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Dawn Of The Fred
Cork art-pop outfit Fred were already one of the most popular live acts in the country, but their latest album, Leaving My Empire - recorded in Montreal with Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman - has found them ascending to a new level of excellence.
Peter Murphy, 03 May 2011
Fred: classically quirky Cork popsters, yes? Well, maybe not. For a start, they're technically only three-fifths Corkonian. For seconds, the groovy videos and witty promo clips belie serious songwriting chops. And thirdly, for their new album Leaving My Empire, the quintet decamped to Montreal to record in Hotel2Tango with producer Howard Bilerman, whose CV includes Godspeed You Black Emperor, Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. Accordingly, it's an elaborately arranged and sometimes melancholic record that encompasses Motown pop, neo-classical and post-rock, with shades of arts lab alumni like Roxy and Bowie on the album's centrepiece 'Fear & Remedies'.
As you join us in the Library Bar in Dublin, drummer Justin O'Mahony and guitarist Jamie Hanrahan are discussing those winter sessions in Hotel2Tango, which we've always imagined as a sort of post-apocalyptic survivalist bunker in the Canadian wasteland.
“It's in a very hip neighborhood in Montreal,” Justin explains. “The actual building was a kind of disused factory or something.”
“It's run by two of the guys from Godspeed and the producer Howard,” adds Jamie. “They were saying that when they moved in there in the early ‘90s it was above a garage, and Godspeed's record came out and they made the cover of the NME in the UK, and suddenly where they were in this really rundown area in Montreal became a mecca for musicians, even from up the east coast of the States.
“And they all migrated there, and basically the place became a hipster-gentrified town and they had to leave the studio because they were priced out of the neighbourhood because property prices went threefold, basically because they started it! But eventually they got this bigger place just across the street, which is where we were, on the edge of town. But it's a great room to play and record in, the live room is a big open space with a wooden floor and a Persian rug.
Jamie: “We had vague ideas of what it was like, and it is quite industrial outside, but when you go in it's this huge space filled with Hammond and Fender Rhodes organs from the last 50 years and old Ludwig kits. Howard said, 'Have a run around there and play everything and see what you like.' He lined up fifteen amps, three of which I'd heard of, all these crazy old makes from yesteryear.”