Manchester band AFFAIRS are quickly becoming a well known name on the indie circuit. Having supported the likes of Alt-J and Dog Is Dead, and being championed by the likes of John Kennedy and Steve Lamacq, it won’t be long before AFFAIRS are a household name. After the release of their latest single ‘Brothers’, we caught up with Liam and James…
Hey, how are you guys?
Pretty good thanks! You?
Yeah, good thank you! Tell me about your new single, ‘Brothers’. What’s the reaction been like?
James: Really positive, we certainly can’t complain. We’ve had support from most of the major radio stations, so we’re pretty happy really.
Liam: It was great to get it picked up so early from John Kennedy over at XFM and the big Steve Lamacq play over on 6 Music. We’d heard about that just before we went on stage for our single release show at Night and Day, so the whole show went really well after that.
And it was inspired by a Tom Hardy film – is taking influence from things like films something you do a lot, or was it a one off?
J: We take influence from a lot of things really. It was partly inspired by that but also by our own relationship with each other as a band. We’ve been together a while now and when you sort of travel round together and go up and down the country you have to work immensely hard and you do become close. It becomes a very sort of sibling style relationship.
How do you stay sane and avoid too much bickering on the road?
L: Constant ridicule towards each other I’d say. In a jokey way, but yeah…
J: … And a dependence on alcohol.
Drink away the pain! And how did the band come about?
L: We met originally at Hull University – a few of us were studying there and I was working there at the time. I’d previously met Dan at a different university and we’d already started putting some tracks together there, which is stuff that no one should ever hear. It’s basically just an awful Foals rip off.
J: I thought it was quite good!
L:They might get released one day. But, yeah, I met Dan again at Hull University and met our bass player, Jack. Us three started writing together and we found James, here, at an open mic evening, singing ‘Daniel’ by Bat For Lashes. We thought it was quite poignant as our other guitarist who was there is called Daniel. Then we just auditioned for our drummer, Mike – he brings a sort of surreal humour to everything.
Aw, sweet. And you’ve been compared to everyone from Foals, to The Smiths, to The Courteeners – where would you say your influence actually comes from?
L: I think it’s one of those things where I’d never try and take a conscious influence from people. For me personally it’s just anything I’ve been watching or listening to and I’ve just thought “Christ, that’s good” or “How have they done that?”. Also when people have loads of interesting tech on stage or something like that, I’ll try to take inspiration from that.
And do you think working with Ed Buller (Suede, Courteeners, Pulp) influenced you at all?
J: I think it has, yeah. Before I think we had a tendency to try and be a bit too clever with the things we came out with but hemade sure the bare bones of the song were there before we tried to get too clever with it. I think sometimes we had a tendency to run before we could walk, so to speak. We’d get fixated on an idea before the song had even finished and he was like “no, you need the chords and the melody, and then you can build everything else around it”, and that was a huge influence on the way we write now.
L: It’s made us change our approach because the gold is there from the beginning now without having to sift through all the mud first. We can tell from the start which ones are going to be bangers.
All your songs have quite an epic sound – how do you translate this into your live shows?
L: Sound-wise, we just try to match it as best we can; I’ll hand over to James on the performance side of things…
J: We try to make sure that when we’re performing we try to display how we’re feeling really. It’s not about not holding back, it’s about leaving it all out there and if people like it that’s great, but I’m not afraid to show people how I’m feeling at that moment in time.
L: For me it’s important to break down that audience/performer divide. I want to get people really involved – if you break that barrier, it’s a lot better. If we can do anything to break the wall down between what’s going on on stage and the people watching us we will; if people are reacting in the right way, it spurs us on.
And you’re based locally (in Manchester) – do you find that the audiences are more inviting round here?
L: Yeah, crowds in Manchester are always good, but we always get a really good crowd in Hull because that’s where we started, so we’ve got a large fanbase still there who will always come out to see us when we go back. But we’ve been… I don’t want to say welcomed with open arms, but we have been really. Even when it’s tricky getting people to come to a gig in Manchester, there’ll always be a good crowd in the end.
You’ve supported the likes of Coast, Alt-J, Jaws etc. What’s it been like gigging on the indie scene?
L: To be fair, all the bands we’ve supported have all been really… nice. Although we were on tour with Nothing But Thieves, and those boys can party hard.
J: Yeah, everyone went on a night out with them. I couldn’t go, but they were just playing beer pong in our living room.
L: They’ve all been quite civil though.
J: Coasts are really nice guys!
L: I think it’s good looking at what they’ve all become – especially with bands like Coasts – and seeing how the big boys do it and how far they’ve come. But there was a mistake with one show where our other guitarist, Dan, was just getting a little bit too into it and ended up knocking Alt-J’s entire keyboard rig down on stage. You can’t stop though!
Nothing major, then! Do you feel like there’s any competition at all among new bands?
J: I’ve never experienced anyone else being outwardly out to get us. Everyone we’ve met – at least to our faces – has been extremely supportive, but perhaps we’re just really naïve… We’ll joke around with bands that we’re friends with, but we’ll never sort of deviously slag each other off.
L: It can be difficult though. The sheer amount of bands, all more or less aiming for the same goal, makes it tricky to shine through. But we’re lucky enough to have a big team working behind us, it’s such a blessing. If more bands had that bigger picture, they’d probably go a lot further; if you have more hands involved with more expertise, it’s always going to work better.
Of course, you need to be willing to let other people in.
L: It is tricky though. Going back to the writing, we’d always written everything as a really close unit and if people tried to change it we’d be really against it. But working with Ed we had to open up and be willing to try a different approach.
And how do you go about writing songs initially?
J: It varies with each song to be honest. We don’t have a rigid structure where a certain person will do one thing, and someone else will do another. Someone will have an idea and we’ll go from there, whether it’s just a bassline or an entire track idea. The majority of the music comes from Liam or Dan, but it could be either one of them. I come out with the vocals a lot, but sometimes they’ll already have something in mind.
L: Also, having written together for such a long time we know what makes each other tick, so we know what’s worth putting forward.
What about album and EP plans?
J: An EP is set for early next year.
L: We’ve got another single coming out later this year, and another single dropping at the start of next year, which is called ‘Stained Gold’, if you’re interested.
And we’ll finish with a tricky one: if you could have written any song in the world, what would it be?
J: That’s a very tough question…
L: I wanna go for something quite iconic, but I’d actually probably go for ‘Spanish Sahara’ by Foals. I just like the way it’s this huge crescendo, and you put your headphones in and turn it up because it’s too quiet but then you get to the end and it’s like ‘FUCK’. To be honest, anything Foals have ever written…
J: I’d probably go for something like ‘Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears, because I’d never have to work again.
Fair enough! Thanks so much for chatting!