MUSIC INTERVIEW: False Heads
False Heads are a trio from East London who are here to get your attention in whichever way possible. Having played shows with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and David Byrne, their punk rock sound has won them support from Kerrang!, BBC R1 and Absolute Radio to name a few. Recent EP Less is Better is an onslaught of in-your-face action, with intense melodies and crushing riffs. We had a chat with singer and guitarist Luke Griffiths about their music, 2018 and what’s to come in the new year.
Hi False Heads, can you introduce yourself to our readers, letting us know who you are and what you do in the band?
I’m Luke and I shout loudly and play guitar, Jake plays bass and Barney plays drums and sings.
Let’s talk touring as you’ve just recently finished one, you’ve played with some pretty impressive bands including Queens Of The Stone Age, what’s been your favourite show to date?
QOTSA at Croatia was incredible, playing the main stage at InMusic was amazing. It was a huge crowd and was a special moment, and hopefully there’s plenty more of those sort of moments to come. Favourite show to date on our tour though? Honestly, it was just a brilliant tour all round, even the shows that weren’t sold out like Manchester were absolutely rammed out, the crowd were just up for it and looking out seeing kids wearing False Heads t-shirts and singing every word was just special. I mean we played places like Hull, we’ve never ever played there or even been there and there’s kids in False Heads T-shirts starting a circle pit, it’s just special and makes all the shit jobs we’ve worked in make this happen and all the struggle worth it, and we genuinely grateful for everyone who makes the effort and comes to a show.
What’s been your favourite music memory so far?
My favourite music memory? Playing wise, I’d say playing ULU with Josh Homme, Band of Skulls and Frank Turner for the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust. Not only was it an incredible evening, it just showed how powerful music can be in the face of the most cruel evil, and I’m not sure we will ever be a part of something as important and powerful musically again.
Listening wise? First time I heard the Marshall Mathers LP or Nevermind, probably.
Gigwise? Watching Radiohead at Bilbao Festival.
Musically who has inspired the sound that False Heads has today?
We sort of self-generate now, it’s weird, we’re all so comfortable with each other, that we take influence from each other in the rehearsal room and there isn’t so much direct links to specific influences. We also take influence from other bands that we’ve played with, loved and are friends with like Strange Bones or Calva Louise. I mean, there’s some obvious ones in there that we all love and it crosses over like Pixies, Nirvana, some early naughties indie, Radiohead, Muse, Elliott Smith, Eminem, grime has some influence on the lyrics and the rhyming schemes, but I mean sometimes it borders on metal. My favourite description I’ve ever heard of the band was ‘hardcore indie’, which I thought was pretty bang on.
You released your latest EP Less Is Better not so long ago; can you tell us a bit more about the release and the recording process?
Well we were talking to quite a few record labels and other bits and boring industry stuff at the time and we were in-between managers, and we were like let’s just demo a load of songs and then everything sort of fell into place for us (regarding our team behind us, management, agents, label, publishing etc, so thank you to all of them, they’ve been brilliant). We picked the four tracks we felt should come out now from the demos and to be honest, we re-recorded the drums and vocals but a lot of the bass and guitar was from the original demos we did. We kept them because we (and Jonny Hucks our producing god-wizard) got such a good sound, we just kept them. So it was sort of a process from demos and then bits and pieces coming together really. And it was released to an amazing response so we can’t ask for much more really. Everything (for once in our career hahaha) fell into place really nicely, but we still worked hard on the songs and writing them so you know we deserved it…hopefully.
A lot of the tracks on the release have strong messages, including Yellow which we’ve read was inspired by a Christopher Hitchens story. Can you tell us a bit more about the track and what led you to writing it?
Thank you! Well, I’m (Luke) a huge fan of Hitchens and I think religion (particularly Abrahamic religion) is still one of the biggest dangers to our society and has somehow carved itself a nice little section for itself, where if you’re critical of some of the horrific, bizarre and sometimes plain evil nonsensical belief systems that it holds, you’re somehow cruel, rude and sometimes a bigot and sorry I’m just not fucking having that, so that’s something that is obviously going to come out in some of my lyrics. But Yellow, in particular, started from a story Hitchens was telling about a poor, poor girl who was being abused by a religious nut who kept her captive, it’s a truly horrific story and he made the point about how much she must have prayed (because she was also indoctrinated) to be saved, but continued instead to be abused by this utter c**t of a human being who believed what he was doing was fine because he had god on his side – so the lyrics did kind of start at that point, but then I guess it became a bit more metaphorical. I changed and added to the lyrics and for me, that is almost the perfect metaphor for organised religion, you’re forced to love and worship someone you are scared of because of the fear of being punished if you don’t. Doesn’t sound very all loving to me.
And then from there it sort of twisted into how I see the tribalistic political landscape today, everyone is terrified of being punished or lynched online if they don’t believe or follow a pretty specific set of political and social beliefs, or say something slightly out of line with that, and so Yellow sort of merged into that. I think the way we act toward each other politically today is quite similar to organised religion, which is terrifying to me. The only absolute in political discourse is that there should be no absolutes in political discourse, but fuck me I can only dream of that being the case anytime soon.
Since the release of Gutter Press which touched upon a lot of themes including social media culture and the toxicity of it, do you feel anything has changed surrounding those themes? Has it got better or worse?
