Carrying the tag of “the most exciting young band in Britain” around their neck has only given Fat White Family more energy and greater urgency to bring their music to a wider audience.
The raves from the likes of Q Magazine for Fat White Family’s audacious, wild live shows and their blend of ramshackle punk energy, primitive garage rock and wickedly skewed folk songs came before the band’s debut “Champagne Holocaust” was even released in the United States.
And it’s all come as a bit of a shock to the band, says singer Lias Saoudi.
“We’ve never really considered ourselves having any prospects really. (“Champagne Holocaust”) was our way of relating to the world. It was our opinions about the world and it hardened into a crusty ball,” he says. “We didn’t think anyone would listen to it and I certainly didn’t think I’d get to tour America.”
In a phone interview, Saoudi talked about the band’s roots, their famously unhinged live show and recording part of their upcoming new album in Yoko Ono’s house.
The band began in 2011 in a squat in south London, formed out of the ashes of The Metros, which featured Saul Adamczewski, and the Saudis, featuring Lias Saoudi and his brother Nathan. With Adamczewski on guitar, Nathan Saoudi on keyboards, Adam Harmer on guitar, Jack Everett on drums and Taishi Nagasaka on bass, Fat White Family set out on a new mission.
“We were in a crappy pub rock band before this band and the only intention we had was to consciously remove ourselves from that circuit and get into good music,” he says. “We listened to the Fall and Funkadelic and Michael Hurley and Charles Manson and loads of other stuff and eventually we started trying emulate them the best way you can. It was an opportunity to explore and that’s the music for me.”
Saoudi points to an underlying physicality in the music of the disparate bands that influenced Fat White Family and an urgency to the songs that pushes the performers and the fans together.
“Music is all about the communal experience,” he says.
Specifically, the music Fat White Family makes is “a way of relating to the immediate society around me,” he says.
“It’s a way I have some control, I have some power,” he says. “Total hopelessness and powerless was the cornerstone of this band and it was our way of reclaiming that. Even if it’s just half an hour on a stage in a pub, it’s your half hour.”
That live-for-today attitude captivated U.S. crowds, particularly the closely watched CMJ festival in New York and SXSW in Austin and the band had its “next big thing” status proclaimed here as well. A fateful meeting in SXSW with Sean Lennon started a friendship and collaboration, with Lennon helping to produce Fat White Family’s sophomore album.
The first recording sessions took place in a studio at Yoko Ono’s upstate New York mansion, using some of John Lennon’s old Beatles equipment. But the band also went back home to finish work, recording in the remote north of England, lest they get too comfortable.
“We did half of our session Yoko Ono’s house and the other half as far away from that as you can get. It’s both worlds, opulence and degradation,” Saoudi says.
The band just put the finishing touches on the new record before returning for another tour of the states. Saoudi expects an October or November release, and describes the music in a typically cluttered and vague manner.
“A lot of it is heavily inspired by Tina Turner,” he says. “It’s Germanic, and like Jean Genet in a Turkish bath house.”
Until the band can present the new record, Fat White Family is perfectly content to work on converting new fans through their live show, which has a history of being outrageously wild and vulgar.
“We just do whatever we feel like doing on the night,” Saoudi says. “Within that spectrum of possibilities, lots of different things can occur. It’s not a freak show. It’s a band. We care about music enormously and we live for it. You can expect to see a bunch of people doing their absolute fucking best.”
The tour gives Fat White Family a chance to see far more than New York mansions and jam-packed festival crowds and Saoudi says Tucson is among the most intriguing stops.
“We looked on the gig schedule and everybody is really excited about going to Tucson to see what it’s all about. I’m really excited to get into that kind of space,” he says. “I think out music was made to be played in the desert. That sounds like the right vibe to me.”