INTERVIEW: The Fire Beneath The Sea

The Fire Beneath The Sea are a rambunctious concoction of MCs, singers and musicians who display a penchant for wit, skills and good times, defying genre boundaries, as they mix up an intoxicating brew of musicality and deliver consistently magical performances. We caught up with them recently to chat about taking on the BNP, just exactly what phuxubtlety means, their Indiegogo crowdfunder campaign and a whole load more.

So, can you just briefly introduce the band for us? Who’s in and what do they play?

Deep breath…Armen Starfish – Vocals, Llerraf Zafgir – Vocals, Terra Byte – Vocals, Chairman Meow – Vocals, Lady Lea – Vocals, The Gerbil – Vocals, Captain Morgan – Drums, Barkerchop – Bass, Rojo Fyr Fox – Guitar, Barry Exanthematicus – Sax, Wraith of the Woods – Trumpet, Jon Bone – Trombone, Doorag Jesus – Decks

How did The Fire Beneath The Sea come into existence then?

The idea started as a collaboration between three rappers, that then expanded into a group with more rappers, that then met up with a DJ and a bassist, who had been jamming together for years. The idea was to create a group that was bright and positive in its sound, concepts and appearance.

We’ve got to ask about the name. How did that come about?

‘The Fire Beneath The Sea’ relates to something of great warmth and light, existing in a cold, dark place where you would not typically expect to find it. It is aspiring to achieve the unexpected.

So, you weren’t always a full live band. Back when you started out, what constituted The Fire Beneath The Sea?

Originally, we consisted of 6 rappers, a bassist, DJ and a flautist. (Hip Hop!)

What were those early days like?

The early days were a lot of fun, and exciting. Creatively, it was a massive burst of new potential and we began writing ridiculous amounts of new stuff and gelling ourselves together as an outfit. It was very also very encouraging to start to appeal to a wider audience, rather than trying to keep our heads afloat in the ‘hip hop scene’.

We heard that you used to roam Liverpool city centre with an amp just freestyling about what you encountered. Is this true?

Yes, this is very true. When we first gave birth to the concept, we decided that one of the things that we wanted to do was to take the music out to the general public, rather than just limiting ourselves to people who go out to gigs and club nights.

What sort of reception did you get?

Really good! The 2 BNP-related videos we have on our You Tube page got a good reception. We set up at the rallies and tried to take the focus off them and get people having a good time dancing to music rather than engaging in their rubbish. Aside from that, people always got dancing and it was interesting to see people’s reaction to a load of music being played by lots of different people in ridiculous clothes and hats.

Do you still take it to the streets these days?

These days, Armen flies the flag – you’ll catch him on Church Street with his harmonica/flute/amp/mouth most days. We’ve been out as a full band a few times, and are intent on doing it more often very soon.

When did you first start to gravitate towards the full live band set-up?

Just over a year ago now. We’d all been in bands before and appreciated the value that instruments and expertise bring to performance and recording. As we progressed we started to catch the eye of local musicians who enjoyed the energy and content of what we were saying. They asked to get involved and we happily obliged; we asked them to get involved and they happily obliged. As more people got on board more musical possibilities ‘opened up’ of for us. Once we started to dabble with a few instruments there was no going back.

What was the first gig as a full live band like?

Our first official gig was in The Kazimier Gardens for Fiesta Bombarda and it went amazingly well. We played to a packed garden with tunes we had only really done in the past month or so – it went brilliantly! So much fun and everyone was dancing like nuts, which was boss to see so early on. The first full band gigs were great!

You draw on a lot of musical influences; hip-hop;funk; jazz; ska; drum ‘n’ bass. How do you make that work when you get together to play?

Firstly, having a really tight backline who have the musical vocabulary to make it work is important. Then, with having so many people contributing, naturally, there is a wide palette of influence at our disposal. Experimentation is the name of the game; we like to keep our music as diverse and exciting as possible. Initially we have been working towards creating a high energy live show, which means we have been stitching together styles that are best suited for that job.

We like to have some variation in our song structure as well. We don’t like to just stick to one style of music in one song. Starting off at one place and ending at another, so it takes you on a bit of a journey. That’s maybe why a few of our songs are quite long.

You’ve already supported some big names out there, such as Ugly Duckling, The Mouse Outfit, DJ Woody. What’s it like playing as part of those line-ups in comparison to when it’s your own headline show?

