Fred:::The Pavilion, Cork, 25.10.12

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Fred cost me a tenner tonight – I ill-advisedly bet a friend that the band did not have a science-related song. I was wrong. I’d forgotten the wonderfully titled ‘The Wondering Geologist’ off 2002’s Can’t Stop I’m Being Timed.

I only mention this as Fred were promising to delve into all four of their albums as they returned to the shores of the Lee for a hometown gig. It was always likely to be a suitably joyous affair. Over the course of their career, Cork’s finest have managed to develop a reputation for being tremendous fun live – on the back of this they can always count on a devoted crowd when they’re on their home turf. Natural bias aside, they’re in my opinion one of the most accomplished live acts in the business and they never fail to entertain. Tonight wasn’t any different.

Dublin five piece The Gorgeous Colours warmed up the crowd with a nice set that mixed tracks from their EP and their forthcoming album, their combination of pop-tinged ditties and soaring melodies got things ticking over nicely. Highlight of their short set was the wonderfully melodic ‘It’s ok to be normal’.

Before long the main event took to the stage. Bouncing into view with their typical blend of energy and stage presence, Fred launched straight into a set that encompassed most of their back catalogue highlights, and then some. This was as promised, one for the fans. There were plenty of numbers from the mists of their near 15 years plus of making music.

‘Moonjuice’, their first ever recorded track, was an appropriate choice and it got the place moving. The crowd lapped up every minute of it. They nearly lifted the roof with ‘Four Chords and the truth’, Jamie Hanrahan making a rare foray to the mike for this spoken word-ish belter from their second album. Frontman Joe O’Leary was clearly enjoying himself and he worked the crowd for all it was worth, the banter was flying.

Here were an act on familiar territory and dipping in and out of their musical history. It was a fantastically energetic and raucous affair. The boys even had a few ladies from the West Cork Ukulele Orchestra join them on stage for two tracks to add to the carnival atmosphere. By the time crowd favourites ‘Skyscrapers’ and ‘Running’ were aired we’d already had a conga line and an impatient demand for acknowledgement for the ‘girls from Sherkin Island’.

Acknowledgement was theirs; it was just one of those kinds of nights. There was a healthy mix of tunage from Fred’s back catalogue on display, it was great to hear forgotten favourites from Making Music so You don’t Have to were sitting comfortably alongside newer material like ‘Trial By Fire’.

Far too quickly the set zipped by and before we knew it the encore was done and dusted and Fred departed the stage leaving their audience sweaty and exhilarated. Playing your hometown can, as they admitted themselves, often be like playing in front of your relatives but there was no self-consciousness, stumbled lines or family arguments here. The Fred boys came to town and left the Pav conquered in their glorious wake.


FRED::: Q& A

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Hometown heroes made good Fred rifle through their back catalogue at The Pavilion tonight – Niall checked in with them to see how their 2012 has been

It’s been another busy year for the band, between the continuing success of 2011′s Leaving my Empire, to playing Electric Picnic, to swapping tunes with the Franks and the Walls in the Beamish Brewery, it’s been an interesting time. Has there been anything in particular that sticks in the memory with you from 2012?
Ordinarily when you think of highlights in a year, it tends to be stuff like that, different shows or tours abroad and so on, but outside of that the highlight has been that we signed an international Publishing deal with a company called Nettwerk.
It’s a strange sign of the times but publishing and having your music played in TV Shows, ads, movies etc. around the world has become the launchpad internationally for many artists over the last few years, now that the tradional distribution model for music has gone out the window. For us, it’s a nice validation of our own suspicions that our music would work anywhere through any medium.

You’ve garnered the reputation of now being ‘big in Canada’. How did that come about?
That’s true, it’s Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Us and Alanis Morissette. Between the four of us, we’ve carved up that territory. Unfortunately we drew the short straw and got the northern, unpopulated area.

We took a chance a few years back of playing an industry festival in Toronto, and on the strength of the gig (and much behind the scenes preparation and pre-emptive inviting of the appropriate people by our manager), we came out of it with a Canadian record deal with a company called Sparks Music. Now we’re just counting the dollars as they roll in. But they’re Canadian, so it’s not real money.

You’re returning to Leeside with upcoming sets in the Pav and Skibbereen. Is it always different to be playing in front of the ‘home crowd’ so to speak?
Sometimes it’s like playing in front of your family. You know there’s nothing but loving support there, but it’s also slightly awkward because these people changed you when you soiled yourself, and bathed you naked. This is more true when you play in front of your parents.

The shows we’re doing in Cork where we’re playing songs from all of our albums, could only really be done here first as outside of Cork, few people would know our first album, as you can’t get it anymore. It’s actually quite exciting, kind of like having a reunion with people you haven’t seen in years. Lets hope they’re all fat and ugly now.

I mentioned last year’s Leaving my empire. The record was really well recieved critically and made a nice dent in the music-going consciousness too. It was in many ways a less poppy record than its predecessor. Were you pleased with how the record was received?
It was quite a conscious decision for us to make a record like that. The previous album got us a huge amount of daytime radio play, and we’ll be forever grateful for that as it multiplied our audience and enabled us to keep going where we wanted to go.

However, the music we all love and enjoy is maybe not as poppy as that album. So when making Leaving my empire, we focussed on trying to create what we’d love. There were one or two songs we had recorded that may have been more radio friendly, but they didn’t fit in with the overall picture of the album so were left off.

We knew that these songs wouldn’t have daytime radio appeal, and maybe would mean less sales intitally, but it got a great reaction and lots more interest from the established industry and music lovers, hence allowing us to sign international publishing deals.

As a band that have been making music for over ten years, is there any advice you’d have for acts that are just starting off? How do you reflect on your back catalogue from this standpoint?
Hard to say really. When you start off, more often than not you’re sustained and fuelled by a love of it. The longer you go, the harder it is to maintain that without growth.

If I had advice it would be to try looking at the bigger picture early on. When doing gigs, ask why you’re doing them, what will you achieve, is there real progress here, or are we just doing it because that’s what bands do. Of course there are times you can’t think like that and you just do stuff because you want to and would like to. But if you can have a general vision of where you want to go then you can measure the things you’re doing by that standard and if they help achieve that vision.

In terms of back catalogue, because of these shows we’ve had to go through the early material, and some of it feels like discovering a bad letter or poem you wrote when you were in school. Some of it sounds excellent.

Lastly, what’s in store for Fred for the rest of 2012 and the new year?
We are taking this show – where we play all our old songs – around the country before the year is out. Cork will be a good barometer as to whether it works.