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THE FAREWELL STATE

RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW THE FAREWELL STATE WHAT HAPPENED?

Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

Stuart Bonner (drums/vocals): The sheer love of the feeling it creates in me when listening AND playing

Simon Roberts (vocals/guitar): Music always factored in my early life and I started playing in my teens (I’m 46 now) but once the songwriting bug took hold of me in my 20s that was it. It’s the best creative outlet for me. Writing and recording is the top priority, but I’ve made my peace with playing live over the last decade or so too.

James Palfreyman (bass): Did I find it, or it find me? Don’t know how these cosmic forces work.

Alex Horne (guitar/vocals): No particular reason. I like what I like.

Introduce us to you all and your musical history.

Stuart: Clarinet player in the school orchestra (was personally responsible for losing a drum kit at a school music festival in Le Touquet, France circa 1987) and drummer for now defunct Sheffield bands The Phonetics (with Alex), Quint (with Simon), The Fevers (with Alex again) and presently I play drums in The Farewell State and Thursday Funk Club.

Simon: Terrible recorder player at school, got into heavy metal as a teen and learned guitar for a year then taught myself how to play Metallica songs until I just started working out my own tunes. Over 30 years I have played guitar and sung in Quint, bRoKeN fAcE, The Letter, O Battery Chang, Morricone Dancehall, JunkBond and, of course, The Farewell State.

James: My name is James and I play the bass instrument, sort of. My prior bands were The Letter (5-year stint, I think?) and helped contribute to an album, O Battery Chang (Dark folk Krautrock thing) and Morricone Dancehall (power trio, fierce but melodic)
 

What’s the live music scene like in Sheffield right now? Anyone we should be looking out for (Bar you of course)

Stuart: No idea…lol

Simon: It’s got us in it so it can’t be that bad! No…seriously, it’s diverse and accepting which is great for variety. When I first started gigging in the early 00s it was Arctic Monkeys or nothing, which made it difficult when you sound like a loud prog band (as The Letter did at the time) but these days there’s more going on and people are happy watching a rock band, a solo folk guy AND an RnB siren on the same bill. The only issue, for me, is there doesn’t seem to be enough venues to go around the talent on display. We will find we have a month of shows and then nothing at all so it’s quite extreme. Our favourite artists locally are Santiago Kings, Freak Hands, Neuri, Osprey…Sheffield has always had great bands!

James: Sheffield has lost a lot of venues, both to play in and to watch to bands. A victim of downsizing in the touring circuit. Manchester has seemingly 50 plus venues which, along with Leeds, operate as the northern hub for live music. 

I’ve seen a lot of people struggling for support recently online. What’s your view on the industry?

Stuart: Not sure how to get into ‘the industry’ because am not sure how a career can be made making original music to be honest…though I get that money can be made being in a professional orchestra, playing in a covers/wedding band or in bands for theatre….

Simon: Harder than ever to break through and harder than ever to make a living out of music BUT the freedom of DIY recording and quality of local producers means it’s now easier than ever to get something sounding professional and out there fast via Bandcamp. The disconnection, sadly, is the main listening platform doesn’t pay the most to artists. The music makers are seen as disposable, which is terrible. Music always finds a way, which gives me hope but currently it seems to be in a bad place.

James: Not so much an industry as merely a small business now. The downloading sites and streaming services bit them so hard they bought them all. If you can’t beat ‘em buy ‘em (and offer the artist an even worse deal).

Alex: Digital ruined most spheres of the arts 

 
What are your thoughts on the new Co-op arena?

Stuart: What? Is this the one in Liverpool with the ceiling falling down? As with most things, it was probably rushed as folk can’t be arsed to take their time with putting real care and attention into doing a quality job (because manager types are telling them that they need it yesterday)…and thus, things are getting made pretty poorly (NOT The Farewell State album though!!!)

Simon: I’m not a massive fan of arenas – overpriced, rarely memorable and attract people who don’t really like music – however if they ask us to play there I’m all over it!

James: Kind of typical of the UK, can’t get infrastructure finished. At least it made it from the plans to finished build. Apparently, it glows. Bonus!

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

Stuart: At the back of a never-ending queue that isn’t moving but does stretch nicely off into the horizon

Simon: With rock music really unpopular at present we are swimming against the tide somewhat but I feel that’s just trends, which mean little to me anyway. Where we sit, is in that area of uncertainty trying to find our audience but we are playing the game as much as possible just to connect to that fan base and I know it’s out there – I’m still a fan of this type of music after all! Once we find the right ears, the rest will follow.

James: We sit on a bench many, many miles to the left. Waving but not really engaging.

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.

Simon: We’ll let Stu and Alex handle this one…

Stuart: I was the real life model for the Tennis Player in the late 90s/early 2000s Playstation games Actua Tennis and Virtua Tennis.

I have been to a Buckingham Palace Tea Party.

My Brother-in-law is a village chief in Malawi.

Alex: I once used a stack of crates as a mic stand at a gig.

I have played guitar on the summit of Great Dodd in the Lake District.

I have played bass from a pub bench quite a way behind the rest of the band I was playing with at the time as I didn’t have a guitar strap.


Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….

Stuart: What are you saying about me? That I’m overly sensitive or something?

James: I don’t wite the lyrics so I can’t say I do.

Simon: I think it’s high time people WERE more sensitive to others but, as with everything, you can go too far. I used to be a fan of Ryan Adams and I’ve tried to keep listening because his early Stuartff meant so much to me but it’s just not the same anymore. It’s tainted. Trouble is, when you start judging musicians on their private lives where does it stop? Of course there’s a HUGE difference between, say Jason Isbell (another favourite with recent ‘issues’) and Gary Glitter (thankfully, I was never a fan).

