THE FILTH AND THE FURY

Maxim - - CONTENTS - by JENNY ELISCU

SEX, DRUGS, AND BED­LAM: INTO THE FRAY WITH BRI­TAIN’S MOST DANGER­OUS ROCK BAND

THEY’VE BEEN CALLED THE WILDEST BAND IN ROCK AND THE GREAT­EST YOUNG ACT IN BRI­TAIN, BUT WHETHER FAT WHITE FAM­ILY CAN KEEP FROM SELF-IM­PLOD­ING IS YET TO BE SEEN. FOR NOW, THEY JUST WANT TO MAKE YOU SQUIRM.

“TH­ESE ARE MY MON­DAY DRINKS,” SAYS FAT WHITE FAM­ILY SINGER LIAS SAOUDI, AR­RANG­ING A LARGE BOT­TLE OF WA­TER AND A SEP­A­RATE CON­TAINER OF CO­CONUT WA­TER IN FRONT OF HIM ON THE TA­BLE AT A NEARLY EMPTY SPORTS BAR IN NEW YORK’S EAST VIL­LAGE. WHEN THE WAIT­RESS AR­RIVES, HE ASKS FOR A WHITE RUS­SIAN, BUT THEY DON’T SERVE MILK. “DO YOU HAVE ANY­THING ELSE LIKE THAT?” HE SAYS. “I’VE GOT A BIT OF HEART­BURN.”

“I’ve got a Tum,” his younger brother, Nathan, Fat White Fam­ily’s doe-eyed key­board player, in­ter­jects.

“Oh, OK, gimme a Tum,” Lias says, and then or­ders a mar­garita. “Not re­ally strong, though. Like, Mon­day strength.” As the wait­ress walks away, he says, cheek­ily, “We’re wild guys, you know? Any­thing goes.”

So I had heard. The Fat Whites have been said to “ra­di­ate filth,” been called “dis­eased, drug-ad­dled, ut­terly cor­rupt,” and been dubbed “the most hor­ri­ble, de­praved band” in the U.k.—the last meant as a com­pli­ment. The sound on their de­but al­bum, Cham­pagne Holo­caust, is a ly­ser­gic blend of lo-fi punk, eerie Manson-fam­ily folk, warped coun­try, and sludgy blues de­scended from the same weirdo blood­line as artists from the Fall to Royal Trux. And like those mu­si­cal and spir­i­tual an­ces­tors, Fat White Fam­ily—all sunken-faced and pin-eyed, with shitty DIY hair­cuts and ill-fit­ting vin­tage clothes that reek of sweat—ac­tu­ally want to make your skin crawl. The first look U.S. au­di­ences got of them was the amus­ingly un­nerv­ing video for a creepy-sexy ditty called “Touch the Leather”: Lias looms men­ac­ingly in the fore­ground while, slightly out of fo­cus in the pe­riph­ery, Nathan’s ass, naked and wig­gling, drifts across the frame. The band’s en­tire MO is ag­gres­sive, raw, and tee­ter­ing on the brink of col­lapse, ev­ery­thing we cel­e­brate in rock mu­sic. But in this age of folk and elec­tro—of Mum­fords and Molly—can a real rock band even sur­vive?

By De­cem­ber, when I meet up with Fat White Fam­ily, they’ve been hang­ing around New York for sev­eral months, putting on a se­ries of ut­terly un­hinged live per­for­mances that have be­come claus­tro­pho­bi­cally packed, must-see events. A cou­ple of nights be­fore, at Brook­lyn venue Baby’s All Right, they in­cited a full-on freak-out—the long­est and most crowd-en­gulf­ing mosh pit I’ve seen at a club show in years. In the back of the room, you couldn’t move. Ev­ery­where else, you couldn’t not. “They’ve got more balls and bet­ter taste than most bands,” says Sean Len­non, who played a show with the Fat Whites in Austin last year. “Com­bine that with a live show that makes both men and women tear their clothes off scream­ing and they’re sort of in a league of their own.”

As a front­man, Lias has the ma­ni­a­cal en­ergy and creepy, slith­ery sex ap­peal of Iggy Pop, and he knows it. “Once the mu­sic starts go­ing and you get into it, you’re not even re­ally aware who’s there any­more,” he says. “You kind of black out. It’s the best kind of fun, but then you al­ways feel hol­low and de­pressed af­ter­ward, like, ‘What now?’” Af­ter their sec­ond Baby’s All Right gig in De­cem­ber, I watched Lias come ca­reen­ing into the makeshift dress­ing room back­stage like a sweat-soaked, shirt­less zom­bie. He col­lapsed onto a ban­quette and lay there pant­ing and star­ing blankly at the sky, seem­ingly try­ing to fig­ure out how to reen­ter his body af­ter hav­ing left it so com­pletely on­stage.

