One of the craziest things I did in 2013 was head to LA for FYF Fest alone, the morning after CoolDaughter #2 got her tonsils removed. My Bloody Valentine were one of the headliners; and, at the time I made my arrangements, FYF was their only US date. CoolDad Music doesn’t generally merit press passes, so I was there just as a fan for my first festival experience since the one-day Lollapalooza stop in Stanhope, NJ back in 1992. I had a pretty good time. Lots of my favorites — old and new — were part of the lineup.
Anyway, thinking that it might be nice to have a place to sit and have a drink during the downtime, I sprung the extra not very much money to gain access to the fest’s “VIP” sections. There wasn’t much to them other than smaller crowds, some seating, and expensive drinks; but there were definitely times when I was happy to have them as an option. One of the VIP sections sat between the outdoor Charlotte stage, which seemed like the second “main” stage after Carrie, and Samantha’s Tent, which hosted comedy, smaller acts, and EDM in the evenings. It was in that section, as I sipped a $14 cucumber-y margarita thing, that I first heard Brighton, UK quartet Fear of Men over on Charlotte.
Their set impressed me. I chugged the rest of my drink so that I could leave the VIP section and get closer to the stage. I’ve been into things more rock-y or punk-y lately, but Fear of Men’s Smiths via The Sundays-inspired sound is something that I’ve always loved. Songwriter / vocalist Jess Weiss has a voice that floats and swirls over Daniel Falvey’s chiming guitar lines. I went home and bought their Early Fragments compilation.
Today sees the release of the band’s first proper LP in Loom. It comes amid quite a bit of hype, including an exclusive Record Store Day 2014 “deluxe” release over which at least one person got very excited. Fear of Men do have a sound that I think translates very well to mainstream outlets like Sirius XMU, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from the band throughout the summer and the rest of 2014.
Album opener and early single “Alta / Waterfall” showcases Fear of Men at their best. The shimmering, meticulous post-punk pop wraps around Weiss’s dark lyrics like, “You will never leave me / As long as I inter you with my bones.” The themes of distance, drifting, and floating on songs like “Green Sea,” “America,” and “Luna” pair well with the band’s cold yet dreamy sound. Early Fragments standout “Seer” gets a re-release here, and acoustic-only closer “Atla” is a hauntingly simple backhanded version of absence makes the heart grow fonder: “If you never leave me I’ll never understand you / Cause I’ll never know what I could have been without you.”
There’s a smart and literary quality to the lyrics on Loom that, when combined with the music, lends things a feel that should be familiar to anyone — like me — who was listening to some of the alternative music coming out of the UK in the early-mid 80s. Those are great sounds which should make Loom accessible even to people a lot younger than I am.
After their set at FYF, Weiss and Falvey were hanging around that VIP section; and I had a chance to speak to them briefly. I believe they had come to the States specifically for the festival, with maybe a stop in Brooklyn, the home base of their label, on one of the ends of their trip. At that point, I don’t think they’d been over here much. Fear of Men will be touring the US throughout April and May. They should probably put more dates in their plans, because I think the demand is going to be there.
Loom is out now on Kanine Records.