Alex: The kids should throw away their plastic phone toys, get off social media and start living in the real world. Cancel culture is mostly the domain of morons.


Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If not why not?

Stuart: I’m not signing up for anything unless my lawyer reads the small print for me.

Simon: It’s ALL a conspiracy, haven’t you heard? I don’t read any newspapers as I think they’re all in cahoots on a gravy train of misery but aside from that I try my best to focus on good things like music and family.

James: No. Conspiracies seem to rely on the idea of a cabal of highly intelligent politicians, heads of industry etc, fooling the world. As shown by the last 14 years it’s just folk with no greater intelligence then the rest of us making it up as they go along.

Alex: Horseshit but there is usually a grain of truth in most. No one knows what’s real or not anymore (see my answer to previous question). I lament the old conspiracies like David Ike and the lizard people, generally harmless and perhaps that would make a good band name.

What was your best experience on stage?

Stuart: Seeing people Dance to music I was involved in making.

Simon: As long as there’s a crowd and a good sound, I’m happy. These guys make EVERY gig the best experience!

James: Encore requests (even though we’d run out of material).

Alex: Many but playing as A kind of busking duo called Ramos with Stuart on a basic drum kit where I borrowed someone’s hollow body guitar and stuck it through a delay pedal – my memory is of a really natural performance. We followed this up with a gig about a week later, but this time I played an acoustic – this one sucked balls! I went out and got hammered after that – maybe there’s your answer to the next question…


What was your worst experience on stage?

Stuart: Getting my pint knocked over by a bellend

Simon: We had a fairly disastrous Tramlines Fringe show last year where Alex’s pedalboard packed in as we were tuning up and then my amp exploded along with my trousers. Somehow, we still put on a good gig! Much like an album, a live performance is just a moment in time so over the years you learn to let go and let it happen (good or bad).

James: I think an empty wine bar many, many years ago.


Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about. 

Stuart: Alex homebrews some tremendous ‘Slider’ (Sloe Gin and Cider). I couldn’t see for 3 days after drinking some.

Simon: James is a keen pottery maker when he’s not playing the bass

James: I heard an unconfirmed rumour that Stu once played for Bootsy Collins as South Yorkshire’s premier percussionist. Apparently, security caught him and threw him out. 

I also heard this may be a false memory brought on by a concussion from a stray tennis ball. 

Alex: Simon’s house is held up by his CD collection.


What are the next steps you plan to take as a band to reach the next level?

Stuart: Get on an escalator and Dance like twats!

Simon: Always up for that Stu! I think we push this album ‘Dial Everything’ as far as we can because the songs have withstood 14 years of line-up changes, studio floods, a pandemic, two lockdowns, mental and physical health issues but STILL made it out there. That’s cause for celebration and testament to the quality of the tunes. We are working on new material however as we’re making up for lost time now!

James: I don’t know where that ladder is so were not even on rung one.

I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.

Stuart: It’s very well recorded and it’s rock, but with just enough melody for my liking. Alex’s lead guitar playing is scandalously good!

Simon: It’s eight tracks of blood, sweat and tears from the last 14 years. When I started writing the tunes back then it was just me and an acoustic then the first line-up fleshed them out to a point over 7 years but never recorded so when Stuart, James and Alex came in they took it to the next level, in writing, playing and recording. I recorded a solo thing as JunkBond when lockdown stopped all band activity but, while enjoyable, nothing beats playing the music in a room loud and that’s what we wanted to capture. Fortunately, Tom Henthorn is a great friend, producer and had just set up in Make Noise Studios so we took full advantage and overcame the delays and set backs to make these tracks the best they could possibly be. It’s been a real passion project and we’re all super proud of every note!

James: It’s an album and the title is Dial Everything.  An old fashioned 8 tracker like back in olden times and over in under 45 mins, no jazz. Lot of earworms throughout for your listening pleasure.
 

What was the recording process like?

Stuart: Swift (though we did rehearse for 5 years!)

Simon: Not entirely true, although once all the delays were out the way we recorded the basic live tracks over one weekend in 2022. However, we chipped away at reworking anything that wasn’t quite up to scratch and adding Alex’s blistering solos over the following year. Mixing took another year but that’s important because there are four sets of ears it has to please and there’s no point going in for half measures after all the work we put in. Tom Henthorn is doing great things in Sheffield with Make Noise Studios – it’s fast becoming the heart of the musical community now – so to record and mix there has been the biggest pleasure.

James: Slow but thorough due to internal and external circumstances. Satisfying for everyone involved though.
 

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

Stuart: No reading or writing allowed by me…you’re lucky to be hearing from me now!

Simon: The songs were written over about 8 of those 14 years, from the early roughs and different band members through to this line up what I’ve found is that the song never really stops being written. The credits state – words by me but music by The Farewell State. That’s because whoever is in the band puts their stamp on the song. Also recording and pulling these tunes apart has allowed us to rediscover them, important when you’ve been playing the same set over and over for at least 7 years!

James: Learning them. Poor memory, see…

Alex: Less is more.


Would you change anything now it’s finished?

Stuart: No I don’t think so.

Simon: We committed to each other with all the decisions on the album and if anyone wasn’t happy with something we worked it out because this LP will be around forever. The danger when you spend two years recording and mixing an album is that you progress and feel like you’ve superseded the songs but we’ve taken what we learnt in the studio and applied it live to really stretch out at gigs. Some of the songs have a total new lease of life which will be interesting for the audience and us alike.

James: No, Group decisions top all. Win some, lose some.

Alex: Yes definitely, but naturally when you are working with 3 other people you will be forced into compromising over certain aspects – it is as is.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Stuart: More Love, less Hate please

Simon: What he said!

James: Condolences to Chicago for the loss of Steve Albini.

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