"Like Paul Simon but... you know... punk," is how Fair Ohs are described on their twitter page. It's a perfect summary of what the Dalston, London three-piece are all about, capturing the sense of humour and joy that they put into everything they do. Like playing their gigs barefoot, a bizarre decision they made at the start of their career. One that has left bassist Matt Flag the only member not removing stage debris with the aid of tweezers, post-show. "I would have been that dude in the audience two years ago watching two fatties and a ginger person on stage, not wearing shoes. I would have been the one laughing, going, 'seriously?'" says Flag. And yet still they do it. Why? Because they don't really care what other people think.
Singer Eddy Frankel also has a habit of effectively heckling the audience, be it with general obscenity or boldly announcing they're someone they clearly aren't. Declaring from the stage, "Hi, we're Toto and this is our big hit, "Africa,"" is not exactly the behaviour of a serious musician, but it gives you an idea of the breadth of influences in their music. From Paul Simon, punk music, to the raft of African influences that Frankel slips into the mix. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, he has an impressive knowledge of music from the region. West African funk, East African guitar bands, Kenyan Benga and Kamba music all influenced the sound on their debut album. So much so that Moshi Moshi have recently given him his own imprint, Dream Beach. A world music label with a mission to move the genre away from its currently debilitating "hipster" association.
Punk music has always been integral to their ethos, and Fair Ohs' sound is especially surprising in context of their previous bands, Cutting Pink With Knives and RAT:ATT:AGG. When they first started, it was thirty second, raw blasts of hardcore instead of the blissed-out, tropical melodies they play today. Now they mix jangling, trebly guitars with bouncing bass lines and Frankel's vocals, filled with an impassioned sense of humour. If you missed them during their punk stage, and most people did, there is an opportunity to hear material from those earlier days. Tough Love is preparing to re-release the band's earliest recordings from a tape that Matt Flag put out on his own label, Suplex Cassettes. To illustrate how short these songs are, the album is due out as a 7". There is talk of writing new songs in the same style and they're going to put on a release show. Even if, by Matt's own admission, he can't exactly remember how to play all of the songs and the set runs to a total of eight minutes. It's going to be fun so they'll do it, they say.
When the deal for their first album, Everything Is Dancing, fell though, their reaction was to start a label and put it out themselves. "We didn't do it as a 'fuck you,' more a D.I.Y kinda thing. We just wanted it out. It worked for us, you know. So we just pressed it up, got a really cool person to do our media, got a really cool distribution company to help with everything and then it kind of fell in line."
There is one other impending release and it is equally unique. New label X-Ray Recordings are due to put out a phono-postcard, i.e. a postcard-shaped vinyl disc. The grooves are etched into the laminate on the front of the card. Similar to a Christmas present the Beatles once sent to their fan club. The pressing plant aren't sure how many plays it will manage before it disintegrates. Or ruins the cartridge.
Not that it's likely to slow them down.
Pacific Rim: Early Recordings is out now on Tough Love Records. fairohs.com