Fendahlene. Is it an energy dring? Because it’s full of energy. Fendahlene. Is it a book? Because it’s a lifetime story. Fendahlene. Is it a brand? Because it surely feels like it! Fendahlene. Meet Ashley and Paul! We had a good time to exchange thoughts about the world, life and music. So, read about friendship and songwriting, too – with some fun!
And while you are at it, listen to Fendahlene‘s “Point of View” – from another millenia. It’s fun and history!
Music Authentic: Welcome to our site! There is this question, kind of traditional to begin with here at the interviews: How did you sleep last night?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Not too bad, a little up and down, which is par for the course.
Music Authentic: How is life at Down Under? Or up here in North. Where exactly you are lately?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Considering everything that’s been going on, not too bad. We’re both in the UK and have been for years, I’m in South East London and Paul’s down near Winchester.
Music Authentic: We can’t avoid the question: how are these worldwide changes affection your life?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Massively, at least at the beginning. I mean it didn’t feel like it was going to be a quiet year, we’ve lived through the endless Brexit disaster and I was in Sydney when the bushfires were on (how easily things disappear into memory), but yeah, this is just nuts. On the one hand, things are less secure, in that there’s a lot less paying work and planning anything is a gamble. Our ideas for our album launch period went down in flames – actually I’ve only seen Paul once since February and he was speaking to me through a first storey window. On the other hand, we’ve had so much more time to work on the album launch, at least the non-gigging side of it.
Music Authentic: There has been another large scale change going on, one altering our life course once and for all. Yet, stunningly lot of people are in denial and keep living their lives as the man-made climate change speed up would be nothing, not to mention the shocking facts of soil, air, water pollution. As artists and as people at home how do you cope with all this? Can you channel your frustration?
Ashley from Fendahlene: We don’t always cope so well, and on the music side we’ve always channelled our frustration (and sense of helplessness) into songs. For example, we’ve been around long enough to write a brutal song about George W Bush called Drink it Down, which is as confronting and disdainful as it sounds. We don’t always channel through lyrics either, sometimes it’s an angry riff or guitar sound. Thing is, writing or recording a song inspired by these emotions is just the beginning. Once they’re recorded, just rehearsing them, planning their release, talking about them, even thinking about them etc., really helps us cope. And to be honest, I’ve had plenty of daydreams where people’s perspectives on an issue/situation has been challenged by hearing one of our songs, which also helps us cope.
Paul from Fendahlene: I often think we’re lucky to have music as an outlet – bashing out some chords on a guitar is great therapy! What I tend to find though is that while the frustration of the building up of anger over an issue might inspire a riff or a chord progression, the actual lyrics might come a lot later, when I’m in a different frame of mind.
Music Authentic: Now let me ask, what makes you happy and joyful, what little or big things?
Ashley from Fendahlene: New things and places, cooking, anything with my partner, an interesting find that’s been under our noses for years (been plenty of that during lockdown), friends, Pirates baseball, discovering a cool new song/band. Oh and a good chat. Love a good chat.
Paul from Fendahlene: My family (my children are a source of joy most of the time), travelling, playing my guitar, listening to records, drinking good (and not so good) red wine.
Music Authentic: How do you see now, after living in both hemispheres, what the largest differences are?
Ashley from Fendahlene: They’re not really that different, at least if you’re talking Australia and the UK. I think there’s more differences between the UK and say Austria or Germany. I’ll keep this answer safe, if that’s OK, as it’s a tricky one and I don’t want to tread on a landmine. It feels like Europe takes the environment more seriously as a whole, and I think this could be due – in part – to critical mass. Australia has such a small population comparatively speaking, so divergent streams of thinking don’t seem to reach the overwhelming scale they can in the UK and Europe.
Music Authentic: Europe does not have the Outback, and quite frankly, many lost their connection with the Nature. How do you recharge?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Haha yeah you just reminded me I keep forgetting to recharge. Thing with Europe though, it may not have an outback, but you can find the middle of nowhere often a few minutes away. I’d normally say getting out of town, but that’s not really an option at the moment. Ironically, the best recharge these days – by miles – is to turn off the phone, even for 4-5 hours.
