Twenty years ago, Fun Lovin’ Criminals burst onto the music scene with their debut album Come Find Yourself. Now, with their fan-base as strong as ever, the band are about to embark on a European tour that, for the first time, will see them play the album in its entirety together with an array of their other hits and much loved material. PopWrapped chatted to Brian ‘Fast’ Leiser about the momentous anniversary, social media and what the future has in store for the band.
PW: It’s been twenty years since you released Come Find Yourself. Are you at all surprised that the album is still so highly regarded after all these years?
Brian Leiser: I think, for us, you know, it’s our first record so it’s like our first child. We do have a special place for it – it gave us a career for twenty years. I think the fans who liked the band when that album came out have seen it very much as an album that represented part of their youth, so there’s a big sense of pride and reflection with it. Now, twenty years later, it’s somewhat nostalgic of the nineties. And fans who have been with us a long time, especially since the beginning, know that when we play live, we always perform six or seven songs from that album and just one or two from the other albums. I think, on the whole, it’s pretty amazing that from an album celebrating its twentieth anniversary, it’s given us such a career. I personally can’t believe it’s been twenty years.
Music is what we do, we love it and we’re still excited as ever about it. To be able to go on tour and play two sets; the first being the whole Come Find Yourself record in its entirety, which is something we’ve never done, and then a second set of all our other material is something entirely new for us - we’ve never liked repeating ourselves - and that’s why a lot of music critics often argue against those who think all our music sounds the same, that it doesn’t. Instead they say it sounds like Fun Lovin’ Criminals. We have our style of music and that translates well when it comes to playing live and playing our instruments. We rock out and we don’t have any regrets. We don’t do this to get on Radio 1, we do it to play music that we like and that, I think, has resonated with a lot of our fans as well.
PW: Do you have a favourite song on that album and has it changed over the years?
BL: It’s always hard to pick a favourite song when you’ve had a career as long as we have. There are songs I like more than others and when playing live, I love the song “Bombing The L.” I love the fact that, on this tour, it’s the first time we’re going to play the whole song because if you listen to the version on the album, it changes drastically and is really only two, two and a half minutes long. On this tour, playing it in full, it’ll be four, four and a half minutes and I’m excited for that and for the fans to hear it as, in my opinion, how it’s supposed to be, if you know what I mean?
There’s a song called “I Can’t Get With That” which I love playing because it showcases this soul side of the band, you know – it’s a smoky, soulful, hip-hop song with amazing lyrics, which is about loving one another and not hating one another, which in today’s current society I think is really relevant. It’s about not having time for racism, bullshit and all that crap. I also love songs like “We Have All The Time In The World”, which we didn’t write but it’s always been a favourite James Bond theme for me because of the trumpet in it – I love Louis Armstrong and trumpet players like that. I have really good memories of when we write our music, so it’s always hard to pick just one.
PW: The album’s also being re-issued to celebrate the 20th anniversary so are you excited about the re-issue and introducing new fans to the album and the music that started it all for you?
BL: Let me tell you something, I think the label knows that as long as they can sell it to our fans, that’s cool, because the hardcore fans will buy up anything – I’m a hardcore fan, my mom is a hardcore fan and she’s already ordered a copy of it! I told her I could get her a free copy and she was all like ‘No, I want to order one myself’. She doesn’t want me to get involved; she wants it delivered to her door and then she can put it away in her closet. I mean, she has everything we’ve ever done – every video, every interview, so for fans like her, the re-issue is awesome. If doing press with people such as yourself, which is much appreciated, thank you, gets us some new fans, then that’s just great. I’d love someone to listen to the album and think ‘wow, this is great, I can’t believe it’s 20 years old’ and who knows, maybe then they’d listen to some of our other music as well.
The label, Demon, said, when we talked about the re-issue, that it was essential to give the fans something new. They told us not to just repackage everything that’s already been released – the hardcore fans will already have it and it could strongly reek of corporate bullshit to newer fans. I remember telling them that, as a music fan, and especially a fan of my band, that what I would really want are the instrumentals. Fans over the years have asked us about them, so in a process that took our label two years, they found the tapes at Abbey Road. They had to go through something like 256 different tapes to find them, as the instrumentals were recorded on different ones and just last week, I finally got a CD of them. I hadn’t heard them in 20 years and I couldn’t help but think they were awesome.
The music was something Huey and I wrote first and then we’d put it on little cassettes or CD walkmans. We’d ride our bikes around New York late at night and get the inspiration for the lyrics and that’s why both of us have always had this connection to instrumental music. I love movie music, soundtracks and stuff, so the fans, with the re-issue, will get the instrumentals they’ve been after for so long. In my mind, that makes the album very special and worth the price alone, but also if they buy the box set, they get it on vinyl, which to me is awesome. I’m sure some fans, and I don’t mind this, will get that vinyl, upload it digitally for other people, and that’s cool. My goal has always been for as many people as possible to hear our music, whether they pay for it or not; that’s on their conscience whether they buy it or steal it, but I just want people to hear what me and the guys have put 20 years of our lives into; creating music we love.
I want to be able to play my music for people and I think when myself, Frank and Huey are playing live, the crowd know that, they know we’re having fun up there and that we’re not just doing it for the money. We love music – we love throwing a party; we love holding after-parties. We’re not getting any younger but we’re not going to act any older!
PW: Your February tour is going to take you across the UK but is there any particular venue you’re most looking forward to playing?
