FES band interview: Meet the Leeds guitar-pop trio tipped as ones to watch as they release debut album

In March 2020, FES were all set to release a new EP.

By Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 24th April 2022, 4:30 pm

The guitar-pop trio had to hit the pause button when the pandemic scuppered their plans, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, giving them time to refine their sound.

Composed of guitarist and lead vocalist Pollyanna Holland-Wing, her brother Tom on drums and their friend Matthew West on bass, the band takes inspiration from math-pop bands including Paramore, Biffy Clyro and Fish Tank.

With their distinctive guitar riffs, hook-laden lyrics and Pollyanna's impressive vocal range, the band have established a keen underground fanbase from across the world.

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The band's debut album With Regards From Home is released on Friday

The trio hail from Peterborough and Matthew moved to Leeds five years ago to study a masters degree.

The band fell in love with the city and take inspiration from its wealth of venues and eclectic mix of music.

Matthew, 29, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Living in a city like Leeds, you can go out on any night of the week and find music.

"When I first came here, I moved in with four 20-year-old lads who were all jazz players so we started going to Sela Bar and all the jazz jams in town.

Drummer Tom Holland-Wing, vocalist and guitarist Pollyanna Holland-Wing and bassist Matthew West of FES

“It was overwhelming, being surrounded by music. We weren’t used to that in Peterborough.

"I have places like Brudenell and Hyde Park Book Club on my doorstep, so Leeds has everything I need, musically.”

Previously known as the Flat Earth Society, the band formed in late 2016 - and quickly established a keen underground fanbase with their high-energy stage shows, slick tempo changes and catchy math-pop melodies.

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FES will soon embark on a tour across the UK and Europe with Los Angeles duo Standards

“When we first started, we were a bit more sporadic," Tom, 29, said.

"We’d latch on to anything that sounded good.

"But as we’ve gone on, done a few tours, had a few releases and signed to a label, we’ve started to think about our music more intricately - and more outside the box."

Matthew added: "In the early days, we’d do things musically that were designed to be weird for the sake of being weird.

“We still have an element of that, there are still weird bits in our new album, but it’s a lot more focused.

“You can tell a lot more thought has gone into the songwriting, the production and the sound in general.

“It’s matured, but I think that happens to everyone.”

The band were unable to play together for more than a year during the pandemic, but used the time to perfect their sound, explore new directions and refine the songs planned for the EP.

They have been signed by Brighton-based label Small Pond Records and their debut album, With Regards From Home, is set to be released on Friday.

“I definitely think the pandemic has changed our sound," Pollyana, 25, said.

"When I wrote my guitar parts I wasn’t thinking about playing them live, I was just thinking about how they sound.

"I've made the songs so much more difficult for myself - they’re so hard to play!”

FES's high-tempo sound is paired with lyrics that go deeper - covering themes of identity, nostalgia, grief and mental health.

Pollyanna added: "Over the past few years, it has been talked about more - it’s less stigmatised.

“I’ve written songs about my mental health a lot, as well as Tom and Matt’s mental health.

"Everybody who I’m close with has struggled with it, it’s so important to talk about it. It’s one of the biggest aspects of my life and a lot of other people’s lives so it’s something people can relate to.

“I find it really freeing. It takes me to another place and it’s very therapeutic. “

After rounding off 2021 on a UK tour with Last Hyena and InTechnicolour, FES are booked for Portals Festival, Bad Pond Festival and ArcTanGent Festival this summer.

They will soon embark on a tour across the UK and Europe with Los Angeles duo Standards.

Tom added: "We’ll be hitting France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic - all these places that we’ve always dreamed of playing.

“Everyone can relate to this, but it’s a long time to be stuck in your living room. It’s nice to get back into the real world.”

FES have learnt important lessons during the pandemic

They have emerged ready to take on the world - with dreams of touring America next year.

Tom has shared his advice for other aspiring bands.

"Networking and making connections is important," he said.

"And get good production on your record, take every gig you can and perfect your live performance.

"You might start by playing free shows, but as you go on that changes.

"The live experience is so important; practice does make perfect and it’s about the connection you have on stage and being on the same wavelength.

"If you can communicate that to the audience, then the audience usually likes it and it’s going to help your chances of success.”

The band's third single from their debut album, Sun Visor, is out now

It's themed around being afraid about what you might find out if you go looking for answers.

"The theme originated from me being scared to go to the doctors," Pollyanna said.

Matthew added: “We got a lot of views on the video on the first day and it’s still building up nicely.

"It’s a bit more accessible, but it still has the stupid guitar tapping and weird changes. We try to keep every line a hook and that song really personifies that idea.”

The slick video, which sees Tom and Matthew act as interrogation officers, has been well-received and it's a taster of what's to come from the album - released this Friday.

It follows singles Clarinet and Force Feed, released earlier this year, which have picked up support from Guitar World, Distorted Sound and Spotify's Shockwave playlist.

"The pandemic was a blessing in disguise," Pollyanna said.

"The songs we were going to release weren’t polished or perfected, so it gave us time to focus."

Tom added: “We’ve pushed our sound in ways even we weren’t expecting,.

"We’ve got some of our more typical songs, an acoustic track, then towards the end of the album it’s more in-your-face.

"The sound takes a journey through the album - we’ve pushed the boundaries."