Frontman Charlie Simpson (left) and bassist Dan Haigh (right) in 2010.
|Origin||London, United Kingdom|
Fightstar are a British rock band from London, formed in 2003. The band's line-up comprises lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Charlie Simpson, guitarist and vocalist Alex Westaway, bassist Dan Haigh and drummer Omar Abidi. Although generally considered a post-hardcore band, Fightstar are commonly known to implement additional metal and alternative rock elements into their sound, as well as several other genres. During the band's initial emergence, they were faced with much skepticism due to Simpson's former pop career. However, they began to receive positive reactions to early live shows and their debut EP, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead (2005), was a critical success. Since then, their four studio albums have obtained top 40 chartings and critical praise.
Following They Liked You Better When You Were Dead, Fightstar released their debut studio album Grand Unification in 2006. The album was regarded by one critic as "one of the best British rock albums" of the decade. The band went on to receive a nomination at the Kerrang! Awards for "Best British Band", before releasing their second album, One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours in 2007. The following year a compilation album including b-sides and rarities titled, Alternate Endings (2008) was released. The band then self-funded and co-produced their third album, Be Human (2009), which heavily featured orchestral and choral elements. It became their highest charting album after peaking at number twenty in the UK Albums Chart. The band announced an extended hiatus in 2010, allowing its members to concentrate on other projects, including two folk-oriented solo records by Simpson; before announcing their reunion in 2014. The following year, they released their fourth studio album, Behind the Devil's Back, which added electronic elements to their previously known sound.
During 2003, when Charlie Simpson was still an active member of pop-punk band Busted, he met fellow songwriter-guitarist Alex Westaway and drummer Omar Abidi at a party. He was by this stage becoming increasingly frustrated by the music he was performing in Busted and stated he had "all of this creativity pent up inside and I just needed to vent it somewhere, and I was writing a lot of songs but I couldn't play them, because I didn't have anyone to play them with". Abidi had been completing a sound engineering diploma at college, whilst guitarist Alex Westaway had recently moved down to London after dropping out of university. Future bassist Dan Haigh was also based in London working for a game development company.
During the aforementioned party, an impromptu jam session took place. Simpson, Westaway and Abidi played Rage Against the Machine's song "Killing in the Name" on loop, and agreed to attend a gig a few days later. After the show, they went back to Simpson's flat and began performing on guitars and a v-drum kit, which led to their first song being written, titled "Too Much Punch". Westaway later invited school friend, Haigh, to practise with the band and soon began booking regular rehearsal sessions together after Haigh and Simpson bonded over their love of Machine Head and Sepultura. Simpson's time spent with Fightstar reportedly began to cause tensions within Busted, amplified when Fightstar announced a 14-date UK tour. Simpson announced to the pop trio's manager in December 2004 over a phone call that he was leaving the band to focus on Fightstar full-time, citing that he wanted to do something his "heart was in". On 13 January 2005, Busted's record label announced a press conference was to be held at the Soho Hotel in London the following day. The next day, the 14th, it was then announced that Busted were splitting up after Simpson's departure weeks before.
They Liked You Better When You Were Dead EP (2004—2005)
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Following Simpson's decision to focus on Fightstar full-time, the band entered Criterion Studios in London with producer Mark Williams to begin tracking. The EP, comprising nine tracks on the extended mini-album version, was written in six months while Westaway and Simpson lived together. Recording sessions were often interrupted as during this period Simpson was in the middle of a sold-out stint of Wembley shows with Busted. The song "Mono", named in honour of the Japanese band of the same name, was recorded during a thunderstorm. Shortly before the track's heavy finale, it's possible to hear the sound of Simpson screaming in the rain after he ran outside, unaware the studio's room mics were capturing his antics.
They Liked You Better When You Were Dead was released on 28 February 2005, following a rapid promotional tour of the UK. The release proved popular enough to warrant a reprinting on 23 March 2005. Alex Westaway, the band's lead guitarist and co-lyricist drew the artwork based on Edward Norton for the inlay of the booklet, as the record was inspired by author Chuck Palahniuk and the film adaptation Fight Club. "Palahniuk's Laughter" (named in reference to Palahniuk) enjoyed heavy rotation on music video channels and spent many weeks in charts based on video and radio requests. The track was originally entitled "Out Swimming in the Flood", but was renamed after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The UK version contained five tracks (including a sixth hidden track), meaning the record was ineligible for the UK Singles Chart. The EP was released the following year in North America as an extended mini-album through Deep Elm Records. The release was met with praise from critics, despite many being initially sceptical due to Simpson's former pop career with Busted.
