Cooped up in a warm pub while the snow falls outside, drinking a pint and talking to a local band: that’s exactly what I envisioned would happen when I first moved to Sheffield. Of course, my initial expectations were based on the stereotype that Yorkshire is freezing all year round and pubs in the north heralded the cosy old-English vibe, which is not entirely the case. That aside, after a year and a half of living in Sheffield, my vision did actually come true when I arranged to have a chat with Feral Brood.
The story of how Feral Brood came together is as cliché as our setting. Two of them (Phil and Tom) are brothers, they got to know everyone else through the Sheffield band circuit, three of them (Tom, Phil and Eric) created a band, got bored and decided to go bigger (cue Ash and Dan) and here we have the creation of Feral Brood. Of course, there’s a hell of a lot more to this band than the cliché’s.
They’re currently in the been-there-done-that stage as musicians in local bands. Their bassist Ash remembers seeing Phil and Tom playing in their first band Dodgems back when he was 15; he’s now 23. With that in mind, Feral Brood have learnt from past mistakes and got on-board the ever-growing and ever-successful DIY culture.
See, Feral Brood have been together for a year and have already written, recorded and are in the final stages of releasing their debut album. This album, titled ‘Balloon’, is being launched on 6th April through their own label ‘Dolly Dagger’.
They released their debut EP ‘Into The Woods’ in October, which received great praise across the Sheffield community. When I asked why they didn’t want to release a few more EPs before the album, Tom, the main talker of the bunch, explained: “We were really proud of the EP but we all thought that an album was the next best step.”
Although the most important part of the album is the music, it’s also both fascinating and important to consider the influences behind it. Namely the alt/indie quintet’s decision to take the DIY route, which was an idea that began when five were three and went by the name ‘Elephant Keys’.
Before I continue, it’s important to note that Elephant Keys and Feral Brood are separate bands. Despite absolute dedication to the Feral Brood project, Tom, Phil and Eric have decided not to cut their old band free quite yet; too many fond memories.
Whilst Elephant Keys lay on the back burner, Fat Elephant Studios stands as its unofficial legacy. Set up by the two brothers to aid Elephant Keys in their musical needs, what began as a rehearsal space expanded to a recording studio and has become a place that they all refer to as their second home.
“It’s been great to be able to record our own music and have complete control over how it comes out.” The benefits of having self-control over your recorded work, as Phil went on to explain, has been a great way of refining the sound of the band. “Often the trouble with having keys in a band is that you don’t always get the right live sound. But as we’ve been recording our own material, it’s easier to be more specific with the sound engineer.”
Despite appearing to be an extended version of Elephant Keys, Feral Brood is very different in musicality. Their sound is more creative, more innovative and more melodic. Tom explained: “We wanted a clean slate, one with more instruments, group songwriting and more flexibility to create an original sound.”
From this comment, Eric went on to say that they believe working on these foundations has helped them to make an album that they’re proud of. Essentially, by taking the DIY route with their project, they’ve given themselves the freedom to write and record the album at their own pace. “Perhaps this is why we’ve done it so fast, we’ve had no one else to answer to.” Tom explained that this is something the band ponders on regularly.
“You should know though that we’re not exclusive to the idea of DIY, it’s not something we’ve agreed would be a tangible long term solution.” Dan, the lead vocalist, who has turned up slightly later due to work commitments (life of a musician) contributes.
For a band with such anticipation surrounding them by the Sheffield music scene, they’ve done a surprising low amount of live shows. “We’ve gigged so many times in other projects and in pretty much every Sheffield venue, playing live is the best feeling in the world, but we decided to play less to leave the audience wanting more.” Tom explained this while the others vigorously nodded their heads, it seems that they really have discussed and planned every nook and cranny.
To revert back to the theme of clichés, only time will tell how well reciprocated their debut album will be. From a far more short-term view point, their album launch on 6th April sounds almost like a guaranteed good night, particularly with the help of their close friends and support acts The Young Heavy and Whispering Dolls.
Once our glasses were empty and it was time to brave the cold, I walked away from Feral Brood feeling enlightened by their dedication and enthusiasm to the band. As I’m sure you’ve already gathered, the barbaric assumption made by their name is completely wrong in real life.