Make It Music: Fenech Soler
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Inspired by disco, old soul vocal harmony groups and an unwavering love of pop music, Fenech-Soler have already built an international underground following; and we’re massive fans.
Brothers Ben and Ross Duffy are pioneering British Electropop music with a sound infused by summery indie rock riffs and electronic synth notes.
The band’s new album ZILLA, released in February this year via So Recordings, heralds an exciting new chapter for the Northamptonshire band. Loaded with personality, the album – named after a close friend – is packed full of positive and energetic pop tracks. The duo have also embarked on a 16-stop ‘ZILLA’ tour this year, seeing them play gigs in New York and Los Angeles before returning to perform across the UK and then Europe.
Kaleidoscope, the opening track on the recent Kaleidoscope EP, was premiered by Huw Stephens on Radio 1 and is described by Noisey as “3:39 of pure joy.” The EP itself, which features four songs also found on ZILLA, has been streamed over a million times already.
For their Make It Music session, Fenech-Soler have recorded an exclusive version of Kaleidoscope for us, along with a stripped-back cover of Show Me Love by Robin S – one of the biggest club hits of the nineties.
Make It Music was lucky enough to catch up with Ben and Ross Duffy after their session at Metropolis Studios. Here’s what the guys had to say for themselves:
For anyone not familiar with Fenech-Soler, how would you describe your music?
B.D. That’s a tricky one. We’ve always been influenced by electronic music and that really comes through in our sound. We probably have more synthesizers than we do stringed instruments. But overall, if you were to draw a line between pop music and electronic music, electropop is probably somewhere whereabouts we are.
R.D. We like to write choruses, so we love pop music.
How would you sum up the new album Zilla in three hashtags?
#bright #colourful #pop
What was your favourite part of creating the album?
B.D. In the early stages of making the record, we spent some time in America working with a producer called Jacknife Lee. Actually, a lot of what we did there didn’t kind of make the end cut – bits and pieces did, but it was very experimental.
R.D. We were probably enjoying the place more than recording there.
B.D. That’s probably why none of it made the cut, as we were just experimenting for two months. It was really good fun, though.
Two of your members made the decision to exit the band. How are you finding the dynamic of being a duo, especially as you are brothers?
R.D. It has felt really natural for us to be in the situation when it’s just me and Ben, because we’ve always written the music for Fenech-Soler, so it feels quite natural for us to be performing together.
B.D. It’s obviously different from when there were four of us in the band, but ultimately Ross and I have always written Fenech-Soler’s music and we write with the live environment in our heads. It’s always at the forefront when we are writing. To transfer that into playing something live is natural really and we’ve enlisted our cousin on drums, so it’s a bit of a family affair now. We are starting a new tour tomorrow, so we’re having a lot of fun.
R.D. Decision-making has become a lot easier too, with two of us rather than four.
Who’s the eldest?
R.D. Ben is.
B.D. Yeah, I’m the elder of the two of us
Does that mean you are the boss?
B.D. No, not particularly.
R.D. No, definitely not!
B.D. I think we have a mutual respect for each other when it comes to decision-making. If one of us doesn’t like a certain thing – or if we don’t agree on a certain thing – then it doesn’t go forward. I trust Ross’ artistic compass probably more than my own.
R.D. I think that’s what’s good about being brothers in a band is that we can be brutally honest with each other. We might spark up an argument with each other for two minutes but then it goes back to normal. We’ve grown up together and always lived together. It works hand in hand with the production and making an album. It’s good in that way.
Were there any differing music tastes between the two of you growing up?
R.D. [To Ben] I remember you liking Crash Test Dummies.
B.D. That’s definitely not going online!
R.D. I just did not get it…
B.D. I learnt how to play drums to Crash Test Dummies, Sting and The Police – a lot of ‘80s stuff. But I guess we came online together pretty quickly in terms of what we are listening to. But Ross tends to listen to a lot of new music and I listen to a lot of the stuff he listens to really. He explores more than I do.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
R.D. We grew up going to a lot of gigs. We grew up with our dad, who was a musician, and we did a lot of travelling around with him, so we have all these memories of going to festivals and things like that. The first ticket that I actually bought was probably Wheatus.
B.D. Oh my god, was it? Where?
R.D. In Nottingham.
B.D. Amazing. So it was Crash Test Dummies and Wheatus! Fenech-Soler is the coolest band around [laughs].
What are you listening to at the moment?
R.D. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Temptations recently. They’re an old soul band with some great hits. I hadn’t really heard much of their music before. I Shazammed a track that was on the radio and then listened to their back catalogue, it was amazing.
B.D. D.D Dumbo is an artist I’ve been listening to quite a lot. The album is incredible.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
R.D. I would always love to collaborate with Bjork.
B.D. That’s aiming high!
R.D. Yeah, aiming high. But it would be amazing to get in the studio and do something with her.
B.D. D.D. Dumbo would be pretty cool, but he’s much cooler than us.
So, you’re starting your tour tomorrow. Where are you most looking forward to playing?
B.D. I think for us, generally the U.K. I know we’re picking a city there. London has always been our biggest shows and it’s the biggest show on this tour, but it’s been a while since we’ve gone out and done a U.K. tour and played it live. We’ve been the America for the last couple of weeks promoting out there, so we’re really looking forward to those dates, too.
R.D. We look at it all equally, really.
B.D. Where we are from is pretty much in between Nottingham and Norwich, so both of those are weirdly like hometown shows. But then London feels like a hometown show too.
What are your tour essentials?
R.D. A toothbrush.
B.D. A four-way extension lead that you can plug multiple things into, that you can keep in your bag and that isn’t related to equipment you get in a hotel. And there’s one power – you can plug it in and everything works – phone, laptop, iPad. That’s the one thing that I always seem to put in my bag.
R.D. Also, something to watch. There’s a lot of time to kill.
So what’s in-store for the rest of the year?
B.D. So we’re about to embark on this U.K. tour and we’re announcing our next American tour. That will take us into the summer. Then there will be some festivals and stuff. But we’re kind of venturing out in terms of where we’ve released this album; some countries where we’ve never released music as a band. It’s really nice to go to these places where nobody has heard of us. There are also a lot of places where we have been where people still don’t know us. We’re just looking forward to getting out and seeing new parts of the world. It’s a nice part of being in a band – a privilege, really.
What’s your most used emoji?
B.D. Have we ever had an argument about the use of emojis? They’re hard because you put them on and you think: “does that look a bit weird?”. Maybe the little stars.
R.D. My first one is the thumbs-up. The other’s a glass of wine.
What would your super power be?
R.D. Flight. Actually not flight, I hate flying.
B.D. You’re the worst flyer ever. For me levitation and flying would be super cool.
R.D. Money. Is that a super power? I know that’s what Batman hides behind. So, money. Loads of it.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
B.D. It’s kind of boring, but we really like to monitor what’s going on in the pop world. The reason is that it is really hard to write that music. Some people think it’s easy to write that style of music and that it’s pretty 2D and processed, but it’s actually super hard.
R.D. I really like Katy Perry. I think her music is pretty good.