Worse, so much worse. Even in a year since that came out hahaha. It isn’t getting any better, is it? I don’t think it’s going to for a long time either. Honestly, if I wasn’t in a band I would delete Facebook straight away. The way we interact with each other online is fucking disgusting and it’s bled over into real life now hasn’t it, and it’s seeping like an open wound into real life more and more every day. The South Yorkshire Police asking people to report non-crimes that are offensive to them, I mean is it fucking 1984? Something has got to give, but it won’t for a while. I think we as leftists (although I struggle to align myself with this current brand of regressive leftism, I don’t really see them as liberals or leftists if I’m completely honest) need to seriously stop and look at ourselves because the right is rising, and that’s terrifying to me. Trump got into power for fuck sake, and the left has to take some level of responsibility for that. I mean take Trump as an example, the issue is true racists and bigots don’t give a fuck, and let’s be honest every true racist and bigot in America voted for Trump, but not everyone that voted Trump was a true racist or bigot, the world is not black and white, it’s extremely grey, and there’s people in that grey area you can win over, trust me, if you make the effort with some people in that grey area, you can win people round. If you censor everyone and tell EVERYONE in that ‘group’ (using Trump in this case) that they’re racist, sexist blah blah, then all you’re doing is strengthening Trump’s position and giving him more votes and stopping people from being honest about how they feel, and a lot of those people aren’t bigots, they’re slightly disillusioned, angry for feeling like they don’t have a voice, ignorant and, without sounding arrogant, maybe not as educated as others, and maybe if those people felt like they could have been more honest, more people could have debated with them and maybe convinced them round and not pushed them over to the true, fuck-up bigot c**ts of the world. But the left didn’t do that and alas here we are. You can’t both want to live in a democracy but also not want anyone to say anything that you disagree with. That isn’t how it works.
Another thing that worries me is there’s more and more precedents are being set for censorship and anti-freedom of speech by the right-wing and the left-wing, that really fucking scares me, man. Again, I think this started on social media because everything, including news (which is terrifying), became so centralised on social media that it’s becoming more and more easy to okay censorship. What happens if a far-right government, for example, gets in power? A precedent has been set now. I mean look at Trump, look at some of the shit he is trying to do with censorship and banning certain news sources etc, I don’t want to live under something like that or something even worse than that. Freedom isn’t like a wallet that’s stolen all at once at knife point, it’s taken penny by penny.
It’s more frequent to see bands waiting until they’re established to talk about topics important to them, in order to gain commercial success first. You’ve gone against this, speaking out about everything you believe to be important, being pretty unconventional in a good way. Has this had any negative impacts for you as a band?
Yeah, it has. I think in some interviews we have pissed off pretty much everyone on the planet in some way shape or form, we’ve pretty much between us stated we hate the royal family, The Sun, The Daily Mail, nationalism, organised religion, Trump, the Tories, The Sherlocks hahaha etc etc but also as leftists we have been critical of the left and trust me, people almost get equally as angry for you for any of those things…well, some more than others.
You also get more and more people saying that they feel like that but are terrified to ever speak their mind, which is why I’m glad we do say how we feel and we do make music that resonates with people that feel totally isolated. Because we fucking do, it’s isolating at times when you literally do not feel like anything in mainstream media or politics reflects how you feel. I mean we all voted Labour in the last election, but honestly I feel so fucking apathetic again and just don’t feel like voting at all. Social media has played a large role in the media trying to sell us, and us trying to sell ourselves, that we all fit into nice little categories but we don’t, every human being is different and have varying viewpoints, that’s what a society is.
You strike us as a band who are not afraid to stay away from political topics, nowadays more bands are using their music to express political opinions. Do you think change truly can come from musicians discussing these topics?
Yeah, I think so. It definitely used to, we think it seems more unlikely but there is a wave of rebellious, angry and anti-authority and establishment coming through, so maybe a change from music on a big scale could happen. But personally, the change has to be from political tribalism to individualism as a mindset, that’s what artists need to encourage and it’s not really something you can do in-genuinely, it has to come from people who believe in individualism and there are definitely bands and artists who are about promoting that message.
The music industry offers a different experience for every artist, but what has your experience been like and what have you learnt from it?
We’ve learnt to get a lawyer, get a good manager who cares about the music above everything else and always listen to Danny Fields. Our experience has been rocky, we had legal issues and struggles extremely early on, before we’ve even had a fucking hit, but we came through it and we will be better for it because we know what it can be like. We’ve also had some incredible experiences, supporting and being friends with bands and artists I listened to and worshipped as a teenager, and now we’re about to go and make our debut album, so despite the horrifically stressful shit we’ve had to go through, it’s worth it. Another thing I’ve learnt is if you cannot take being told you’re shit then you’re never going to get anywhere.
Ultimately, what’s the goal for False Heads? What do you want to achieve or set out to achieve as a band?
We just want us to take it as far as it can possibly go, keep making music we all love and are proud of and play bigger and better shows. If that means headlining Glastonbury then it means headlining Glastonbury, if it means being a cult band that tours dingy clubs but we’re doing what we love then so be it, but we aim big, we always have, it would be pointless not to aim for Glastonbury right? We’ve always said we’d love to be big enough to play Brixton Academy 5 nights in a row. That would be awesome.
What’s something you’d think most people know about False Heads, but you’re surprised to find out that many people don’t?
Jake is actually the real slim shady.
Which of your own lyrics is the most relatable for you, the standout lyric so to speak?
Great question, erm either “I don’t want peace, don’t sit me with, people that do not live” from Comfort Consumption or “My only line will wear away, I can’t string out what I can’t say” from Twentynothing.
On social media you’ve hinted that you’re off to work on something big, can you tell us a bit more about this and what 2019 is set to hold for False Heads?
An album (which you will get a taste of early next year) and lots of tours.
Thank you for having us.
Interview By: Nicola Craig