Grand Unification (2005—2006)
Sleep Well Tonight
"Grand Unification Pt. II"
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After the release and promotion of They Liked You Better When You Were Dead, the band were approached by their management with regards to whom they wanted to produce their debut full length. They requested Colin Richardson, and although initially sceptical about their chances, Richardson agreed to collaborate after demos had been sent to the producer. The band entered studios in west London and Surrey with Richardson during October 2005. Richardson, who had previously produced albums for the likes of Funeral for a Friend, Machine Head and Fear Factory, was particularly meticulous during pre-production, taking five days just tuning the drums. However once recording had started, he praised the band for being "very focused" and that there was a "real buzz because nobody knows what to expect." Grand Unification is a concept album, which is influenced and based upon the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series. The lyrics are loosely based on the personal experiences of lyricists Charlie Simpson and Alex Westaway, but the underlying concept revolves around two people who experience the last few days of life before the end of the world.
The album was released in the UK on 13 March 2006 through Island Records and was preceded by the single releases of "Paint Your Target", "Grand Unification Pt. I", and "Waste a Moment". The album debuted at number twenty eight on the UK Albums Chart, while first single "Paint Your Target" reached number nine in the Singles Chart. In March 2006, they were listed by the US rock magazine Alternative Press as one of the 100 bands to watch for that year. The band also played a slot at the Download Festival at Donington Park Race Track and also headlined the Sunday of Welsh rock music festival The Full Ponty under Biffy Clyro and Funeral for a Friend. Fightstar toured with Funeral for a Friend for three months in 2006 covering such places as Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. The band released Grand Unification, in North America on 17 April 2007 through Trustkill Records. The release differed from the British and Japanese versions by including the b-side to fourth single "Hazy Eyes", titled "Fight For Us" as a fourteenth track.
One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours (2007—2008)
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After leaving Island Records due to a disagreement over the band's artistic direction, Fightstar signed to an independent label called Institute Records which was a division of Gut Records to release their second album. Charlie Simpson explained that the band and label had come to a "cross road" after that label began pushing the band to create a more "mainstream" record. The band recorded One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours in Los Angeles with Matt Wallace, who has also produced albums by Faith No More, Satchel, Deftones and Sugarcult.
To promote the album, the band initially released the free downloadable single, "99" in May 2007. The track, written about being haunted by the loss of a loved one, was made available on the band's microsite along with a music video. First official single, "We Apologise for Nothing" was released in September, a week prior to the album and reached number one on the UK Independent Chart and number sixty three on UK Singles Chart. Third single, "Deathcar" helped create history by acting as the first official release in the UK on the new VinylDisc format. The song, inspired by a harrowing documentary on Chinese human meat wagons, coupled with the end of Simpson's relationship, produced a low-fi music video which cost just £500. The VinylDisc single reached number ninety two on the UK Singles Chart, whilst also debuting at number two on both the Indie and Rock Chart. Fourth single, "Floods" was released the following March. The band wrote the song about the growing concern around global warming upon viewing Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. They also performed BBC Radio 1 live sessions on this single campaign for Colin Murray. The band went on a 10 date UK tour during May with support from London four piece Brigade and unsigned Essex band We Are The Ocean already confirmed. The tour included a date at Carling Academy Islington on 29 May, and at the Leeds Slam Dunk Festival on 25 May. The last single from the album was titled "I Am The Message". It was released on 16 June 2008 as a double A side single, with the other side being the band's cover of The Flaming Lips' "Waitin' for a Superman", which was recorded for the Colin Murray Show on Radio 1. This was the band's first single to be added to the Radio 1 playlist.
Alternate Endings and Be Human (2008—2010)
Due to Gut Records going into administration at the end of 2008, Fightstar decided to put out their new album Be Human on their own, in a joint venture with their management company Raw Power on a label called Search and Destroy. The new record was distributed through PIAS Records. Fightstar released their first single from Be Human, "The English Way", on 3 November 2008 and it reached number 1 in the UK rock chart. The video was played on Kerrang! and Scuzz T.V. stations and also reached number 1 on the MTV2 top 10. The album was co-produced by the band along with Carl Bown, in Bown's state of the art Chesterfield based studio; Treehouse Studios. In interviews leading up to the album release, the band commented that the new record would be "quite different" from their previous releases. Charlie Simpson stated they wanted to experiment with more of a "rock opera" sound including full strings and choir. However, he also pointed out that although it may be different, it will remain Fightstar and still include their trademark dark and heavy elements. The band supported Feeder for the first part of their UK tour, which started on 21 October 2008. Drummer Jason Bowld from the British metal band Pitchshifter had filled in for drummer Omar Abidi on their UK tour, while he recovered from a broken wrist. Abidi returned to touring with the band early in 2009. Due to Abidi's hand injury, Simpson filled in to play drums on six tracks for the new album, while Abidi wrote the drum parts and oversaw Simpson's playing.