Paul from Fendahlene: Well I live in the country just outside Winchester, so getting back to nature is easy for me, but I tend to find that the best way to recharge is to sit and read a good book or to listen to music. I think there is a lot of truth in what Ash says about the benefits of switching off the phone and going ‘off grid’ just for a few hours.
Music Authentic: Now, it might seem really like a fantasy but things will become more normal, hopefully soon enough. What about after, how do you see your life later, in a few years from now on?
Ashley from Fendahlene: I’d like to say having the security of a somewhat normal, happy life mixed in with the unpredictability, enjoyment, fulfilment and white-hot joy of making good music. Is that possible? I’d like to give it a proper go at least.
Paul from Fendahlene: Yeah, I agree. For all the negatives that 2020 has brought with it, the experience of releasing the album and getting our new songs out into the world has been fantastic – so I would like to think that will continue and that, over the next years, we’ll be able to keep writing and releasing – and actually performing – new material.
Music Authentic: Your band has a really long bond, and you tend to release an album in every decade. Was this intentional, and how did you even come together? And maybe most importantly, how can you stay stick together?
Ashley from Fendahlene: For the first ten years, we tried to follow the normal trajectory. Start with an EP, then an album, and so on. After our last album back in 2005, Paul moved to the UK and a year later, I got a scholarship to study in Leipzig and Vienna, then moved to London while I kept studying in Austria (I only finished in 2016, that fact alone probably makes me an honorary Viennese…). As for sticking together, we’ve known each other since (gulp) 1982. Paul and I were in school bands, including “The Arthur C Clarke Mystery Band” which even won a Battle of the Bands competition. About 4-5 years out of school, the two of us formed Fendahlene with Ben, another school friend, who was our drummer for the best part of 10 years. I think for us it’s easier for bands to stick together when they’re not full-time, 24/7 propositions. I mean we’ve never had the Mick and Keith style fall out (possibly because we’re two Keiths…). Also, it’s the only original music I’ve ever done, and I really believe in it, after all these years.
(the interview continues below the pictures, so be brave and read on)
Paul from Fendahlene: I think the fact that we have broadly similar (but not identical) musical tastes and influences helps – it definitively makes it easier if you have common reference points. I also think it helps that we’ve always treated the band as something fun. I mean, we spent a year rehearsing and writing songs before we even played our first gig, and a large part of that year was just messing around jamming, having fun and writing comedy songs. I suppose the point that I’m trying to make is that, although we take the entire process of writing, recording and releasing music very seriously, at the end of the day we are doing it because it’s fun and we love doing it.
Music Authentic: Good art, great musical expressions and performances need extreme amount of self-discipline and seemingly endless extra miles. Yet, in this era there are so many wannabe artists who try to skip this part with money and technology letting them to live a life of fame and success very quickly. Does it bother you?
Ashley from Fendahlene: To be honest, I don’t really care so much about the artists who shoot for fame and success as the be all and end off of their music, I mean that doesn’t really scream ‘artistry’ (although of course there are nuances, in that some apparent ‘overnight success stories’ really did put that work, but in the background). And I really don’t care about fame at all. However, it does bother me that the musicians who make good music and respect their art, regardless of genre, are locked out of the financial side of that equation. The amount of amazing new music we’ve heard since getting back on this journey in late spring is out of this world. Why can’t these artists make a living from such brilliant songs?
Music Authentic: There is this pressure on us, artists, to turn over quantity to be favoured by algorithms and curators. Doesn’t it sound to you as different forms of gatekeepers, just like editors and radio DJs used to be?
Ashley from Fendahlene: It feels a lot like how many businesses hedge their bets. Release dozens of product lines in the hope one sticks. But what if none of them do, and the relentless pursuit of quantity has stifled the creativity or vision needed to produce the product that stands out? However, it’s a tricky question: yes algorithms and curators are different forms of gatekeepers, but at the risk of being controversial, is this better/worse than what went before? I know the standard answer is worse, but there’s a tendency to look back at a golden age of the music industry that to be honest never really existed, at least in my opinion. I mean you could write a book on how hard it was (and what you had to do) to get through the radio and editorial gatekeepers back in the 90s, at least without label support.
