The Futureheads | Nul Is Not Void

futurethis.jpgWe just really concentrate on the music. We’re not juggling numbers all day. We just write music and record it and you have to mix it and make decisions, but not enough that we feel its our job or anything.








You’ve heard the story before. Band forms, plays a bunch of gigs and pulls it all together to release their first album. They sell an immense amount of records. They tour and play all the big festivals. They are on the cover of many magazines. Their second album is eagerly awaited by both the fans and their record label. It comes out and, despite containing a number for very good songs, is seen as a disappointment by the public and the record label for not living up to outsized expectations. The band is dropped from label and its members go back to working day jobs. They spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture the magic of that first record. You have a capsule story of hundreds and thousands of bands over the entire history of the music industry.

Then comes a band called The Futureheads. The scenario is pretty much as described, but when the label and the band decided to part ways after their second album News and Tributes, the band did not lie down. They came back punching with their own label, Nul, and a follow up, This is Not the World, that doesn’t discount the advances made on their second album, but incorporates them in a way that combines the heart of their eponymous first release with the songwriting growth they showed in New and Tributes.

The Futureheads formed in 2000 in Sunderland, England. The quartet—Barry Hyde (vocals, guitar), Jaff (bass), Ross Millard (vocals, guitar) and David Hyde (drums)—set about playing hundreds of show in and out of their hometown. By 2004 they had a contract with 679 Records which released their debut The Futureheads. Success was rapid. The the album, with its razor-sharp lyrics, speed-pop playing and harmonies not heard since the heyday of The Housemartins was an immediate success. Their cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” became a crowd favorite at the band’s concerts and their first top 10 single in the U.K.

Hyde, the band’s lead singer and lyricist, remembers their rapid rise as somewhat surprising. “It did take us by surprise to be honest, but we enjoyed it. Suddenly we were away from home all the time…to America like five times. You know, it was a bit of a shock to be suddenly really doing it with such intensity, but I don’t think it had a bad effect on us. I think it’s made us the band that we are because all the gigs we had to dig through…hundreds and hundreds of gigs and that’s the most important thing in life.” The band was featured at festivals across Europe and the U.S. Hyde even remembered their debut at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival where their stage was a portable stage on the back of a cargo van in a parking lot behind an Irish pub (and a fine show it was).

When it came time for a follow up, the result was News and Tributes which was more thoughtful than their debut (though not lacking in bounce) with songs that mined some deep emotions, including the title track. “News and Tributes” was about the 1958 Manchester United football team whose plane crashed into a mountain on the way home from a game in Munich, killing half of the starting lineup. The album, while charting at number 11 in Britain, was perceived as a let down for the band. Hyde is more blunt: “I think the record company hated it.” In preparation for the new album and coming off the high from their debut, the band was told not to worry about creating another hit album. 679 told them that they “don’t have to make any demos, just go ahead and make it; don’t worry about singles,” Hyde relates. Pressure off the band proceed. “So we went away and did that and then they heard it and were like, ‘There aren’t any singles?’” Hyde feels it was 679’s fault for the misdirection.

The Futureheads felt the album was a great step forward. “I really like it and really enjoyed making it. I was surprised by how much of an progression we made between the first and second album. It was almost like we made our fifth album second, like we jumped ahead of ourselves. It was a good experience making it.”

The label wanted a follow up but Hyde said they did not want to pay third-album costs for a band that was not selling like they thought they should. Hyde called it “a bit of a political situation, because they were going to have to give us quite a bit of money for this third album in advance.” The label could not or did not want to give the band money toward a third album. They offered more time, but Hyde and the band said no. Even though Hyde had already written several songs that would end up on the new album, he held back that information from 679. Negotiations broke down and the band left the label and became free agents.

The band was rumored to be breaking up after the jump, but Hyde feels that leaving the label actually saved the band. Morale after the lackluster performance of their second album had caused some fraying among the band members. Hyde relates, “The only thing that would have made us break up was if we hadn’t got dropped."

So the band decided to launch a salvo against the record industry. They would do it on their own, under their own terms, and with themselves and two managers as the primary financiers. They were in effect record executives. I asked Hyde how it felt and he laughed, saying, "You got a little bit more control. We just really concentrate on the music. We’re not juggling numbers all day. We just write music and record it. You have to mix it and make decisions, but not enough that we feel its our job or anything.” The label, which is exclusive to the band (Hyde feels that the idea behind Nul is to prove that bands can be independent, so bringing in another band would defeat the purpose) released This Is Not The World on June 3.

Since they were in effect their own bosses, I asked what directions the band gave itself going in to its third album. “We just did it to prove a point. Make the album.” Hyde described the sound as “adrenalized” on an album that is “very defiant, and also the kind that you can seriously dance to, I think.”

As for the immediate future of The Futureheads, the band is touring the world and hoping to claim several continents of fans. “We got loads of gigs, loads of festivals—Japan, Australia, all over the European continent. We might be going to South Korea and then South Africa. We’re going all over the place.”

The Futureheads have always had an accountant0turned-rockstar look to them (Hyde laughed when I described Millard as looking like a younger Steven King), and it is not surprising that in a recent NME artlicle about an impromptu concert at the Millard’s flat it was mentioned that the place was littered with cookbooks. When I asked if he cooked, Hyde replied, “I don’t. When I met Jaff he used to cook all the time, but now he doesn’t cook at all. Ross is a vegetarian and so he is quite particular about his food. I think he’s quite a good cook; he’s able to cook things exactly how he wants them and he likes quite exotic vegetarian food. So yeah, he’s a good eater.”

With the release of their first truly independent album The Futureheads seems ready to be media moguls. Don’t look for them in the corner office of some big office tower in downtown London. Instead, look for them using that newfound independence to play new songs, practice their speed guitar and work on those harmonies…and maybe throw some veggies in a wok. | Jim Dunn

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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