How did you get the idea for the album title Tales Dont Tell Themselves?
Matt Davies: The album title came from our bass player. With five people who have five ideas of how the band should work its sometimes hard to get a final idea together. The title is a song by DJ Shadow in which the word tale is mentioned and someone narrates.
We all agreed that Tales Dont Tell Themselves as an album title for our record made sense because we basically are telling a complete story with the album. But the record was done before we had the album title. Half way through the recording process the record company finally asked us about a title for the album, but we didnt have one. We had been concentrating on recording the album and did not think about a title yet. And then one day Garret came up and said: What about Tales Dont Tell Themselves?Its a sort of metaphor and culturally relevant because it is about the great stories that get told throughout generations, and its a play on words in regard to that.
Why did you put up a blog on Myspace with statements concerning each individual song?
Matt: Because we have been becoming more and more interactive with our fans and we found it would be a great idea to make little liner notes that went along with each song so that the people could get an idea of each song and how they developed it was getting the fans involved as much as possible into the record. And they are really glad that we are being more interactive with them. Also on our website we try to stay in touch with them as much as possible by encouraging them to write us if they have questions or by putting up little videos about the recording process and stuff which is basically just us having fun and being idiots. This interaction is also helpful to spread the word about the new record as much as possible
How did you get the idea for a concept album?
Matt: It came by accident really. After the end of the touring for Hours we went pretty much straight into writing and for the first couple of months I distanced myself from the process of writing because I felt I wasnt inspired by the music and I felt really unsure about myself. So I had to put things into a new perspective. So I basically shut myself up for a while and I read a lot, watched a lot of movies. Thats a great thing for me to do when I feel I have a writers block: I just switch off for a while musically and just concentrate on normal life. When I went back to listening music I listened to bands like RUSH and GENESIS and KING CRIMSON and DREAMTHEATER and I was very interested in the way they put a narrative into their music. I worked on the idea of incorporating my personal fear into a story that involved three different characters and to tlak about the things I am afraid of, the things I care about; it felt like a real challenge, a good experience and it was really exciting trying to write those lyrics or stories because I had never done that before. It was pretty much a movie script that I developed and that I took to the guys to show them and they were really interested in this. They liked the point that I was coming from and what I wanted to achieve. Then, we basically started from scratch and wrote 8 songs in a bout a period of like two weeks that ended up being on the record. We adapted the songs to incorporate the naravtive idea, and I added that narrative idea on top of the songs, and so it all became really cohesive
Why the fishermans story?
Matt: Because I am dreadfully afraid of the ocean, and so I thought of the fisherman as a man who deals with this element every day, and as a kind of hard-working job. The fisherman sort of appealed to me: he has to work real hard and struggle each day and risk his life for his job. Each day he goes out to sea he cannot be sure he is coming back home to see his wife and kid and maybe one morning he leaves for work is the last time he sees them ever again. And the ship wrecking is sort of a life-changing event for him where he has to come to terms with himself and make up his mind whether he wants to face the sea again that he is now afraid of or whether he wants to stay and not see his wife and kid ever again. Finally he makes up his mind and takes up the challenge and makes it. The story is very personally related to my life. I think life should be seen as a challenge that you have to take up or else you waste it and cannot evolve or grow as a person
Will the concept of the album work if the listeners DONT know the story behind it?
Matt: Its ok if people just want to take it musically, thats fine! If they just want to take the songs as songs, thats ok with me. We structured the album so that it forms a real story but you can still take each songs as its own standing apart. But if you want to get the narrative part, I think its that sort of album where you really have to sit down and imagine yourself in it. Its really epic and big, and the most mature album we have ever done. If people just want to take it musically, the will like it not only for the narrative aspect, but for the musical aspect as well because you can feel the sentiment and the emotions in the songs
Talking about Cinematic Music: do you think your music can transport images and not only sound?
Matt: I dont think it was on purpose, but with everything you do musically it does involve a specific kind of reaction. Our music is very emotional and I think very visonal; people can kind of take that visually. I personally visualize the story when I listen to the record. With the theme of our album being water and storms it is very easy to create a feeling of that via music. But the songs work as only songs as well; when we will go on tour with the album we will not play it from start to finish and present ourselves like a sort of rock opera. We might incorporate the video or project imagery on screen, but basically we will just incorporate some songs into our set and play them just for the sake of the songs themselves and might just see how we try and get the story across on stage. Its a bonus to use in the live show, but not essential.
