What’s in a name? It’s the cause of much consternation amongst those who have to carry the burden, the weight of it. Should it be meaningful, and relevant to the sound, or perhaps it should have no obvious ties? Maybe it just sounds good, and looks just fine in the eyes and ears of the beholder. Whatever the case may be, all bands have to have a name, and over the years I’ve spoken to countless acts who hate what they are called, but are burdened with it for ever. Not so with Her’s who, although completely aware that the apostrophe is “massively incorrect”, sound quite content with the ambiguity of it.
“That’s the thing,” says Stephen (Ste) Fitzpatrick, “there isn’t any huge, mysterious back story to it. It’s more of a name that we feel represents the sound. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. We like it that it’s quite ambiguous. There isn’t any specific ‘her’ that is related to it. It’s meant to be a mysterious, romantic thing. It sounds like a sense of longing. I guess that relates to the melancholic side of the music.”
“A lot of people are curious as to who the ‘she’ could be, but that’s the ambiguity of it,” says Audun Laading. “It kind of relates to this idea of a higher being.”
What was, at the beginning, a meeting of minds between Norway’s Laading and Barrow-born Fitzpatrick, Her’s have forged a strong chemical bond through a mutual love of off-beat humour and outsider art. Their obvious love for their subtly infectious music, is best enjoyed on the live stage. With the aid of a drum machine, Laading plays his bass whilst vigorously swaying from side-to-side, reminiscent of new romantic/new wave moves of old. All while guitarist and singer Fitzpatrick alternates between the guttural and the melancholic; the duo somehow capturing the spirit of the 80s, via The Smiths, Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, as well as relative newbies such as Ariel Pink, and Mac DeMarco. It’s all topped off by the slightest hint of indie-funk, propelling the songs into danceable territory.
It’s all forged from an unlikely pairing, from a geographical point of view. Fitzpatrick is from the North West Cumbrian town of Barrow-in-Furness, while Laading is from a “Slightly sleepy town on Norway’s south coast, called Kristiansand. I’m from an island about half an hour from there. I found my way out of there, luckily… I applied to one university, and got in. I don’t fully remember why I picked Liverpool. It was a bit random. I think I thought it had a good reputation. It worked out!”
Often labelled as dream-pop, their sound is both romantic and nostalgic, as well as melancholic, and sad. It’s a fine tightrope they walk, but with aplomb they do, as can also be heard on their recently-released second album, Invitation To Her’s, which sees the duo really maturing as songwriters and musicians. Songs such as ‘Low Beam’, ‘Blue Lips’, and ‘Mannie’s Smile’ evoke a warm familiarity via some insanely catchy pop melodies. “We approached it more as a unit,” says Ste, “as opposed to piecing together a lot of songs. With the first (mini) album (Song of Her’s) suddenly we were a band, and we thought we should just probably release the music. It was more of a goal-orientated effort this time. We were more confident with the production.”
“We had a chance to demo this one,” says Audun. “We spent a lot of time on this. The first one we did in separate parts, back and forth recording, finishing off tracks as we went along.”
The pair met whilst at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, within the fevered atmosphere of undergraduates trying to find their space, their mojo, as well seeking out like-minded souls. “We both moved from our small towns to Liverpool, studying the same course, had exactly the same schedule, and then we started playing in a band together, that wasn’t Her’s,” says Ste. “It was a pre-Brad stank band called Sun Dogs, and we were the rhythm section. That was our musical introduction to each other. It developed from there very naturally. We started hanging out more, and jamming. It took a while, we were pretty chilled about it.”
“It was always an ambition to make original music,” says Audun. “When we started making music at uni there were so many bands being formed, left and right. It was a hectic period, the first month of uni, just trying to figure it out. For me personally, I was just going to take my time, figure it out, find out who I am vibing with in the right way.”
“One of your mates heard about us jamming, and he offered us a gig,” says Ste. “And suddenly we had to write songs for this gig. They came together in a week or two. We had four songs, and we played for probably eight minutes. A set nonetheless. That was the start of the band.”
“We did some awful, awful songs to get a passing grade, which we did,” says Audun. “They will probably never get played anywhere. Truly awful. But Ste had some good ideas down on guitar already, and we fleshed them out a bit more. And here we are in the back of a van!” However, they still passed with awful songs, “We got a 68 or something. Not bad. Almost a first. I’ll take that.”
As we speak, in the back of a van they are. They’ve just returned from a little jaunt to Europe, and are speeding their way back to Liverpool having just finished a session for Radio 4’s Loose Ends. “We got back from Amsterdam not too long ago, and today we’ve been in London with ol’ Clive Anderson,” says Ste. With Anderson at the helm, Loose Ends is a radio show that always features a couple of live musical guests in the mix. “It’s a good eclectic mix of people in there,” says Ste. “We played ‘Low Beam’ for them. We were actually meant to be on next week’s show with Jeff Goldblum,” says Ste, sounding disappointed he didn’t get to meet the actor-cum-musician. “We missed Jeff, but there were some good people there.
“Europe was really nice too. We played two festivals and a little headline show in Brussels. We’re going back in October for another set of dates around Europe. This was a nice easing in to it. We’d never been to Brussels. It was a super nice crowd, fun to get the chance to play.”
With a short tour of the US, and a headline UK tour also lined up for the rest of the year, it’s going to be a “sweaty few months” for Her’s. They are, in particular, looking forward to another Brighton date, at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, their first one since they came to town in May for The Great Escape, including a show for Brightonsfinest at St. Mary’s Church. “That was really good,” says Ste. “Super reverby in there. It’s a bit of a pressure when you’re rocking right in front of God. I really enjoyed it, the big reverberance adding a bit of weight to your statements.”