FLING guitarist Jack, on fashion and freedom (Live at Leeds 2017)
My first impression of the "wonky pop" quartet FLING was based on the YouTube video of their song "Welcome To The City" (above). As I watch four cocky looking band guys in 70's fashion swaggering down a street pretending not to be aware of a camera that they occasionally stare provocatively into, my first thought was: "Nothing I haven't seen before.". My second - "he's wearing lipstick." As cultured as I consider myself to be, the combination of pink lipstick and stubble is a rare enough sight to hold my gaze meaning their style was the first thing about them which confused me. Similarly, after listening to three songs online I still wasn't able to pinpoint their sound. So on the Saturday that Live at Leeds shook the city from all directions, I sat down with the band's guitarist, Jack, in an attempt to figure them out.
My initial judgment of the band as "cocky" was blown out of the water in seconds by his remarkable openness that became evident as he explained how, for him, tourism was a perk of having lived in a world heritage site (Saltaire) - "there's so many people to meet who aren't from there" and also in his quickness in championing rising artists that are his contemporaries (including York's King No-One...I'll second that, check them out.)
After having watched their set that morning (for a description read my full festival festival review. I was interested in the extent to which the bravado shown on stage (admittedly mainly from their front-man) was an act. Regardless, I wanted to know how they all truly felt up there.
Zoe: About the performance, how did it feel?
Jack: Really good man...I don't really get nervous for gigs but today I got nervous because I knew there was a few individuals in the crowd that I wanted to impress...certain things to do with the band that will help us move forward. I was a little bit nervous before but that kind of gave me like the extra edge.
He spoke about having become, in a way, "desensitised" to pre-performance nerves after having played so many gigs and described the experience of having had them that morning as "refreshing". In previous interviews with the band I'd heard members express that for them making music was about "having fun" and to me the fact of enjoying pre-performance nerves, even going as far as to call the experience of having them "beautiful" backed this statement up. For him at least maybe it was less about influencing other peoples' impression of them and more about their own experience and enjoyment in playing for people. The naturalness is always felt by a crowd and judging from the dancing girls in the first few rows, this was true of that morning.
I admitted to him that I found them the most aesthetically impressive out of the artists that I could have interviewed (fluorescent, unbuttoned, or non existent shirts, glitter, a sunflower in a bowler hat, a wiggling bum, a front-man on all fours barking like a dog etc etc.)
Zoe: You guys stand out quite a lot, is fashion an important part of (performing)?
Jack: Oh man..for me it's synonymous..music and fashion go together hand in hand. We really want to look striking on stage. Whether than means us looking a little but silly or looking a little bit "out there." When I go on stage I want to look and feel like I feel the part. What I'm playing is good, I've got faith in the music we play, but I also like to feel like I look amazing. I know it seems a little bit egotistical but I like to feel like..a little bit elevated..
I assumed by "elevated" he meant from the crowd. I guess first impressions are hard to shake.
Jack: ...from like my normal persona.
Naturally I'm intrigued.
Zoe, falling over herself: I see! So there's a difference?
Jack: On and off stage we're the same people, we don't change character but I just like to have that on-stage presence as something really striking and really sort of outlandish. I just want to stick in peoples' minds, you know what I mean?
I feel like I'm starting to. Maybe "sticking in peoples' minds" is just a means which allows them to play more shows, to do what they love, as opposed to simple shocking people, as I'd first assumed.
Next I utter the word "genre" and the response is a predictable sigh.
Jack: I've spoke about this loads of times. People love to pigeon-hole music. It's how you make sense of music. It's easily digested if you say "that's this" and "that's that." I can't really decide what we are.
Same. As I discuss in my full festival review, to me, their style, particularly the style of singing, switches between three types with the only influencer being the mood and subject of that particular song. For me this adds to the sheer sense of freedom they exude. For example the first voice I heard as I've said was in "Welcome To The City." The talk of an "intergalactic man", the T-Rex vibe and maybe the lapels made me pigeon-hole it as Glam Rock. Then there's a song of theirs called "Just A Dog", in which he sings "take me wherever you go/Just don't put me down!". The song is quite simply a love song, and is delivered in voice that's calmer, almost pleading, certainly more vulnerable than the third voice, which is used to to illustrate a "Bad Day" ("BAD DAY, BAD, BAD, DAAY!) which, live, sounded almost punk in its delivery.
Jack: It's why it's hard to say we're "this" sort of band because we do write very different songs, but it just seems to work in a live set. It all seems to go naturally and flow. And that's the way we like it.
I ask whether the band's main goal in making music is to present an image of freedom.
Jack: When I play a show I want people who are watching us to feel like "it really could happen" - to quote Blur. Anything could happen..like if you're with someone you don't wanna be with you can just break up with them, do you know what I mean?
On the subject of the band having a reputation as being "a bit boisterous" he says; "We're not people that intend to do negative things or inflict misery on anyone. All we wanna do is emit love. I know that sounds really cliché and like a load of b******* but all we wanna say is "We're happy" ...to give happiness and share how we're feeling with you."
We talk about the band name FLING - ("A short period of enjoyment".) Based on what has been said about the influence they would like to have on their audience, the name is fitting in its connotations of freedom and wild abandon. It's at this point that I'm introduced to the notion of being a "Flinger" ("like people considered themselves "libertines"", Jack offers). According to Jack; "to not give a damn about what other people think of you, if you wanna get messed up, and have a few drinks and have a party..just to emit positive energy, for me that's what it means."
Living up to this ethos, the interview was intermittently and pleasantly interrupted by various members of the band so they could jokingly make a grandiose statement "This is MY band!"/"I'm the good looking one!", to tease one another or to enquire as to whether I had a boyfriend, seemingly just for the sake of asking.
For their chaos and charm I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and watching their set. Due to their differing sounds I feel like almost everyone could find at least one song that touches them. My favorite of theirs is the newest and their cleanest sounding - "Lookin' Outta My Window."
Jack's parents were in a covers band together.
His favourite shade of eyeliner is "Jungle Green"
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