“Let’s be having you, York!” teases vocalist Matt Davies as the post-hardcore quintet take to the stage. It’s been over two years since Funeral For A Friend have made an appearance in York and anticipation borders on agitation as the fervent crowd are poised and waiting for them to kick things off.
The Welsh alt-rockers ooze experience of entertaining thousand-strong crowds at the biggest rock festivals, have supported the likes of Iron Maiden and have been slapped across the front page of just about every rock magazine. Tonight, they’re showcasing the release of their seventh studio album Chapter and Verse in a much more intimate, and rather dingy underground venue, The Duchess.
The band launch into angsty new single, ‘Pencil Pusher’, and we’re thrown to the side of the crowd as it’s torn apart before the lyrics have even begun. By the stampede of fans ensuing in the centre of the venue, an outsider would never have guessed the band’s dwindling record-selling success with recent albums released under their independent label. Evidently, Funeral For A Friend’s impassioned melodic-hardcore remains just as relevant now as it did with their immensely popular debut, Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation, released over a decade ago.
Within minutes of turbulent mosh-pits and fist-raising lyrics, the cavernous venue transforms into an unbearably hot and stifling climate. The new tour drummer soon surrenders to the heat, opting to complete the gig in just his boxers. The band are only four songs into their set, when he mouths to guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts, “It’s like drumming under the fucking sun!”
After the emotionally-charged single, ‘Streetcar’, the quintet take a break and the atmosphere turns to one of light-hearted banter. Crowd members become impatient for more, and jibe at the Welsh rockers with territorial chanting of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” to which Matt smiles and wittily puts down, replying: “Pudding? Tea?”
Slower numbers ‘History’ and ‘The Jade Tree Years Were My Best’ are a welcome breather from the previously exhausting head-banging chaos, yet are still emblazoned with emotion and intensity. It’s evident that each of their songs resonates in deeper meaning. The band are easily capable of transferring emotional storylines to their audience; every word is echoed relentlessly as the audience chant the lyrics straight back them.
The pace soon picks back up and the band finish on a frenzy of classics, including ‘Juneau’, a particularly emotional ‘Roses For the Dead’, and conclude with ‘Escape Artists Never Die’. Matt finds he is drowned out by the crowd’s vocals and merely stands back and appreciates the scene as the gig comes to a close.
While the tired and battered venue was frantically being transformed into a suitable state for the imminently approaching club night, I managed to grab a few minutes with vocalist Matt Davies and ask him how the tour is going so far.
“It’s been really good!” he beams, “I mean the vibe has been incredible – there’s been a lot of fun. That’s the important thing for us, is that the show’s not just been fun for us, but for the audience was well. It’s been really cool!”
We’re sat chatting in a pretty dire corner in the dingiest club in York. I’m obliged to ask whether he prefers performing in more intimate venues. He nods his head adamantly. “Yeah definitely. I mean I prefer having people as close as possible. It makes for a better show, it makes for a better experience for everybody. It’s part of the process which I think what makes music a special and unique art form. It brings people together, and in an environment where it’s allowed to do that stronger, it makes more sense to do that!”
“It’s still mind-blowing.” He continues when I ask about their long-standing fan base. “You kind of write these songs in a very confined environment, and they’re very personal things. To have them reach out and have somebody who you’ve never met before take them into a part of their lives, and make them who they are… it’s a bit a bit crazy but cool, you know? It’s awesome!”
It’s clear that Funeral For A Friend exemplify a group of artists who have a deeply emotional connection with their audience, which has permeated through their fifteen-year career. It’s without a doubt that should the Welsh rockers fancy popping back up for Yorkshire tea or pudding anytime soon, they’ll be embraced with open arms.