Proving themselves to be of the most delicate and captivating bands in the Leeds post-punk scene, Fehlt have been on our radar since their first single, “Closure,” which premiered back in late 2019. Since then, the Clue Records signees have continued to impress with an impressive cover of Sebadoh’s “Spoiled,” and their stunning live shows backed by enamoring projections. Luckily, we got a chance to interview the frontman and architect behind Fehlt, Ewan Barr, over a few emails.
DRAB: Hey Ewan, thanks for letting us ask you a few questions. Fehlt are an exciting band that fit Leeds beautifully, yet you are still fairly new to the Leeds scene. What is it about the Leeds scene that you think suits you so well and what drew you to it?
Fehlt: The sound, the ethos, the image. Leeds has a coherency about it when it comes to music, one which possibly bled into my writing process. One of the primary reasons I moved to study here was the arts & music culture. Being so close to Leeds prior to living here meant I'd travelled for gigs at Brudenell seeing acts like Eagulls and Preoccupations. I also got the chance to play at Mabgate Bleach alongside Drahla with my former band Dose a year or so before moving. I knew from that point Leeds was where I wanted to be. Leeds had what was missing from where I was living and playing; a coherency.
There’s a lot of comparisons between the gorgeous delicacy that runs throughout all of Fehlt’s music and dream pop and art rock outfits like Women, and Melody’s Echo Chamber. Often, that can be in sharp contrast to a lot of the harshness found in the rest of the Leeds post-punk scene. How do you see yourself channelling those influences and setting yourself apart from them? Is it ever a challenge matching the sound of your music with that of your contemporaries?
I’d had ‘Closure’ nearly 2 years prior to its release, around that time I was taking a different approach to songwriting, focusing less on effects and more on intricacy and preciseness. I wouldn’t want to follow-suit when it comes to matching Fehlt’s sound to our contemporaries, however my approach has become more harsh in some aspects. Our most recent demos present a distorted approach to songwriting, they're more imperfect and less about the preciseness, but still overtly intricate.
The year leading up to writing ‘Closure’ I was listening to quite a bit of Women as well as Iceage and Deerhunter. I never set out to emulate a certain band or genre, I feel it can be restricting however aspects of their approach and sound take equal part in my songwriting.
Most bands, when they are so new, struggle to have a defined image and concept but when seeing or hearing anything about you it feels like there’s a lot of purpose behind this project. How would you describe the concept of your band?
Being a designer, I find the art and imagery just as important as the music. They go hand-in-hand. Everything is carefully considered, from the single artwork to the projection films we produce for our live shows. I don’t perhaps have a concept which I live by, the imagery finds me whether it be University work, old camera manuals I find on online archives or pre-existing art from the likes of Peter Saville etc.
When writing music for the band, what considerations go into it in terms of pairing it to your visuals?
I imagine I subconsciously consider visual pairings but it’s never usually the starting point of a design. For me it's more a case of the visuals taking influence from the music although I do believe that it can work vice-versa. The imagery from the ‘Closure’ cassette was pre-existing imagery I had worked with for a University module. I saw them not as an ornament I was working towards using - but it was just around and when time came to make a decision on the artwork it was there.
As you mentioned, unlike many of the bands we feature, your field of study was design at Leeds College of Art. How do you feel your background as an arts student impacts the way in which you approach writing and performing music? Do you notice a difference in how your music impacts the rest of your art?
I can't read music and I don't know much about music theory so I find other patterns to work by. I always think that a large part of design is working with pre-designed objects (typefaces, imagery, paper stock etc.) and stretching, distorting, inverting and modifying those objects to create something new, much like adding an analog delay to a pre-existing guitar sequence or modulating a synthesizer.
Before the current Covid pandemic reached the scale it has, you had a string of gigs planned for Fehlt. How are you coping with the postponement of said dates? Are there any plans in the work for when things go back to normal?
I’m gutted but understand that we all have our part to play in saving lives and if that means postponing the tour then that’s a small price to pay. We’ve been very lucky in being able to reschedule all our dates until September and look to add to them also. You can find them at: https://fehlt.co.uk/.
Prior to the outbreak I'd been demoing a future extended play with plans for a release before the end of the year. Providing everything goes to plan, this could still be the case. Under my design pseudonym, Marching Order, I’ve also been producing artwork for the upcoming Honey Guide release ‘Oh Why?’ which I'm looking forward to seeing once it's out, you can find all my other design work at http://marchingorder.co.uk/.
Thanks so much for letting us get some really interesting insights on Fehlt and your design process. Hopefully it won’t be long before we get to see Fehlt live again and hear some more recorded material from you because I genuinely can not wait!
“Closure” cover art
Writing by Varun Govil
Photography by Sophie Walker