FOLLOWING THE announcement of their sophomore album, it quickly became apparent that Brighton, England dream-pop trio Fear of Men was heading in an exciting new direction.
Last month the band released Fall Forever, the follow-up to their glorious 2014 debut, Loom. The new album’s first single, "Island," is an icy entanglement of incandescent guitars, pulsing rhythms, and the plainspoken defiance of guitarist and vocalist Jessica Weiss, who sings, "I don’t need to feel your arms around me/I’m like an island without a shore/Used to be scared, to be misunderstood/Now I don’t care if I’m not what you want."
Weiss is no longer scared. On Fall Forever, she has largely left behind the allegories and allusions of Loom in favor of... well, in the spirit of the album, she should explain:
"I just wanted to kind of open up a bit more and write more in my own words," Weiss says. "Some of the things that I wrote on Loom are quite referential and playing around with other people’s texts and hiding behind layers of metaphors. So this was a move toward just trying to set my own tone and a way to express things that I was going through."
That’d be a challenging (and possibly unnerving) endeavor for any writer, much less one working on a much-anticipated record. But Weiss shut out these expectations and focused on making the record she wanted—and needed—to make.
"[Writing more personally] came naturally to me as a developing songwriter and a maturing person. We’re all just learning about ourselves as we grow older," she says. "I’ve had so many extremes in the last year: I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been before, and I’ve been sadder than I’ve ever been before, and that pushed me to write in a way that I hadn’t before."
Weiss wasn’t the only one digging deeper and peeling back layers on Fall Forever. The band—which also includes Daniel Falvey (guitar/keyboard) and Michael Miles (drums)—wanted to knock down at least some of Loom’s substantial wall of sound, which earned Fear of Men more than its share of "shoegaze" descriptors a couple of years ago.
"What we wanted to think about this time was how we could do the strongest thing with the fewest number of layers and make them all really count and have them all working toward a singular purpose," Falvey says.
Besides simply cutting back on the number of recorded tracks in a given song, Falvey also made conscious decisions to ditch the synth where he would’ve used one in the past, and to instead play a stringed instrument through a gauntlet of processors. The results are songs that sound electronic, but with "a very human feel," Falvey says, "because it’s still a human playing."
The key word there, of course, is "human." For Fear of Men, Fall Forever is about revealing more of the band’s human side, both lyrically and sonically.
"I was completely not thinking about how people would interpret what I wanted to say, which were sometimes these very intimate things," Weiss says. "But I think we found strength in that. It’s such a paradox, but there’s a real strength in standing up and saying something that’s really vulnerable. That’s been really exciting to explore."