Interview: Ten Fé Talks About New Album, Scary Tour Stories & Mojo For Long Lasting Band

Also reveals the best bandmate to stick to in case of apocalypse

Photo: Abi Raymaker

Ten Fé makes breezy rock that cuts right down to our spiritual core where they conjure themes of faith, relationships, nostalgia, and growth. With Ten Fé’s songs, you can take two different trajectories. One is the lighthearted, sweet wave path where you just let the melody brush the frazzled dust off your brain. The other pierces through a particular emotion – faith, desire, loss, etc. – by employing an array of raw, timeless narratives.

Comprised of Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan (co-songwriters and lead singers), Rob Shipley (bass), Johnny Drain (keys) and Alex Hammond (drums), Ten Fé is a UK band that has been setting fire on playlists and press around the world with their recent releases. But before the five started making fireworks together, they went through the lows of the industry and hopscotched from one band to another in hopes of finding the perfect bromance. We had the opportunity to talk to Ben about their upcoming album Future Perfect, Present Tense (out March 8), and more. He taught us how to survive faith loss, German police dogs (sort of), music industry, and – of course- the apocalypse.

What’s the inspiration behind the album title Future Perfect, Present Tense?

Ben: Leo, the lead signer, came up with it. After we finished the album in September of last year, we all took a little holiday. I went to Southern Spain and Leo went to his house in Portugal that his mum has and while he was there, he was speaking a foreign language and that’s when he started to think about grammar tenses…and that’s when it hit him, Future Perfect, Present Tense.

Obviously there’s the meaning on its own, with ‘Future Perfect’ kind of saying that you’re always striving towards the perfect future while ‘Present Tense’ implying this moment as something that you’re not quite comfortable with.

Since your band’s name translates ‘have faith’ in Spanish, what’s one track in the album that will help your listeners restore faith towards the universe? Or anything that they lost faith in?

Ben: Probably ”Caught On The Inside”…I feel like it’s a song about one person telling another person to bring themselves out of the hole that they’re in, you know? It’s about bringing yourself out into the opening, into the world and realize how much life there is in the world. Just realize there there’s too much life to be just stuck in a shell or your own, inner dark bubble.

You guys are about to tour in support of your new album. Can you share us the scariest or most bizarre thing that has ever happened to you while touring in the past?

Ben: Well, the one that comes to my head was when we got checked for drugs by the police while we were touring Germany. They drove right alongside us and signaled to indicate to drive into this police station unit. They took us into this outhouse next to the station where they got this big drugs guard dog to smell the van and check if we had any drugs.

[smiles] It’s probably not the best thing to talk about in an interview but yeah…[at that time] we just came back from Amsterdam and we had partaken a little bit of marijuana, so we were worried that there might be some trace of it and might show up, but to our relief he didn’t find anything. So yeah, we were all right.

There has been a lot of conversation going on among the media and critics regarding banning music from controversial artists. As a musician, what is your stance on this? Do you think streaming services should ban artist works based on their personal actions?

Ben: It’s a tricky question…banning the work of artists, I’m not sure if people should be doing that. I feel that the music that someone’s made, or the work that someone’s made, should stand on its own. Unless it’s inciting some sort of behavior from people, it should be able to stand as it is.  But obviously people who are criminals or controversial, who have done all these things, should be punished for their actions. But yeah…I feel that the music should stand as it is.

We heard that you guys went through different bands before finding each other. What do you think are the key qualities in finding the right band members that clicks with you and will survive both the ups and downs of the industry?

Ben: Well, the reason why we ended up the people that we are in a band with is because in the past we’ve found that when you are in a band with someone and you haven’t got the friendship or something deeper than just the music, it often doesn’t work…whereas the people who we are with now are actually old friends of Leo from Birmingham who’ve known each other for a long time. And having that kind of friendship offers a basis that really goes a long way. We can trust each other more, be open to each other more and work through things. And yeah, as time goes on we become closer. I think that’s the big thing for us.

You’re given the choice between performing naked for 10 minutes or without any liquid for one hour. Which one would you choose?

Ben: It would have to be…naked for 10 minutes, I guess.

The world ends tomorrow and you decide to throw a party. Who’s gonna DJ, play the show, and sing the closing song before you all die in flames?

Ben: Who’s gonna DJ? It has to be Dr Dre. And we would get Father John Misty to play the show and we get Stevie Nicks sing the closing song.

Following up the previous question, who in your band will most likely survive the apocalypse and why?

Ben: Well, it would have to be a tradeoff between two. Johnny, the synth player, is actually very skilled with fermenting food and knows a lot about cooking and the ways of not wasting, so I think that would be very useful in that situation. But then Rob, the bass player, he’s got the strongest constitution of anyone in the band and he’s also physically the strongest. So yeah, it would be one of those two.

If the apocalypse ever happens while you’re in a Ten Fé concert, GO WITH ROB. You might think Rob will eat you alive but trust us – Johnny is the one who will go all Hannibal Lecter on you and make some gourmet fermented dish outta your liver…with a nice chianti.

Speaking of apocalyptic concerts, Ten Fé’s on tour (tickets available here):

North America 2019

3/17 – Songbyrd (Washington, DC, USA)

3/19 – Bowery Ballroom (New York, NY, USA)

3/20 – Great Scott (Allson, MA, USA)

3/21 – Milkboy (Philadelphia, PA, USA)

3/23 – The Drake Hotel (Toronto, ON, Canada)

3/24 – 27 Club (Ottawa, ON, Canada)

3/25 – Bar Le Ritz (Montreal, QC, Canada

3/27 – Magic Bag (Detroit, MI, USA)

3/28 – Colectivo (Milwaukee, WI, USA)

3/30 – Schubas (Chicago, IL, USA)

3/31 – 7th Street Entry (Minnesota, MN, USA)

4/2 – Globe Hall (Denver, CO, USA)

4/5 – Valley Bar (Phoenix, AZ, USA)

4/6 – The Bunkhouse (Las Vegas, NV, USA)

4/7 – The Casbah (San Diego, CA, USA)

4/9 – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

4/11 – The Independent (San Francisco, CA, USA)

4/13 – Doug Fir Lounge (Portland, OR, USA)

4/14 – Biltmore Cabaret (Vancouver, ON, Canada)

4/15 – Barboza (Seattle, WA, USA)

Europe 2019

4/24 – Yes (Manchester, UK)

4/25 – Sneaky Pete’s (Edinburgh, UK)

4/26 – Think Tank (Newcastle, UK)

4/27 – Headrow House (Leeds, UK)

4/29 – Rough Trade (Nottingham, UK)

4/30 – The Louisiana (Bristol, UK)

5/1 – Hope & Ruin (Brighton, UK)

5/2 – EartH (London, UK)

5/4 – Pont FMR (Paris, France)

5/5 – Trix (Antwerp, Belgium)

5/7 – Papierzaal (Zurich, Switzerland)

5/9 – B72 (Wien, Austria)

5/10 – Café V Iese (Praha, Czech Republic)

5/11 – Musik & Frieden (Berlin, Germany)

5/13 – Molotow Musikclub (Hamburg, Germany)

5/14 – Studio 672 (Koln, Germany)

5/16 – Merleyn (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

5/17 – Rotown (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

5/18 – EKKO (Utrecht, Netherlands)

5/19 – Bitterzoet (Amsterdam, Netherlands)