One brand new album on the way and a huge tour of the States, Ten Fé have one busy year ahead.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Leo from the band who gave us our most in-depth look into the lives of the 5 men who are Ten Fé, which translated means ‘Have Faith’. Gaining over 11 million streams on spotify since the release of their first album ‘Hit The Light’, the band have grown in their rising journey to fame with huge popularity.
With the announcement of a huge tour spreading across America this spring/summer with their brand new album, we had a few burning questions to get to know them better.
We haven’t had the honour of speaking just yet, so guys, please feel free to introduce yourselves, where you came from, and how you came to be?
Hello, this is Leo here. I’m from Walsall in the West Mids, but I started this band with Ben in London. We busked together on trains on the District Line for years and then started writing songs together. We begged, borrowed and stole enough cash to make an EP and it fell into the right hands, which led us (after more busking) to Berlin, where we made our first album, ‘Hit The Light’. Our friends Rob, JD and Alex (all from Brum) joined us to tour it, and they’ve since joined the band. We’ve just finished recording our second album in Oslo and London … and here we are!
In 2018 you released the singles, ‘Won’t happen, ‘No Night Lasts Forever’, ‘Echo Park’, and now this year, ‘Coasting’. What’s the reaction been like from fans?
The reaction has been really positive. A lot of people have been picking up on how these tunes sound more rootsy, and reflect our love of Americana, which was what we hoped would come across when we made the album. There’s been a couple of sweet reviews – someone declared that we’d ‘killed cool’ with the song Coasting – so we were very happy to hear that, we never liked cool anyway… So yeah, it’s been wicked. I think you have to climb into your own world and stay in there when you’re making an album – we spent a year making the record – so now it’s finished and we’ve come out of isolation it’s nice to hear people are hearing it as we do.
All of these tracks have been building up to this March when you’re due to release your brand new album ‘Future Perfect, Present Tense’. What can you tell us about the process of creating this new project?
In the process of touring ‘Hit The Light’ the sound of this band developed. Although Ben and I recorded that album as a duo – recording the parts on our own and relying on a lot of electronics in the depths of Berlin – we felt it becoming a lot more of an organic sound on the road – between the 5 musicians on stage. So at the heart of making this album was a desire to capture that new sound. Ben and I wrote the songs over the course of the summer at our studio in Walthamstow, but just as it came to rehearse them with the band, we were evicted. Luckily, our drummer Palex had access to a broom cupboard / bunker beneath Oxford Circus, so that’s where all the (v cramped) rehearsals for this album took place, which was surreal cos we’d be arriving at rehearsals every evening swimming against the tidal wave of a million commuters on their way home.
When it came to recording, we knew we wanted to leave London – we wanted a sound that didn’t feel associated with the city. So we headed off to Norway last winter to do it with Chrustian Englefelt at Paradiso Studios. The studio is unbelievable: in an old Oslo factory, all lined in Norwegian Wood, he’s got so much gear in there – to us it felt like Aladdin’s cave. We’d all been reading Ken Callait’s book on the making of Rumours and we thought – this was it, a chance to hole up and go deep on the album. Ultimately, I think we went a little too deep – and ran out of time! So we returned to London with the bones of an album, and worked on the flesh with Luke Smith (Foals Depeche Mode) at his studio in Tottenham over the summer.
What are some of your main goals when writing music, what is your aim?
That’s a big one! All art is about communication – it’s a way of reminding yourself that you are alive, and surrounded by other humans who think and feel. So when I’m writing a song, all I want is to express that in a way that communicates what I’m feeling on the inside to the outside. Similarly – and this is why we’re blessed as musicians – being able to perform on stage and deliver your message to people in the first person, that’s communication too. I think if this band has one belief, its that: whoever you are – a granny, or a kid – if you enjoy our music as much as we do, then we’ll respect that. The phrase ‘target audience’ is anathema to Ten Fé, we don’t care who listens as long as they’re listening, and not posing or pretending to like something cos they think they should.
You’re set to do some serious touring this year, what can fans look forward to, are there any surprises in store?
Yes, the touring this year is gonna be mega. We’re driving all over the States in a small van, so to be honest it’ll be a surprise if we get from one coast to the other in one piece. It feels like we’re finally coming into our own as a band, so we’ll be taking that as far as we can when we play live. This band is forged on a love of singing. Ben and I used to jump onto crammed trains at rush hour and sing Beatles songs acapella – without a guitar or anything to support us – to people. And it was massive, the power of the human voice alone. People would be in tears sometimes … people also tried to punch us, but that’s a different story. Rob and Ben and I hitch-hiked round Spain last summer doing the same. We love singing – and the best thing about the last album, and where the band is going at the moment is I feel that’s really coming to the fore. Soooo – expect to be over-dosed on harmony. We’ll see if we can do a support tour with The Military Wives choir – we have connections.
