fat white family are the closest thing to a genuine punk band today
We talk to the band who started the Facebook protest group against the gentrification of London, Yuppies Out! about their upcoming album, UK tour and being the best live band in the world.
photography Sophie Wedgwood
I first saw Fat White Family opening for The Amazing Snakeheads at The Victoria in Dalston and the venue was so packed with A&R people you could barely move for denim jackets and signet rings. As I pushed my way to the bar someone suggested "cabbing it" to The Edition after the show while his friend ordered another round of gin & tonics on the company card. There was a level of hype surrounding those two bands that filled the room with the type of people who buy leather in Burberry but have no problem asking a stranger for £50. It wasn't a particularly encouraging atmosphere, but that was hardly Fat White Family's fault. The thing is, this is a band that has been described more than once as having the best live show in the world. Once Youtube comments like that start getting bandied around good luck trying to prevent the industry sharks from circling. Still, Fat White Family don't seem the types to get very excited about being a "buzzband" and from the moment they slunk onstage partially clothed and grinning like creeps, they eclipsed the hype.
It feels a bit dated to describe a new band as punk, punk's a word most people have grown accustomed to reading in relation to Miley Cyrus' haircut at the Met Ball and not much else. But in a world where Bob Geldof and Lily Allen are about as political as musicians get, Fat White Family smack of something as close to genuine punk as it seems possible. They used to run Facebook page and "direct action forcefield" Yuppies Out!, Saul tells me, which was a group intent on disrupting the gentrification of South London. I remember pictures of rainy protests in Brixton with lead singer Lias carrying a banner saying "Champagne and fromage OUT!!!" and an album of Shoreditch's quasi-celebrities daubed with MS Paint swastikas. It was great, and despite its subsequent disappearance, Fat White Family continue to wear their politics very much on their sleeve. "Self hating Arab and self hating Jew" is the bond connecting the band to one another, according to Saul, to which I'm not sure there's much more I can add other than some of them are genuinely related but that probably doesn't really matter.
There was life before the family. Saul was in mid-naughties band the Metros who signed a major deal before splitting in 2009, and Lias and Nathan were in The Saoudis. Clearly they learned a thing or two the first time around because despite the hype over FWF they shunned the opportunity to sign with Sony-Virgin-Warner-Whatever and self-released their debut album Champagne Holocaust on Trashmouth instead. "We don't understand why more people don't just make records and put them out themselves" said Saul of the decision to forgo a major label, adding of the industry in general "it seems pretty obvious things are on a downward trajectory". He identifies mainstream major label music with "the politics of rampant capitalist fundamentalism" which is pretty hard to dispute, and adds that "while the 90's weren't exactly a hotbed of radicalism" things do seem to be "getting worse".
Champagne Holocaust is a great record, not being very good at music journalism I'd say it's the album equivalent of someone you fancy enough to hook up with but wouldn't trust not to steal your laptop on their way out - sort of creepy, sexy and a bit unpredictable. "Many people have been hugely influential on us for various different reasons" says Saul, "to name a few: Pat Lyons, Dan Lyons, Dave Mankind, Lou Smith, Hank Dog and Gerry Adams." Particularly at the moment they're listening to Astral Weeks, Throbbing Gristle "and our new album which we are currently in the process of making." They're recording the follow up record in New York, which will probably be "a bit stranger" than the first and while getting the Yuppies Out of New York would be a feat beyond comprehension, Saul concedes that "despite the wretchedness of the USA we have managed to have a few fun-filled nights". They also played a few shows in Williamsburg with the strange and beautiful Bo Ningen, who he describes as wielding a "devastating sexual ambiguity". It's true.
For 2015 there's the record, a UK tour and also Saul and Jack's side project WARMDUSCHER to look forward to, plus hopefully another video as confusingly arousing as Touch The Leather. After a shaky period at the beginning of the year where sickness forced cancellation of several shows it feels like the family are back on track. So do they all brush your teeth together and sleep in the same bed then?
Text Bertie Brandes
Photography Sophie Wedgwood