DIY with Hard Fi

Hard Fi’s Richard Archer talks to Patrick Freyne about building a studio, indie snobbery and having your foot run over by an angry American.

Hard Fi are unapologetic about wanting to be as big as Eminem. Now, this kind of aspirational thinking doesn’t go down well with the grass-roots, DIY indie community. But Hard-Fi are actually as DIY as you get. Yes, they self-recorded their first mini-album, but for album number two (Once Upon A Time In The West) they built a whole studio – with hammers and nails and plaster and spirit levels.

“We couldn’t find a studio that caught the imagination for us, so we decided to build one,” says a bright eyed Richard Archer. “Our old studio was quite small, but we noticed that a bigger room next door was vacant. So we decided we’d knock through the wall. We found out how to build soundproof walls on the internet and started to break the wall down – which was a fucking stupid thing to do because no-one had a clue how to do it. Ross [Philips, guitarist] had told me he had a CDT [craft, design and technology] GCSE so I thought – he’s got to have half a clue about what he’s doing. But it turns out he hadn’t. In the end we should have done a TV show out of it called DIY SOS.”

Was it worth it?

“It was totally worth it. It meant we could do the album in the same studio we were used to. We were comfortable being there. We worked well there. Of course we didn’t have a sink for three months.”

Hard Fi are a band that are very conscious of their roots, and the ordinary lives they came from and which their friends are still living. Unlike the bevy of bands preaching to lost souls, indie poets and outsider urchins, Hard Fi are making anthems for housing estate everymen and every-women. They’re striving for universalism. So why do they feel like outsiders?

“We’ve always been a bit out of sync with the indie scene,” proffers Archer. “When we started out, we felt like nobody was making music about people like us. It seemed natural to talk about our own lives and it made sense to have an ‘all are welcome’ approach to our music and our audience. But some people don’t like that. I was just asked by one interviewer ‘Why should the readers of our magazine come to your shows where they see all these people from different walks of life? Why should they think you’re one of their bands?’ Isn’t that a weird question? Different walks of life... God forbid you might run into someone from a ‘different walk of life’”

But does he worry he’ll lose his connection to the ordinary folk he grew up with, now that his band are famous?

“We were worried about losing that connection,” he acknowledges. “People were saying ‘How can you write about cash machines when you’ve got money in the bank?’ and you can get really get caught up in that stuff. But you can’t think about it too much or you’d write nothing. The big difference was that with the first album, it started as a single, became an EP, that became a mini-album and that became an album. We never had to sit down and say ‘We’re making an album’. With the second one we knew it was an album and there was a danger at the start that we’d second guess ourselves too much.”

Guitarist Ross arrives and the pair start talking about the mixed emotions that come with touring. Apparently Hard Fi fans have a tendency to sing along to every song, and turn gigs into carnivals, but this all depends on the town.

“Munich’s a wealthy town, for example,” explains Archer (they’ve just played a spate of German gigs). “So they were all kind of reserved. In the more industrial towns they don’t give a shit – they just want a good night.”

Pokeno in the USA was a different story. When the band’s van broke down there, they encountered an angry public at a local bar.

“Some big American guy started trying to fight me because he said I was cheating at pool,” says Ross.

Were you?

“Nah, but I was stroking his bird’s hair.”

“And then the same guy ran over my shoe in his car,” says Richard Archer. “He just missed my toe but I was still pinned down.”

Does this sort of thing happen often?

“Not really,” Archer continues. “We’re usually quite disciplined – you get drunk every night and it starts to affect your performance. We’re ambitious about what we’re doing and we’re not ashamed of it. In hip-hop that sort of aspirational thing is considered to be a good thing, while in indie music, people are a bit weird about it. There’s also a smalltown mentality where people think that being in a band is grand for a while, but that then you have to go on to do a real job. Any sort of success is – ‘not for the likes of us’. Well we think it is for the likes of us and we hope other people look at us and say: ‘If they can do it so can we’.”


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