INTERVIEW: Fickle Friends

Fickle Friends are in the middle of a coming of age experience into adulthood as they head into a deep exploration of the cosmic shift in approaching their late 20’s. ‘Weird Years’ is a direct result of that reflection, and ‘Season 1’ is a snapshot of the beginning moments that involves falling in love, mental health, and just exisiting in the middle of a global pandemic. 

This EP is their first big body of work since their 2018 debut album ‘You Are Someone Else’ which boldly introduced the British four-piece with an energetic and bold indie-pop soundscape. Continuing this sound, ‘IRL’ and ‘Million’ capture that euphoric energy and pulsating production with ear worm hooks that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head immediately. Diving deeper, ‘What A Time’ inserts an inspiration from Mura Masa before ’92’ and ‘Finish Line’ provide a dreamy and heavily reflective vibe that genuinely feels a lot heavier. There’s a lot of growth established between these five tracks that hints towards just where the band will take this next chapter. And it’s exciting as it’s a colourful kaleidoscope of sounds and vivid imagery.

I recently chatted to lead vocalist Natti Shiner from Fickle Friends about the self reflective journey behind ‘Weird Years (Season 1), dived into the creative process of each track from the EP, and reflected on one of the weirdest dates she’s gone on IRL recently. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: ’Weird Years (Season 1)’ opens with ‘What A Time’ which perfectly captures everyone’s thoughts with the state of the last year and attempting to live in the moment. The production really compliments that energy with a blur of distorted synths, so what was sonically inspiring you guys with this track for what you wanted it to embody? 

NATTI SHINER: We had been listening to a lot of the new Mura Masa album, and we loved how it perfectly bridged that lo-fi dance music indie feel. It was something we hadn’t really done before, but we were listening to it so much, especially ‘Teenage Headache Dreams’ with Ellie Roswell from Wolf Alice. 

I was listening to that song so much, and it really just captured that chaotic feeling while also feeling like such an escape. When we came up with the concept of ‘What A Time’, it wasn’t even a thought really. Jack just started mapping out the drums, and it just happened to be in that similar vain. 

TB: In the song you reference getting messed up to ’N.E.R.D’ and MGMT in lockdown. So who is an artist or an album that you surprised yourself in taking solace with during lockdown?

NS: We wrote ‘What A Time’ because I needed something uplifting as I was listening to a lot of sad girl music at the time. I made a playlist on my Spotify called Sad Girl Indie, and it’s just artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy, girl in red and King Princess. So I’ve just been massively absorbed by that sound. But in this current lockdown I’ve gone back to some old records that really uplift me like ‘Colors’ from Beck, and ‘From Nowhere’ by Dan Croll. 

With the ’N.E.R.D and MGMT references, it was just really the music I was dancing to at festivals before lockdown. 

TB: Is there any Sasha Sloan on your Sad Girl Indie playlist, because I feel like that is a must on there?

NS: Yeah, I think there is a Sasha Sloan song in there *laughs*. She literally markets herself as the ultimate sad girl. 

TB: ’92’ is a dreamy love song that is all about love without boundaries and complications. Comparing the innocent state to childhood, the music video saw you cutting together footage from your home videos. How emotional was it seeing supercuts of your life soundtracked visually to this particular track? 

NS: I cried so much! We were trying to come up with an idea for the video and we were in another lockdown. ’92’ to me is literally the idea of waiting your whole life since birth to meet your soulmate. So I was pretty sure that somewhere my dad had tapes from my childhood that we could use to capture that essence. 

I was born in Switzerland, and it was all very beautiful. To be honest I was worried about it looking far too privileged because I did have a very lucky start to my life. But we found all these videos and converted them to digital and Jack had to go through them and was crying for days because of how sweet it was .

It’s so crazy when you put it to music because it just takes on a whole new feeling. Like my dad speaking over it in the beginning, and all the snow, it’s just so beautiful and a nice moment. 

TB: Did it add another perspective or emotion to the song for you after doing the video? 

NS: Yeah, because it almost took on something different as it wasn’t just my love for a soulmate, but also a love for your family. 

TB: ’Million’ is a straight up love song that is about knowing that someone is special from the moment you meet them. With its romantic storyline and pure pop production, it reminded me a bit of what could be the next chapter of a song like ‘Glue’. Have you ever looked at any songs you’ve written as a continuation or sister track?

NS: I’ve definitely very subtly put words in different places which are subliminal little clues that the songs are linked. ‘Pretty Great’ came out at the start of last year, and a couple of months ago I wrote this new song that is going to be on the album, and the key line in that song is “your pretty great, but why could you just be better”. So it’s kinda the continuation of the narrative of ‘Pretty Great’. 

