Future Of The Left, Cardiff's most fab gutter-rockers, have a new line-up. Cult hulk bassist Kelson Matthias left earlier this year; bassist Julia Ruzicka and guitarist Jimmy Watkins are the new recruits.
Future Of The Left as they were: (l-r) Kelson Matthias, Andy Falkous, Jack Egglestone
I gave frontman Andy Falkous a buzz to find out what was next for the band, perennially branded one of the most "perennially underrated" sorts out there.
Kelson left, you've got two new people in – what's with the new four-piece set-up?
Andy: "Future Of The Left was supposed to be a four-piece band originally, that was the whole idea. At that time, whether it was the people involved [or because] I didn't quite know what to do with an extra guitar, it didn't work. But now it's definitely working. There are certain pieces that don't work as a three-piece because they have a certain dynamic. In terms of newer stuff it gives you so much more freedom as well. There are old songs that we couldn't play before that we can play now, like 'Lapsed Catholics'."
Why did Kelson leave?
"A combination of things, really. Not feeling as if our last record [2009's 'Travels With Myself And Another'] got the push from certain people it deserved. And money. That can take an effect on a group of people, you know?"
So just a case of not being as big as you could or should have been after that album?
"Success always exists in pretty heavy inverted commas, but that's pretty much the size of it, really. A person gets to a stage in their life where they look around and think, 'I'd like to know how much money I'm going to have next week. I want to know I'm going to be able to pay the rent'.
"I've always said there are bad parts and good parts of being in bands, certainly when you're mad enough to treat it as a full-time enterprise. For me the good has always outweighed the bad, although at times it's been a close run thing. For Kelson he obviously went through a period where the bad outweighed the good."
Were you disappointed?
"At the time, yeah, a little bit disappointed. But I can understand it. Ultimately we'll be much stronger for it. It's a good challenge really, the way I look at it. Mclusky [Falkous' previous band] was an artistically successful enterprise. I think a lot of people were surprised that Future Of The Left didn't suck the shit off a dead donkey's cock.
"For me to have an established standard, obviously some people are going to prefer the earlier incarnation, that's fine, but it's a real challenge to try and surpass what you've done before. A lot of people expect it to be a lame version of what was before, and I'm determined for that not to be the case. In the end somebody can talk it up all they want, but the proof is in the pudding."
You're on OK terms with Kelson?
"Yeah, fine, absolutely. Obviously whether it's a relationship or a band, when someone says they want to leave it's never perfect, but yeah, we're on good terms. He's back playing in Truckers Of Husk, I've been to see them a couple of times. All fine. It's difficult because when you're in a band with people, the band consumes so much of your lives you very rarely socialise with those people outside of those immediate confines. You don't need to, you're already seeing them 230 times a year."
In Mclusky bassist Jon Chapple, who you fell out with before the band split in 2005, was a big personality. Kelson kind of replaced his spot when you formed Future Of The Left. He was a big personality too so it worked – is there a worry it's too much too follow, though?
"If that's what people want from a band [big personalities] I guess yeah, but I would say that Jon Chapple definitely had a big personality in all directions. Not everyone's experienced him outside the confines of Cardiff yet but Jimmy Watkins has 26 different personalities in one cranium. Keeping a leash on that guy is one of my main preoccupations.
"Julia is a little bit quieter, she's playing bass. It would be difficult to be louder than Jimmy Watkins. We'll have to see how that one plays out. I don't think we'll be lacking anything in physical or mental interaction with the audience, put it that way."
New Future Of The Left guitarist, Jimmy Watkins
So it's a new phase for the band.
"There's always a constituency of people who just want to hear the last record, or the record they first got into, forever. Part of me understands that mindset, I was 15 once, you know. You fall in love with a band at a particular moment and part of you wants them to never change. But for a band to be vital and keep bringing it, they have to. Bands who don't are fucking shells, aren't they.
"There's only so much I can talk about it, because it'll be immediately apparent in recordings and live. Obviously we won't be straight up to the standard we were at, we were with that line-up for nearly four years. But given a short run-up, it's got to surpass it. Otherwise there's no point in doing it.
And the next album?
"A lot of it is revolving around our everyday lives. We've already done two demo sessions. They sound fantastic but not quite releasable quality. We're hoping to do some recording next weekend maybe for a possible Australian single or EP.
"The problem we've got is a good one, we've got too many songs to choose from. Album-wise I'd hope to be recording in January or February. That's down to a lot of factors, like which label we go with."
Ah yes – you left the Beggars label group last year… presumably you won't be going back with them?
"I don't think Beggars would have a lot of interest and I would say the feeling is largely mutual.
What went wrong there?
"There's an argument that a band finds its target audience for right or wrong, and so it's very difficult to specifically give blame or reasons for whys something does or doesn't happen. Certainly in terms of 'Travels…' I was surprised it didn't reach a larger audience. It's not the first time I've been surprised in music and life in general and I'm assuming it won't be the last either.
Well there is that 'perennially underrated' tag you always seem to have – even back with Mclusky.
"'Perennially underrated', it's like when a band is described as "humorous". For a certain reader you might as well put the plastic boobs on them right now.
Mclusky's first line-up: (l-r) Andy, Jon Chapple, Matt Harding
FOTL are quite big in Australia though, aren't they?
"Big is a relative term… bigger, definitely. We certainly expect in Melbourne and Sydney to play bigger headline shows in London. I actually love Australia, apart from the occasional bit of casual racism it might just be favourite country on Earth. I love the weather and the general attitude to life."
Why not move there?
"Believe me, it's been considered. Me and Jon Chapple could hang out, listen to Counting Crows and drink margaritas together."
Think you'll both live your lives never speaking to each other again?
"For me, it's usually a serious illness that will bring people together, I suppose. I know what I've done and the way I've lived my life, and I'm perfectly happy with the way I've done it."