I’ve read sto­ries about Lias slather­ing his body in but­ter at one show, mas­tur­bat­ing on­stage at an­other, and smear­ing his face with his own shit dur­ing yet an­other. Sit­ting with him, a thought­ful, ar­tic­u­late con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist clad in an over­size vin­tage sweater and duck vest, drink­ing his Mon­day drinks, all of that feels very re­mote. “Hope­fully the mu­sic in­di­cates that we’re not just a bunch of drug­gie id­iots,” he says. “And when peo­ple meet us and talk to us, we’re not sav­age wild men. Sure, the live show can go a bit what­ever, but it’s just a show!”

Lias, 28, and Nathan, 25, spent their early child­hood mov­ing around a lot—gal­way, the coast of Scot­land, New York, Chicago—be­fore their par­ents

“WE DON’T RE­ALLY GET ALONG,” SAYS ADAM­CZEWSKI. “IT’S KIND OF A NIGHT­MARE.”

split and their mother mar­ried “a North Ir­ish fella” and re­lo­cated them to the small city of Cook­stown, an hour east of Belfast. Lias left when he was 18 to at­tend art col­lege in Lon­don, and a year and a half later, Nathan showed up at his door. “I got kicked out of school for be­ing too sexy,” says the younger Saoudi, who’s dressed in a leather cap adorned with a free pales­tine pin and a plaid polyester suit that smells like it’s been on him for weeks. “The mayor of the town came to the door and said, ‘You’ve got to leave.’” Ever the diplo­mat, Lias in­ter­jects qui­etly, “I’m not sure that’s right.”

Though Lias spent five years at art col­lege, he con­sid­ers the school­ing to have been a waste of time. “It was all just hot air,” he says. “There’s this illusion with art school that you’re learn­ing how to do some­thing, but it was im­pos­si­ble to know if any­thing was good or bad. When I started do­ing mu­sic, it oc­cu­pied the same en­ergy, and you get a more im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion. You know you’re crap if you’re do­ing mu­sic badly, be­cause peo­ple leave or don’t show up.” Be­fore Fat White Fam­ily, the broth­ers had a punk band called the Saudis that they both say was ter­ri­ble but that did man­age to do a three-month tour of Al­ge­ria. “That’s where our fam­ily lives, in the moun­tains of Kabylia,” Lias says. “It was like go­ing back 500 years. We were play­ing for 600 men in aban­doned beer halls.” Some Mus­lim rel­a­tives deemed them hea­thens, and soon the band broke up. Be­fore long Lias found him­self living with gui­tarist Saul Adam­czewski, Fat White Fam­ily’s mu­si­cal mas­ter­mind.

WE HAD A SHARED SENSE OF HU­MOR, RE­ALLY,” ADAM­CZEWSKI re­calls, when I fi­nally talk to him a few days later. “That’s mostly what it is. Lias didn’t know any­thing about mu­sic at all. He’d only ever lis­tened to Bob Dy­lan and Bruce Spring­steen. So I showed him some mu­sic. And he per­forms in a way that I could never per­form, so it kind of worked out.”

Dur­ing his late teens, Adam­czewski had been the singer in a short­lived band called the Met­ros, who had a whole bunch of smoke blown up their asses in the mid-’00s, only to be dropped by their la­bel be­fore they ac­tu­ally got any­where. When he found him­self in a band again, Adam­czewski says he just wanted to make a record he ac­tu­ally liked, even if the group had to pay for it them­selves. For Cham­pagne Holo­caust, they part­nered with a tiny la­bel called Trash­mouth Records that ba­si­cally paid them in stu­dio time. The band posted the re­sults on Sound­cloud back in 2012 and then im­me­di­ately moved to Barcelona. “We were gonna just go to Spain and busk,” Lias says. “We thought be­cause it was sunny, it would be kind of eas­ier to be beach bums there.” Turns out busk­ing is il­le­gal in Barcelona. “We didn’t look it up on Google,” Nathan says, laugh­ing.

Af­ter Spain, the Fat Whites shipped off to Ber­lin for a while, be­fore re­turn­ing to the U.K. in 2013. They moved in above a Brix­ton bar called the Queen’s Head, which one Yelp re­viewer de­scribes as “a re­ally an­ar­chic pub, mostly full of ex­tremely right-wing na­tion­als in­volved in the oc­cult and with the abil­ity to see straight into your soul.” Fol­low­ing the death of Mar­garet Thatcher, the band draped the out­side of the bar with a sign read­ing the witch is dead. (It orig­i­nally read the bitch is dead, but even Fat White Fam­ily know to reel it in some­times.) A shot of them glee­fully posed around the sign cir­cu­lated in U.K. pa­pers: Fat White Fam­ily’s first sym­bolic victory. Lias says that, from the start, they have never taken the band very se­ri­ously. In fact, the whole en­deavor is based on the op­po­site premise. “You have to be will­ing to make a mas­sive fool of your­self,” the singer ex­plains. “That’s what I thought was miss­ing from so many bands when we started. Noth­ing was funny or sexy any­more. Bloc Party is a good ex­am­ple—just so bor­ing and im­pos­si­bly vague.”