Thinking about it now, I have actually done it a few times. I guess ‘Million’ was really a continuation of ‘Glue’ because of the narrative in my own life, but I don’t think I thought about it initially. It came about really naturally because the place I was in when I wrote ‘Glue’ was that I used to write all these songs about unrequited love and always pining for something I don’t have. And then I got it and I wrote ’92’, ‘Million’ and all of these songs about having it, and then I lost it again. 

TB: So we have a bit of heartbreak coming in ‘Season 2’ then?

NS: Oh my god, Season 2 is just…. sad! 

TB: ‘IRL’ is an absolute anthem of the times and hears you reflecting on the endless conversations of online dating and just wanting to meet someone in real life to actually see if you have chemistry. So can you explain the creative process behind this track? 

NS: So weirdly I actually wrote this song two years ago before any of this happened. I wrote it by myself with a couple of guys called Artery. We weren’t writing for Fickle Friends, we were writing just for the sake of writing, and potentially for pitch. ‘IRL’ is the first song we wrote, and I was just like I think this bangs, and my manager at the time was like “this fucking bangs”. So I took it to the boys, but I didn’t think they would like it, and because I wrote it without them I thought they’d just stick in their noses up. I pretty much just made that whole narrative up in my head. And it kinda did happen I guess. Harry was like I love this, but Jack didn’t really say anything. So the song kinda just got shelved, which was a bit sad. 

I must’ve had this crystal ball or something because at the time I wrote the song about dating and not being able to see them, and that feeling of speaking for so long and eventually meeting and maybe it just being shit. So when it came to finalising the track listing for ‘Season 1, ‘IRL’ wasn’t on it, and instead we had this song called ‘Please Myself’ which was cool, but we thought that people didn’t really want to listen to a song that was all about “me, me, me, me”.So we were trying to find a song to replace it and Jack pulled out ‘IRL’ and was like this is cool, so we started working on it. It’s so crazy how relevant this song is right now. It’s kinda perfect, as it feels like it was meant to be shelved so it could have its time. It completely describes being single in the middle of a lockdown in a pandemic. It’s just not for me, I can’t stand it. 

TB: Dating through the social media age can be really strange. So what is one of the weirdest dates you’ve been on after meeting someone online? 

NS: I did have a weird one, yeah *laughs*! It wasn’t so much that it was super strange, but it was as the course of the evening went on, more crazy stuff happened. It felt like a comedy sketch. I went to meet this guy while the pubs were still open here, and immediately for me I just knew that he wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t feeling it, but I thought we could have a nice evening and have some drinks. 

When we were trying to order drinks at the pub through the app, the app conveniently wasn’t working for him so I had to order all the drinks the whole evening. I was also just having to speak so much, and like oh my god I can chat for England so you never have to worry about things being awkward, but it’s a lot of effort when it’s just you speaking. He just wasn’t interested in asking me anything, so I had to lead all the questions, and he was quite a vanilla person and really dry. 

This guy from Kenya then started talking to us and sat down at our table, and he was really cool. The guy I was on a date with went to the loo, and while he was gone I nearly got hit in the head by a pint from a rowdy bunch of Australians who were having a party. They were knocking pints off the roof, so I nearly died and the public erupted into “omg, are you okay”, and suddenly I had a table of eight people joining me and having this lovely time. My date comes back and goes “who are all these people?”, and I’m like “oh, these are my new friends”. So now we had this big eight person buffer between me and my date, and we just had such a great time. There were so many cool different characters who were so animated and interesting. They were buying shots, and more and more people were joining the table. So before I knew it the pub was closing and it was time to go home, and my date and I went to unlock our bikes to go home and he tried to kiss me and I was just like “oh, this is really not the vibe, I think you’ve read this wrong”. So I cycled home, and the message I got from him was like “I had the best time ever, I’d love to hang with you again” and I was like ehhh… So I didn’t see him again, but it was a very eventful night *laughs*. 

TB: The closing track ‘Finish Line’ is a cinematic reflection on mental health, and how time can really be the biggest source of help. There’s a lyric that really stood out to me that goes “You think there’s a shelf life to this happiness you’re working on. I wanna talk to you about the fact I used to feel alone”. – I honestly think that lyric is so powerful in creating a conversation. How important was it for you to take a moment to talk about this on this EP?

NS: ‘Finish Line’ is my favourite song off ‘Weird Years’! It’s a pretty amazing thing when we go on tour, because people ask me what my favourite bit is, and honestly my favourite part of shows is doing the meet and greet afterwards. Maybe it’s because I’ve put it out there through some of the music, but people are very open with me and they’ll come say hi and get a picture with me and then they’ll tell me about their mental health and how our music has connected with them. There’s no filter, they can tell me everything. 

