words: Jason Karlson
pics: Phillip Rhodes
April - May 2004
Jason Karlson meets up with Hull’s ferocious guitar darlings, The Favours. And then interviews them.
True story: It must have been a few years ago when a good friend of mine stumbled through my front door after a night with a few of his friends (mainly Mr Jack Daniels and Glen Fiddich) talking quickly and fervently about this extraordinary "incredible, loud band but, you know, with this bird singing" before sprawling out unconscious across the couch. This band with the, ahem, "bird singing" is of course The Favours.
Having played a string of gigs across Hull from the Adelphi to Moriarty's. They've recently travelled further afield to play the Barfly in London, in their opinion, one of their best ever gigs.
"We took a coach down so there were a lot of the 'Favour-ites' there. It's always when the crowd really gets into it. As long as we enjoy ourselves that's all that matters."
After two years of gigs and a few stinkers in terms of attendance in their early days, they know when they've had a good one.
"We know we've had a good gig when all of us come off stage with big smiles across our faces. We may not have played perfectly but everyone's enjoyed themselves."
Tonight they're playing at the opening night of "Red Brick" in the rich chocolate brown interior of the Rhythm Rooms upper level. The upmarket venue being reduced to looking like a slightly posher version of the Adelphi after a ton of battered amps and liberal amounts of duct tape are applied. The chandeliers give an air of sophistication and mood lighting and when the bands start lasers that wouldn't look out of place at a rave (but fit in quite well here) are switched on.
We're downstairs during soundchecks and sat around the table I'm joined by Sara (Lead vocals/Guitar) Martin (Bass/Backing Vocals) and Paul (guitar/Backing vocals) their drummer Carl is absent but arrives later on stage to complete the set up. The band are relaxed and in high spirits over tonight's impending performance. The calm before the storm. So what's so special about a Favours gig then?
"The Free Sex!" says Sara.
"Injury! I mean audience participation" injects Martin, the rest of the band just stare.
"This is why you don't talk to me"
"Every gig you come to will be totally different, it's not very consistent" says Martin, quickly adding with a laugh "although we are consistently good to watch."
Paul carries on. "It's just really raw, there's a lot of energy on stage."
The Favours formed back in January 2002 after Sara auditioned for a band that Martin was in at the time. The rest as they say, is geography. While some bands lately have tried to distance themselves away from being labelled a Hull band or try desperately to escape from its heavily un-rock image. The Favours see it more as something that sets them apart from the throng of the UK's local bands.
"We're proud of it, we've done the whole London thing and there's just not the friendship down there. Everyone who's in a band will be really nice to your face and then slag you off"
Sara agrees with the sentiment.
"There's no point in trying to distance yourself. It's something a bit different isn't it? Every band you see is from one of the major cities."
The band share their other ground breaking ideas to draw the masses into our fish obsessed, sometimes unloved little city.
"We could arrange family days out, go to the deep and the see the Favours!" laughs Paul. Perhaps they could play the Deep? Sara doesn't seem convinced, confirming that Paul has already played the Deep but eager to say, not with the Favours.
"I don't hate fish, I'm not anti fish!" Hmmm?
"We like fish, although Martin's allergic to them" She changes the subject quickly. Fishy indeed.
"There's not always the enthusiasm for live music. Hull hasn't got the biggest music scene, you go to places like Liverpool and go into any gig and it's heaving. People love seeing live music. Having a constant support here is difficult" although Paul believes that things are looking good for the city.
"All it takes is for a few bands to break through and it helps the others out. There's a handful of bands that are doing really well at the moment and the Hull scene is healthy. All the bands are mates and you'll see different bandmembers at different gigs helping out and that's a positive thing."
Would they compare the kind of camaraderie and community spirit to the kind found in one of most famous scenes, Detroit, where the bands help each other out? Will everyone eventually claim to be from Hull?
"I'd say Detroit's a lot like Hull, an industrial backwater sort of place, they're alike in a lot of ways. Eventually Franz Ferdinand will move to Hull and say they're from here"
Tonight proves that the Hull scene is indeed as Paul says, healthy. Surplus Millions made it all the way from Goole and quickly won over crowd with the retro synth 8 track-trastic brooding pop. The Last People on Earth are on top form tonight running through live favourites "Crow" and "Lightforce" with Paddy wailing "lightforce, through my fingers" and shaking his hair from side to side like the a larger than life Jack Black character that he is on stage. Screaming "Are we having a fucking good time?" to the euphoric response of yes!
Then the Favours arrive on stage. Clad in rock wardrobe black and roaring straight into their set with the astonishing "Kill", a song written by Sara in honour of all the people who have ever pissed her off in the past.
There is nothing like a band’s scorn for idiots. With its rousing sing back chorus "I don't give a fuck what you say/I'm not gonna kill" a grungy rock number given and extra kick up the amps live. Comparable to the likes of Elastica with Sara's idiosyncratic vocals or anything from Nirvanas "Bleach" with it's gritty unpolished raw vigour. The sheer ferocity of the songs are startling, sounding like a Weapon of Mass Destruction set off in HMV's Rock section. Sara is quick to comment on the bands creations.
"We're a very song based band, that's what were all about. We've been brought up listening to songs you can sing along with and that's the stuff we like to write. I think we'd consider ourselves songwriters more then musicians. It's all about the songs, big, rocking melodic sexy songs"
"The subjects are pretty honest, me (Martin) and Sara do the bulk of the song writing. Politics, emotions, sex again. The ones Sara writes tend to be about sex and the ones I write tend to be about being depressed" declares Martin "You just deal with things that people can relate too. One time I got twatted down Beverley road by someone who said I looked like a guy from Abba"
"Well you do look a little like the guy from Abba" adds Sara. Martin ignores her and continues. "From that we wrote the song 'Bleed' and it's one of the best songs in our set."
Korn covered a similar theme in their song "Clown". The moral of the story being, don't ever piss off the member of a rock group or your stupidity and violent tendencies will be forever immortalised in song. "You just tend to write songs about how you're feeling at that time. You get it all out of your system and carry on smiling."
Despite the playing down off their vibrant, animated live gigs the band has been known to partake in the most honoured of Rock and Roll pastimes, crowd surfing. "Paul tends to play more on the dance floor then the stage at a lot of gigs". Sara herself regularly used to surf the audience, although sometimes people might get a little too friendly.
Although the best stunt they pulled at a gig once was when Paul hammed up his feedback at the end of a gig, ending up on the floor 'fitting' then lying motionless until one of the crew had to switch off his amp and the sound guy carried him off stage fireman's lift style. Pure Spinal Tap.
Apart from people randomly hitting her band mates Sara has another pet hate. "I really hate boy bands, Westlife make me feel sick, Blue make me want to just tear my own guts out. People like that don't deserve to live!" she tells with pure venom (Well deserved I might add). Any other bands that'll never see the light of day come the revolution?
"At one point I might have said the Darkness but that's when I thought they we're a serious band, now I've realised there a joke band I can sort of see the humour and I don't mind them."
Tonight's gig reaches a thundering conclusion with Paul leaping backwards into the brave band of fans near the stage, showing his guitar just who's boss and the leaping deftly back onto the stage where he writhes about the floor still bashing out the most awesome guitar fuzz. Carl beating the drums into submission and playing like he's being chased by a pack of hungry wolves, a real life version of the Muppet's Animal. The Favours in a word, or two.
"Loud, sexy, Punk rock" Sara being the lead singer gets the last word in. "Loud sexy, Punk rock..with hair!"