Barry Hyde, the vocalist and guitarist for The Futureheads, is a touchstone of English charm. It’s been two years since the release of their last record, News & Tributes, and with the release this month of their latest effort, This Is Not The World, Hyde’s enthusiasm boils over as he speaks.
The Futureheads recorded This Is Not The World last summer on a mountaintop in Spain, and while describing the setting Hyde says to me, “I don’t know if you know this, mate, but we recorded our album in the only area in all of Europe that has a desert.” He pauses for a second and then laughs, “Of course, they’re not like the deserts you have in your country, but it’s all we have here in Europe!” Hyde’s spirit is as youthful and energetic as his music, and The Futureheads’ journey from their native Sunderland to the mountaintops of Spain all started with a lesson in letting it all hang out from super- producer Youth, who along with the band crafted This Is Not The World out of his home studio.
“We learned so much from Youth,” says Hyde. “He taught us that we didn’t have to spend too long on a song–we could just write and record a song one day, and the next day, start up on another.” Of the twelve songs on the album, nine were written previously to arriving in Spain, which allowed the band to knock out the recording of the album in just three weeks. The frenzied pace is evident all over This Is Not The World. Unlike the acoustic elements that made up News & Tributes, This Is Not The World is a 38-minute blitz to the finish line–a manic attack signaling the start of an indie rock rampage. Tracks like “Broke Up The Time” and “Think Tonight” are perfect morsels of post-punk jive, and all the tracks on This Is Not The World were crafted with The Futureheads’ signature vocal harmonies. “We try to use the very tones of our voices to make our harmonies unique,” says Hyde. “For instance, Ross (Millard, bassist) has a very low voice, and Dave’s (Hyde, drummer) is very high. So, Jaff (bassist) and I fit into the middle.”
On previous efforts, both Barry Hyde and Ross Millard would bring loose arrangements to the band, and together they would work out the songs. But this time, the songwriting process was even more collaborative than before, with Barry taking on lead vocals for songs written by other members, and Dave Hyde contributing many guitar parts. In terms of lyrics, The Futureheads have always had a knack for being slightly ambiguous, while still being great storytellers. But on This Is Not The World, Hyde says that “we tried to be more straight- forward with the lyrics,” and he notes “Hard to Bear,” a broken- hearted love song written for a friend, as a prime example. The lyrics are very simple: “She broke your heart yesterday/It tore you apart when she turned the other way/You came to me and I didn’t know what to say/But now I do,” with the chorus being a message for Hyde’s friend to take care, and know that the worst is behind him. “It’s a place where every young man has been,” says Hyde, “and everyone can relate to it somehow.”
The Futureheads’ debut album was comprised mainly of the first songs they had ever written together, and their second release, News & Tributes, was basically an exercise in not trying to write big hits and radio singles. This Is Not The World was written with the intention of creating an album that would translate well in a live settin–and the end result appears to be a great success. Explains Hyde, “When we started playing the record live back in December, the fans were hearing the songs for the first time. But towards the end of each song, they were singing along with them.”
This Is Not The World is not only The Futureheads’ third album, but it is also their third record label– having formed their very own Nul Records. “After News & Tributes,” explains Hyde, “we were in a position where we were possibly going to be dropped because of the sales of the album, and for me that would have been perfectly fine.” With the major record label industry being in the sad state that it is, The Futureheads saw an opening and ran with it. “The label started asking about a new album, and I told them I had writer’s block– when in fact, I had actually written about six songs already. But I didn’t want them to get their hands on it. I would have given them an album of white noise if I could.”
Ultimately, Warner Records did not drop The Futureheads as much as they forgot to pick up their option on the ban–leaving The Futureheads in the very fortunate position of being able control their own destiny. Many potential suitors all came knocking in hopes of snatching the band up, and even Warner tried to resign them, but ultimately The Futureheads decided to focus on a more independent way of distributing music–something Hyde hopes bands will do more of in the future. “Just recently, the Von Bondies asked if we could sign them to Nul, but unfortunately, we had to turn them down. We really don’t want to sign anybody, because we’d rather a band realize that they can do it for themselves, and not have to rely on a record label.”
The Futureheads will play The Bowery Ballroom on June 17 before a full U.S. tour later this year. “We really can’t wait to get back to America,” says Hyde. “It takes some time, because we have to go through all of Europe first, but there’s really nothing like touring through America.”