Having recently slimmed down to the original trio formed back in 2001, experimental pop collective <b>FOUND</b> are set to return with a somewhat unrecognisable and brilliant third album, a brand new art installation and a potential side business in Sellotape
As something approaching veteran status of the Scottish indie scene, Edinburgh-based FOUND have been scratching away at the fringes of art and music for what seems like aeons now. Known as much for their installations as their music, the band have long been a fertile ground for envelope-pushing ideas, all carefully and individually catalogued with equal status regardless of perceived merit.
Fittingly then, The Skinny finds the band spit-balling ideas as they hang around the ominous-sounding Hemi-Anechoic chamber in the University of Edinburgh, which serves as the backdrop to today’s photo-shoot. “Would you buy FOUND-branded Sellotape from one of our gig stalls?” asks front-man Ziggy Campbell, casually toying with said product. Clocking our somewhat guarded expression and the long, considered pause, fellow band member Tommy Perman uses his telepathy and saves the day. “I told you it was a shite idea,” he states deadpan.
It may well be, but they can be forgiven for such indiscretions. The day prior to our meet up, the trio announced they had been successful in securing a Creative Scotland investment for one of their more encouraging and ultimately ‘un-shite’ ideas. Unravel, a collaborative proposal with Aidan Moffat and Professor Simon Kirby, landed a £40,000 go-ahead as part of the Vital Spark programme which encourages experimentation and radical new approaches to engaging with audiences. Having already created Cybraphon, an “autonomous emotional robot band in a wardrobe”, it was perhaps a grant with FOUND’s name written all over it.
Settled in a nice comfy pub, photo-posing duties completed, Ziggy, Tommy and third member Kev Sim explain a little more about the project. “It’s going to be stories written and recited by Aidan à la Arab Strap,” begins Ziggy. “There’ll be a set of acoustic instruments that’ll be mechanised in the same way that Cybraphon works. But the story that he tells will change depending on different factors like the weather and how many people are in the room at the time. If there are a lot of people, it might be delivered with a lot of gusto and flamboyance but if there’s just a couple it might be a bit more hushed and sincere.”
“At the moment we’re thinking that they’re going to be memories attached to a record from the narrator’s collection,” adds Tommy. “But even if you listen to the same memory at a different time in different circumstances, the narrator will be remembering it differently. That’s something we’re really excited about developing. A lot of it is new territory for us, and some of it is completely new territory full-stop. Some of the technology we’re going to have to actually come up with – stuff that hasn’t actually been built before.”
Will this mean a useful off-shoot of technology for future generations? After all, the moon landings gave us Teflon. “We’re just going to get a moody Scottish bastard who can’t remember things,” laughs Tommy. “Sorry, it’s not a great contribution.” Whatever lies ahead for Unravel, and the band remain tight-lipped due to natural evolution, it will be at least a year before we get to hear Moffat reminisce on some of his favourite LPs and the vague memories they invoke.
More immediately, the band are on the cusp of releasing third album Factorycraft, their first as a trimmed-down trio. “Being in a five-piece band is really difficult,” explains Tommy. “Even just trying to meet up to rehearse and take it out on the road is problematic.” The loss of members Alan Stockdale and Gavin Sutherland was, we’re assured, amicable and partly due to changing commitments. “It started off as the three of us and now it’s back to the three of us,” Tommy continues. “It felt like a reboot and we started writing in a different way. It changed our sound a lot since the last album and we found our feet again. I think it was really good for us, it gave us a bit more energy and motivation and it felt new again.”
That much is certainly evident in Factorycraft. The bedroom production and piecemeal approach of their previous two records has been resolutely swept away. Song-writing and more traditional instrumentation are now the order of FOUND. “We were quite determined to go into a studio and record everything within a set, short amount of time,” Ziggy embellishes. “We wanted to try and record it as ‘live’ as possible and just do away with a lot of the options that you get by making a record the way we’ve done in the past, with too many ideas and directions really. It’s been nice to refine that.”
It’s a volte-face that few can pull without the battle-cry of ‘sell-out’ bursting forth from the hardcore fan-base. All three seem ready for such a critique though. “We’ll lose some fans but gain some others,” concedes Tommy. “So far, it’s really difficult to gauge. It’s not been that sudden to be honest, because a lot of the tunes on the album we’ve been playing live for quite a while now so people will know them, they’ve just not heard the finished product yet. The record is a bit different to what we sound like live, but it’s still pretty true to it.”
Being signed to Chemikal Underground is likely to help smooth this transition. Still considered a barometer of good taste and moderate success, FOUND made the leap from Fence records, with their full blessing, after recording Factorycraft at Chem 19 and pricking the ear of erstwhile Delgado and producer Paul Savage. “He seemed really into it, which we couldn’t quite believe,” marvels Tommy. “He passed it on and after a short while Chemikal got in touch to note their interest. We started chatting to them about it and it quickly became obvious that they were the right people. They said lots of nice things, bought us some beers and gave us free records. We were sold.”
On paper, FOUND’s progression seems uncannily smooth, from Tommy’s own Surface Pressure label, to Fence and now Chemikal. Has this aided their longevity? “Definitely,” agrees Tommy. “It seems really nice, the way that we’ve done it. At times we’ve wanted to fast track and leap frog and wonder why we never got a major label backing in our first year. But we’re much happier with this slow progression, doing things the way that we like to do things.”
With the recent, saddening news that fellow city friends Come On Gang are calling it a day, the band are acutely aware of their own enviable position. “If someone had just picked up on them a little bit earlier, things could have gone really different,” says Tommy. “And if Chemikal hadn’t stepped in with us to say they were into the album, I’m not quite sure what would have happened.”
Thankfully, it’s not a hypothesis they have to consider, with the future looking pretty bright for FOUND. “We feel like we’re just finding our feet again,” says Tommy with a degree of excitement. And as a band with some experience he’s happy to help others along this tricky path. “Just stick at it, try to do your own thing and make sure that you’re in it for the right reasons. It’s hard graft but a really good laugh and as long as it’s a good laugh, then it’s worth doing. There’s no other reason to do it,” he reasons before markedly labouring his next point; “There is no money in music! Let’s dispel any myth and get that message out there.”
Perhaps that entrepreneurial sticky tape venture isn’t sounding so shite after all.
Playing the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh on 3 Mar; The Captains Rest, Glasgow on 14 Mar and supporting The Phantom Band at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh on 17 Mar.
Factorycraft is released via Chemikal Underground on 14 Mar.http://foundtheband.com/