Bugged Out! presents Suck My Deck (Mixed by Friendly Fires)
Friendly Fires have dance music in their blood. Other indie rock bands may flirt with club culture, but Ed Macfarlane (vocals, bass, synth), Edd Gibson (guitar) and Jack Savidge (drums) live it and breathe it. "When we formed the band one of the main things we wanted to do was make danceable music because dance music was one of the things we bonded over," explains Savidge. The three of them grew up listening to Warp, and Macfarlane released tracks on respected Manchester electronic imprint Skam and Hooj Choons offshoot Precinct. "I mean, I’ve been DJing for longer than Friendly Fires has existed," concludes Savidge.
Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say dance music is one of the cornerstones of the UK three-piece’s success. Their self-titled debut saw them sex up indie rock guitars with irresistible dancefloor grooves. Released in September 2008, it went on to become one of the word-of-mouth success stories of 2009, selling 200,000 copies in the process. At the same time they have developed into a serious live pull thanks to a string of must-see festival appearances. Meanwhile, in clubland, they scored a major hit with the Aeroplane remix of Paris. "I remember hearing that track all over the place, from tiny clubs to Coachella," says Savidge.
At the end of last year, Friendly Fires decided to round off 12 months of upwards trajectory by curating a Bugged Out event at The Coronet in South London. " We had the choice of doing a Brixton Academy gig or Bugged Out," says Macfarlane. "We ummed and ahhed about, but in the end we we decided that a club event was more the kind of thing we would want to go to." As well as a performance by the band themselves, they got Kompakt boss Michael Mayer, UK post-rock trio The Invisible and Joe Goddard from Hot Chip to play.
It was the start of a mutual appreciation that led to this mix. It’s expertly balanced, a deft combination of rock solid party tracks, such as City & Industry by BDI and Coma Cat by Tensnake, to the lush reflective sounds of Lost In The Streets of NYC (Boris Werner Lost In Malta Remix) by Tom Trago and classic cuts like the Balearic favourite Din Daa Daa by George Kranz. "It’s more of a party compilation than anything, but there’s lots of variation too," says Savidge. "Music for the dancefloor isn’t as one dimensional as it’s often painted. There’s a lot of dance music that’s thoughtful and sad. We wanted to combine that with some of the more banging stuff that’s elsewhere in the mix."
One of the album’s high points is Stay Here, a collaboration between Friendly Fires and Toronto house crew Azari & III. Written exclusively for this compilation, it’s a stunning fusion of classic house beats, spoken vocals from the band and a belting chorus from Macfarlane, with Azari& III providing the verse. All three members of Friendly Fires were big fans of Azari & III, having played the Canadians’ tracks Hungry For The Power and Reckless With Your Love in their respective DJ sets. However, when they were approached by Cedric Gasiada at an after-show party in Toronto while on tour in North America at the end of 2009, they didn’t recognise him. "I think I’d just played Hungry For The Power, and Cedric came up and said hello," remembers Savidge. "I didn’t know who he was. Then Ed found out that he was Cedric from Azari & III and everyone was like, Oh my god. We love those guys. We found him a microphone. He sang the lyrics to our song Paris over this banging house tune."
Making a track together was the obvious thing to do next. "We’d been wanting to make a tribute to that New York house sound for a while," says Gibson. "It’s an interesting sideline for us to make a house track because we listen to a lot of house music."
Proceedings close with New Day by Round Two, a blissful moment of bubbling synths and silky keys. "It’s easily among my favourite pieces of music of all time, and a complete no-brainer when it came to thinking of a closing record," says Savidge. "A beautiful, beautiful song, the ultimate dancefloor tear-jerker."
Turns out, working on the compilation has helped the band with their second album, due out next year. "Writing a follow-up can feel a bit serious because, if you’ve had a bit of success, there’s a lot riding on it, whereas with a debut you’ve got nothing to lose," says Savidge. "This reminded us that to make good music you have to enjoy it and be excited about it."
Which is not to say the band were blas√© about the whole thing. While they were programming their Bugged Out! Presents Suck My Deck selection, they referred back to their favourite mixes, Ivan Smagghe’s 2004 Suck My Deck compilation among them. "That album is amazing, total genius," says Savidge. "If ours is half as good as that, we’ll be very happy."
They can permit themselves a smile, then. It’s a winner.