They started play­ing at the Queen’s Head ev­ery cou­ple of weeks, ini­tially to au­di­ences of fewer than 50. Lias says it took a lot of shows be­fore he truly let go of his fear of look­ing fool­ish on­stage. “I think not know­ing what you’re do­ing is a huge el­e­ment of the whole thing for me,” he says. “It’s the only way to in­vite spon­tane­ity and ran­dom­ness into what you do—by be­ing kind of un­aware or de­luded. It took a long time to get com­fort­able, and a lot of drugs. I used to take MDMA and coke to get over the ner­vous­ness—i don’t any­more, just a few drinks or what­ever—but it took years to re­ally get there.”

WHETHER OR NOT THE EL­DER SAOUDI STILL RE­LIES ON CHEM­I­CAL as­sis­tance, it’s hard not to worry about Adam­czewski, who looks like a dead man walk­ing. The 26-year-old’s face is with­ered and sal­low, with mas­sive dark cir­cles around his eyes. His frame is so gaunt that, on the first night we meet, his spine pro­trudes through his dingy ther­mal un­der­shirt. I worry about writ­ing a story that ro­man­ti­cizes rock ex­cess, when he may ac­tu­ally be in dan­ger of killing him­self. When I raise the sub­ject with Lias and Nathan, they un­com­fort­ably crack jokes about him be­ing health­ier than they are. “He’s cool as a car­rot!” says Nathan. “I get sick more than he does,” Lias adds. “He was born with those big black bags un­der his eyes, and he’s miss­ing that tooth, so ev­ery­one thinks he’s dy­ing or some­thing. He eats, he sleeps ev­ery now and then.…”

“To be hon­est, I would say a lot of it is founded on truth,” says Adam­czewski about the band’s he­do­nis­tic rep­u­ta­tion. “I’m be­ing hon­est with you; some of the guys in our band are, like, id­iots and jocks and have no de­sire to re­ally do any­thing other than to take a load of drugs. Ba­si­cally, me and Lias do all the work and the other guys don’t do any­thing. We don’t re­ally get along, so it’s kind of a night­mare, in terms of per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. I don’t know what the goal is any­more be­cause I don’t know how much longer we can do this. I mean, we can make an­other record.…” His voice trails off. (His band­mates de­clined to re­spond.)

Fat White Fam­ily have been work­ing on new songs dur­ing their New York stint, trav­el­ing up­state to record tracks at both Sean Len­non’s hide­away (“the plush­est stu­dio I’ve ever been in,” says Lias) and at pro­ducer Kevin Mcma­hon’s—an old farm­house with an at­tached silo he uses as a re­verb cham­ber. Adam­czewski de­scribes some of the new tracks as “weird at­tempts at easy lis­ten­ing” but notes that, of the nearly 20 songs they’ve got in progress, only three have fin­ished lyrics. “It’s much eas­ier to write mu­sic than it is words, I guess,” he con­cedes. They say they only have un­til this spring to fin­ish their sopho­more al­bum be­fore a long stretch of tour­ing.

“I think what you have to do is just iso­late your­self, not read any­thing writ­ten about you, and force your­self to come to terms with the same anx­i­ety that spurred you on to do the first thing,” Lias says. The band will be headed home to the U.K. in a cou­ple of days, putting their Amer­i­can adventure be­hind them, if not their rep­u­ta­tion as the hard­est-par­ty­ing gang in rock. Jour­nal­ists, Lias says, love to write about drugs, so they need “one of those bands on the scene.” Worse, a few Amer­i­can blogs have even al­leged that, like some of their pre­de­ces­sors in the “next big thing” sweep­stakes, the Saoudi broth­ers are ex­pen­sively ed­u­cated rich kids. “Ev­ery­one is so fuck­ing cyn­i­cal! I don’t mind if peo­ple crit­i­cize the mu­sic, but when peo­ple as­sume we’re posh boys and start pub­lish­ing that as gospel, that’s of­fen­sive. Be­fore this, we were all do­ing crappy jobs, and all of a sud­den, you get an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing you re­ally wanna do, so you go with the flow and take what you can get and try to keep it on the right track. But it is an in­tense pres­sure.” He takes a drink of his Mon­day mar­garita. “This has been the long­est year of my life.” ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.