Fanzine hail from the Stoke Newington district of London, formed by childhood friends, Jock, Ed and Kit. As a tight trio of metal-loving, rock star hopefuls, they schooled themselves by writing “shit,” medieval-themed songs and practiced shredding their axes to the strains of Pantera.
Fanzine came by their name simply and honestly. Low, their earliest self-released EP, was enclosed in a ‘fanzine’ of their own making. Some time shortly thereafter, with help from Fat Possum, they released a double A-side 7-inch with singles, Roman Holiday and My Stupid Brain.
After tours with notables like Yuck, Cults and Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, the threesome became four by adding new drummer, Jack. Now, having been tagged as ones to watch, the fleshed-out quartet are elbow-deep in the recording of their debut LP hitting later this year.
On the phone from London, Jock surprises us by acknowledging a dark debt to heavy music, but explains why Fanzine’s gentler approach excludes confrontational acts such as spitting or the throwing of mic stands.
So I got the press release for your L.A. video and without reading it, I pressed play on the video…and totally assumed you were American.
(laughs) Yeah, we get that a lot. I guess most of the music we listen to is American and as a band, I don’t think we’ve ever much the pressure to represent a national identity or anything like that. It’s not so much an attempt to sound American as it is an attempt to not sound British—as vague a term as that is. Our guitarist, Andy (Ed), wrote the song and ‘L.A.’ was just sort of a makeshift lyric; he’d been he was listening to California Dreaming a lot, and it eventually just kind of stuck.
When did you first start writing music together?
Me, Ed and Kit have known each other since we were little kids and we started learning our instruments together when we were 13 or 14. We always wrote shit songs for fun but as we got older, we decided to make an actual attempt to be ‘a band’ and make a proper go of it. That was about three years ago. We wrote some songs, got some gigs, wrote better songs, got more gigs…and it just sort of all went from there, really.
So what were the “shit” songs you wrote? What were they about?
They were never approached seriously; they were always joke songs. It was just like, Iron Maiden-type songs and ridiculous rap songs. Dumb stuff to pass the time. They were mostly about medieval battles and stuff like that (laughs).
Sounds very Spinal Tap.
Yeah! (laughs) We’d watch Spinal Tap, write some songs, then take a break and watch Spinal Tap again. That’s how our weekends were spent.
So you mention Iron Maiden, and I noticed in your press photo that one of you was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt. Should I assume you were, or are still fans of metal?
Yeah, sure we are; we all grew up listening to bands like Pantera and Iron Maiden and Metallica—and we still do most of the time instead of listening to new bands. Even bands like Weezer also really struck a chord with us because it seemed like they grew up listening to the same records we had, you know? They were just putting metal into a pop framework and giving themselves the freedom to be lyrically more heartfelt or funny and totally dropped that macho posturing.
And does metal inspire Fanzine in any way today?
That’s the stuff we listened to, enjoyed, and learned how to play guitar to. We do a lot of riffy, distorted guitar in our music and that’s probably why. I think that kind of music will remain a big part of what we create because it ties in to that time when we first inspired to learn our instruments. (laughs) We’d try to figure out Pantera songs… but were never able to do it. (laughs)
Going back to the L.A. video, I have to say it really stood out to me–not just for the song but for the visuals as well. The retro titles right off the top completely pulled me in. How did the video come about?
A friend of ours, Jacob Perlmutter, made a video for Tough for us using footage he’d shot out of a train video in India. We thought it was pretty cool to use that instead of shooting something deliberately for the song and wanted to do something like that again for L.A. When we tried to get in touch with him, he was traveling in Peru or something but bizarrely enough, he said he was going to L.A. the following week or something like that. It worked out really well! Of course (laughs), that meant we had to get everything all together really, really quickly. We were like, ‘Do you think you could get this done inside of two days or so? That would be really incredible…’ and he did! I think it’s really good too; it’s got the sunshiney kind of vibe mixed with slightly darker, sadder undertones that come from being lost and alone. We’re so happy with it.
So that’s why you guys weren’t in it? It all came together too quickly?
Actually, we always said we didn’t want to appear in our videos. Whenever someone talks about a video and us being in it, I imagine me singing into a camera and looking a bit lame (laughs)…I’ve never wanted to do that (laughs).
Well, it’s definitely a nice little story the way it is; perhaps cutting to you guys singing would only pull us out of the narrative.
Oh yeah, completely. It would’ve ruined it. I mean, when a band is in a video it works one of two ways: they’re either acting—which we’d be terrible at—or they’re just in some ridiculously cool location giving a very stationary performance, which I don’t think is very interesting to watch. I think the way we went is a much better way to go.
When I saw the gills on the girl’s neck at the end, it made me think of U2’s Electrical Storm video. Have you ever seen it?
Oh no! Did we rip them off (laughs)?
No, no. The storyline revolves around the drummer, Larry Mullen, moving his mermaid girlfriend out of the ocean to live with him on land…
Ohhh! I think I’ve seen that one. It’s black and white, right?
Yeah, exactly. I always really liked that video because it featured Larry as an actor—we rarely get to see Larry in the forefront—but at the same time, they’d leave the story to cut to scenes of the band playing and it really bothered me. Why were Bono and the Edge suddenly there singing into the camera and pulling me away from the romantic plot? I just didn’t see the point.
Yeah, I get that. It’s just being in it for the sake of being in it.
Indeed…but it was a lovely video otherwise. Anyway, what’s keeping Fanzine busy at the moment?
We’re just finishing up an album. We’re recording it ourselves so there’s some learning as we go which can make it a slow process. It’s two steps forward and one step back, so for the moment we’re really just focused on that. Once we’re done, it would be cool to do some tours and get back on the road.
What’s a Fanzine show like, anyway?
We try to mix things up and play a nice variety of songs; some fast and heavy and some softer and more delicate sounding. We’re not an abrasive punk band that will run around spitting at you or throwing out mic stands. We just play to have fun and to enjoy ourselves and it’s all very…non-confrontational.(laughs).
(laughs) I like that. I think it’ll make an excellent headline for this interview, actually.
Fanzine: No spitting, no throwing, and no confrontation.
(laughs) That’s brilliant! Yeah, go with that; I quite like that (laughs).