The Futureheads

The Futureheads made some major connections at 2004’s South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas – most notably from their future record label, and members of Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand.

Following a glimpse of The Futureheads’ live set, Franz “fell in love with them,” Little Big Man Booking’s Marty Diamond told Pollstar. The lads were so impressed with the performance, they invited the band to open for them on a series of North American dates the following September.

“It came from them, not me,” Diamond said.

Not a bad way for an up-and-coming post-punk/new wave quartet from Sunderland, England, to make its U.S. debut.

And while the agent agrees the Franz tour helped lay the groundwork for a solo U.S. jaunt two months later, Futureheads manager Jazz Summers simply said, “It was the right tour to do.”

The SXSW experience also led to The Futureheads’ first U.S. major label deal. Apparently, execs at Warner Bros. subsidiary Sire Records hopped on board just as quickly as Franz Ferdinand.

Singer/guitarist Barry Hyde isn’t too surprised the band has struck such a chord with audiences, despite his belief that he’d never see a record contract in his lifetime.

“We have a lot of control over the audience and we know how to get everyone’s attention very quickly,” Hyde told Pollstar while sitting outside a Liverpool venue. “People come to see us and we absolutely nail our sets. Regardless of what kind of music we make, people will be astonished by us.

“We want people leaving the show saying, ‘God, that was amazing. How did they do that? It was so much fun.'”

The band was discovered about four years ago in a Newcastle pub by a relative of Summers who was interested in A&R. After hearing an early EP, Summers was hooked. Shortly thereafter, he signed on as manager.

“They’re a fantastic live band,” Summers told Pollstar. “One of the best live bands in the country.”

Part of the band’s greatness, Summers explained, is its tight live performance and unique four-part harmonies. Hyde agrees that having each member in the group sing brings a higher energy level to shows and encourages audience interaction.

“From the start, we didn’t want there to be an emphasis on one particular person,” Hyde said. “We wanted a band that would be a strong unit of individuals, not just three faceless people and one person with charisma.”

The Futureheads

When the four-piece played its first gigs, Hyde said the goal was to make the sets quick and concise, leaving the crowds thirsty for more.

“For our first gig, we played four songs and were on the stage for a total of seven minutes,” Hyde said. “It immediately felt like we created something we could progress with. That was when we all become addicted to The Futureheads. We wanted to take it as far as we could musically, which has brought us to the path we’re on now.”

With a sound reminiscent of ’80s new wave, press hounds have compared The Futureheads to XTC, Devo, Wire, The Jam, Gang of Four and others. The band, though, grew up listening to acts like Pavement, Shellac, Fugazi, and Les Savy Fav – as well as Captain Beefheart and composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley.

Summers admitted that many Brits didn’t get the band’s sound early on – even “one of the bosses at a major agency” who will “remain nameless.”

“He came down, watched them and said, ‘I wouldn’t know what to do with them,'” Summers said. “What they were doing then has now become cool.”

The manager slowly built The Futureheads in the U.K. by having them play small gigs. Those shows eventually got bigger. In the States, his goal was to have them play their own shows and shy away from support slots.

“The last American tour was completely sold out,” he said. “This is a band that had no radio play and sold out a 1,200-seater in L.A.”

Following the October release of their self-titled U.S. debut, The Futureheads coasted through six weeks at No. 1 in college radio during November and December, according to Summers. More recently, however, the manager has become extremely disappointed with the amount of push Warner Bros. is giving the record. In his words, the label “dropped the fucking ball” following the release.

“I don’t think Warner Bros. spent the money,” Summers said. “They should have priced and positioned the record right and they should have aggressively marketed it.

“If you don’t push the records in the shops, kids don’t want to buy it. When they don’t buy it, they download and copy it.”

Summers did, however, say that file-sharing may lead to further exposure of the band’s music, which in turn will sell more concert tickets and merchandise.

But despite lack of major-market radio play and visibility in music stores, Summers still feels there’s a strong American audience for the band and its live shows.

“I’ve never felt a buzz on a band like this for a long time in America,” he said. “This band isn’t going to go away.”