I’ve been in their shoes, and it’s not like I’ve conquered anything but I can relate to them and empathise. All I say back is how time heals all wounds, and by speaking about it that’s the most beautiful thing. So when I wrote ‘Finish Line’, I imagined that conversation, and that’s what I wrote. It’s really just a conversation between two people but in song form. 

TB: This EP takes listeners on a bit of a journey through romantic love, self-love, and mental health, and the way the songs were placed felt very strategic as you were taking us on a journey of the highs and lows. So when you were selecting the order for these songs, what were you hoping listeners would take away from listening to it in its entirety.

NS: With ‘What A Time’, it was an immediate escape, and a journey into another world that you could remain in for the rest of it. The middle wasn’t too strategic as we knew we wanted to open with ‘What A Time’ and close with ‘Finish Line’, as it felt like the perfect credits rolling song in a movie. 

I always think of things if we were to play it live, and the level of energy we’d need to be, and what people would be wanting to feel. ‘What A Time’ is a lot of energy, so you need a moment to breathe and you need ’92’ to relax into things. ‘Million’ is then something you could strut down the street to, and helps get the energy back up for ‘IRL’. And then the end credits roll with ‘Finish Line’. 

TB: It’s been three years since you released your debut album ‘You Are Someone Else’, so what is something you learned about yourselves as a band through creating and then touring that album that you’ve then brought into your new music? 

NS: ‘You Are Someone Else’ was like a coming of age moment as it was an amalgamation of  everything since starting the band. It’s weird for every band, as you have a mix of things you wrote years ago that you’ve always wanted on your debut album mixed with new songs that you want to include as you think everything new you write is the best thing you’ve ever written. So ‘You Are Someone Else’ is weird because there’s all these super old songs we love like ‘Say No More’, ‘Swim’ and ‘Paris’, and then there’s a bunch of stuff we wrote while in the recording studio like ‘Bite’ and ‘Midnight’. So it’s weird listening to it as I could pinpoint the exact moment we wrote every track, and it’s over such a vast amount of time. I was such a different person throughout every song as it expanded over something like six years. 

Finishing that, and then it coming out was a big coming of age moment. Being able to step into this new era of ‘Weird Years’ is like everything is so bubbling on the surface, and everything we write is so of this time. You’ll definitely hear it in ‘Season 2’. The lead track from it is called ‘Cosmic Coming Of Age’, because that’s kinda what it’s been. Everything has been leading up to this moment, and you hit 27/28, and everyone talks about that cosmic shift and the Saturn return, and everything just falls apart before you turn 30. Everything feels so difficult, and you have your most difficult time ever, but it’s a test and it’s in order for you to become the person you’re meant to be. So that’s kinda what ‘Weird Years’ is, it’s about living through that weird fucking time and trying to come out on the other side. 

TB: Reflecting back on that album and the string of singles that followed, what would you say was the portal song that influenced the vision for ‘Weird Years (Season 1)?

NS: It was ‘Amateurs’ actually! Straight after the album our management were like you need to put out an EP and keep things ticking over. So we wrote a few songs pretty quickly, and that was the ‘Broken Sleep’ EP which didn’t really feel like a moment, and instead felt like quite a throwaway. I like the songs on it, but in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it. I’m not embarrassed by the songs, they are just not our best work. 

We then took time away, and when we were writing ‘Amateurs’ and ‘Pretty Great’, which are two of my favourite songs, they were meant to go on one long album. So we started an album campaign and then the pandemic happened and we had to rethink how we were going to do the ‘Weird Years’  stuff, which is where we came up with doing the different instalments.

But ‘Amateurs’ was just a different sound and got us excited. It’s not the biggest song, or the most Fickle Friends vibey song, but it was just fun and allowed us to walk through new territory. It just felt like a new chapter, and that song led us to writing ‘Pretty Great’ which I love and I’m super proud of.

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions. You ready?

NS: Yes! *screams*. 

TB: The emotion that best describes ‘Weird Years (Season 1) is…

NS: Chaos!

TB: A new hobby I’ve had during lockdown has been …

NS: Stick and poke tattoos.

TB: When I think of Australia I think of…

NS: Kangaroos!

TB: If I could have any superpower it would be to…

NS: Teleport! Then I could be sitting on the couch next to you and doing this IRL

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

NS: Absolutely a travesty! It’s a crime! 

‘Weird Years (Season 1)’ is out now!