The LaFontaines are the most exciting force in music since a bunch of guys in caves figured out that rhythmically banging on stuff and dancing about was fun.
The quintet - Kerr Okan, John Gerard, Darren McCaughey, Jamie Keenan and Iain Findlay - grew up in the gritty reality of contemporary smalltown Scotland but they are about to shake up the music industry and the whole social structure of the UK with their quite astonishing debut album, ‘Class’.
A diverse array of musical influences is mixed and melded together to produce a sound that is characteristically, unmistakably theirs. Rock, Hip-Hop, Pop, Drum and Bass.. pretty much everything but country, swirling around the Fonts music machine and emerging as an entirely new beast with a bad attitude, a strong Scottish accent and a healthy dose of rage.
Rapper and Font-in-chief Kerr Okan is understandably thrilled to unleash the first Fonts long player on an unsuspecting world. He said: “Our debut album Class is a culmination of everything we have managed to achieve, everything we have worked on and worked for. A band like this, we are sort of first through the door, there’s never been anything to gauge it against, there’s never been anything like this before.”
It’s often been said that The LaFontaines shouldn’t work - no-one should be able to pull off the insane blend of styles that they do. Yet when you see them play, it’s seamless, it’s natural, and it’s mind-blowing.
“It works because we are five completely different guys so we fire it all into a big melting pot. We have played so much live and honed the live set so much, without ever trying to consciously think about it, that it just comes together, all the influences, all the ideas. It just works!
“We don’t feel the need to be confined to any set genre. We just go in the studio, and make whatever comes naturally. It comes through time, being a band together every single day, playing for so many years developing our sound. It’s why it’s unique.
His own harshest critic, it’s clear Kerr is delighted with the record his band have produced - and no wonder. “I couldn’t be happier with this project, I think the album is a fantastic record. There’s maturity in the songwriting, the instrumentation is at a very good example of where we are, lyrically I am happy with the level. Look at Class, the title. The album is called Class because it IS fucking class, but also is about social class. We’ve been dealing with that our whole lives and of course there’s that undertone through the writing, all the boys have that sort of background so it comes through. I am very proud of what we have managed to achieve, and of how we have managed to convey what we do and what we are about. There are different levels through it all, there are many connotations and things there to find if you look into the songs a little more deeply. I am delighted with what we have done.”
Stylistically, the album does well to cover all the elements of TheLaFontaines sound. While there’s an overarching thread uniting those elements, the album veers into different waters, exploring their different extremes. There’s the raw, aggressive but groove-driven rap of King and Slow Elvis, the breezy pop with an angry undercurrent of Class and Castles, the rockier edge of Window Seat and Junior Dragon and the blissed out pop wondrousness of All She Knows... yet even here, on their most sublimely gentle of moments, there’s a blade hidden beneath the velvet. As their anthem Shark In The Water says, with this band, there’s always something deadly lurking beneath seemingly calm waters.
Kerr said: “The album is a selection of what we think are our best songs but nothing is ever cut and dried. Look at King, it’s never gonna be a commercial pop song, the lyrical content is very serious but the groove is powerful. Same applies with Slow Elvis. Then there’s the song Class which really comes from the heart, addressing a lot of anger for all of us at times about the class system - but it’s a really upbeat poppy song.”
While the album is essential listening for the coming summer, to really understand what makes The LaFontaines such an exceptional proposition, you need to see them live. Long universally and justifiably hailed the best live band in their home country, their forthcoming UK headline tour will see that reputation spread like an especially addictive musical opiate. Once you see them, you’re hooked. And there’s no methadone to wean you off the Fonts.
Kerr said: “We have this reputation as a great live band because we love it, for us that is what it is all about so it’s what we have spent the last five years doing. People listen to music differently but that’s fine by me. As far as I am concerned music is just a form of promotion to get people to our shows to see us kill it live. That is why we are a band. You can do tricks in the studio but live there’s no hiding, if you are good you’re good, if you’re fucking shit then that’s what people will see. Come see us and judge us for yourself. No falseness, no hiding, we are there on the stage having a party and baring our souls. We have grown up and grown into it, we know what we are as a band. And we know we’re happy with that.
“This is our first headline tour ever through the UK. We have done bigger one off gigs and things but this is our first time going out through the whole UK on our own. It’s daunting, not in terms of us carrying the shows but just hoping people show up and we sell them out. We know that if we get the people to the shows it will be all good. We’re confident in our show. So come see it.”
And then, of course, there’s the small matter of the Fonts opening the Main Stage on Saturday at T in the Park this year, a slot any band, signed or otherwise, would kill for. Yet it is absolutely deserved and from all corners, there’s nothing but confidence that the band will absolutely kill it.
Kerr grinned: “T in the Park Main Stage, it’s funny to think how far we have come. It’s going to be incredible. In a strange way, it is phenomenal but I don’t feel like it isn’t what we deserve. We are ready and we’ll fucking smash it. We belong on that Main Stage and we are gonna show that.”
Shining through everything he says, just as it screams from every moment of the album, is the unerring, utterly deserved confidence in everything The LaFontaines do. A band who have no plan B, no half-arsed “giving it a go”. This is their life, their only option. And it shows.
“By the end of the year I want the album out and well-received and to have done a second bigger UK tour, do Europe, the States, but the key is I want our music to be listened to the way it should be. I want people to understand what we have spent the last few years doing, which is creating a body of work that properly represents our band.
“This band is going to be fucking huge. It WILL be huge. It has to be. All we care about is this band, it’s what I have worked towards since I was 15 and it is going to happen. Try and fucking stop us.”
Reading tomorrow @OfficialRandL BBC Radio 1 Dance stage. 12.05 You coming?