Insecurity and Awkwardness Propel Post-Post-Punk Quartet

Text by Meg Woof

Photography by James Brown

Fiction once described themselves as a fragile blend of awkwardness and release. At a time when artists can either be too polished or rough and ready, their idiosyncratic clumsiness results in a charming and original sound. Yet the band, which comprises of brothers Nick (guitar) and Mike Barrett (vocals/drums/keys), James Howard (vocals/drums/guitars) and Dave Miller (bass), can't be accused of feeling self-satisfied. "There's insecurity at the heart of what we're doing," Mike says. "Being on stage is inherently quite an awkward thing and I'm not sure how comfortable we feel being in that role, or ever will."

The narratives that run through their debut album, due this spring, are dramatised balancing acts too. In "The Apple", the troubled and sad story of mathematician Alan Turing is transformed into something danceable and uplifting. "I've always felt uncomfortable with songs that have too strong a standpoint to them or are pure social commentary," says James. "I like lyrics that are quite unstable and the lyrics we write definitely have a kind of self-reflectiveness to them. One verse can set up a particular feeling but then can be undercut by the second verse. In a way that's a more accurate representation of how we move through our lives." "There's a set up of a value and then a questioning of that value," Mike adds.

Most of Fiction's influences are from the past, notably the post-punk era. "A lot of music nowadays is defined by music of the past," Mike says. "People in the present are so drenched in the past and that, as a theme in itself, has entered into some of the songs on the album. What has defined music in the past has been a shift in technology or politics. Our generation, musically, is obsessed with the past and for the last decade music has been moving painfully slow, and we're very conscious of that as a band. In the '80s you had a technological shift with synthesisers. Or with acid house, you had a movement basically spawned by a bit of equipment designed by Roland. There hasn't really been anything that's had a revolutionary effect on music recently. Is that what's missing? I don't know. Is it how we use it?"

While the band express amusement when they say they've been labeled as post-post-punk, they admit it's quite an accurate description. They are furthering the ethics of post-punk, urgently trying to make new sounds in a playful fashion. "There's an ongoing battle in music between stripping things back to basics and going off on one, as it were. You had prog rock, which was superseded by punk, its complete antithesis. Then when the idealism of punk died, you had post-punk, which, in a way, was returning to prog. The last decade had a very punk ethic, with bands like the White Stripes and the Libertines stripping things back to basics. Now there is an emergence of artists who are returning things to the post-punk ethic, which is the exploration of different sounds and not being afraid to go off on one, which I just did."

Fiction's debut record is released by Moshi Moshi in June.

  • Fiction