"Mercury Summer" was announced as the next single on 2 February 2009 through their MySpace page, and it was released on 6 April 2009. Later that week on 4 February, they announced a 12-date UK tour with support from In Case of Fire and Laruso. The video for "Mercury Summer" debuted on their MySpace page on 25 February. The reception for the single was extremely positive, with the song reaching the A List on the Radio 1 Playlist and remaining there for 4 weeks. It was also received well after the band featured on BBC2 music show Sound. "Mercury Summer" was also added to the daytime playlist at XFM Radio and was picked for Ian Camfield's Record of The Week. Emma Scott and Kerrang Radio station also made "Mercury Summer" her Record of The Week. Be Human was released on 20 April 2009, and it reached the highest chart peak of any Fightstar album, reaching number twenty on the UK Albums Chart.
On 12 October the band posted pictures on their Myspace site from their latest music video shoot for new song "A City on Fire". The song subsequently was played for the first time during Fearne Cotton's show on Radio 1 on 19 October and the official video premiered on the band's MySpace on 24 October, which was directed by Sitcom Soldiers. The single was released as a digital download on 20 December, peaking at number 116 on the UK Singles Chart, and number four and number ten on the UK Rock and Indie charts respectively. The band have since released the deluxe edition of Be Human on 1 March 2010.
Hiatus and side projects (2010—2014)
The band announced they were entering a hiatus in 2010 to work on separate projects. In the time away from the band, Westaway and Haigh worked on a music project titled Gunship, a synthwave entity focused on making music for film. The duo completed production on a film project with Philip Koch of Lucas Film. Westaway and Haigh also completed the score for Grzegorz Jonkajtys' short film The 3rd Letter along with Audrey Riley. The film picked up several awards from various film festivals across the world. Meanwhile, Simpson began work on solo material in 2010. That December, he released an EP, titled When We Were Lions, through PledgeMusic, an organisation that helps artists raise money to record music from their fans. His debut album, Young Pilgrim, was released in August 2011.
Simpson stated Fightstar would record an album again, but he planned to record a second solo album first, while Westaway and Haigh worked on Gunship. In an interview with Digital Spy in December 2012, Charlie Simpson confirmed his current plans to finish writing and record a second solo album in February 2013. Following an intended US release and tour in the summer of 2013 in support of this new solo record, he had then planned for Fightstar to reunite and begin writing for the band's fourth album. Simpson's second solo effort, Long Road Home, missed its intended 2013 release and did not surface until August 2014.
Return from hiatus and Behind the Devil's Back (2014—present)
On 24 September 2014, the band's official website was updated to include a countdown timer accompanied by text that simply read "News...". The timer ended on 13 October; with the announcement of a ten-year anniversary show at The Forum in London. A statement from the band followed: "It has been 10 years since the inception of this band and we wanted to celebrate it with a bang. We want to thank you all for your love and support over the past ten years and we can't wait to commemorate this milestone with you guys." The concert sold out in minutes, and due to demand the band added a second concert at O2 Academy Brixton scheduled for December, but it was postponed to February 2015. Along with the news of the postponement came an announcement of additional dates to accompany the aforementioned gig in Brixton, adding performances in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. On 25 February, it was also confirmed that the band were third stage headliners at Download Festival 2015.
On 12 May 2015 Simpson revealed via Instagram that the band had returned to the studio to work on new material with long-time producer Carl Bown and consequently began using Twitter to provide updates on the progress of the album's recording process. On 22 July, it was announced Fightstar would be releasing their fourth studio album, entitled Behind The Devil's Back on 16 October 2015, with a string of UK dates to follow in support of the release. On 26 July, the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show premiered "Animal", the first new song released by the band in 5 years. "Animal" received a digital release on iTunes on 7 August.
On 10 November 2015, Simpson reformed with former band Busted to record new music and tour, although he stated the band will continue to tour and release music regularly and will always exist as a "passion project" for its members. Following this announcement, Tom Bryant of teamrock.com explained that Simpson needed more money since Fightstar records were not bringing in enough financial support for his family, and reuniting with Busted was simply another job to keep him financially stable.
Musical style and influences
Though their style is widely referred to as "post-hardcore", Fightstar have incorporated a diverse amount of sound influences, commonly drawing labels by other publications as alternative rock and metal. Kerrang! magazine have stated the band draw equal influences from genres such as post-rock, heavy metal and hardcore punk. Charlie Simpson has echoed this sentiment by describing the band's musical aim as trying to "combine the light and dark shades, to make something utterly brutal and really heavy and on the other side have something really delicate and beautiful. The fusion of those things is what Fightstar does."