Take out algorithms for the moment, and ignore the corporate end of the industry (and the grifters) – gatekeeping in all its forms is still either taste-driven, and/or driven by their perceptions of audience likes/dislikes. This is perfectly fine, and hardly new, otherwise The Beatles would have signed to Decca. As for algorithms, I know there’s massive philosophical questions surrounding them, but I’m addicted to artist/song radio, not just out own either. So much new stuff to discover (I have to admit I check ours almost every day to see whose songs are on there, and in what order).
Music Authentic: Here is a lighter tone question, which is quite real by now and I pretty much like asking: Would you rather live in the Earth in 20 years or be the part of the first Mars colony?
Ashley from Fendahlene: As much as we’re royally screwing up this planet it has to be Earth, though the Mars colony option was tempting (for some reason my mind went straight to The Martian Chronicles). Pretty sure Paul will pick Mars…
Paul from Fendahlene: I suppose the positives of a Mars colony might be that we’d have a captive audience, so getting regular gigs would be easy. And with no other competition we could quite quickly become the Martian Beatles.
Music Authentic: Have you ever dreamed of being a chart-topper, winning Grammy’s and having your songs in mainstream series or movies?
Ashley from Fendahlene: When we were younger, very much yes to the first part, although charts don’t really work that way anymore anyway, and the fame side of it isn’t really our thing (although we’re currently on two radio charts at the moment, one from Detroit and another back home in Australia, which is awesome). We would love to have songs in mainstream series or movies, we’ve discovered so many songs that way. For example, on the night of the 2016 US election, in my absolute despair, I listened to Warren Zevon’s song Desperados Under the Eaves about 50 times in a row – I heard it the first time a week before on I think Ray Donovan. I know it is kind of frowned upon in some circles but we once had two songs in a national radio advertising campaign for Sharp stereos and people really did take notice. And as for Grammy’s, nah, I’m a hoarder, if we won one it would just add to the clutter…
Music Authentic: How can you break through the barriers of numbness, self-indulgence and ignorance, character traits of many 21st century men?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Man that’s one hell of a question! Start by re-examining the social contract, reintroduce a respect for learning and understanding (I’m a massive cheerleader for the humanities and social sciences) and don’t put up with bullshit. You have to combat mindless crap head on at source, otherwise it will take hold and fester, as the last 40 years have shown. Don’t accept anything as a new normal. And maybe, just maybe, (me included), people need to slow the hell down once and a while. Everything moving at a million miles an hour these days does not encourage (self) reflection, or balanced, critical thinking.
Music Authentic: I’ve listened through all your albums, even the double one. For me it seems you prefer concept albums over singles. Is it so?
Ashley from Fendahlene: We definitely prefer albums – the first few back in Australia were mostly a vehicle for our songs, although we did try to build them as albums. I guess the concept part came from our double album. It was our then 10-year anniversary, and as we weren’t super well known we thought we’d combine 13 new songs with 13 of our favourite older ones. The new album is only the new one which we worked to a particular master plan and with a specific album narrative in mind. Then again, they don’t feel like concept albums to us, really just how albums should be made.
Paul from Fendahlene: I definitely prefer listening to albums, particularly well-structured, well-sequenced ones. As well as great songs (obviously), I think the sequencing of the tracks on an album is an integral part of what makes an album special – it can make or break it. When I listen to albums on streaming platforms I always try to make sure I listen to the songs in the correct order rather than shuffle, for that reason.
Music Authentic: Why don’t we smile a bit more again with the next question: If you had a chance to play a superhero character in a movie or a series, whom would you choose?
Ashley from Fendahlene: I’m far more into sci fi than superheroes, hence the name of our band, which comes from a Doctor Who monster from the 70s. It was called a Fendahl, and it had 12 ‘children’ called Fendahleen, which were essentially air conditioning units covered in colourful paper, with plastic ribbons shimmering in the (no doubt pleasantly chilled) air flow. So yeah, can I say Doctor Who, I mean he/she has saved the universe more than once, that counts, right?
Music Authentic: Maybe the true superheroes are the single parents or the ones below the poverty threshold and on food stamps and still working and living for a better tomorrow. Yet, quite frankly, majority of these wannabe artists in their youth act as they would needed to be crowned and idolised with fame and wealth in an instant. How much do you think it damages the perception of musicians and artists in the eyes of the listeners?
