“We’ve not done this before, so you’ll have to go easy on us,” the lads of Ten Fé warn before our phone call.
They’ve recently been a bit on edge, having been evicted from their rehearsal spot, an office space in East London. They may have been told to leave, but unlike the rest of folks that also got the boot, they didn’t give up so easily.
“Everyone left, but we’re like ‘we’re only leaving when the bulldozers start plowing through.’”
Lucky for them, news soon came that they had two months until they actually had to get going, so they were essentially championed in the standoff.
“We’re in this [abandoned] building now though, we’re the only one’s here, it’s really that bad, it’s like The Shining or something.”
They promise that “if it’s the last thing we do, ask us the questions” so we turn the unsettledness into an interview. After all, Ten Fé means “Have Faith” in Spanish.
Made up of Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan, Ten Fé came together after the two met at a party and began busking together on the London Underground. Their debut album, Hit the Light, was four years in the making. From the get-go, the pair talk about how they’ve been in a similar headspace; they had both been dealing with the quarrels of messy relationships.
“We’ve both gone through a lot together, and been working together for a long time,” explains Duncan. “You hear that with the songs; we’re coming from a very similar place in our lives, and that’s why the lyrics and songs are so personal. We care if people connect with what we’re saying.”
Most of the album tugs between storylines of dismay, confusion and reflection, but not in an acrimonious way. Instead, they parallel the straight-up “serenity now” moments with actual serenity—a renewal of themselves and their concurrent growth.
“We were both pretty lost in relationships, and we wanted to make music that we thought, well…we wanted to sing about breaking free through the stuff that you feel is holding you back and making you feel like you can’t do it. Basically, breaking free to the other side, like [in a] Jim Morisson way,” explains Moorhouse.
Their most recent single, “Twist Your Arm,” is easily one of the catchiest and most rhythmically delicious songs on their album, and it’s right in tune with the cloudy tribulations of getting through to your significant other, which can often feel like learning origami or praying that your Jenga tower won’t tumble.
As for the song: “It’s a pretty straightforward sequence of events you know. It’s about a relationship when the trust is gone and you’re sitting together with the person you’re with and you can’t figure out what they’re thinking,” Moorhouse explains. “You give them the nudge, but they’re not giving you anything back.”
The track’s bluesy-motif was sculpted through slide guitar tact and piano accompaniment, and sonically tightened with the help of producer Ewan Pearson (M83, The Rapture). Pearson produced the entire album, which was recorded in Kompakt Recordsin’s studio in Berlin.
Ten Fé are a no bullshit kind of band. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, but they’re not interested in concocting some grandeur modern rock opera for you to joust your heart to. They already seem sturdy in their approach, which is less about instrumental pandemonium than it is bare-boned, emotive vocals.
“We started this band to have the songs we want to sing, sung; we’re not that interested in style. We’re about the songs, and what they convey to people. That’s what’s really important to us.”
Among others, “Turn” delicately supports that vernacular. Lyrics like “You say you need me, but I’ve a lot to learn/maybe you’ll teach me, maybe you’ll teach me/but I’ve run out of cheeks to turn” express a feeling of inadequacy and a looming frustration; one that comes with long-winded relationships. They sing about what they know.
Hit the Light is an album that doesn’t shy away from dialogues on isolation, but it also provides a shard of hope—a band-aid fix that’ll probably still scar, but will eventually heal.
Having somewhat of a Cure-meets-Verve vibe, Ten Fé also cite Charlie Patton, the Doors, Oasis and Stone Roses among their other influences.
While this is the first full length, and predicting fate is like predicting Powerball numbers, Hit the Light is an unwavering 11-track voyage that warrants a full, eyes-shut listen.
It’s a debut album that introduces a promising band ready to get their music heard. While they can gab about Jim Belushi and have a cheeky, dry-witted humour of sorts, they know how to write songs that cut to the core, without over trivializing their misfortunes.
As Duncan notes: “It’s about peeling the skin, it’s down to renewal, all of those things are what we’re singing about. It’s about leaving the darkness behind and getting on with things, heading out to the light.”
Hit the Light is available now.