Commenting on debut EP, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead (2005), Allmusic wrote, "Vocalists Al Westaway and Charlie Simpson utilize a distinct sound that reaches total catharsis. Train-like guitar work also adds strength to the record, creating drama and tension in the key moments." Josh Barr, journalist for American music websize Aversion, described the EP as containing, "passionate musicianship that's equal parts serenading melody and jarring punch, these blokes unleash a welcome roundhouse kick to the face of overly sensitive emo rock, triggering crying fits and bloodying scarves".
Lyrically, the band claim that they aim to avoid writing in an "emo" fashion. Grand Unification and One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours were centred around the theme of the apocalypse, while subsequent work has varied thematically from patriotism ("The English Way") to self-loathing ("Damocles" and "Animal"). Fightstar have also drawn influences from books such as those by Chuck Palahniuk, as well as films and comics - the Neon Genesis Evangelion series have provided inspiration for several of the group's songs.
In his review of the band's debut album, Grand Unification (2006), Vik Bansal of MusicOMH spoke of the band's varied dynamics; "Where others are happy to be one-dimensional, Fightstar are not content unless a song moves fluidly through seemingly incongruous but ultimately coherent moods and musical dynamics. The interspersion of thoroughly heavy metal sections within the otherwise widescreen rock of 'Grand Unification Pt I' and 'Sleep Well Tonight' encapsulates this perfectly". The band's second album, One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours (2007) was viewed as a "harder effort" than their debut, containing a "thrilling mixture of alt. rock and post-hardcore". Q magazine wrote that, "the intricate instrumental passages, multi-tracked vocal harmonies and pounding riffs hint at Muse-scale ambition and intellect". The Sun also described the album's sound as, "heavier, slicker and as focused as ever, tracks such as '99' and 'We Apologise For Nothing' embrace an epic, panoramic sound that sweeps you off your feet. It’s aggressive but emotive, with heaps of melody among the huge riffs."
The band's third album, Be Human (2009), heavily implemented choral and orchestral elements. Emma Johnston of Kerrang! emphasised this in her review by stating, "Fightstar throw as many orchestral and choral flourishes at their muscular, solemnly heavy rock as it could take without drowning". AbsolutePunk writer Anton Djamoos also opined that the album contains a "certain symphonic quality", that is "a departure from the general body of work we've seen in the past. They break from their own norm with several orchestral elements to make the album sound more full and let the music hit even harder". Matt Shoemaker at 411mania.com described the album's sound as that of typical Fightstar ("[a] range from pure metal to alternative rock to bordering on emo at times") combined with influences of progressive rock, acoustic, and country pop, in addition to the aforementioned orchestral and choral elements.
The band's fourth and most recent studio album, Behind the Devil's Back (2015) was noted to have a heavier use of electronics than past albums, which some compared to be similar to that of Gunship. Lizzie Cooper-Smith of The Edge noted the presence of 80s-style synths on the album, especially present in the song "More Human than Human". Philip Whitehead of rocksins.com also noted the presence of 80s synths in the second half of the album. He particularly praised the dual instrumental roles that Westaway and Haigh filled on "Overdrive" and "bringing up the ongoing contrast of heavy sections with long melodic and atmospheric passages" on the single "Animal". NE:MM writer David Smith described "More Human than Human" and "Dive" as a mixture of heavy guitars and "dream-like" synths which were "akin to a mix of Angels & Airwaves and 80’s nostalgia," and also highly praised Simpson and Westaway's overall vocal performance.
The band have said they are influenced by a wide variety of music, particularly film scores, and have named artists such as Nirvana, Deftones, Radiohead, Silverchair, Pantera, Mono, Explosions in the Sky, Funeral for a Friend, The Cure, and Jeff Buckley as major inspirations. Abidi has declared Deftones the band he would most like to perform with "If I got to play with (them), that'd be it, you could stick a fork in me."
- Charlie Simpson – vocals, rhythm guitar, piano
- Alex Westaway – vocals, lead guitar, synths
- Dan Haigh – bass guitar, synths
- Omar Abidi – drums, percussion
- Studio albums
- Grand Unification (2006)
- One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours (2007)
- Be Human (2009)
- Behind the Devil's Back (2015)
- Extended plays
- Alternate Endings (2008)
- Kerrang! Awards
|2006||Fightstar||Best British Band||Nominated|
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Following a group hiatus in 2010, Simpson began work on an acoustic solo record and released an EP, When We Were Lions, through the fund-raising initiative Pledgemusic on Christmas Day.
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