BL: They’re all great. Talking with our agent and manager about the tour, we basically said that we’d love to play the venues we played back in the day, but we also understood that we weren’t going to sell out 3000 capacity venues like Brixton Academy, which is one of our favourite places we ever played. But on the up side, we’ve been able to book places like Glasgow Barrowlands, Amsterdam Paradiso – both great venues. Any venue in Paris we get to play in makes us happy as we’ve always had a good time in Paris and we rarely play there. We were supposed to play at the Bataclan, that didn't happen, but we’d love to do it when we can. We love Paris, so any opportunity we get to play there, we’re going to try and make the most of. It’s really hard to pick favourites.
There’s a venue in Holmfirth, the Picturedrome. We had easily one of the best gigs of our lives there, ten years ago, then we returned about two years ago I think, and it was great. I’m pretty sure all the people there were the same ones who’d been at the previous gig – that was awesome. It’s easy for me to just name a place on this tour that I can see being great; Dublin, London, Manchester…but who knows, Worthing might prove to be the best of the lot. Also, we booked these shows and venues only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday especially for the reason that, in all honesty, who wants to party or have a really good time on a Monday night?!
PW: For fans who have never seen Fun Lovin’ Criminals before, what can they expect from your shows on this tour?
BL: Shows are often like comedy shows for us. We subscribe to the theory of Spinal Tap – have you seen that movie? It’s funny because everyone kind of looks up and goes ‘they’re not taking themselves too seriously, they’re having a good time’. We’re not the kind of band who, if something goes wrong on stage, and sometimes it happens, storm off stage – we just get on with it and carry on and I think the fans who come and see us live and have seen us in the past know that. Anyone who comes to see us is going to have a good time – that’s what we really like to ensure with our shows; that the fans enjoy themselves as much as we do. We curate the whole evening – we turn up early and have a say in everything, the music you hear when you first walk through the door, the after-parties we try and set up – everything.
Hopefully, when people come and see us, they have a great time, a thoroughly rockin’ experience with hints of soul and funk, reggae and hip-hop. It’s just important to know that we’re a band who like to have fun, so don’t come in if you’re not prepared to have a good time. We really appreciate people spending their hard earned money on a ticket to come and see us, so we want to provide them with a full evening of entertainment.
PW: How would you say your sound, style and stage set-up has evolved over the years?
BL: I don’t particularly we’ve changed any aspect of those things, except for when we were first starting out and experimenting with what worked best for us. When we write songs, we don’t make any rules and as a result, we create music that features an array of different styles. Our stage set up as practically been exactly the same for twenty years, with the exception of the different drummers we’ve had over the years. Frank, our current drummer, has been in the band well over a decade and so we’ve got our stage set-up sorted with him and have done so for a long time. He’s earned his stripes and he’s been with us far longer than any other drummer.
We’re the same band we’ve always been I guess, just twenty years older. We’re just a bit fatter, greyer, and our livers aren’t as healthy as they once were, but other than that, I don’t think anything has changed and I guess that’s why we don’t sound like the stuff, the music and bands you hear on the radio.
PW: You also emerged at a time long before social media became the phenomenon that it is today, but now that it’s so prevalent with bands and artists using it to their advantage, what are your thoughts on the power of the internet?
BL: It’s a double edged sword like many things in this world. It’s a way to get one on one connections with your fans which can be great, but the internet, and social media in general, can be a very dark thing. The internet, as most people are aware of, has its dangers. Someone in a bad mood can say something and, due to the internet, be held to that one comment, one moment, for the rest of their lives, even if they delete it. It’s very useful for bands; actually not just bands – musicians, painters, anyone who has a passion or wants to make a career out of some art form or other. Social media helps them sell themselves to media outlets, publishing companies, galleries, that kind of thing.
What I do like is that you can’t have completely over the top racism online and constant negativity. It’s there, I think we’re all aware of that, but it’s policed pretty well. I remember when Soundcloud first started out and it was the real big thing at the time. Bands could put up their music and remixes they’d done and share it out – it was amazing. Then as the industry and the internet became more about making money, restrictions came in. Youtube has done it, SoundCloud has done it…even Facebook have done it. Fortunately for artists such as us, Vimeo haven’t done it and that’s fantastic. The whole social media thing is cool, it doesn’t bother me, but with my daughter for instance, I most certainly want to keep her more in the real world and not just to have a life online.
PW: You’ve already achieved so much but are there any other dreams and ambitions you’re still hoping to fulfil and what does the rest of the year have in store for Fun Lovin’ Criminals?
BL: I think it’s more for a certain group of fans, those who message us and ask that we come to Argentina and various other places, but we’ve got to get to South America. Unless you’re opening for the Rolling Stones, it’s hard for most bands, hell, any band to get to South America and play there, but that’s certainly one of the things I’d love to be able to do. I’d love to play in North America because we haven’t played there in years and years. I’d love to go and play in New Zealand and Japan again – not that I don’t love playing in England, but people in England have seen us tons of times.
There are also fans who would love us to play in places we’ve never been before so to be able to say ‘we’ve played everywhere we wanted to play’ – that’d be great. I don’t have any regrets. We’re going to tour, we’re hoping to get some dates confirmed and announced soon for Australia and New Zealand and hopefully some US dates – definitely a New York date; it’s the 20th anniversary, we have to play in New York!
This band, especially Huey and I, we’ve had our ups and downs like anyone else; we always say we’re like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards without any of the money, but it’s really important for us to realise that we’ve made it twenty years and we’re still brothers. Yeah, brothers fight but we still both want to see what we can do together. Can we make another record? I think that’s what we’ll strive to do because we love what we do, we love making music together. That’s the plan anyway.
The 20th anniversary edition of Come Find Yourself is released February 19th and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
Tickets for the European tour are available now and tickets for the UK dates can be purchased on Ticketmaster. Tickets for the other European dates can be purchased via the bands' website.