(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #372 and #373: Fickle Friends and Clean Cut Kid

By on Wednesday, 27th January 2016 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

This is not a drill. I’m about to throw down the term “summer anthems”, and we’ve not even seen the back of January. But that’s exactly what Fickle Friends (pictured at top) and Clean Cut Kid have me dreaming about. These two bands tend to lean towards pop, making for fresh, easy, joyful listening from both.

Fickle Friends have created a sound that leaves you yearning for the summer. The quintet out of Brighton bring a breezy blend of synth and indie pop that’ll have you thinking about those dog days lying in the sun and chilling at festivals. Shortly after forming in 2013, Fickle Friends began to garner attention when they won Jamie’s (Jamie Oliver) Summer Jam competition, which was a battle-of-the-bands type of contest for unsigned acts. The winner was given the opportunity to perform at Big Feastival alongside Rizzle Kicks and Basement Jaxx. The festival was co-hosted with Alex James of Blur and held on the bassists’ farm in the Cotswolds.

The band announced this month the exciting news that they’ve signed a record deal with Polydor. While they are yet to confirm a release date, they’ve been tweeting candid shots of themselves working away in the studio. Over the past couple of years, Fickle Friends have released a number of solid and catchy singles, from their debut ‘Swim’(a particularly Haim-esque track), through to their latest ‘Say No More’, on which it sounds like they’ve found their groove.

‘Say No More’ is energetic, with a seriously catchy chorus, and it will have you singing along after just one listen. The track has a glistening electro rhythm and a funky, ’80s feel. Its upbeat air reminds me of The 1975, especially with its jaunty bass line and feel-good vibe that pours indie, synth and pop into a vibrant cocktail that’ll have you nodding your head along in no time.

Equally spirited and also bursting with fresh, interesting indie pop are Clean Cut Kid, who have recently announced that they will be joining Fickle Friends on some dates of the Brighton band’s forthcoming UK tour in February and March. The band, a four-piece from Liverpool, are husband and wife Mike and Evelyn Halls plus Saul Godman and Ross Higginson. Their music boasts incredible harmonies from the Halls in a series of addictive singles. Clean Cut Kid sound like a delicious melting pot of a lot of great indie pop bands. Imagine Vampire Weekend, mixed with a less gloomy Mumford and Sons, with Haim thrown in for good measure.

‘Vitamin C’, Clean Cut Kid’s debut single released in the summer of 2015, is a catchy, quirky tune. It has a sentimental, life-affirming texture, its upbeat, spirited tempo of the song reminding me of the first time I heard Vampire Weekend’s debut album. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, it’s the sort of song that makes you want to stop and look around a bit more, and enjoy the moment you’re in, even in spite of the melancholy edge to the lyrics.

‘Runaway’, from their latest single, has a lilting and pleasing melody that belies the darker implications of the song’s title. While in ‘Vitamin C’ we hear much more of Evelyn Halls, Mike Halls’ vocals, are at the forefront of this track. His voice doesn’t match with his appearance in a way that I find oddly satisfying, in the way that with some great books that can’t be given away by their covers. With full beard and trucker hat, I was admittedly expecting a deeper vocal from Mike than the silvery, gentle tones that you hear on the track. Both singles are uplifting and catchy, and I’m excited to see where the foursome are going next.

Fickle Friends will be touring the UK in February and March 2016, with support from Clean Cut Kid on some dates. Both bands are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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