The first track I heard by art rockers Fehlt was Closure and it had an instant appeal. Liking that first listen can go one of two ways: it might stick with you or it might just be a brief flirtation. Fortunately it’s the former and the confident, expansive, soundscapey lushness of Closure, out now via Clue records, continues to work its magic, with calm, steady vocals by Ewan threaded amongst its layers. And there’s an intriguing later release, a cover of Sebadoh’s Spoiled, showcasing Fehlt’s softer and more reflective approach.
The founder of Leeds-based Fehlt, Ewan Barr, formulated his vision while at Leeds College of Art and set about recruiting band members keen to move in a similar direction. I chatted to Ewan about how it all came together and what’s happening next…
So Ewan, you were studying art at Leeds… when did the shift to music begin, and how did that happen?
I’ve been involved with both art and music for a long time now, I was playing in bands prior to Fehlt, most notably in an outfit called Dose. It was a huge learning curve for me, Dose’s conception came only months after I first picked up the guitar in 2014. I’d always been interested in music but the yearning to play didn’t happen until later on.
So the next step was to recruit band members – you obviously had a strong idea of the direction you wanted to take. How long have you all been together?
I’ve been recording with Fehlt for just over two years however the full band didn’t come together until August last year. I’d been playing in bands with Adam Rundle (bass), prior to moving away from the North East. Initially I found it hard to come across other people who shared the same vision and direction as myself, that was until I met Will Shuttleworth (guitar) and Ben Udin (drummer).
How does Fehlt’s creative process work? Who is the band’s songwriter and who writes the lyrics? Or is it still-evolving process?
It’s something that’s constantly evolving. for the most part, I write the material and then I’ll bring it to the band where we’ll iron things out.
Before lockdown you had a run of shows organised for this year, including Chunk in Leeds. How many shows were you able to do? And were you happy with how playing live was going?
We played our debut show in October and our first headline in February. I always look forward to performing live, we put a lot of energy into making our performances as interesting as possible. Everything is carefully considered, from the samples to the projection films we produce to project onto ourselves during the show.
Who would you consider have been primary influences on your music?
Bands like Women and Slint definitely influence my approach to songwriting and instrumentation, their intricate, anxious guitars are something I consider every time I sit down to write. I’m not a huge reader but I’m making an effort this year in order to broaden my influence palette, I’m currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert which is quoted on an upcoming track for our next release.
You personally had a lot of input on the video to Closure … can you tell us more about that?
Myself and regular collaborator Mitchell Dilley have been producing video art since we both attended an art foundation course in 2017. We’re really interested in ephemeral art; re-interpreting objects and documents, producing new contexts. The video was made up of Polaroid and various other manuals, linking to the theme of closure. I strive to have as much input when it comes to the visual aspects for our releases, I want them to be in a world in their own and you accomplish that with coherent art and a cohesive message.
Are you all in different places at the moment during this lockdown period? Are you managing to rehearse on Zoom and share ideas…
Until recently we were all over the country – Darlington, York, Cambridge, Manchester. We haven’t really taken the opportunity to digitally practice as such, we’ve all had university commitments. However, having finished university in early May I’ve taken the opportunity to work on some new material but not anything major.
Are you planning to be in the studio or record new music – and are there any gigs lined up (live dates are subject to change).
Prior to lockdown we’d been demo-ing an extended play and had plans in place to begin recording-proper but that was all put on hold. At this moment in time I’ve been working on getting everything ready to go – artwork, videos and press, so as soon as the restrictions lift we can start the recording process. We have shows lined up in September, however due to the ever broad and uncertain actions of our incompetent government, we’re not too hopeful they will go ahead as planned!
Is there anyone who has helped you along the way? And have you had support from your community?
Leeds is a great source for guidance within the city; when the virus first became apparent in the UK they compiled a great list of links and information that they keep up-to-date available here: https://www.musicleeds.com/covid19resources . They regularly have funds and opportunities for emerging artists in Yorkshire which can only be a great thing for the already thriving musicians of the Leeds area.
Closure and Spoiled are available on a limited-edition cassette and digitally