What’s, Charlie Simpson up to these days? Some of “the best shit” Fightstar have ever done, apparently.
Words: Jack Glasscock. Photos: Emma Swann.
“I genuinely think this is the best Fightstar record; I can honestly say that. It’s some of the best shit we’ve ever done,” states frontman Charlie Simpson with an extreme confidence that seems to only come when you’ve been faced with adversity. What a difference five years makes.
“I felt creatively burnt out and, at the time, that I didn’t have it in me to write another record,” recalls Charlie glumly. “I just needed to separate myself for a while. From 2005 we just toured and recorded, toured and recorded, toured and recorded and just never stopped, we didn’t have one break.”
Following this monotony and creative slump, the band announced they were to go on an indefinite hiatus; two words that no fan wants to hear. “We’d finished the touring cycle for ‘Be Human’ and we just hadn’t had a rest for five years. I think sometimes you just need to take a break. I think that revitalises you and it refuels the creativity.” At least that was the idea, but in reality Charlie admits, “there was no plan.”
The Fightstar hiatus was all about regaining what they once had creatively, by whatever means, and if that meant taking time off, then so be it. That kind of attitude might suggest the boys have been sat twiddling their thumbs while playing each incarnation of FIFA, but the reality is far from that. “I knew that I wanted to do a solo record at some point; I’d always wanted to do a solo record,” says Charlie; still seemingly reeling from the excitement of the opportunity he was gifted years ago. “And Dan [Haigh, bass] and Alex [Westaway, guitar] started a production company called Horsie In The Hedge, and they do a lot of visual effects work. We all decided to do our own thing.”
Fightstar found their way back to each other by spending some time by themselves – or that’s how their individual projects make it sound. But it doesn’t seem like they ever really had a break from their bandmates. “We saw each other a lot during the time we had off. It was actually nice just to be friends again, and be friends outside of the band. We’d sometimes get together and just jam stuff out and have some fun. But we weren’t in a working mode at all.”
One thing that Charlie strains to make clear here is that their eventual return wholeheartedly mirrors the organic nature of their initial hiatus. “I don’t think we had any time constraints or said ‘We have to do it by this point’. I was in France with my family and I ended up listening to some Fightstar, which I hadn’t done in a while and I was like, ‘Fuck, this is awesome’. I felt kind of nostalgic about it all and realised it was coming up to our ten year anniversary. So, I sent an email from France saying to the guys. ‘Look dudes, how do you feel about doing a show in December? Why don’t we do a one off show?’ and they all emailed back saying, ‘Yeah that’s a fucking great idea’. It was very much for a laugh; a one-night thing.”
Fuelled by nostalgia, they put on a show at the London Forum and it seemed as though everyone else had that same rose-tinted feeling as Charlie: it sold out in ten minutes. “It was like, ‘What the fuck just happened?’ You just don’t know do you? I was definitely anxious the morning the tickets went on sale,” says Charlie, recalling that pivotal day. “It was lovely to see our fanbase was very loyal, and it makes you think that the records we made back then still mean something today. I think that’s the greatest compliment you can get as a musician. That’s when the thought of writing new music came into our minds. It was very much an afterthought.”
“I didn’t want to make new music for the sake of it,” he continues. “I was very clear with the guys that if we wrote some new stuff and I didn’t think it was better than anything else we’d done before then I wouldn’t put it out.”
Thankfully, Charlie admits, “That show was probably one of the best I’ve played in my entire life. The whole night was amazing and was obviously the fuel for the fire that made us want to do it again. I think it was definitely us being in that environment again and seeing the crowd’s reaction.” The stabilisers were off and Fightstar were making a full-scale comeback, largely dictated by the intense loyalty of their fans.
If Fightstar were to write new material, it had to have an impact, one to match the impression that their back catalogue has clearly had on so many – so they went heavy. Really heavy. “It was a conscious effort; we started using seven strings; that was a big thing. I wanted to move the sound more that way. Using a seven string has so much power and it makes the riffs sound even bigger, and even heavier. We listened to a lot of bands that use seven strings; bands like Architects and Bring Me The Horizon. They have so much power in the guitars and I thought that I just wasn’t going to get that out of a six string; you have that bottom string and you get that power.”
The band are adamant that they will stay in control by releasing ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ themselves. “I just don’t see the point in signing to a record label if you already have a fanbase. Fightstar have a fanbase and we can connect with them on our own. I just don’t think there’s a need to create a middleman. We go through [distributors] ADA, which is part of Warner, but we are in total control of the record release. For me, I think that’s an important thing to have.”
Fightstar appear to have successfully traversed the murky waters of a hiatus and come out the other side with exactly what they desired; a huge well of creativity. From that first show in December, they managed to turn around an album’s worth of material; written, recorded, released. Well, “It was actually quicker than that,” corrects Charlie, “because I didn’t start writing until March. We started recording in May. I had so much pent up creativity for Fightstar music. It almost felt like it wasn’t a challenge. It was very organic and very natural, but that only happens when you’re in the right place and the right headspace. I like to focus on one project at a time, so writing riffs and all that stuff was really exciting because I hadn’t done it in so long.”
The stars are aligning for Fightstar. From 2010 when hiatus felt like their only option, through the creative successes of their solo projects, to the connection with their loyal fans and back around to the ease of writing a record that they can honestly say they’re proud of.
“I’m confident,” states Charlie quickly and emphatically when asked whether he’s nervous about the release of new music. “We just wanted to make a record that we liked and that we were confident that the fans would like; and I think we’ve done that. I’m pretty sure that all the Fightstar fans are going to go out and buy this record and be happy with it and that’s all that really matters to us. I’m feeling confident because I believe in the record. I think the record’s great.”
And with that final flurry of conviction, Charlie Simpson sets off to join his bandmates for Fightstar, round two.
Taken from the November issue of Upset. Fightstar’s album ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ is out now.