"A joy to behold" Heineken Music
"Every track on offer is a joy to listen to" Hot Press
"Sprawling, ambitious and intoxicating" Irish Independent
"A burst of Technicolor glory" State.ie
"A Triumph" Swear I'm Not Paul
"A beautiful record" The Sunday Business Post
In an age of internet newness and obsession with the next-big-thing, it's easy to forget that there's merit in slow-burn. FRED (the band) has been together, in various line-ups, since 1999 and their experiments with style and sound has directly affected their skill in the craft of song-writing.
In the later part of 2008, FRED released "Go God Go", with its string of indie-poptastic hits ('Skyscrapers', 'Running'. 'The Lights' & 'Good One'). "Go God Go" raised their status from local Irish cult heroes to that of an international act. The band's live reputation increased on the back of constant touring and festivals both at home and abroad, and gig highlights included performances at the Electric Picnic and Oxegen. In 2009, a Hot Press Reader's Poll of Top Irish Bands saw the band make the Top 10. FRED were also included as one of the Top 10 albums on iTunes Canada's year end Indie Spotlight and received Meteor nominations for 'Hope of 09' & 'Best Album'.
"....There's no resisting this stuff unless you're a tone-deaf, stone-hearted, know nothing... , Blissed out, loved-up and goddamn down and out funky, FRED we love you..." NME
In January 2011 FRED travelled to Montreal to start recording their fourth studio album. The recording duties would be given to Howard Bilerman at his renowned Hotel2Tango studio. As well as recording and playing on Arcade Fire's breakthrough record ‘Funeral' Howard has worked his magic with an array of great artists including Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and British Sea Power.
The band initially brought 14 songs to Bilerman and whittled the final album down to 11. Being away from home, daily life and relationships provided an atmosphere with no distractions and over the course of a month, the album finally took shape. What emerged was eclectic, exciting, and a contrast to the musical associations people have had with the band. There are crests and troughs of tempos and dynamics, multiple vocals, a slew of strings and introspection themes versus the brasher pop approach of the past. Back home, they tweaked the songs themselves, before handing them over to Ben.
Hillier (Elbow, Blur, Editors) to mix. The result is 'Leaving My Empire' - their finest record to date.
As a band, FRED has always been hard to place, not just in an Irish musical context, but within a genre. "With the last album, we tried a lot of different things, which helped us learn a lot of different things! So we took all of that and decided to make a more focused and streamlined record," says Joseph O'Leary (singer). Guitarist Jamin O'Donovan agrees, "We all like such varied music, so it was great to be able to create something in the confines of a pop song and then try something darker and edgier when we felt like it".
‘If Not Now When' sets out an album that seems to embrace influences that come from the West rather than the East. Bilerman's big-drum influence permeates ‘The Life Behind', where everything pivots around percussion. The far away echoes of ‘Somewhere Else', 'Stereoscope' and ‘As You See' are mesmerizing with 'Stereoscope' being one of the most singular and introspective tracks on the album. ‘Eleven' is led by vocals that have a Wall-Of-Sound wooziness, building to an epic, insistent chorus worthy of Arcade Fire. ‘Villains' opens with dirty bass and drums before transforming into multi-vocal anthemic pop. There's even the nod to ‘70s soul in the form of ‘Fears and Melodies', which channels ‘Les Fleurs'-era Minnie Riperton and Rotary Connection. ‘Trial By Fire', an infectious pop-romp has something of a cheer-leading mantra. ‘We Are The City Now' signs off the album with the same verve and energy that races through all 11 songs. At the end, what's left? Eleven songs written with heart; rhythms and melodies that are willing to take risks and a band who have finally made the album they always wanted to.
About 'Leaving My Empire' guitarist Jamie Hanrahan says "A band's first and second albums can be like a map for where they want to go. We have moved onwards and upwards since the last album. Our ambitions and musical desires have changed and grown. We've attempted to create songs that go from intimate to epic and back, and to create little journeys for anyone listening."