written by Scarlet Hall
Last year I was lucky enough to catch this outlandish 5 piece art-rock band headlining the Amersham arms; Fronted by brothers Tom and Ned Armstrong they go by the name
Their set was a lovely mixture of songs from their self titled debut album, alongside a captivating performance that intrigued me immensely. Especially how Ned’s voice straddled between slight Brian Eno and Jilted John crossed with the overall feel of ‘This town ain't big enough for the both of us’ by Sparks.
Having said that I feel Familiar Action are very distinctive and aren't particularly influenced by what's considered the norm these days!
Anyway, it only took me a year of thinking about this wonderful band to eventually reach out and ask about doing a little interview to get to know more about them and their creative process! So here it is…
MZ: Just want to start by asking how you all are?! Anyone been doing anything interesting at the moment?
FA: We’ve been fine thanks! We’ve just finished playing a run of gigs that I suppose in some ways draws a bit of a line under our album which we released last year. Basically, we’re currently taking a bit of time off, working on some new stuff and getting ready for 2022.
MZ: From that, I'm gonna jump straight in there like a therapist would and ask about your childhood (this one is specifically for Tom & Ned)
As Kids growing up did you always enjoy the same type of music?
FA: Aha! Umm, I suppose we always had vaguely similar musical interests. We both loved the usual teenager rock bands and also more classic stuff that our parents liked. But as we grew up, Ned veered more towards more traditional pop and folk songwriting and I (Tom) was into slightly more ‘arty’ challenging stuff. We both share a love for Jazz and the Beatles. But I think that our different tastes are what hopefully make our songs a bit unusual.
MZ: Were you brought up in a musical household?
FA: Our dad is a good blues guitar player and always heavily encouraged any kind of music-making, there are a couple of musicians in our family. We even found our great uncle's old cassette a few years ago, it was filled with sad folk songs and was titled something like ‘Feelings’. So I suppose it sort of runs in the family…
MZ: From watching your music videos, it’s clear you guys are somewhat influenced by 1920’s Esque silent movies. I was just wondering why that is? And does it tie in with your music in any way?
FA: I don’t think that’s something we particularly discussed conceptually, but there’s definitely something in the silent film era that creates an atmosphere of mystique which we felt worked fairly well with the music. We wanted to explore narrative in the videos, and to do something separate to the lyrical content of the songs - and the style we ended up with was what we thought was the funniest and best-suited thing we could manage without a budget. We were also watching a lot of old Charlie Chaplin films at the time, as we were living in a flat near where he lived. So really it most probably just came from us trying to rip him off!
MZ: Is there a degree of storytelling and characters in your songs and performance on stage?
FA: I think there’s usually a character in the song somewhere, whether it’s told from the perspective of someone or about a fictional character. I’m not really drawn to lyrics that tell you everything clearly, so we try to always hold something back even if the song itself is about something specific. But on the stage it’s a bit more intentional - Ned is the manic irrational one, and I am the more serious, reserved one. We always talk about this, and how we can cultivate the most interesting dynamic for the audience to watch. Ned can do things onstage that I could never do, and I think we fill in the gaps for each other.
MZ: I can confirm from an audience member that you really do create an interesting dynamic!
Ok, think quick... what are your top 3 favourite tunes at the moment?
FA: I Would be in Love (Anyway) - Frank Sinatra
50/50 - Jockstrap
Ultimate Fighting Champion - The Golden Dregs
MZ: If you could curate a dream tour lineup with yourselves included, who else would be on it?
FA: Right now, probably Richard Dawson. And fuck it, if I’m in charge I’ll say DEVO too. I always like it when bands play with other bands who don’t sound the same so maybe this would be good, for us at least!
MZ: Lastly, what's next for Familiar Action? Is there anything we should be looking out for soon?
FA: Well, we’re going to be going back into the studio soon, so expect some new music to be coming near the beginning of 2022!
MZ: Thank you so much for chatting with me! I will definitely be looking out for you guys in 2022 and so should everyone reading this!