Fat White Family returned recently with their third album 'Serfs Up', a record which is stunning for many reasons, chief among them the fact that the band even still exists. Brothers Lias and Nathan Saudi and Saul Adamczewski have somehow managed to keep it together against all odds. Following 2016’s ‘Songs For Our Mothers’, members stepped outside the group for jaunts with Sean Lennon (The Moonlandingz and Insecure Men), Saul Adamczewski exited the group - half fired/half quitting - and it was not a foregone conclusion that another Fat White Family record would ever see the light of day.
The group’s drug regime had created a bad cloud around the group. Singer Lias Saudi realised they needed to escape the London drug bubble and opted to decamp to sunny Sheffield to recharge and re-evaluate.
However, it was decided that simply changing their vista wouldn’t be enough to get the group back on the straight and narrow, they needed to be tethered to something more concrete. They needed a base; they needed a Fat White Family home. To facilitate this, they created their own studio - Champzone - a project which Nathan Saudi spearheaded.
A surprise reunion with Saul Adamczewski soon followed and the group set about exploring more expansive soundscapes under the general anonymity of the steel city. The result, ‘Serfs Up’, finds Fat White Family reinvigorated and more comfortable in their own skin, while still retaining their razor-sharp wit and nose for bullshit and betrayal.
How did moving out of London to write and record the album affect the vibe within the band?
It pulled us away from the heinous delusions of grandeur that set in around a band once the hype machine has done its dirty business. It also meant we were far enough away from London to try and institute a no heroin rule, this rule allowed us to communicate with each other in the studio like human beings for the first time in years.
You set up your own studio called Champzone. How did owning rather than renting a studio help/hinder the process?
Owning the studio meant we weren't watching the clock. That we could roll for as long as we needed to each night. We take a lot longer developing our ideas.
How important were Domino in this regard?
Domino bankrolled initial proceedings, without their backing it wouldn't have been possible really.
Do you feel your musical excursions outside of Fat White Family benefited 'Serfs Up' in any way?
They allowed us to learn about other creative processes, ones less toxic than our own. They gave us perspective and, in a way, new-found confidence. After those, we were doing Fat White because we wanted to, not because we felt we had no other choice.
Do you guys intend to focus on Fat White Family for the foreseeable future or are you open to other projects?
Always open to other projects and ideas. Saul and I have often spoken about writing a musical.
With having three spiky characters in the band all writing songs. How hard is it to make sure everybody feels validated when it came to selecting the songs for the album?
On this record, we all had an even four songs each going into the thing, four rough demos each. Nathan and I developed the beginning of the thing then Saul rejoined a little later and brought a bunch of ideas. It was in truth a hellish experience working out the band politics on this one, Nathan in particular struggled with the implications of the collaborative process, at one point even going on strike.
The video for ‘Tastes Good With The Money’ is an absurdist hoot. Why did you want to work with Róisín Murphy and what did she bring to the table?
Róisín contacted us about doing the video, which was very flattering indeed. I think, being an artist herself, she knew how to create an environment where everyone felt relaxed enough to properly take the piss out of themselves, not easy with this group (shockingly).
What was it like working with Baxter Dury and can we expect to see him contributing to FWF in the future?
He was a real pleasure to work with. I had the other lyrics for the song written and I gave him my brief as to what I thought the thing was about and he went off and pretty much nailed straight away. We did an extra session right at the end of the making of the record to hone the thing and there it was. Would definitely be up for collaborating again.
Underneath the glam frolicking of Tastes Good With The Money, there are grim references to tower blocks and aspirations of becoming a homeowner. Is this a reference to Grenfell and how Thatcherism is alive and well and actively working against the people of Britain?
It is a reference to Grenfell yes. I guess what I'm really trying to get at there is that we are all Thatcher's children now, however much we like to deny it and gesture the other way. Even most of the people that might consider themselves left of centre, for the most part, they're not really interested in changing the game, just who's winning.
Feet is very sexy, a rare thing in music today. Why do you think musicians shy away from such things?
It saddens me how devoid of sex appeal the current crop of indie groups tend to be. Maybe it's because we've entered an age of neo-puritanism? Maybe it's because nobody's screwing anymore? Maybe the drugs aren't as good as they used to be? Maybe folks are doing too much Xanax? Maybe bands think we'd rather hear them regurgitate things they've read in the Guardian about social injustice in rhyme form instead? Maybe I've got it all wrong and am simply way off the mark, the last of a sad, bloated, perverse, dying breed...
The imagery in that song is also very dark. Were you concerned at how the line “Caucasians sashimi in a sand nigga storm” would be received?
It's such a fine couplet that the minute I wrote the thing there was absolutely no doubt as to my using it. I'm still waiting for the Pitchfork review to come in, we live and hope...
While I wouldn’t call 'Serfs Up' a Brexit album, it certainly does reflect the general malaise of the UK. Are you surprised more bands haven’t railed against the Tories in song after three years of blithering naivety?
I don't care what people bang on about so long as it's honest and it reeks of suffering and ecstasy. It has to be sexy too. That's why I like Baxter best of the current crop.
You guys are on record as being thoroughly unimpressed with the current UK scene and bands like Idles, but who do you actually like?
Pregoblin! Check out their new single Combustion. If Pregoblin could start getting up a bit earlier in the morning, they'd be the greatest act of our age. As to the Idles thing, I'm sure they're lovely people, I just can't stand their whole shtick, I'm sorry.
Some of you guys have family connections and have spent a lot of time in Northern Ireland. How do you feel about the UK being held to ransom by the DUP?
I think it's hilarious that the DUP, a coterie of the most hideously backwards-thinking bigots whom nobody in England had ever heard of, have ended up holding the whole country to ransom. I'd say that was just desserts, wouldn't you? You couldn't make that shit up!
Fat White Family play The Button Factory, Dublin on May 8th. Tickets €23.50.