“We’re on an adventure together, exploring the world.”
As any short-fingered vulgarian will tell you, don’t put “big” as a descriptor in front of anything, unless you mean it. Robbie Furze was talking about the new EP, Empire Underground (B3SCI Records), from his band the Big Pink, and kept referring to the sound as “the big beat.”
“What do you think?” he asked me. I told him, risking any cred I might have, that I honestly loved the four songs and that they reminded me much of live Kasabian from their early years. The mood and feel of the songs transport you to a place where it is just you and the music. They inhabit you, and this is reflected nicely in the band’s new video for the “Hightimes” by Nova Dando.
The Big Pink burst on the scene in 2008 as a duo featuring Furze and his partner Milo Cordell. Signing to 4AD in 2009, they released A Brief History of Love, which spawned the earworm “Dominoes.” In 2011, they followed up with Future This, which further wowed listeners, yielded singles, and saw the slow dissolution of the band. Cordell left in 2013 to run his music label, Merok.
What followed were several years of starts and stops, leaked snippets of songs and the delayed promise of a new album. Furze began to slowly put together the band that is now the Big Pink. He brought in Mary Chateris, who had worked with previous iterations of the band. Over the last year, Big Pink was completed with drummer Free Hallas and Jesse Russell on bass.
I wondered if that altered the songs that were already written for the album. Furze rejected the idea, saying he did most of the writing. He chose members to achieve the songs live. “They’re really amazing musicians, and in the end, I wanted to really concentrate on a record that could translate live very easily. The live experience is very important to me.”
During the post–Future This years, Furze also married sometime bandmate Lady Mary Charteris. While the idea of a rock spouse performing is hardly new (hello, Linda “Cook of the House” McCartney), Charteris has become a central member of the band, contributing strong vocals and programming.
And she is actually a member of rock royalty. Charteris is the daughter of Lord Neidpath and Catherine Guinness (Lord Guinness’s daughter). Furze seems to glow when he speaks of her, saying, “We’re always very inseparable and always been best friends. Every once in a while we worry we are spending too much time together, but we’re on an adventure together, exploring the world. We’re quite proud of each other and what we’re doing.” When I ask how it feels to have married into the eccentric family, Furze laughs and says, “Pretty crazy family she’s part of.” Ah, rock love.
The band’s third U.S. tour, which hits mostly smaller venues, was pulled together with the intention of an early-February start, but was delayed by visa problems. It also forced Furze and Chateris to practice for the live shows via a Skype-type link from Europe, with the other half of the band that was already in America. Compounding the dilemma, Furze tells me Hallas “flipped over and cracked his head. We had to have his cousin Blake, who’s our tech, learn all the parts in just three days.” (Hallas will rejoin the tour with their Detroit show.)
The Big Pink has played 100,000-plus-seat venue Wembley Stadium, while some of the club shows on this tour hold only a few hundred. I wondered which Furze preferred, considering his penchant for a big sound. “I do like being in a smaller venue. My favorite size is the 1,000- to 5,000-capacity places. I like when a band can control their environment with lights and hone the sound. I like going to festivals, but I sometimes think the sound, especially in an open air is very difficult. I like the vibe of a smaller venue, 300 to 400, as well.
About that promised new album for 2016, Furze said they will be taking the break between the end of this tour and their opening slot with the Kills “to put together some songs from the demos Mary and I started in January. They’ll have a similar kind of feel to the Empire Underground EP—you know, the big beat.”
The Big Pink is named after the first album by the Band, Music from Big Pink, named after the house near Woodstock, New York, where they recorded it, as well as the iconic Basement Tapes with Bob Dylan. Furze says the name represents “being part of the real deal, and the Band were the real deal.”
For Furze, the ethos of a group of musicians who “do it for the love of music, whether successful or not, needing to go on the road, needing to play every day,” represented him growing up. “I thought that was a nice title for my band. The aspiration of being one of those bands: a band that will never stop.”
Furze and the Big Pink will be living up to that ethos in the coming year with tours, new music, and playing the big beat. | Jim Dunn
The Big Pink’s Spring 2016 U.S. Tour. Watch for a West Coast tour in May.
03.05 | Rumba Café, Columbus
03.06 | Blueberry Hill, St. Louis
03.07 | Subterranean, Chicago
3/09 | The Frequency, Madison
03.10 | The Rave/Eagles Club, Milwaukee
03.11 | Turf Club, St Paul, MN
03.12 | Vega, Lincoln, NE
03.13 | The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
03.16 | Waterloo Records, Austin
03.16 | Reeperbahn Festival Official Showcase, Austin
03.17 | SXSW Festival – Easy Tiger, Austin
03.18 | Austin Hotel Vegas, Austin
04.18 | Mayan Theater, Los Angeles*
04.19 | Observatory, Santa Ana*
04.20 | Soda Bar, San Diego
04.22 | Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco
04.23 | Dante’s, Portland
04.24 | Neumos, Seattle
04.25 | Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver
* opening for the Kills