Having successfully self-released their danceable-indie debut album, Reservoir, back in 2009 to a fair level of critical acclaim, London based five-piece Fanfarlo have just returned with their second offering, Rooms Filled With Light, which hit the shelves in the UK back in February. Before the band set off on their imminent US tour, The Line of Best Fit got a chance to catch up with Simon and Cathy from the band in a small room inside London’s Rough Trade East, to talk about the new album, the tour, and persuading their twitter following to bring them stuff.
“We don’t really read reviews” Simon admits, after being informed that Rooms Filled With Light is going down rather well. “But that’s good to hear!” Both he and bandmate Cathy look somewhat sheepish, and genuinely relieved. “I think it can start to affect how you work. It’s better just to do it for ourselves, and not worry too much about what the reviewers are saying,” Cathy continues. “But it is nice to hear that what they’re saying is good.”
It may be surprising to them that there’s barely a bad word been written about Rooms Filled With Light (here’s what The Line of Best Fit had to say), but it’s not difficult to love an album so charmingly shiny, but still so lyrically engaging. We get them talking about the writing of the songs on the album. “We like to write about the big stuff. I’m not the kind of person who can write songs about ‘Oooh she left me, oooh’” says Simon. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, there are people who do that really well, but that’s not us. We’re more into writing stuff about bigger things. Comets and viruses… they’re both in there… things like that.” “But I think” adds Cathy, “it all links back to smaller personal things, we’re just not so direct about it.”
Although these more encompassing themes seem to run through the entirety of the bands work, Rooms Filled With Light was, we’re told, recorded and released under very different circumstances to Reservoir.
“It was a different experience this time,” Cathy tells us. “Last time we pretty much did everything ourselves. We’d have to lug sacks of CDs down to the post office and send them all off… This time round it was much simpler, easier, for us.” “We had a lot of stuff sorted out for us… But I think doing the self release thing is a really good thing to have done. We definitely wouldn’t say we’d never do it again, but it just wasn’t logistically plausible for this album.”
The sound of the new album too, is undeniably different to the band’s debut, but it seems, to this writer, at least, to represent more of a development of the band’s sound than an utterly new one. We get talking about how this progression occurred.
“The sound of this album is really different,” says Cathy, resolutely. ‘There was a really long time in between the recording of the last album and this one, and since then we’ve spent a lot of time together, on tour, getting to know each other really, erm… intimately…” she admits, grinning. “Not like that, though!” she corrects herself quickly, and they both laugh knowingly. “I think that really affected the sound changing. We knew each other so much better, so the songs came together in a different way…”
“But it’s also that,” Simon continues, “because such a long time has passed, we’re all listening to different stuff and reading different stuff. There’s a lot of diverse interests within the band, we’re all into really different things, and I think that’s all come together much more on this record.”
This different range of influences is pretty clear from listening to the album too, the most obvious change being the instrumentation. Gone is guitar-based, more traditional indie sound, and instead we hear an abundance of synth and electronic noise largely fills out the songs.
“There’s something a bit sort of pompous about really loving something you’ve made when you look back on it. It’s like anything you do, after some time has passed, you’re not going to be all like ‘Yeah! That’s amazing!’. You kind of grow away from it. Not disown it exactly, but you definitely want to do something different,” Simon muses, before Cathy cuts in. “I definitely feel like we want to distance ourselves from what we were doing before, just because it was such a long time ago for us.”
However we might feel about the new sounds, they’re not the only thing which have been keeping Fanfarlo in our consciousness. The band are also an active and interesting presence on Twitter, not only to self promote, (or share with fans in-depth thoughts on the sandwich one of them might be eating, as we’ve all seen bands do before…) but also to interact and (slightly cheekily) get stuff off their fans too. They’ve been known to ask their Twitter following to bring them things they’re wanting for on tour on more than one occasion.
“Yeah, we’ve had people bring us quite a lot of stuff. Someone bought us a bike once… and we once asked if someone could bring some painkillers or something, so a few people did, and then a doctor turned up with a prescription. I’m sure that wasn’t legal… but it was amazing,” laughs Simon. “We ask people to bring books along in exchange for coming into the show for free. It’s really nice, you know, ‘cause, when you’re on tour you have a lot of time… and we’re all pretty big readers, but there’s only so many books we can take with us… And it gives us a chance to meet and make a connection with people through what we’re interested in.”
As far as we can tell, no one brings the band anything along this evening for the in-store performance which they soon hurry away to set up for, but nevertheless, the enthusiastic crowd lap up Fanfarlo’s warm indie-pop on the small stage at the back of the iconic London record shop, in one of the band’s last UK shows before they head out to share Rooms Filled With Light live with their American fans.
Rooms Filled With Light is available now through Atlantic.