We spoke to lead singer Natassja Shiner, about new music on its way, sexism within the industry and how it all started for the band.
Following chart success with their debut album and over 150 million streams across all tracks, the band are back with their soon to be the first instalment of their multi-part album 'Weird Years (Season 1)'.
"We’ve been keeping busy - mostly writing...learning some new skills! This whole year is weird...it’s like being in limbo. We don’t know if we’re coming or going."
Fickle Friends have re-appeared with tracks such as 'Pretty Great' and 'Eats Me Up', but as they set for another big year with their second album, the quartet had to rethink all their plans as they felt releasing a full album wouldn't work if they couldn't go on tour. So, lead singer Natassja Shiner and band co-leader Jack Wilson had a rethink. As they take inspiration from new fonds and see their influences changing, the band came up with 'Weird Years' with Series 1 due to be released on 15th January.
Speaking about the project lead singer Shiner, told us: "So technically it’s a multi-part album that’s split into seasons, this being the first instalment. Each song represents a moment from the last few years which have felt super weird for us, going away, losing out, finding it again and the pandemic. Conceptually we cover a lot of ground, and every song has its own “thing." She added: "I think my favourite track is the last one “finish line”, it’s a magical song about a conversation about mental health, I really hope everyone loves it as much as me."
Since appearing onto the music scene back in 2013 with their first-ever single 'Swim' (which awkwardly we got wrong). "It was actually Swim in 2013! Ha. Nah we never have any regrets...everything that has happened, good or bad, has led us to where we are now. I almost wish we appreciated everything a bit more if someone told me seven years ago that we’d have songs with more than 20 million streams I would have laughed in their face and said, “yeah right!”. The Brighton indie-pop band have gone from touring across the world without a label or publisher to then signing to Polydor Records that saw their debut album 'You Are Someone Else' reaching No 9. in the UK Albums Chart back in 2018.
"We had been on the road and recording for like 5 solid years so we kind of felt it necessary to go away. Get some breathing space. Give people time to “miss us” ha. But really, it’s just given us the opportunity to write and try new things and find a new path. We are stoked to be back though! It’s weird because it kinda feels like starting from scratch."
During their time the band have experienced some tumultuous and joyous times but have come back stronger with a bold evolution in their sound and creative independence. Whilst music constantly evolves, Shiner says the band have gone back "to everything we loved in the 90s" but, "we would never change our music for "the industry"... we write what we love and hope people identify with it." However, she believes there's a formula you can follow within the music industry but admits: "It's hard to judge... people like what they like and what's "popular" is ever-changing. The worst thing you can do is lose your integrity. Just because grime is what all the kids are listening to doesn't mean we are going to try our hand at that" She added: "We write what feels meaningful to us and if there's some sort of audience for that then great."
As a female-fronted band, gender equality is massively important to Fickle Friends and it should be to everyone. We all know there is an issue when it comes to gender equality and sexism; from festival line-ups to female recognition - it still happens. But as Shiner says: "It’s not a black and white conversation...the issue has always been that less young women get into music than men, and for whatever reason, it’s a very male-dominated industry...it’s a pretty self-perpetuating situation in that festivals continue to book predominantly male acts, more male acts are successful on the whole...and I’m sure that doesn’t inspire a lot of hope in young girls who want to pursue music." She continues to add: "For me, it was super daunting. But luckily, we live in a changing world and some of these social constructs are being broken down. Maybe in 10 years, all the Reading headliners will be women." However, as we talk about sexism within the music industry, it still hits home for Shiner as she admits: "On the subject of sexism...it’s something that people may not be aware of anymore but every time I step into a venue...I am always assumed to be the Merch girl and never the lead singer."
Being constantly assumed as the Merch Girl, Shiner hasn't stopped people getting in her way as she continues to do what she loves most. Alongside their new project, the band have given us a preview into what we can expect with their latest single 'What A Time'. Inspired by 80s synth-pop, they merge alt-pop, dance and indie that leads into an uplifting rush of energy which feels between Mursa Masa and the Fickle Friends that fans have come to love. With buoyant vibes that are juxtaposed with dark lyrics, 'What A Time' is the perfect introduction to their new journey.
"It's a song about escapism," Shiner explains. " A comment on the current climate and how sometimes, for your own sake, you need to take a step back and regroup. I think it’s gone down well... I always expected people to not be sure as it’s a pretty different sound for us, but there’s lots more to come with Weird Years and there will be something for everyone."
Alongside the single, the band have released a video that was filmed and edited by themselves. One of the many creative sides they've learned during lockdown. Filmed in the heart of Brighton after dark, the band capture the feeling of being outside for the first time in months and reflect the surreal feeling of stepping back into daily life.
With lockdown pulling the strings of our hearts, the music industry has hit a brick wall from Grassroot venues closing to artists struggling to make ends meet. For Fickle Friends, Shiner says: "We should be doing everything we can to support them especially now in these hard times. I'm worried about what the landscape of live music will look like when this is over." She adds: "We wouldn't be where we are without grassroots venues. They allow upcoming acts to hone their craft and make fan and grow as performers. On the other hand, festivals are at the heart of artists and just like the band "A world without festival season has been so hard, we are dying to get performing again. It's what we live for!"
As they continue to remain firm favourites across the board, Fickle Friends have found it hard throughout lockdown like everyone else. As Shiner admits to us: "It's hard to be excited right now, there are many plans for the future - it's just not knowing when we can implement them that is frustrating." As the band relish the day that they will be able to hit the road again from meeting new people to the rush of performing – let’s not forget to embrace their latest music, that is compelled for higher things.