Hard-Fi have undoubtedly been one of the true success stories of 2005.
Bursting on to the scene back at the start of the year, their tales of the daily grind in their hometown of Staines coupled with musical influences ranging from The Clash to The Streets have won them plaudits right across the music press.
Their debut album, Stars Of CCTV, released back in July, charted in the top 10 and secured them an illustrious Mercury Prize nomination.
musicOMH caught up with the man behind Hard-Fi, their lead singer Richard Archer, to chat about the group’s history, their inspirations and a possible new direction with their second LP.
“I’ve always been into music and always wanted to play in bands,” remarks a friendly and fast talking Archer when confronted with the question of how it all began.
He continues, citing frustration with small-town life as the main protagonist in the inception of Hard-Fi as we know them today.
“I think the driving force to actually make something happen is that the town we come from, there’s nothing to do there. We come from a town called Staines in West London near Heathrow, it’s an insular little satellite town. It’s close enough to the city that no bands will ever come and play there, they’ll always play London. So nothing ever happens there – we were bored of being skint, bored of being bored, you know, it’s that kind of place.”
“If you’d said a year ago that we would have a top 10 single and a number six album, we would have thought you were drunk!”
– Success has certainly come quickly for Hard-Fi…
With Archer’s vision in place, all he had to do was find people to make music with, a search that bore fruit from some unlikely sources. “I got together with Steve – he was playing drums for a DJ friend of mine doing remixes. Next came Kai – he was working for a pest control company, Rentokil. He said to me ‘I’m sick to death of killing things, I want to be in a band!’ We then met up with Ross – he was working at the local hi-fi shop. A month later we did our first show; it came together really quickly after that,” he recalls.
As far as musical influences and inspirations are concerned, Archer reels of a plethora of acts that have helped to shape the Hard-Fi sound in some way or another. He is quick to point out that there’s a lot more to them than The Clash and The Specials, two accurate but slightly overused reference points.
“We love The Clash, we’re not ashamed to say that, and The Specials – but there’s 25 years of music after that which is just as vitally important to what we do,” he affirms.
He goes on, explaining that, “If you were brought up in Britain in the last 10-15 years, you’re immersed in dance culture, you can’t help it. It’s been the driving force of music that has come up with the most innovative and exciting stuff a lot of the time – so all that has played a part to in what we do, as well as music before then, like ’60s soul music and reggae. The Rolling Stones as well, you can’t get away from The Rolling Stones if you’re a British band. Massive Attack, The Streets, New Order, Run DMC, Public Enemy…there’s all sorts of different stuff that’s played a part.”
On listening to their record, it’s clear that their influences are indeed eclectic – an exciting fusion of rock, ska, reggae and dance has meant that they’ve been able to appeal to indie kids and clubbers alike, a possible reason for their massive success in the UK so far. Has their rapid rise taken them by surprise?
“It’s trying to connect with real people, rather than a cool little clique.”
– Richard Archer on the band’s tell-it-how-it-is lyrics…
“We think our record’s great, we’re really proud of it. On the other hand, if you’d said a year ago that we would have a top 10 single and a number six album, we would have thought you were drunk! But it still hasn’t sunk in, everything going so well, because we’ve been so busy recently. It’s all we ever wanted, we can’t complain,” remarks Archer, grinning.
Another factor in their sudden rise to mainstream popularity is surely their ultra accessible lyrical content, words which speak of the many perils and trappings of urban living in the 21st Century.
Archer is quick to agree with this analysis: “The thing is, when we were writing this record, no one was making music that said anything about our lives, said anything to us. We try and write songs about our lives, our friend’s lives, or things that move us in some way. Everyone’s experienced being skint, everyone’s had their heart broken, everyone’s hated their job at some stage, everyone’s wanted to escape their boring town and go somewhere new and exciting, everyone’s felt frustrated and hemmed in – it’s not just a British thing, all around the world there’s towns like Staines. You listen to early Bruce Springsteen stuff, he’s singing about the same thing. It’s trying to connect with real people, rather than a cool little clique.”
By the looks of it, Archer may well be right in saying it’s not just a British thing – he recalls with enthusiasm their first ever US tour earlier this summer.
“I think the second album is going to be a lot darker”
– Archer reveals a possible new direction for the second LP.
“We didn’t just do LA and New York, we drove across America – St Louis, Kansas, Denver, Tucson. We were first on a three band bill (which included The Bravery and The Dead 60’s), no one had a clue who we were, but we were selling out of CD’s every night. People just really understood what we were talking about, they felt the same things. I think in America they appreciate good songs and we’ve always tried to write good songs.”
And although very early days, Archer informs me that work is well underway with a follow up album:
“The new album’s already pretty much written – we had a lot of songs that were just being finished off when we were making the first album and just weren’t finished in time and songs written since then. We’ve got about 35 songs knocking about so far, and we will write some more as time progresses.”
He reveals a possible shift in sound: “I think the second album is going to be a lot darker, I mean a lot of things have happened in my life that aren’t all sweetness and light (Archer’s mother recently passed away for one, resulting in their cancelled Glastonbury appearance). But it’s hard to say at the moment, this first album’s only been out a month, so we’re going to concentrate on that for a bit.”
With a great debut under their belts, such a brimming work ethic and sold out tours on the horizon, they’re certainly showing no signs of slowing down. “We want to see the world, see different places and meet different people,” enthuses Archer. It appears that homecoming show in Staines is still quite a way off.