On your new album your music and especially the composition of the songs seems to have MATURED a lot. Would you agree?
Matt: As a band we are very interested in always making the best record possible. And we have all become older and wiser so to speak. We are all in our mid/late 20s. We look at things differently and that also shows in the music. We try to write music that means a lot to us and develop as a band and as musicans, and we are always looking at interesting ways to develop the band. We are not trying to write music or an album that sounds like our last album because we are just not interested in that and in selling out though we still know how far we can gow with experimenting so that people will still know that they are going to get an album from the band they like and not something completely different. But we dont want people to exactly know what they are going to get with every new album because we are always progressing. I think music is more than just art because it involves not only the artist but also the audience who can interpret the songs in different meanings
The fact that there is less screaming on the record: is that just acoincidence or did you want to set yourself apart from the wave of POPULAR screamo-bands?
Matt: I think it is because we are older when when we started out and we have other stuff to talk about where screaming is not the right way to express it. Back in the days when we started it was all real emotional and raw and then it became a really kind of clichée throughout the years. It had lost its expressive meaning. And on this record, it was just not necessary to do it because we have outgrown it. The aggressive vocals that call for screaming are not on this record. The passion and emotion is all there, but it needs no screaming to come across. And we will definetely not incorporate screaming into a song just because its expected or a common thing. We dont give a shit about the scene, and we dont want to be seen as a sort of screamo-emo-whatever band when we see ourselves straight as a simple rock band. We have been labeled so much, but we have always felt like a rock band and that is our musical direction and that reflects in the album. I dont really get that Gothic-thing about nowadays with Emocore and Emobands. When I was young, there was no such thing as men wearing eyeliner. We were all wearing jeans, and T-Shirts and caps. But now its about black clothes and eyeliner. I think I am too old for the scene today and we have sort of outgrown it. There is no similarity with what the scene used to be.
You put a lot of emphasis on the instrumentation of the songs. Why did you decide to use orchestra and other instruments and sound effects?
Matt: We tried to incorporate as many different things as possible on the record because it is a important to us. We wanted to go big, bold and epic, and we thought of strings not so in the conventional way. You would think of strings being used in a ballad, but on one of the most rocky,aggressive moment on the album is actually layered with orchestration. We wanted to use it in ways people would not usually think of, and we wanted it big and bombastic and luckily we had the possibilities. It made me so happy to have the London Philharmonic Orchestra on our songs because it also adds different ways to go about the songs. We had a percussionist come in and add his stuff to some songs, and to have a very good friend of mine sing the part of Leonora on the 3rd track was so amazing and a dream come true, and she has such a great voice. It was a fun thing to do and we felt like kids in the candy store with all the different possibilities of instrumentation that we had and made use of.
How has the process of song writing change throughout the years?
Matt: Its pretty much our first album where we each contributed equally to the album. The songs pretty much came into being by jamming out in the studio. All the songs before on the albums were written by one or two individuals and then brought to the band and we just added our stuff on top. So this is basically the first Funeral for a Friend as working as Funeral for a Friend record from scratch.
How was working with Gil Norton? How much could he help you with the songs or was he not that influential at all and leave you guys to do your thing?
Matt: We had producers on the first two albums before which pretty much let us do what we wanted, but we really wanted to work with somebody who had an opinion on things and we felt it was time for somebody like Gil, who is a musician and songwriter himself, to add his ideas to what we were doing. He has produced The Pixies and The Foo Fighters and we are big fans of his work and those bands, and he was great because he came into the production and he really worked with us on the selection of the songs we wanted to have on the album, the way the songs went, and how we incorporate the conecpt of the album, the story. He worked really tightly with the drum and rhythm section to give the album a good rhythmical backdrop. He tried to get it really tight. And he often helped us to get our music on-point at places where we were drifting apart with different parts or so. He helped us bettering our songwriting craft. For our next album session we learned that it is good to go into the studio prepared and how much pre-production is worth. We really learned a lot making that record, for example how much it helps when you are not under stress. I think we have become better songwriters making this record.