The Valleys of South Wales have never been famed for their vast reserve of rock stars in waiting. It’s all green hills, closed down coal mines and sheep… isn’t it? Forget the stereotypes, Funeral For A Friend are proof that there’s more to their homeland than Tom Jones and male voice choirs. Emerging with a hardcore sound that’s as fuelled by melody as it is by intensity, they themselves are as schooled in the guitar skills of the metal greats as they are in the thrilling abandonment of punk rock outbursts. Emotionally resonant without resorting to cliches, technically proficient without being self-indulgent, and intense without being pretentious, theirs is the sound of teeming frustration, anger and heartache articulated in an utterly fluid, convincing and above all, real way.
Having formed in early 2002, Funeral For A Friend’s rise has been a phenomenally fast one. Tours with rock legends Iron Maiden, underground favourites including Boy Sets Fire and The Juliana Theory and the kudos of headlining 2004’s NME Awards Tour have earned them respect while gaining them wider attention; and they’ve wowed audiences with three sell-out headline tours and some magnificent festival appearances (Download, T In The Park). Indeed the quartet are set to headline the second stage at this year’s Carling Reading and Leed’s festivals! Theirs is a cathartic live show too – slamming its way into fans’ heads, with an energy that is both honest and revitalizing.
But it isn’t just live that they shine. Their first EP - ‘Between Order And Model’ - recorded just months after they formed, and released by Swansea’s Mighty Atom label, was an ambitious and invigorating debut, distinguished by a striking combination of Matt’s smooth tones and thoughtful lyrics, Ryan’s gutteral backing vocals, and the intricacy of Kris and Darran’s guitar work. Six months later, the quintet were showcasing for every record label in the country, and being pursued by majors eager to sign the up-and-comers. Warners subsidiary Infectious Records’ early faith in the band was repaid when the group signed with them at the beginning of 2003.
The ‘Four Ways To Scream Your Name’ EP was released on April 21, 2003 and did just that. Within weeks of the disc’s release, Funeral For A Friend’s name was seemingly everywhere. First came approval from director and punk video legend Darren Doane (Blink 182/ Jimmy Eat World/ Pennywise), who was so impressed with the youngsters that he agreed to film a clip to accompany ‘This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak’ – a soaring, seething belter of a song. The raw and jagged video took up residence on Kerrang! TV, MTV2 and was the first video ever to air on Sky TV’s Scuzz channel. What followed was clambering from daytime radio to play the song – resulting in airtime on the likes of XFM, Totalrock and Music Choice. In addition, the band recorded sessions for the Radio 1 and XFM Rock Shows. Even Zoe Ball declared ‘She Drove Me To Daytime Television’ her Track Of The Day.
After the release of their third, fourth and fifth records (‘Juneau’, on July 28,‘She Drove Me To Daytime Television, Oct 6 and ‘Escape Artists Never Die’, Feb 2 2004 respectively), the excitement started all over again. Radio 1 put the first two tracks on their C-List and then went B-list for ‘Escape Artists…’. Zane Lowe personally requested a session for his new show on the BBC station. Indeed all three singles roared into the UK Charts (at #19, #20 and #18). It didn’t take long for FFAF to take over the print media too, with reams of coverage from the biggest music publications in the country. Everybody from NME to Q to The Sunday Times have featured them and they’re one of the few bands to make the cover of Kerrang! magazine before even releasing an album. (Added to which they scooped the title of Best British Newcomer at the 2003 Kerrang Awards)!
Indeed now that ‘Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation’ (their debut album), is out in the public domain (and nudging Gold in the UK), the response from a fanbase and media already addicted to the band has proved to be nothing less than mental. But Funeral For A Friend are a band who deserve it. A modest band, a genuine band, and a thrilling one. 2004 will be their year to shine.
Source: FFAF Press Office (Rae Alexandra, Kerrang) (July 2004)