Formed in Bridgend, Wales, Funeral For A Friend have been a staple of the British alternative rock scene for over a decade. In that time, they’ve weathered line-up changes and sonic shifts from the earnest melodic screamo of their early days to the savage, politically charged hardcore of Chapter And Verse, their recently released seventh album. It’s a record that serves as both a homecoming and an evolution after long-running drummer/unclean vocalist Ryan Richards left the band in 2012. Frontman Matt Davies-Kreye explains the band’s mindset now, almost a decade and a half after they started.
Tell me what Chapter And Verse means to you.
MATT DAVIES-KREYE: For me, the album is a reconnection to the band I wanted Funeral to be when we started. In terms of growing up in the hardcore scene and the punk scene, it’s the kind of record I always envisioned making, a record that was that pure and that laid-bare. And that’s what it is, so that’s the reason I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of it.
There’s been talk that since Conduit, you’ve entered a new phase of Funeral For A Friend. Would you agree with that?
I don’t know about “phase.” It’s just an acceptance, really—coming to terms with our strengths as a band and what we want out of the band. We’re just going to have fun and play shows and make music that matters to us, because that’s where the passion comes from, and if people tune into that, that’s great. I know for some people this reinvention, or whatever they want to call it, may not be considered the Funeral For A Friend they fell in love with, but for us it’s always been a massive component of what excites us about being in this band.
How do you keep that momentum and passion going? You’ve been a band for almost 15 years now.
I don’t fucking know! [Laughs.] I have no idea! Sheer stubbornness. Refusal to give up or give in. Feeling that you’re not as old as you think you are. Time has no meaning: It feels like there’s still stuff that we’ve got to say and that we need to get off our chests and for us that’s as valid as any reason to continue doing this.
With that in mind, there’s a very heavy political punch to this record that’s more direct than you’ve been before.
Yeah. I think that’s brought about by age, experience, just growing up as an individual and trying to become a more responsible adult in the world. That shapes my interpretation and what I kind of get from what’s around. And that feeds into what I write about. My lyrics have definitely changed: I’ve noticed they’re not as abstract or as poetic as they used to be. I guess they’re not so open to interpretation as they once were, but for me, there’s nothing wrong with that. I got back into listening to Boysetsfire and a lot of political bands like Bad Religion, where lyrical content was very much there laid out for you. It was about discovering something and being informed about something, and that education has always been an important aspect of hardcore for me. And I think right now as band, I feel like it’s… not a duty as such, but something…it just is. We don’t want to be writing interpretive love/relationship/emotional songs.
On Chapter And Verse, you directly address feminism and religion and inequality, among other subjects. How much of that is from personal experience?
For me, it’s about writing from experience. Especially growing up in South Wales, where social inequality is rife; I see it every day where I live. I don’t live in a mansion on a hill or anything. Part of growing up was experiencing these things. I don’t come from a wealthy background—all my family are working class—and being a working band, obviously making an income from what you do, you see how the economic downturn and how the choices that were made by a select few, who feel like they have the power of gods to juggle people’s money in particular ways, have had an effect on what we do, and how people spend their money in terms of buying records or coming to shows.
You have seen the industry change so much. When you first came around you were on a major label, and it was before the industry started collapsing, whereas now you’re doing it all independently. Do you find there’s more freedom in that? Are things tougher?
It depends on what level you operate from. For us, making a living off this band is tougher now than it ever has been, but it’s something that we’re still able to do because we put the work in. If you put the work in and you’re determined you can. But I think for young bands coming up, the landscape has changed so much that unless you get a label that will literally throw money at you like the labels used to… Hey, we had money thrown at us like nobody’s business. And I’m not saying it’s like free money, but record labels are like banks. And I guess the system was very much like the economic system; the music industry now has shrunk to the point where everybody’s super-tight and record sales are low—people don’t make gold records as often as they used to. But it doesn’t mean to say people aren’t out there working their asses off trying to make it work. Because at the end of the day, music is art and art will find a way.
In a way, it almost channels the intent more, because you’re not doing it to make money. You’re doing it for the pure love and passion.
I think if you’re a band that goes into it for those reasons, you’ll always find a path through it. We’ve been able to navigate it because we feel so passionately about our band and what it stands for.
The title of the album is taken from the song “You’ve Got A Bad Case Of The Religions.” Why did you decide to center the album around that song and that theme?
For me, if you can’t have a conversation about these things without getting your boxer shorts in a twist, then it’s incredibly ignorant. We’ve always been a very open band. The song itself is very personal. I’ve said at shows, “This is about me. If you have an issue with what I’m saying or you take offence at it, then you can always come and have a chat with me at the merch table.”
I think tolerance is something that needs to be championed, and the reason Chapter And Verse was picked from that song as the title was because it said a lot about how we feel about where the band is right now and feeling that we’ve come full circle. And also it’s about tolerance, and coming to terms with the fact that this is what our band is right now. Don’t expect us to be the 2003 Funeral For A Friend. Every mistake we’ve made, everything we’ve done learning-wise about what we want to get from our band, has been done in public, for better or worse. We’re done with the wilderness- searching, we’re pretty comfortable where we are and it’s a full stop. We can move on from here, and I’m pretty stoked.
Ryan Richards left in 2012. Do you think your sound would have changed the way it has had he stayed in the band?
I think Ryan’s ultimate goals for being in the band towards the end were different. He had a different outlook on where his life was going and he chose the path that best suited his direction. And I think that, in a roundabout way, allowed the band to relax more. I’m not saying it was uptight before, but it just seemed to find a bit more of a center when he left. But I think the writing for these records has been pretty much shouldered by myself, Kris [Coombs-Roberts, guitar] and Richard [Boucher, bass] anyway, even on Conduit. So it’s the direction we’ve been heading in since the tail-end of [2011’s] Welcome Home Armageddon. So I think Ryan stepping away has just allowed us a bit more freedom to fully explore the idea of what our band is to us. And because of that, we ended up having that epiphany, thinking, “Oh, actually, what we’re doing right now is what we’ve always wanted to do.”
Do have specific aims and ambitions for where you want the band to go with this album?
Ambition doesn’t exist anymore. My sole ambition for being in a band was to be with my friends writing music that I loved and maybe going on tour and possibly making a record. Our bucket list has been well and truly ticked. I’m just thankful and very stoked that we have people we’ve met along the way who have come to our band over the years and who give as much of a shit about it as we do, and who come out and support us. That’s pretty special. And we’ll continue making records until it feels like we’ve got nothing left to give and we’ll continue touring until we feel like we’ve got nothing left to give.
You’re certainly as relevant as you’ve ever been. I’d argue you’re one of the few British rock bands saying something of genuine worth and value.
That means a lot. We play with so many bands who get up there and literally have nothing to say. And it’s a bit sad. On one hand, I accept that music is entertainment for a lot of people. But on the other hand, for me, whether people agree or not, Funeral For A Friend is my hardcore band and I get to say whatever the fuck I want to say however I want to say it. And as long as I get to have that carte blanche, I’ll abuse it to the best of my ability! alt