Matt Davies can't stand it when music critics erroneously brand his Welsh pop-metal outfit Funeral for a Friend "emo" — even if the word's serving as a prefix to "metal," "core," "punk" or any other convenient tag.
Sure, he'll be the first one to admit that Funeral's lyrical focus tends to center around matters of the heart, a key ingredient to any emo stew. But just because they're in touch with their emotions doesn't mean they're about to trade in their unkempt facial hair for trucker hats and tight-fitting cardigans that look like they've been ganked from Mr. Rogers' closet.
"We're a very deep, emotional rock band, I think," Davies said. "We kind of tap into the deep-rooted feelings of what I think every person kind of feels, but I'll always say we're a rock band. It's frustrating with all these tags, and loads of bands out there [are] absolutely f---ing angry whenever they get called an 'emo' or a 'post-hardcore' band when they know they're not. I think we're a really great, emotional rock band, which ... f---ing hell, Bon Jovi's emotional. Does he get called 'emo'?"
Never mind the lyrics to several of the sugary, serenade-filled tunes on Funeral for a Friend's newest record, Hours, released June 14, sound as though they were ripped straight from the pages of Chris Carrabba's diary ("I wish it was sweeter/ The taste of your mouth/ Because right now it hurts so much to be/ Closer than this"). After all, the disc does feature several cuts like "The End of Nothing," the kind of tracks that, with their harsh riffage and throaty screams, hurl chunky, bristling metal curves at you while, all game, you've been swinging away at commercially cordial emo four-seamers.
If Hours comes across as more accessible to fans, the reason might lie with Davies' lyrical approach this time around. But it might also be the fact that Hours marks Funeral for a Friend's major-label debut, at least in America; the group's previous two offerings, 2003's Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation and Seven Ways to Scream Your Name, were issued by New Jersey indie Ferret Records.
"The first record ... was written during a period where my longtime relationship with a girl that I'd been with was disintegrating," explained Davies, who caught his ex having sex at a Christmas party. "The approach to Hours was something completely different. There were more things I wanted to address than me and my bitterness with relationships. It wasn't directed at a singular person, more to the world around me — war, fiscal abuse, alcohol abuse, people not giving a sh--. This album was more extroverted than introverted.
"I like to refer to [Casually Dressed] as the snarling, pissed-off, naive, adolescent record," Davies added. "Not really knowing what we wanted to do really. We seemed to be fumbling around in the dark at some points on that record. I'd stand by it, but when you grow with each other and tour nonstop, in such a regimented way, it kind of allowed us to grow musically and as individuals. We've all had problems maintaining relationships, and we've seen each other break down. It's been like a marriage, and now, the honeymoon's over, and we're getting into it."
While they've managed to gain an allegiant, deep base of supporters in their native land, including Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, Funeral for a Friend — Davies; his brother and the band's bassist, Gareth; drummer Ryan Richards; and guitarists Darran Smith and Kris Coombs-Roberts — are looking to gain more Stateside fans with Hours. A "Maurice Stage" stint on this summer's Warped Tour might help as well. Even if it doesn't, Davies said playing the punk-on-wheels festival's been a longtime aspiration: "Ever since I got into Bad Religion, I said, 'If I ever get into a band, I need to play Vans Warped Tour.' "
And if all that fails, Funeral's bound to win at least a few wayward teens over with the video they shot recently for "Monsters" with director Paul Minor (Glitterati, BT). Filmed on location in Budapest, Hungary, the video pits a gaggle of hulking, menacing Hungarians against Davies as he's being chased through the forest.
"I'm caked in mud and look like I've been running around the wilderness for a few days," he said. "I look battered and beaten and tired, and they're chasing me. They eventually accost me, beat me down, and I turn into a wolf. The song was written about the perception of the monster inside us all — like the fact that we can do bad things in general."
Davies also said he's cool with doing his own stunts. "I'm falling down ravines, wading through these bogs," he said. "I was grimacing as I hit every stone on the way down this ravine — I still have a few cuts and bruises."