#YMXINTERVIEW | FENDAHLENE in conversation: ‘BURNT OUT’

Fendahlene is an indie-pop/rock outfit based in London, formed by Australian expats. They released powerful single ‘Burnt Out’ in the beginning of summer, in anticipation of the album ‘High And Low And Back Again’. Intrigued by their catchy sound and upfront attitude, we went and found out more…


YMX: Can you tell us about yourself as an artist? Where are you now, how you started, and what are your goals. 

FENDAHLENE: We formed in Sydney, Australia in 1994, as a three-piece (the classic line up – guitar, bass and drums). Ash (bass), myself (guitar and vocals) and Ben Felton (drums) were high school friends. We’d all messed around in bands at school but it wasn’t until after uni that we finally decided to put something serious together But even then, we took our time, spending almost a year writing and rehearsing until we played our first gig as Fendahlene in December 1995 After that, we became a regular fixture on the Sydney live music circuit during the late 90s and early 2000s, and we released an album and a couple of EPs. I moved to the UK in 2006 and Ash headed to Germany shortly after to study, so the band went into hibernation for a while. However, we still kept writing, and when Ash moved to the UK we started rehearsing again and putting finishing touches on the huge backlog of songs that we’d accumulated – and one of those songs was “Burnt Out”, the first single from our new album “High and Low and Back Again”. We’re now the middle of promoting the single and the album and we are itching to get back out there and playing live. These new songs are made for playing live, and we looking forward to being able to play for an audience again.

YMX: Some of our readers might not be familiar with you yet, how would you describe your sound? 

FENDAHLENE: I think our sound has changed over the years. When we started out we had more of an indie/punk sound, which reflected the music that was being played on the Sydney live scene back then. But over time our sound broadened and became more reflective of our various musical influences – we have songs that are more melodic pop-rock, others with an alt-country/Americana flavour, and others with a blues-rock feel. I think that a common denominator with our songs is that there is always a good melody, and they are generally songs that work both with a full band as well as on an acoustic guitar.

YMX: Who have been your biggest influences so far? 

FENDAHLENE: Where to begin! I think that, as musician, everything you hear comes out eventually in what you play, and so the list of influences is potentially endless! We both love 60s music – the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, The Byrds, the Beach Boys to name a few – and we also love 60s and 70s blues rock, as well as Stax and Motown. And of course, growing up in the 80s and early 90s. we were heavily influenced by grunge and bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam. Australia also has a long pub rock tradition that has spawned bands such as Midnight Oil and INXS, and we naturally have those influences as well. Finally, there are some fantastic new unsigned indie bands that we have gotten to know recently – and I am sure that they will also influence the music we write in the future.

YMX: You recently released the single ‘Burnt Out’. Can you tell us how that project came about? 

FENDAHLENE: “Burnt Out” is the first single from our album, “ High and Low and Back Again”. We recorded it at Urchin Studios in East London, with Matt Ingram on drums. Matt’s drumming credits include Laura Marling, Florence and the Machine, Tom Odell, and Sammy Brue, among many others. We’d built up a huge backlog of songs over the years since we’d moved to the UK, and so in early 2018 we started the process of tidying them up and recording demos so that we could properly take stock of what we had. It became clear fairly early on that we had the makings of an album, and, importantly that there was a body of songs that seemed to have had a common thread that, when collected together, charted an emotional journey, high and low and back again…. We chose “Burnt Out” to be the first single because it nicely encapsulates the themes that run through the rest of the album – uncertainty about where we fit in today’s world, dissatisfaction with the political and social order, frustration with the concentration of digital power, and dismay at the manipulation of information and social media – but it also expresses hope and confidence that things can change for the better.

YMX: 2020 has been a hard year for everybody, but the music industry and arts in general took a heavy hit. How did you guys cope with that, musically speaking? 

FENDAHLENE: We were very lucky because we had our final half-speed mastering session for the vinyl release just before lockdown started, and so we were able to get the album pressed and ready before everything shut down. Like everyone else, we spend the first month or so of lockdown wondering what to do and how this was going to affect the single and album release. We, of course, have been able to release the single and album digitally and we’ve found that. – perhaps paradoxically, given the subject matter of “Burnt Out” – that social and digital media have enabled us to push ahead and promote our music effectively. We’ve also – inadvertently and quite unexpectedly – found ourselves a part of a community of other indie artists who are all the same boat, promoting their music in the same way as us.

YMX: Do you consider important working together in a team, or do you prefer working alone? 

FENDAHLENE: I think it’s always better working as a team. The initial idea for a melody, lyric or riff is something that we might come up with independently, but I think it’s important to work together to develop that idea and craft it into a song. Having another person to work with gives you a sounding board and a different perspective. And that team ethos is expanded even further when you get into the studio and start working with other musicians, producers or engineers.

YMX: What are you looking for, in terms of promotion? What do you think could be helpful to promote your music around? 

FENDAHLENE: Getting the single and album out there and heard by as many people as possible is the objective – ideally in a way that allows the listener to have a chance to properly connect with what we are trying to say. With the availability of streaming and social media it’s never been easier to get your music out to a wide audience, but ideally we’d hope that all those first-time listeners become repeat listeners and ultimately long-term fans. And I think that to get to that stage it’s important to get your work reviewed – both by publications such as this but also by other musicians and friends – because I think that people will make more of a connection with a song if they have actively sought it out after hearing good things about it, rather than just hearing it at random in the background (although that can also be a great way to discover new music). And, of course, the other way to help develop that connection with the lister is to play the songs live.

YMX: What does playing live represent for you? a way to make yourself known or a way to express yourself? 

FENDAHLENE: For us, playing live is crucial. We started out as pub band, playing live gigs across Sydney 3 nights a week, and that’s where we honed our musical chops and learned how to communicate with an audience and to get a song across. And, apart from anything else, it’s also great fun.

YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future? (releases, gigs etc.) 

FENDAHLENE: Once the lockdown is over we are keen to get out and start gigging again around the UK and Europe. We plan to start gigging acoustically with just the two of us, because we can do that relatively easily and at a moment’s notice. We want to do some full band gigs after that – we have our fingers crossed that things will have returned sufficiently to normal by next year’s summer festival season. And, finally, we will go back into the studio to make a new album; although we may do it in chunks to satisfy the needs of the streaming world.


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