HAPPY ACCIDENTS Fyfe Dangerfield

The Guillemots
frontman went in to the studio for a quick demo break and emerged with a
full-blown solo album.

 

BY AARON PASSMAN

 

I’ve got my facts wrong, and Fyfe Dangerfield isn’t shy
about letting me know it.

 

The falsity in question comes from the fact that a number of
articles regarding his solo debut, Fly
Yellow Moon
(released in U.K.
in January and in the U.S.
last week) claim the tracks were written in quick succession during a
tumultuous love affair.

 

“It’s just a record,” he says, explaining that the press
release for the record mentioned that these songs were written in the
love-fueled rush of a new relationship, and “suddenly it’s become that
everything that’s written about the record is that it’s a record about a
relationship.”

 

He continues: “It’s not really, but I was in a relationship when I wrote it, and I guess it charts some
of the ups and downs of it,” an arc that’s somewhat present on the finished
product.

 

However you classify it, the solo debut from Dangerfield – born
Fyfe Antony Dangerfield Hutchins, he’s best known for fronting the eccentric British indie-pop
quartet Guillemots – was written in
what he calls “snatched moments” found here and there, and the bulk of it
recorded over merely five days. He’s big on doing things quickly and getting it
over with, rather than belaboring the point.

 

“I often find that, if you know you’ve only got 20 minutes
or something, then you’re more likely to write something good than if you’ve
got four hours,” says Dangerfield, offering the example that that one song was
written just after an argument, another penned during a quick 10-minute trip
home. “Most of the songs on the record weren’t generally songs that were
labored over; it came out very quickly.”

 

While Guillemots have never shied from throwing as many
elements into their music as possible, according to Dangerfield these songs
were always meant to be simpler so it was hard to view them as Guillemots
tracks. He knew in the writing process how he wanted them to sound, including
simple beats and simple bass lines.

 

“I knew some of the songs only needed one voice and a
guitar,” he says, noting that it “would’ve been a bit boring for the band to
do.” Add to that the fact that he had a feeling of where his band would go
next, and this wasn’t that direction.

 

“We’d finished touring at the end of 2008 and had a bit of
time, so I went and booked five days in the studio with my friend Adam and said
let’s just demo some songs. We weren’t really going into it, Let’s make a record – we just wanted to
record things, and at the end of five days we had a record and a bunch of other
tracks that ended up as bonus tracks; It just seemed kind of daft to say,
‘Let’s make these demos for the next Guillemots record.'”

 

The end result, Fly
Yellow Moon
, has racked up positive reviews in Britain and is on a similar track here
in the States (including with this BLURT review).

 

“I just really wanted it to sound not old, but classic in a
way,” says Dangerfield. “I didn’t want to spend hours trying to get a great
drum sound; I just wanted it to sound how it sounds.” That includes bits culled
from across the musical spectrum, including the Nilsson-esque outro to “High On
The Tide,” the disco-tinged “She Needs Me” or the synth-pop of album closer
“Any Direction.”

 

Still, that range of sounds and styles wasn’t the intent.

 

“If anything, I wanted it to be the opposite. The last
Guillemots album [2008’s Red] I
thought weirded people out by being so schizophrenic, and if anything I wanted
this whole record to be stuff like [the hushed, acoustic track] ‘Livewire’ –
this kind of Nick Drake-y record. I just like lots of different stuff, and I’d
love to make a record where everything sounds the same – it’d make my life a
lot easier.”

 

In addition to what’s on the finished product, there’s an
entire album’s worth of bonus tracks – 10 in all – that didn’t make the cut,
ranging from more hushed acoustics to one song that comes across almost like a
house track. As he explains, “I think if I’d recorded the songs in a different
month it would’ve sounded completely different. I just wanted it to be like a
scrapbook, a snapshot of a moment.”

 

Dangerfield has played a few solo shows to promote the
record at home in the UK, and a short American tour in winter was cancelled at
the last minute due to visa issues, but a string of SXSW dates were subsequently
lined up for March. Beyond that, he’s already largely transitioned back to
Guillemots, who are in the process of searching for a producer for their next
LP and will likely begin recording in April.

 

Fly Yellow Moon,
he says, “was always meant to be a record that would just hopefully get a life
of its own over a couple months.”

 

 

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