Fear of Men are one of the most interesting bands in the UK right now. Their 2014 debut Loom is a smart take on introspective guitar-pop; dark and dreamy on the surface, but seething underneath. Taking their name from a rare anxiety disorder (androphobia), fears and feelings reveal themselves in Jessica Weiss' songwriting in abstract and often uneasy fragments. But Fear of Men find strength in vulnerability, and their songs are the kind that reveal themselves a little more with each listen.
Now back with their second album Fall Forever, we're premiering their second single "Trauma", which is about coping with trauma, accepting it, and taking control of it to find empowerment in moving on. "You give me trauma / You give me more than I can bear / I rise above you / I burn my body on the fire," Weiss sings over dark synths, drilling snares, and feedback that rumbles in the distance like a stormcloud. Building to a crescendo, Weiss frees herself at the end as the music cuts out and the line "There's nothing to keep me here" echos out on its own.
Listen to "Trauma" below and scroll down to read our interview with Jessica Weiss about the new record and the topics that inform it.
Noisey: Hi Jessica. What does “trauma” mean to you as a subject and what were you thinking about when writing the lyrics?
Jessica Weiss: Trauma is the undefinable anxiety and damage that all of us suffer at some point at the hands of another. It’s how we deal with it that defines us. I like J M Coetzee’s character Elizabeth Costello’s reaction to a rape, where the way of taking control of the violence enacted on her is to turn it into a ‘stone egg’ that she holds within her. This concept, and being able to limit the damage someone has done to you, has always felt very powerful to me and been helpful when dealing with incidents of violation in my own life. To me, dealing with trauma is not about looking back, it’s about taking that experience and putting it under your own control, letting it become a part of you.
Some of the lyrics are very personal, some are intuitive images, but generally it's about the difficult relationship between feeling completely violated and feeling powerful enough to rise above it. It allows me to inhabit a space that I enjoy on stage where I feel completely in control.
I hear you were training to be a counsellor, which led to much of the subject matter on the record. How do you think your experiences with that have informed your music?
I’ve always been interested in trying to understand others and myself more, reading psychology and psychoanalysis books and having lengthy discussions at 1am about motivations and consequences. I liked the idea of getting out of my own head, doing something less self indulgent than writing songs and actually helping people. Also I’m just endlessly curious about other people’s lives and what puts them together. So a lot of things attracted me to the idea of training as a counsellor, and it was a really illuminating experience. Very intense, a lot of emotions in the room at each session from all sides. The main thing it taught me was that you need to be really centred and know and accept yourself to be able to help anyone else. It kind of made me realise how far I have to go, the cracks in my idea of myself, and that I was no one to be offering advice to anyone. I hope that in the future I could pursue it again but I need to be in a better place. In terms of informing the music… I started training when the record was nearly finished because I needed something else to focus on as I was in a bit of an introspective hole, so I guess it was more a product of or continuation of the themes of the record rather than an informer.
In your eyes how does Fall Forever differ from Loom? What’s changed for you personally and artistically during the time between the two?
Lyrically Fall Forever is very much my own voice, stepping out from metaphor and references to other people’s words that I admire, that I hid behind on Loom at times. I wanted to let myself be exposed as both vulnerable while also inhabiting a powerful space where I’m rejecting people’s expectations of me, which feels liberating. I love playing the new songs live - it becomes a performative and self fulfilling act to stand infront of an audience and literally tell them that I'm 'free from fear'.
Musically, we wanted to continue the thread we were exploring of creating our own sonic world on Loom, but streamline it - all the songs on Loom had so many tracks, often hundreds. Here we wanted to cut it down to the bone and make sure every part was meaningful. We were also experimenting with cold, metallic textures and incorporating electronics alongside effects and technology that gave our instruments totally different characteristics. We wanted to reject nostalgia.
You’ve said that the artwork for Loom is based on figures trapped in ash at Pompeii. The artwork for Fall Forever also incorporates bodies but in a way that feels more animate. How come the human form often makes its way into your visuals?
Understanding other humans is pretty much the most interesting and endlessly fascinating thing I can imagine, so it feels natural to use expressive bodies in our art. We’ve always had an archival, museum quality to our cover art, and with Fall Forever we wanted to incorporate this while reflecting the metallic, modern textures on the album. Taking a sculpture from the 17th Century and making it gold with CGI while dislocating it from its sited space and inverting it felt like a strong way to link back to our ongoing interests but also push forward. It shows two bodies grappling, cropped so that the window into their world is elusive and ambiguous - we don’t know if they’re caught in passion or violence, two strong themes of the record.
Fall Forever comes out June 3 via Kanine Records.
Apr 23rd | The Wedgewood Rooms (Dials Festival), Portsmouth, UK
June 3rd | Resident Records In-Store, Brighton, UK
June 11th | Long Division Festival, Wakefield, UK
June 13th | Oslo, London, UK*
June 14th | Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, UK*
June 15th | CCA, Glasgow, UK*
June 16th | Band on the Wall, Manchester, UK*
July 31st | Times Square, Newcastle, UK#
* = w/ Wild Nothing
# = w/ Maximo Park, LUSH + more