It doesn’t make too much difference in terms of what we do, though it’s obviously great to play on the same bill as people like Ugly Duckling, who some of us have listened to for years and years. We approach every gig in the same way, regardless of whether we are headlining at a big gig, or on first in a small pub; turn up, play to the best of our ability, have fun and try to get people dancing!

Have you picked up any hints or tips from these people along the way?

It is always nice to get a sound check!

You’ve played a few festivals now. Is that in anyway different from playing in a club?

People are generally in a much less inhibited mood at a festival, so that means they are more inclined to get involved and throw some shapes, which only ever builds the energy in the room, making it even more fun for us. However, some of the club nights that we have played at in Liverpool have a fantastic atmosphere themselves, so it is mainly dependent on the club night, the club itself, and the festival.

You’ve just had an incredibly busy summer on the UK festival circuit. Can you tell us a little more about that? Any particular standout moments?

Our summer has been incredible! We set out to double the amount of festivals we played this year compared to last, and achieved that which is great! Shambala festival was spectacular, such a fantastic vibe and selection of music, and our set to a packed out Chai Wallahs was one of, if not our best, to date. Boomtown was also a great gig, and Beatherder is always a lot of fun! The smaller ones, such as Ravenstonedale Festival and FarmFest were also really good, so we feel very lucky to have had such a warm reception everywhere we’ve played!

Whilst a lot of people seem to be focusing on the negative these days, your lyrics are overtly positive. Why have you taken this approach?

We try to talk about things which have a positive content and message, rather than just focusing on the more negative aspects of life, as a lot of rap-based music can tends to. Positivity is only part of the whole picture though. We explore the darker side too, but we try to steer clear of taking aggressive or one dimensional approaches in favour of more conceptual ones.

It seems that within your songs you not only reflect the times we live in, but try and contextualise them within some framework of how to move forward. Is that something you try to do consciously through your music?

There are lots of negative messages within contemporary media and entertainment, and lots of it is geared to make people fearful and feel separate from society in many different ways, which enhances a lot of the problems. In a lot of what we’ve made so far, we’ve tried to show the flip side to the coin, showing a more positive approach to life, bringing people together and just generally lightening the mood!

OK, on to the EP. That’s another intriguing name,’Phuxubtelty’. Can you tell us more about that?

We were in Sefton Park on a Sunday afternoon playing with a PBone and one of us blurted out ‘PHUXUBTLETY’. We were building that song at the time, and thus, it was given a name and a concept, which has become somewhat of a band motto as well in the process.

What about the other tracks on the EP? Can you tell us a little about them?

Swinging the Pasta Bake was written about the very early days and when we formed The Fire Beneath the Sea.

Poor Little Fishy was written initially about the frustrations of being a hip hop artist in a city like Liverpool, where there isn’t an awful lot happening. It also works on lots of different levels for people in all sorts of situations and walks of life.

You’ve just auctioned off the vinyl release of your ‘Phuxubtlety’ EP. You also had a number of artists create one-off sleeves for it. Can you tell us more about this project?

We asked artists that we knew, and also offered it out to the public, to simply design an EP cover, or as many as they liked, for the vinyl release of our first EP (big shout to Just Good Music PR for that!!). We wanted to get as many people involved as possible in a shared creative endeavour, making it as much about the artwork as the actual music itself for the vinyl release. The response was phenomenal – we’ve had some really amazing pieces made with such variety – we were gutted to have to sell them!

Can we still get our hands on one then?

We still have a few left, and we also have some white label copies of the EP, which will be available at our gigs and via the Itchy Pig Records Bandcamp page. These are limited though, so if you do want one, you’ll need to be quick off the mark!

What’s going on over the course of the rest of the year for TFBTS? Haven’t you got a new EP in the pipe line?

So, the next major thing is the release of our 2nd EP, which we’re aiming to put out in January 2015. We’re really excited about this one – it’s been a year since our last EP release, so we’re itching to get more music out there – and we’re very pleased with the end result!

We actually have a crowdfunding project in place for both this and our 3rd EP on Indiegogo. If you head over to www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-release-our-2nd-and-3rd-eps then you’ll see a whole range of incentives we’ve got on offer, ranging from simply receiving a copy of the EP, to an hour tuition with a band member of your choice on whatever their instrument is, through to us writing and recording a short track for you, performing it for you at a gig in your house, or at a venue of your choice, as and when you wish!

After that, we’re looking for more gigs around the country, a tour is in the pipeline and, everything going well, some things further afield in Europe. We also have a whole load more planned for 2015, so keep eyes, ears and all other senses peeled!