Ashley from Fendahlene: I don’t know if it does that much, to be honest. I mean, that attitude sounds like quite a common youthful trait, no? If anything, I think the perceptions of musicians and artists in the eyes of listeners has changed as the business side took over more and more, and the accountants took charge at the big labels. For every Pete Docherty now there’s a million ‘safe’ acts. And even with controversial stars now, everything seems so confected. It’s hardly rebellious or rock and roll for singer a to call singer b a tart, yet this seems to be front page breaking news. Where’s Keith Moon when you need him?
Paul from Fendahlene: I think that there have always been manufactured ‘pop’ idols, but perhaps now there are more of them and their fame and wealth are perhaps more extreme because social media just amplifies everything. I don’t know whether this damages them in the eyes of their listeners – I think the people who like that sort of music and the artists who act in that way, like them precisely because of their fame and wealth rather than the artistic merit of their songs. And it doesn’t damage my view of those ‘artists’ because I never liked them in the first place – I just don’t listen to them. There’s plenty of other great music out there and I just focus on trying to discover as much of that as I can.
Music Authentic: Are there any actual “fans” remained, or only sympathising fellowmen and the big blob just like in a festival gig?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Well I’m a massive fan of musicians and songs, and it’s got nothing to do with sympathy (although both Paul and I try to listen to new music in the way we hope people listen to ours). Are you asking whether there is a middle, between online music communities and the likes of Glastonbury? Yes, I truly believe that, and I think it has massive potential, especially in the post-Covid environment. Authenticity/ being genuine is going to be cherished I reckon, not at the megastar level, but at least in a way that might make being an indie musician more viable.
Music Authentic: “Something to get by” or “Nowhere left to hide”?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Interesting, they’re both super topical, now I think about it. Have to go with Nowhere Left to Hide, I mean getting away with a nearly 10-minute rock and roll song in this century was a career highlight.
Paul from Fendahlene: Definitely “Nowhere Left to Hide”. It’s still one of my favourite songs from our back catalogue, and as Ash says it is as relevant now as it was 20 years ago when we wrote it. We really are getting to a point where, in some countries (ahem) there really is nowhere left for governments to hide (except behind bluster, obfuscation and untruth).
Music Authentic: We all have dreams. What things would be the greatest achievements for you through your art?
Ashley from Fendahlene: I know this is going to sound twee, but every time our music makes a connection with someone is an achievement. We had a song called Glebe Point Road in the early noughties and I will never forget the first time I saw from the stage someone in the crowd tapping their feet and singing along at all the right parts of the song. So it’s a combination of making people feel, and hopefully (for some of our songs) making people think.
Music Authentic: Who are your favourites? Which artist do you recommend to listen to from the past or the contemporary era and why?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Man I could answer this for days. Paul and I are lucky in that we share the same favourites, I mean The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, pretty much any rock and roll of any era, as well as blues, soul (I love Otis, life changing) but we also diverge a little. With mainstream I always come back to Janis. Back at school my friends threw me a surprise birthday party and they all chipped in to buy me a copy of Pearl on vinyl, I mean in hindsight how cool were they!? Who to recommend from the past? Our community knows a lot about music, probably way more than me, so I would say those albums/bands that slipped through the cracks a little. Try Pacific Ocean Blue by Dennis Wilson. As for current stuff, well it’s all indie, my musical tastes have just expanded exponentially since getting back into the game this year.
Paul from Fendahlene: This is always such a difficult question to answer because as soon as I answer it I end up thinking of 10 other bands that I should also have mentioned. There’s so much great stuff out there and I’m discovering new things all the time. This morning I was just listening to the new Drive By Truckers album (The New OK) which just perfectly encapsulates what’s been happening this year. Their sound is similar to ours (or rather ours is similar to theirs) and I really like the way they blend topical lyrics with catchy melodies and fantastic guitar riffs. I’ve also been getting into a band called Waxahatchee, a vehicle for Katie Crutchfield, a singer-songwriter based in Kansas City. Her latest album Saint Cloud has a country/American vibe which I love, and her lyrics and voice are incredible.
Music Authentic: There has been a social unrest against the establishment all around the world, and let’s be honest, for rightful reasons. Let’s play with the thought: If you were offered would you take the chance and become the Prime Minister? What would you start the change with?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Fire all of the current PM’s direct appointments, reverse pretty much all his government’s laws, then appoint a Truth and Reconciliation Commission like they did in South Africa in the 1990s. I believe this may be the best way to get to the actual truth about everything from Brexit to climate, as long as the key players are not shielded from justice.
