brought up, listening to music. I lived in Bridgend and we used to catch the train up, or cram into peoples’ cars and go and watch bands ever since I was allowed – ever since my mam would let me!
And this venue in particular, I’ve watched a bunch of bands here. I think the first band I watched here was Deftones, when they were doing ‘Around The Fur’ [1997 sophomore album]. So it’s always quite nice and nostalgic.
Have you got any other fond memories of Cardiff gigs – whether your own or other bands’?
Rich: Clwb Ifor Bach, I saw Circa Survive in there, which was a fantastic show. Must have been a couple of years ago now. I’m not normally much of a singalong kinda guy, but I sang along with every word and found myself just being lost in it. And that’s not usually like me!
Many of your early shows were dictated by the ‘Between Order & Model’ EP, which you’re now repressing on vinyl. What sparked the decision to return to that EP?
Gav: It was actually the idea of the guy who mixed it. He brought it to us and was like “I’ve remixed the tracks”, and basically the intention of the record label who released that first release was to re-release it as their final release, cause they’re about to throw in the towel or whatever. So we decided that would be a brilliant idea, and also with this tour we can commemorate it by playing the EP in full, which I don’t think has been done, especially in order, since the band started.
Are any of the band vinyl collectors themselves?
Gav: I don’t, but Matt [Davies-Kreye, vocals] loves vinyl – you’ll find a plethora of vinyl at his house. I haven’t got the room sadly, but it’s all on the iPod now!
So like you say, you’re taking the opportunity to go back and play through your first EPs on this tour. As newer members of the band [Gav joined in 2008, Rich in 2010] how do you guys feel about looking back to the early days? Were you fans before you joined?
Gav: It always feels like I was part of it, because Kris [Coombs-Roberts, guitar] and Ryan [Richards, former drummer] are very good friends of mine. Me and Kris grew up playing guitar together, and Ryan was in my old band Hondo Maclean. I remember them showing me the ideas for the songs, when they were first recording and listening back. So I always felt almost part of it – very connected to it. So when we were rehearsing the songs to play them live, it didn’t feel we were trying to replicate anything, you just feel like you’re part of it.
You’ve experimented quite a lot with your sound across the twelve years you’ve been a band. Do you feel you’ve found it now, or will you keep experimenting?
Rich: It’s hard to say, that.
Gav: Yeah, it probably stems from everyone being a little bit different in the band. Matt’s musical tastes are probably a lot different to, say, Kris’ musical tastes, and that’s where that kind of friction comes from. We never really tried to do anything, it just sort of happened, so sometimes we wouldn’t get it right. But it feels right at the time. The next album might be a rockabilly fuckin’ thing!
Rich: I’ll dust off the double-bass…
Gav: I think the softer material is not really Funeral For A Friend. I think that’s probably something that we will stay away from.
Not particularly fond of Tales Don’t Tell Themselves [2007 album] anymore then?
Gav: The way Matt and Kris feel about it, and it’s probably the way I feel about it as well listening to it as an outsider is that it doesn’t really sound like a Funeral For A Friend album – it sounds like another band. We all think it’s a really good album, but it definitely didn’t represent what the band had done before that, and with Conduit (the last album) and Welcome Home Armageddon, we’ve tried to take what we think our band’s good at and stick them back in so it’s more similar to the earlier stuff.
You say you all feel it’s a good album – would you ever like the opportunity to explore that sound under a different moniker?
Gav: I think maybe at the time that’s probably what should have happened! [laughs] But yeah, we don’t play any songs at all off it any more.
One thing I always find interesting about Funeral is your transparency when you’re evolving. With things like The Young & Defenceless [2010 EP, available to online ‘pledgers’] and the Your History Is Mine [2009 ‘greatest hits’ compilation] you’re always very clear about where you’re going next. Is this something that’s important to you – rather than jumping from album to album, trying to keep a constant flow of evolution in the sound?
Gav: You don’t know where you’re really going to go with things, so people bring ideas and then when something connects it’s like “oh yeah, that’s where we’re going!”, so that’s what happened with the two EPs you mentioned.
The last album, it was High Castles [single, first seen on 2011’s ‘See You All In Hell’ EP and later featured on 2013’s Conduit] that was the first song we wrote for it, and that set the wheels in motion then of writing a heavier album.
As well as trying out different sounds, throughout your career you’ve also utilised different label structures. You’ve self-released things in the past, and worked with both independents and majors – is there a method you prefer? What does each offer to a band of your level?
Gav: We’ve always had complete control over everything, even when the boys were signed to Warner. It wasn’t the case – like some people think – that they tinker with things. We were allowed to do what we wanted to do musically.
But I suppose with an independent, it’s a lot closer. There’s less people working in the company; you know everyone’s face. Whereas in a bigger company, where there’s a lot more people involved, the control of everything else is taken out of your hands.
Now, particularly, we’re really happy with how we’re doing things with Distiller Records, because every decision that’s to do with the band, we make it.
Conduit [latest album] has been really well received, with a lot of people saying it’s a step back in the right direction. What is that direction? What’s next for Funeral For A Friend?
Rich: It’s hard to say really – we’ve just started writing for the new record, but who knows! We’re all about just playing to our strengths, and that’s writing big, catchy songs, that are heavy but have a great sense of melody. That’s what Funeral For A Friend is, and that’s what it should be.