The English duo Ten Fé, featuring Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan, released its debut album in February, “Hit The Light.” Knowing for writing enticing indie pop, Ten Fé has had a series of single releases garnering them international attention.
Their name means “have faith” and the “Hit The Light” is a culmination of playing to commuters on the platforms of the London Underground, to writing in a bedroom in industrial Midlands city of Birmingham to eventually recording in Berlin with producer Ewan Pearson (Jaguar Ma, M83, The Rapture). Hit The Light resonates with the themes of the album – coming from dark into light, an act of renewal. Ben and Leo recently spoke to the www.theartofla.com about how they formed the duo, love of old school rock and roll, discussed writing songs even if they don’t both write it technically “together” as unit it’s but still their “song”, and there is no ego “because it’s like having a joint bank account…we both get the PIN,” it’s first “proper” touring the UK as a five-piece band and the thrill of going to the U.S. immersing themselves in pop culture and more.
How did you both meet and decide to form a duo?
We met in a leaky houseboat, moored on the north bank of the Thames at Brentford…friends of ours were living there, neither of us had a place, so we ended up staying there for a while. Luckily it was Summer because this boat had no water, gas, or heating – it was just a floating shed. We found we shared a love of old rock n roll music – Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry and The King (Elvis) – and we went out to busk these songs together on the tube to get some bounce in. People liked it and we made money, so we kept on at it for years until one day Ben played me a song called Time, and I said “who wrote that brother?” and he said “me, mate” and I said “wowsers, got any more?” . . . we went about gradually writing more songs together and gradually recording them, and that’s how Ten Fé began.
Had you both been in other bands before?
Oh yes, but we found happiness at last.
How is this project different?
We both care about this band and are committed to it just as much as each other. Previously, we’d been in bands where there were weak links, people who didn’t have the ambition or the stomach, so they never lasted. That’s why we’ve called it Ten Fé – have faith – cos we’ve always had faith in it, and each other, and this mad journey we’re on. And that goes for the rest of the band we play with too – Rob, Johnny, Maddog – … and our management, who stoke our fires; and our record label, SOME KINDA LOVE, and everyone we work with . . . freeze out to the non-believers!
Was the plan to release singles and then make an album?
What plan?? all we ever wanted was to live on dry land
What was the process like working on the new album and working with Ewan Pearson?
This is our debut album. So, by the time we came to record it we’d been meeting every day for the previous two years … everyday writing, everyday recording, every day talking about, listening to, going and watching other music. When the situation arose that we were able to go and live in Berlin and work with EP on recording a group of these songs for real, we were very ready for it.
Ewan is a beautiful chap – very intelligent, very balanced – and understands songs and songwriting, so we were on a level from day one. Going and living in Berlin for those months had an effect, too – we were totally buzzing off being in a new city, and realizing a lot of ideas we’d had. That energy I think comes through in the music of the album.
Andy Savours helped us a lot too when we got back to London – a vibe supremo.
Do you both collaborate on the words and music? Or it is a separate process? Can you tell me through that?
One of us will come up with the seed of a song on his own, and present it to the other – we’ll then work on it together. Sometimes we’ll play each other a song for the first time, and there’ll be nothing the other person will wanna add – it’ll be perfectly formed – we’ll look at each other and say “donzo!”.
Other times, we’ll both know something needs to be added – either words or music – and work together on to get that right. And that’s where it’s important to have a shared vision for the song and the sound. So a lot of what I was talking about in the previous answer – the meeting up, the spending time, the grafting together over the years, that’s how you get to a position where you can really trust the other person’s judgment. No ego. Ultimately it means that, say, even if one of us writes a song almost completely on his own, it’s still OUR song because we’re one and the same. It’s like having a joint bank account…we both get the PIN.
Do you think releasing singles is the way to go these days in the music industry and why?
Ah, if we knew the answer to those tricky questions, we’d be richer men … it’s not something we think about too much, really. The fact you can release your music at all, and so easily these days, is a blessing in itself. If you write wicked songs and record them in a way that sounds fresh to you, you’ll be rewarded regardless of the format you release them as.
Is the duo’s first tour? I saw there are some U.S. dates it’s primarily the UK?
Yeah, this is out first proper tour. And first as a five-piece. About half the dates we’ve done so far have been in the UK and the other half have been in Europe. It’s been joyous, let me tell you . . . and we’ve still got the US dates to come, which we’re very very hungry for.
What are you both looking forward most to on the tour?
In the US? Everything. Honestly, literally, genuinely, beliiieve me – EVERYTHING … Wendys, Fox News, CNN, Hersheys, security checks, sunshine, the Liberty Bell, Highway 61, grits, unassailable optimism, Hollywood, finally getting to meet Mike Tyson . . . America is the maddest spot on the planet, and we’ve never been before, so bring it AN!
What are your favorite hangouts in the U.K. and why?
UK is a big and varied beast in terms of hangouts, but I’m gonna have to say we tend to favor a little joint called Weatherspoons Pub – you’ll find one on the corner of every high street.