Music Authentic: Do you think artists and musicians will be replaced deemed to be obsolete due to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence?
Ashley from Fendahlene: It sometimes feels that that’s kind of happened already with parts of the commercial end of the market, well the artificial part maybe not the intelligence part. No I think history has shown us that the human/technology dynamic is cyclical, as is the tension between the ‘authentic’ and the ‘produced’. I try to not lose heart, it could be like 1962 right now, with charts chock full of overproduced, faceless pop, and movie-era Elvis. Four years later, we had Revolver, Blonde on Blonde and Pet Sounds.
Music Authentic: Whose story had a great effect on your life?
Ashley from Fendahlene: I’ve been staring at this question for days and still have no idea how to best answer it. To take a stab at it, from a musical perspective, I’d say Marc Bolan. I bought a TREX greatest hits cassette on a whim after seeing a TV ad from K-Tel (remember them?). It was in the 80s, when TREX were so very unfashionable. That was the first time I went off-piste with music and it really opened my eyes. The glam rock and roll star that burnt brightly, faded then began to rise again, only for his journey to end so suddenly.
Paul from Fendahlene: For me it’s probably John Lennon, well, it’s all of the Beatles really, because they have been my favourite band all of my life and I have devoured everything there is to read about them. But of the Beatles, it’s probably John’s story that’s had the biggest effect on my life –perhaps because there’s been so much written about him in particular, or maybe because his lyrics are so universal that I find that I can identify more closely with them, whereas Paul McCartney, being a different kind of genius, wrote songs that were perhaps less personal and were more about invented characters. But I love Paul McCartney as well…… and George… and Ringo.
Music Authentic: How do you use your stage as a platform to help others?
Ashley from Fendahlene: At the moment almost certainly not enough, in the larger scheme of things anyway. To be honest, we’ve only been ‘active’ again since June and we’re still getting used to how the music world works these days. I guess right now our stage is predominantly a community of indie musicians and people from associated sectors, like radio. I suppose you could say we try to help our peers as much as possible, we listen closely to new music and are honest in our feedback, and constructive when we need to be. We really try to provide support in a way we would like to be supported, and treat our peers as we would like to be treated. Is that actually helping others? With so much good music out there, it’s pretty easy to be honest.
Music Authentic: What are the hardest challenges in society these days you believe the most crucial ones?
Ashley from Fendahlene: Ha, well they’re all over our album, starting with populism, an epic failure in collective critical thinking, complacency, a dearth of civic understanding, a cultural and social amnesia which seems to be leading humanity down the same traumatic dead end again. Same as it ever was. To counter the challenges of climate change, the demonization of the ‘other’, racism, sexism, classism, the whole shebang, I think there needs to be some overall awakening. To me, this is the hardest challenge, I guess to best prepare us to go into battle.
Music Authentic: How do you like spending your free time?
Ashley from Fendahlene: For me, there’s nothing particularly special about how I spend free time, it would sound like a dating video (including the obligatory good book, glass of wine and walks on the beach…). I suppose a mix of exploring, whether it’s places, culture, food or experiences, and just chilling out.
Paul from Fendahlene: Pretty much the same here, except I have three children so a lot of my free time is spent doing stuff with them. My oldest son is now 12 and he’s a drummer, so its great fun being able to jam with him.
Music Authentic: And finally, what is your message to encourage others?
Ashley and Paul from Fendahlene: Interesting, we have a few that are connected. Keep reminding yourself that music should be a blast and never a chore (including the behind the scenes stuff, which can feel like a right slog sometimes), always do serious due diligence on anyone whose offers sound too good to be true (or just say no), and don’t ever get disheartened by reviews or feedback – if there’s genuine constructive criticism you should take it, otherwise don’t worry if a rejection note says “the melody is poor but the lyrics are good” because the next rejection will invariably say “the melody is good but the lyrics are poor”. Like clockwork. And finally, listen to and interact with music and people from all genres. We did our album with people who predominately work in pop and folk and that so opened our eyes, and the amount of stuff outside of ‘indie rock’ we’ve discovered since June has given us a huge new appreciation for the breadth of indie music.