“We could just go to the pub.” It’s a seasonally nippy evening on Dale Street, and Joe Danher (F.O.E.S’ guitarist and chief beard) and I have turned up early for our little chat and no one’s quite sure if the night in the barber’s chairs is going to go to plan. The first time I came across F.O.E.S, I have to be honest I thought they were going to be hairy and heavy and, well, a bit intimidating. Close up and personal, all groomed and looking rather dapper kitted out in snazzy shirts, these hirsute chaps are in reality about as intimidating as a box of kittens.
F.O.E.S are one of those bands that keep cropping up at the minute who are nigh on impossible to find on the internet; two hours of frantic Googling and Facebooking before we meet up turns up just two reviews – one of which was written by yours truly. Just when it seems that we have another case of a band selecting an intentionally un-Googleable (but still pretty cool) name, the name’s genesis becomes cryptically apparent: take out the full stops and expand it a tad and you wind up with ‘Fall Of Every Sparrow’. Still, it is a bit obscure. “It wasn’t intentional,” chuckles Joe. “It comes from a Carl Sagan quote about the ludicrousness of the concept of God being a dude sat up there watching everything, noticing the fall of every sparrow. Basically, it just sounded snazzy. Nothing more to it really.” Relative inscrutability hasn’t stopped them playing a small but solid batch of live shows and gathering a small host of followers about themselves, most notably when they supported noisy legends No Age. And bettering them too, if the first time I caught them is anything to go by. “Not much thought’s gone into it really,” remarks vocalist Chris Mackrill on his band’s invigorating live shows. “Well, I mean we just go for it, really. It just comes naturally, and we don’t really have to think about it. Especially the occasionally unresponsive audiences.” It is becoming an oft-quoted gripe about too many folks who seem content to watch everything through the safety of their phone screens, but I sense it’s not something F.O.E.S will have to contend with much longer.
Their rugged, metallic live act is startlingly different to the shimmering, icy quality their post-hardcore morphs into when laid down in the studio. The choruses (catchy but not corny) slicing through the murk of chunky, awkward riffs like a one-armed scissor are still there for sure, as tracks Sewn To The Sail and Unknown show, but it’s just… different. This is a fact not un-grasped by Joe. “When we started in January , we wanted to wait before we went public, so it was all together. We were surprised how it came out on record though, pleasantly surprised yes, but we always thought it’d be grittier. I guess that was the always going to be the outcome after we got the bare bones down – we just used the extra time to gloss them over.” Chris and James [Lorenzo, Drums] agree: “It’s great when things are that heavy live; the extra energy adds another dimension that’s hard to get in the studio. By doing what we want to do, we already have ‘regulars’ coming to our shows. I guess it’s easier to stand out in a small scene. To be honest, we were surprised at how accessible it’s come out; we thought even our mates would find it too weird.”
The lack of a proper, solid punk scene would be, for many bands, a hindrance. Sure, we have had the odd band here and there but the scene has never been anywhere near as cohesive as, say, the psych one for which Liverpool is famous. This is a band clearly and deeply in love with their form – not content to go for a ‘that’ll do’ approach and blend into the scene’s wallpaper. It is also clearly not just a job for them being in the band. “The chemistry is really important, bringing your own interests and enthusiasm to the band. And a ‘Yeah that’s great’ approach really shines through, we hope. Being more than the sum of your influences and taking a few risks is important.”
Taking risks is also something F.O.E.S have been doing throughout their short run, and Joe intimates that they are looking to take some more on their next EP, Ophir. “We’ve actually written most of it, and it’s got some of our heaviest moments. But it’s never a case of saying ‘this one’s going to be soft, this one’s going to be heavy’, it just comes out the way it does, really.” This approach has produced a bona fide jewel in Ningyo, a pæleolithic slab with more than a hint of latter-day At the Drive-In’s sweeping, foggy expansiveness. Ningyo marks a definitive statement from F.O.E.S, their line in the sand, which is a sign that their particular brand of juggernaut rock has plenty of fuel in the tank yet.
So what are we to make of a nice group of lads making such deeply unfashionable music? Ultimately, I guess, once you strip away all the fads and trends dictated by the hype-machine, all that counts is that you push the boundaries out just a little and have some faith in what you’re doing. On those grounds alone, it’s going to be rather stimulating to see F.O.E.S develop and unfurl as a band over the coming year; good luck to ‘em I say.
Ophir is out now.