West London quartet Hard-Fi are much praised by critics and music lovers alike. They have often been compared to the likes of The Specials and The Clash.
Hard-Fi are Richard Archer (vocals), Ross Phillips (guitar), Kai Stephens (bass) and Steve Kemp (drums). I caught up with Richard when the band played The Rescue Rooms, Supporting Kaiser Chiefs and The Cribs.
Sitting outside The Rescue Rooms, my dodgy tape recorder running, I sat, with Archer, on a slightly damp bench and sipped our beer in the cold April evening.
First of all, what do you think about being compared to The Clash?
"At the end of the day, we're four white guys with guitars. People are going to say we're like someone else. But we don't listen just to rock. Being a long way from London we often made our own entertainment because it was difficult to get there. We did club nights and listened to everything from Reggae to Soul. But it's not like we are trying to incorporate everything into our sound though.
"Some of the greatest bands in history have been british bands that mixed genres. All those bands such as The Specials, The Clash, and The Rolling Stones developed their own style by blending others. You have to do that sometimes or your music is unlistenable".
Where did the band meet?
"I kind of started the band. I got introduced to the drummer by a guy who remixed our debut album. We then put an add in the NME, Loot and all the places to find musicians. Loads of people got back to us. None of them were right. Some of them literally couldn't play a note.
"I knew Kai (bass) from back in Staines. After a bit of ringing around I got in contact with him. He still played bass but worked for Rentokill. He turned up at our studio a few days later having learnt all the songs I sent him. He was great and he was in! Also he had a van to move stuff about. You can't get clamped in a Rentokill van!
Ross (the guitarist) worked in the local Hi-Fi store. I'd go in there to listen to my mixes. One day he came over to me and said who's playing guitar on this? Its me. He said it was shit. So I said come on then. After looking for people all over the country we found a band that all came from Staines. It gives us a real sense of indentity."
Where did the name Hard-Fi come from?
"Dub pioneer Lee 'Scratch' Perry had a studio called The Black Ark. He described the sound created in his studio as Hard-Fi. So we thought we'd have that. Since then I've been desperately trying to find the biography where I read it; but I may have dreamt it."
What was it like playing the Rescue Rooms?
"Yeah it was great. Great venue, really small, intimate and sweaty. I think I need to work out a bit as I'm out of condition. It was really good fun."
Have you played Nottingham before?
"We've played here a couple of times before. We've played at The Social and at a university night in the basement at Rock City at the beginning of this year. We always have a great time here. In fact we are playing Nottingham more times than we do London at the moment."
Who did you listen to while growing up?
"I had the good fortune of having an older brother who got me into bands like New Order, Human League. My mates at school didn't understand me listening to this stuff. They kept saying 'What the fuck are you listening to?'"
Tell me a little about your new single 'Tied up too Tight'.
"It's out on April 18th. We didn't want to go out with a big single early on. For us it's the archetypal Hard-Fi song. It's about one night getting in the car and driving into London. It talks about being stuck in a town and wanting to leave to find people like yourself. It's also about the buzz you get from the city. The music's better, the girl's are prettier etc."
What was your favorite album of last year?
"I liked Antics, the Interpol album."
You've played with the Kaiser Chiefs a few times. What are they like?
"They're totally chilled out and down to earth. They know exactly what it's like to be like us. They are the headline band, but they haven't forgot what it's like to be a supporting band."
What's your favorite gig to date?
"The Belfast gig we did with Kaiser Chiefs was great. Also the first show we did after we got signed was good. It was at The Frog Club. It went crazy. There were all these London types looking like Kasabian not knowing what was going on with all these guys from Staines going mental, throwing themselves onto the stage. It was fucking great!"
On a bit of a downer, what's the worst gig you've played?
"It was the one that didn't happen. It was in Manchester. We were booked to go on at half eight. We had to get in the car from Staines. We hit problem after problem. There was an accident on the M6 which we were stuck in for 5 hours. We got there at half nine. They then told us to go on at midnight, so we decided to call it a day and head home. On the way back we couldn't find anywhere to eat. We also got caught up in a police hold up. To top it all off we broke down. Wasn't the best of days."
What do you think of the Nottingham audiences?
"When we played Rock City not many people knew us cus we're not from the area. But as we played more came in and really went for it. On that trip we came up the night before and went out on the town. Nottingham seems to be a really chilled town. There's alot of venues and lots of music. It's a real party town, there's always something going on."
Are you looking forward to playing at The Social?
"We hope to get a good crowd. We say that people should'nt believe the hype about us, but they should come along and check us out for themselves and make up their own minds."
Hard-Fi played at The Social on Tuesday 26th April alongside Boy Kill Boy.