Supporting South Wales’ prime exponents of what’s become known as “nu-emo” amongst those who make up music genres, Funeral For A Friend, Gratitude have much to be thankful for.
Gratitude recently signed to the same label as Funeral, and UK music fans are getting to hear the band up close and personal in tiny venues like the London Barfly.
But shouldn’t a band on a major label have someone to lift and lay things for them? Joanas and Jeremy sidled up to musicOMH and told it how it is…
We are outside the Barfly, crouched in a Camden side street. Barely shaded from the muggy heat by a battered tour van, half of Gratitude scratches their heads as they wait for the other half to weave their way past innumerable oddballs. They have just lugged their equipment up a long flight of stairs.
This is business as usual for any touring rock band. The thing is, not any band has spent the past two months on a sell out arena tour with Funeral For A Friend, touting their own brand of emotive rock grandeur and towering pop choruses.
And with a debut album out on Atlantic, surely this must be somewhat of a come down for the San Francisco rockers?
“No, not at all,” explains Joanus, singer, founding member and natural spokesman of Gratitude. “We love playing small shows. Plus we can play a full set.”
That’s not to say that they aren’t pinching themselves with the way their relatively unknown band has been given a big slice of opportunity pie.
– Joanas adds his name to the list of Americans who just lurve the UK’s thriving scene.
“Sure, it’s been fun. I’ve loved coming to England for years but this one has been, I dunno… great. Every night has been great and fun.”
And what exactly did they have to do get on to such a sought-after tour? They all look too relaxed to be devious blaggers.
“They (Funeral…) covered a song of another band of mine and we’ve been friends ever since then,” explains Joanas. “They covered a song called The System and put it on their record as a B side and we sort of got to know them that way. Then I came over with them last year and then we (Gratitude) were coming to England and now we’re actually label mates with them on Atlantic …So it was easy.”
Naturally, it wasn’t quite that simple. The band Joanas was referring to are the now disbanded Far. This was back in the early ’90s in San Francisco. It was from the remains of Far and Crumb that Gratitude first came into being, in 2002. There isn’t a single crumb of erm, Crumb left in Gratitude. Something guitarist Jeremy is quite relieved about.
“I was just sick of been talked about as ex-Crumb. It’s a relief to not have to deal with that any more.” As Joanas elaborates, it has been a long, twisted route to get to what now seems like a smooth road to accelerated success. “Mark (Crumb) is no longer in the band but he and I had known each other for years and er… Mark was playing with Bob and so we all played together a bit and then over a course of about a year in 2003, Jeremy joined the band and then our old drummer left. So there’s been a lot of change even before the band got going.”
Rather than feeling like a musical equivalent of a temp job, they are adamant that this is the definitive line up. “This feels like the band,” says Jeremy. Joanas concurs. “It’s sort of weird chain to get where we are but to me this is our first real Gratitude tour with the four of us and it feels great.”
– Bless ’em, Gratitude are so eager…
With positive reaction snowballing throughout the tour, they have every reason to be happy. Like many American bands, they have been allured with our little island’s passion and receptiveness for new music. “I don’t know if it’s the Funeral crowd or the European crowd,” ponders Jeremy, “but the big shows feel more like small shows, even though there’s barricades, and there just seems to be more energy. I mean, at the start of the tour we only had a six song EP out, and thousands of people came to see us. That just doesn’t happen in the states.”
“And with every show we’ve noticed that more and more kids show up knowing we’re going to be there, and they’re excited to see us,” enthuses Joanas.
He has his theory on why crowds are strangely colder on the warmer side of the Atlantic Ocean. “Something I’ve always noticed about England is that because the mainstream is so mainstream… you know, there’s the BBC and not much else, there’s this huge area for subculture to exist, whereas in the States there’s too many little compartments. So here I think you’ve got a critical mass of bands that can exist outside the mainstream. It still feels like there’s an actual word of mouth thing that happens here which is really, really exciting.”
This word of mouth thing is something which has given a big, guttural scream of enthusiasm for the eponymous debut album. “Yeah, it just came out in the UK a couple of weeks ago and it feels like people are getting it,” agrees Jeremy.
Things have never been so gratifying for the aptly named band. Yet, despite feeling overwhelmingly positive, they are not about to take things for granted. “After this we’re doing a small tour in the States, playing Warp, doing Reading and Leeds, a club tour in the States and then I would like to get back over here for one time before the end of the year,” says a hopeful Joanas. “Before the weather gets too shit!”
Now they really are being too optimistic.