People always went wild for Born Slippy when we played it in our ‘Hit The Light’ set … but there’s defo been talk of doing another irreverent 90s banger. Haddaway anyone??
Are there any collaborations on the upcoming album? And if not, who would you want to work with?
We were well lucky to work with the people we did on this album. Tom Furse from The Horrors arranged the strings on Echo Park, making it even more velvetine than we’d dreamed. One of the consequences of leaving Oslo without finishing the record was that a lot of the vocals we recorded at home; and one of the consequences of that was one evening my Sister, who I live with, came up to my room with a cup of tea for me, and I roped her in to recording on a few of the tunes – that’s her you can hear on the coda of Won’t Happen, wailing away! #proudbro. We share a studio space in Tottenham with Brigette Hart, who apart from being a wicked sound-artist has a wicked voice, so she duets with Ben on Not Tonight. There’s also a track on the album that features a Jurassic Park-style french horn part too, so watch out for that one folks … still waiting for Adam Granduciel to get in touch asking if he can produce the next album. But that’ll be nice when he does.
I think Michael Stipe is incredible (we were listening to a dangerous amount of REM during the writing of this album) He’s someone, lyrically, who’s up there with the best of them. So yes, get Stipe on the line. Also I think we’d get on rather well with Father John.
Where did you get the inspiration for the artwork you’ve created so far?
The artwork for this album was taken from photos by our bassist Rob Shipley. He and I live together and during the summer we’d cycle up to the motorway near our house to take photos – we were trying to capture that hour before the night comes. A lot of the themes in this album – and the title alludes to it – are about gradual points of change. It’s not like the first album, which concerned a sudden change: hitting the light, an explosion, an escape … this one seems to be about change that is deeper, more gradual, less sure: when exactly does night turn into morning, when exactly does happy turn into sad, when does disappointment turn into wisdom?
The whole process of taking the photos was great… though I’m not sure what we looked like: 2 men wearing v short shorts, on a bridge over the A406, with a camera, pointing excitedly at the sky. But in the end, the pics came out exactly as we had intended, and it’s wicked to have one of the band making the artwork. In general we’ve been a lot more hands-on in all parts of this record. We co-produced it with Luke, and it feels like the music itself is a lot closer to how we hear it in our heads.
Where has the biggest inspiration come from writing the new album?
Musically, changing from being a duo to a 5-piece band was the biggest inspiration for writing this album. We were so excited by it, we just wanted to capture it in the studio as truly as we could. Touring, meeting people, playing in front of more crowds, and seeing the band grow into something beyond just Ben and myself gave us a confidence to do this.
When we wrote the songs, the themes I mention to in the previous answer kept reoccurring: of things not being as simple they seem. Maybe this was as a result of the experiences we’d had as band in the last 2 years, or maybe it was more personal, I don’t know – but a lot of the songs on this album are about the feeling that nothing ever happens as you imagine it will. There’s a line in the song Superrich which closes the album that says: “I’ve seen every dream come true, just never on the day when I needed it to’. The album title relates to it too – Future Perfect, Present Tense – you always imagine a glorious future, but when you arrive at it, it’s never quite what you thought.
What have been the highs and lows during recording?
There’s definitely been plenty of both during this record. Of the highs – just being able to be in a band where you can travel to another country and see another culture whilst recording an album is not something we take for granted, so we loved that. Though we expected Oslo to be very quaint and Scandy and it really wasn’t – it reminded me a lot of Birmingham. Quite bleak and industrial. Working with heavyweights like Luke Smith and Craig Silvey has been amazing – you can never ask for more than to work with people who inspire you, and both those people do, in spades.
Of the lows – we got evicted from our studio in Walthamstow last summer – like every other site in London that might harbour creative goings-on, it was knocked down and turned into flats. We held out to the very day before it was gonna be demolished. I remember moving our gear out into the car park that night, and seeing the wrecking balls all lined up for the next morning’s destruction. We didn’t have anywhere else to go, and at that point it started to rain…I did think then, ‘ah, this is a bit shit’.
But we’ve got an amazing management team and record label behind us (Bad Life, Some Kinda Love), who are the most can-do, faith-full group of people, and we’ve come through every bit of ball-ache stronger and with bigger balls. For example, when we were kicked out of the old rehearsal space, it meant we searched for somewhere else – and found our new place in Tottenham, which is even better. So it just proves when you surround yourself with good people, the lows always grow up in to highs.
Is there anything you want to say to the fans who’ve supported you from the beginning?
Keep supporting us till the end!