Fatherson interview: ‘We’re just discussing the normal fears people have’
Scottish alternative rock trio Fatherson began work on their fourth album, Normal Fears, a few weeks before the pandemic but the record really took flight during lockdown.
The record, released on April 1, includes the single Honest to God – a gorgeous piano ballad about a dark spell in 2019 when Fatherson struggled to see their future direction. The follow-up to 2018’s Sum of all Your Parts, Normal Fears was largely written remotely, with lead vocalist/guitarist Ross Leighton in his native Kilmarnock and bassist Marc Strain and drummer Greg Walkinshaw in Glasgow.
The band’s upcoming tour kicks off in Newcastle on May 18 and they are set to perform at The Portland Arms in Cambridge on May 24. Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from a “glorious” Glasgow, Ross reveals that he and the others have been rehearsing for the tour.
“We put out a song called Love for Air that seems to be going really well,” he says. “It’s been a fun time releasing music for the last six months ahead of this record coming out. Everyone seems to like it, and
that can only be a good thing.”
To help shake up their sound, the trio invited some friends to contribute to the album. Ross’s first remote writing session was with Danny Morgan-Ball. The plan was just to jam but the pair ended up writing two songs in under two hours, one of which was Love for Air – the choir-backed chorus of which recalls Songs from the Big Chair-era Tears for Fears. The other was the record’s lead single, End of the World.
Explaining the title, Ross says: “Normal Fears comes from a lyric in the song Normal People. We usually don’t name an album until all of the songs are finished and we’ve recorded it. We try and find something that encapsulates how the record feels as a whole, and Normal Fears sort of worked for that because all of these things that we’re discussing are just normal fears that people have.
“That’s what I love about music: that great shared experience. So when we were looking at the lyrics and we were going through the record, there were loads of things that people are afraid of that are just normal – it doesn’t mean that you need to be overly fearful of them. There’s some sort of solace in knowing that other people are going through similar things that you are.”
The song Everything – in which the band question why they don’t toast themselves more – was written by Fatherson together over Zoom. Much of the album was written that way but the threesome did manage to do some recording the old-fashioned way.
“We managed to go into RAKs [RAK studios] in London when the second lockdown had lifted, for two weeks,” recalls Ross, “and then we were back and I think we got put into another lockdown and then we managed to finish some bits of it in a studio just outside Glasgow. So it’s really been made in between the periods that we could.”
He adds: “It was an interesting way to make a record because everyone was still kind of quite up in the air with what coronavirus was and what was happening, but I think we just made a record the best way that we could, following the rules that we could, and then Normal Fears came out of it.”
Ross wrote Normal People with producer Rich Turvey (Blossoms, Courteeners), inspired by watching the TV series of the same name and Ross’s new relationship, while The Feeling and The Sound is pure upbeat pop. It was co-written with Seton Daunt, who has also worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Amy Macdonald.
Dive was inspired by Haim, features Amber Run’s Joe Keogh on backing vocals, and includes nods to Radiohead in its middle eight, and the boisterous Better Friend is Fatherson’s apology to family and friends for being absent so often.
Honest to God is undoubtedly one of the album’s standout tracks. “I think it may be my favourite song on the record,” agrees Ross. “I was going through a really difficult time when I wrote that song, and I did quite well to finish it because I was just getting a bit done in with it.
“But yeah, it’s good subject matter... I was a bit depressed and just talking to other people and stuff was great. I think that’s the beauty of music – why I love making music is that it’s not always about me.
“Usually I speak to other people about how they’re feeling about certain things and I try and get more rounded representations. But on that song it was kind of just from the heart and I’m really happy with it.”