When Brighton quartet FUR first began pricking up ears back in 2017, their early moves seemed imbued with more than a dash of good fortune. Without any big money campaign, that autumn’s jangling, sepia-tinged third single ‘If You Know That I’m Lonely’ went borderline viral on Youtube, amassing millions of streams over the following months; currently, it stands on more than 30 million plays across all platforms.
But since then, the band – comprised of singer Murray, bassist Tav, guitarist Josh and drummer Flynn – have set about confirming that their early algorithmic victories were no fluke. Breaking into the Asian market, building an increasingly strong community in their native UK and now heading into their debut album, FUR’s is a tale not of flukey success, but of playing the long game. Of utilising those moments when the universe throws you a bone – sure, but of knowing that a real career needs to be built on stronger foundations than just a lucky break.
Formed in 2015 in the seaside town that the band still call home, FUR’s mantra has been solid from the off: influenced equally by the classic songwriting of the ’60s and more current bands like The Strokes and The Maccabees, “it’s always been about the blend of that retro feel and modern indie,” Murray explains, “and I always feel like it needs to be either the production or the song that has one or the other. We’re trying to find the perfect blend of not going too far either way.”
Following that first hit up with a string of singles and last year’s debut self-titled EP, what FUR have specialised in to date is this ability to mix the old and the new, to take a particularly nostalgic strain of lovelorn guitar music but make it sound fresh again. It’s a niche that sits pleasingly out of step with much of British guitar music right now (“I think it would have been easy to jump on the wave of post-punk, but as much as we respect all those bands there’s more longevity in us doing what we actually believe in,” notes Tav), but one that’s earned the band an increasing tribe of supporters for just that reason.
Garnering acclaim from the likes of BBC 6 Music, NME, DIY and So Young, the band spent the latter half of 2019 heading off on their largest UK tour to date, including a victorious stop-off at London’s Scala which they fondly remember as “everything [they’d] hoped for”. The following month, they headed to Asia – a territory that’s taken the band to their hearts as early adopters; having first played there in 2018, they returned as headliners, playing 500-capacity shows in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. This year meanwhile, before the pandemic struck, FUR were due to embark on their first US trip.
But though Covid may have scuppered that plan along with the rest of the world’s ambitions for 2020, the band have used the time to keep those fast-forming relationships close – nurturing the fan Whatsapp group that they created to “have that community, send them bits of demos, get people excited”, and releasing their recent ‘Facing Home Mixtape’, a collection partially recorded during lockdown that marks the quartet’s most wide-ranging and varied output to date.
“We knew we’d be facing this fairly long period of uncertainty, and we knew that by the time we got to the album we didn’t want these songs to be forgotten,” says Murray. “Even if you just record a demo, if you as the writer can sit there and enjoy listening to it then why wouldn’t someone else? We had a year where we made some changes, so we wanted people to hear how we’d been developing our sound.”
One such change was the decision to completely trust their own instincts and produce everything in-house. Having worked with outside producers on their previous singles, the experience, they explain, was a valuable one but one that proved that no-one knew their band as well as themselves. “In me and Josh we have two strong producers,” says Murray, “and so we decided to record and mix everything on the mixtape ourselves.” Dipping their toes into folkier waters (‘Close the Curtain’) and more straight-up indie (’17 to 8′) alongside the classic harmonies and swoonsome melodies that they’ve come to be known for, it’s a release that sees FUR truly harnessing all the components that make them unique. And now, they’re about to head into the studio to finally lay down the debut that they’ve been steadily working towards for the past half-decade.
In keeping with their increasingly fine-tuned fusion of sounds and immediately recognisable aesthetic (“At the Kuala Lumpur gig, we ended up being there for over two hours signing records and so many of them had Tav’s little baker boy cap,” Murray grins), it’s a record that, unsurprisingly, has also already been meticulously thought through. “My pet hate is when you really enjoy a band and then when they release an album it’s just a greatest hits and you’ve already heard the songs. We’re gonna be giving people an album-worth of new material,” the singer informs. “We don’t want it to be a concept album, but we want it to be more conceptual in terms of the musical themes, the track order and to make it feel like one entity. It might be a bit brave, but I’m gonna try.”
And, having learnt that success is a marathon not a sprint, FUR’s debut is set to reap the rewards of their patience: an album that knows exactly what it is, from a band who’ve spent time, care and effort in whittling their talents to a razor-sharp point.