Interview with Famous
Famous talk self-myth making in The Valley of young adulthood
In anticipation to their show at MOMO Festival in April, we met up with Jack Merrett, singer of the British outfit Famous. Rising from the London underground scene with an eclectic style that mixes post-punk, Americana and electronic sounds, the band is experimenting its way to an unapologetic pop style. Layered by his performative American accent, Jack’s on-stage persona is a mix of spontaneity and drama, inspired by personalities like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and David Bowie.
The singer and lyricist dives into his outspoken storytelling, explaining how he draws from personal experience and melts it with fantasy, creating a sort of romantic self-myth making. The Jack of his songs-confessions becomes then a fictional character, and both the author and the listener can see the tragic hero in perspective.
This writing allows to cut his own experience into shape, to be honest with himself and with the people involved. “I work really hard on that, to make sure that I am as fair as I can to everyone who might pop up in a song, because I rarely think that I’m in the right”, he admits.
The writing process takes over spontaneously with curative effects then, because it reconciles negative experiences, relieving tension from private issues and real facts that might feel uncomfortable otherwise. “I suppose I find it effective because it puts your own struggle into perspective and I guess I can slightly laugh at my kind of pettiness”.
In that sense, the band’s name is also dualistic and self-ironic: there is a part of Jack who is afraid it could all be ridiculous and in his modesty he’s genuinely surprised at any success they had. On the other hand, a part of him wants to prove wrong that feeling of inadequacy and be on the spotlight. But “that’s one interesting thing of music: you start with something so personal and the moment you share it – from one person to the record – you lose control, it has its own life now. Whatever amount of work you put into it, you can’t control the way someone feels, it takes on their life and that’s actually really great and exciting”.
Famous’ last EP The Valley is a metaphor of the passage among the peaks of life, wandering in the ups and downs of the twenties, but also struggling to find the best path towards adulthood.
The many facets of the quarter life crisis reflect in the heterogeneous soundscape of the record. Take the title track for instance, the muted bass guitar mimics a muffled walk in the Valley, where the vocalist’s ASMR is distressed by samples of tapping guitar solos coming from the sides.
It’s especially with the song The Beatles that the themes become universal through their music representation. The anthemic track, showcased for the first time during an iconic rooftop concert, revolves around a glorious piano progression that builds up to an epic closing performance of the EP. Different Jack’s personas layer up here, he claims: “in moments like that I think I was connecting to a more intuitive and more emotional place, overthinking it probably less”. The nostalgic sentiment takes over the music with a melodic élan that brightens up the whole arrangement.
Speaking about their music composition, Famous’ creativity seems to be channeled towards an open canvas, where every sound palette is allowed, every shape is welcomed. On this side, Merrett is supported by drummer Danny Sanders and bassist George Gardner who also arrange the rest of the instruments and invite the best possible musicians to join during the studio sessions. That started from productive uncertainty, but became a strength recording The Valley, inspired by production visionaries like Kanye West or Kendrick Lamar.
“Our internal experience [as humans] is chaotic, confusing, contradicting and so, in some ways, a very abstract depiction of this room might convey more what it’s like to be in this room.”
Interview: Luca Dattisi
Photos: Alessandro Mariscalco
Hosted by: untitled (recs)
Famous will perform at MOMO Festival 22 on Friday, 22 April, along with Sad Night Dynamite, Katy J Pearson, Enola Gay and many more.