The New Cue #316 September 8: Sampha, Friendly Fires, Marika Hackman, James Blake, The Coral, Aaron Frazer, Vince Clarke, Tirzah, Sparklehorse
"If only we got Adele on the track, we’d have way less to worry about..."
Aaaand in the blue corner, another irresistible, outrageously quite decent actually Recommender edition of The New Cue. And in the red corner, you and your measly little inbox. Admit defeat! And then scroll down and read Friendly Fires frontman Ed Macfarlane on the creation of the trio’s 00s indie-dance classic Paris, Reeves Gabrels recalling an encounter with “surly” Lou Reed and, in between, your three hosts with their Recommender hats on, but they’re not actually hats because they are not hat people. Today’s edition is for Subscribers only. It costs £5 a month to subscribe, a glorious bargain, we’d pay for it if we weren’t asking you to pay for it and the reason we’re asking you to pay for it is so we can get paid for it. Here, have a playlist whilst you mull over that needlessly complex sentence:
See you on Monday when we’ve got synth-pop pioneer Martin Fry in the Start The Week With… hot seat.
Enjoy the edition,
Ted, Niall and Chris
The Story Behind The Song
How we birthed a classic
Paris by Friendly Fires, 2007
Today, St Albans trio Friendly Fires release a 15th anniversary reissue of their 2008 self-titled debut, as well as issuing 12” re-release of its standout banger Paris. The trio also embark on an anniversary tour in November – click here for ticket details. Earlier this week, frontman Ed Macfarlane told Niall how their breakthrough hit came to be:
“Paris is the one song that pretty much I played and wrote everything on. It was just a regular evening like any other, still living at my parents. We were wanting to write something that was a combination of post-punk, no wave New York disco bands like Liquid Liquid, to combine Liquid Liquid with this really washy, dreamy, almost shoegaze-y element. That’s something that became our trademark sound, big percussive drum sections with euphoric, lush synth-y moments. I was in the garage, faffing around, trying stuff out and Paris literally wrote itself in about 45 minutes, just completely finished and done. I didn’t even need to sit down and write the lyrics, I just recorded them freely. It’s one of those moments that you maybe get once or twice in your entire lifetime. It was so easy and so effortless.
I was post-university, wondering what the hell I’m gonna do with my life. We’d self-released two EPs and there was a buzz around us but it felt like nothing was really set in stone yet. Speaking from my perspective, music has been a way to see the world and to escape that monotony of what my life could have been. The musicians from our area, like Chris Clark on Warp Records, people were people that we really looked up to because he was just one guy with a laptop that had written this weird music and then he was travelling the world playing to people. That was something that we were looking for. In terms of the actual lyrics themselves, they were written for my friend Holly, who I was at university with. We were both just real hopeless romantics, at a point in our lives where we felt stagnant. We were yearning for something, something kind of romantic, something that is this fantasy ideal in our brains. There’s a real naivety to it, which is the charm to the lyrics. It’s a completely inflated idea of what Paris is. It’s a dirty word, but there’s a kind of aspirational sense to it that there’s something brighter in the future and we’re gonna get there.
I remember emailing the track off to the other guys and saying, ‘What do you think of this? Can I put it on MySpace?’. We literally put it on MySpace the evening it was recorded. The initial reactions were really good and I think the reason why is because no time was spent deliberating over the production, we didn’t put the microscope on it at all so it really is a very pure and honest song. Back then, recording techniques were still pretty primitive, but people were less bothered by things not sounding perfect. I think maybe with the advent of social media, people in all aspects of life are wanting things to sound as perfect as they can be. People want things to be polished, especially when people write music, it can be hard to leave in the mistakes whereas I think with that track we didn’t even think about it. It was just like, ‘There’s energy to this, let’s not lose the energy of this track and just put it out there’ and people started to give a shit. Moshi Moshi messaged us and said, ‘Can we put the track out?’ and we were over the moon. That was a huge step forward for us having a record label show interest in our music.
With the album version, we did actually have it mixed by Rich Costey, so you could say it’s a bit more polished, which was really hard for me because I was just, like, ‘Okay, we can mix it, but let’s not fuck it up by smoothing the edges and losing whatever initial charm there is’ to the track. XL suggested that we maybe get some female singers on it and this is the funniest bit, the weirdest bit - Adele’s career was taking off at that point and I remember meeting her. She said that she loved the track and she wanted to sing on it. I was like, ‘She’s kind of too poppy’. Now, in hindsight, I’m like, ‘If only we got her on the track!’ We’d probably have way less to worry about with our lives! Au Revoir Simone sung the backing vocals instead, and that creative decision was made paid off with the Aeroplane remix. It made sense to try and push it a bit farther from the original version that you hear on Moshi Moshi.
I remember hearing it once in Corsica at Calvi On The Rocks, looking at all the model-looking French people dancing to the track and thinking that no one knows I’ve written this tune. It’s such a lame way to think, but in my brain I was, ‘Excuse me, umm, I wrote this song, just to let you know...’.
We just did a 15-year anniversary show in our hometown in St Albans and you’re looking out seeing groups of people hugging each other in the crowd. To see that feels good, to know that the music was really important to some people in their lives and that we’re able to transport them back to that time.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial