It’s a concert that sold out within 24 hours and one that could have sold out 6 or 7 times over, but for the 300 or so people who did manage to get a ticket to FRED’s last ever concert it will be at a very special night. Entitled ‘The Last Hurrah’, it will be a send off for one of Cork’s most beloved bands over the last 15 years, they will leave a history of 4 albums, 9 singles and nearly a thousand concerts under their belts.
Joseph O’Leary, their lead singer and guitarist, spoke with Ronan Leonard ahead of their final concerts; in a somewhat ironic twist they have had a lot of media attention since they announced their split, “it’s been chaotic since the week we announced we were finishing, everyone’s looking for a piece of us now, but that’s cool with me because it’s the last time we’ve got it to give.”
All the band have been quite clear about how there is no acrimony about why they are finishing and Joseph sums it up as “an end rather than a split, but you’d have 4 different answers from 4 different people about why exactly. It’s a combination of both how the industry has changed and being in our mid-30s, like our ages have kept a check on time and what you want to achieve out of life. For the last three years it seems we’ve kind of plateaued, the graph wasn’t going up anymore and we couldn’t afford to go abroad as much as we did before.”
Unfortunately for any band the brutal mechanics of finance in the music industry usually takes it’s toll, Joseph admits that played a part with FRED’s decision, “the whole being broke thing didn’t help. Paying back our last album has been very tough, even though artistically and creatively we thought it was far superior to anything we’ve ever done, it didn’t monetarily achieve what we wanted it to achieve. We had invested a lot into it and that was really hanging on our necks too.”
After 15 years with many successes such as having played pretty much every major venue in the country; being signed to labels in Canada and Germany and touring both countries extensively; performing on Other Voices and also having their music used in television shows like Gossip Girl and several ad campaigns, it must be hard for Joseph to pick an absolute highlight, “obviously we’ve been talking back over everything in the van over the last while and we all have different favourite memories but one we all share is recording the last album ‘Leaving My Empire’ in Montreal. We lived and recorded there for a month, worked with a really good engineer and great producer in lovely studio setting. We really did it right and recorded what we felt made a really good album.”
When it comes to a live concert moment, Joseph has a specific highlight, “honestly I’ve loved every gig we’ve played but I will always remember Oxygen in 2009, when we were touring the ‘Go God Go’ album. We had brought in a brass section and string section and had been given the “funeral slot”; it was midday or something on the Sunday. We’d been given this huge tent that could take 12,000 people; we went to see Republic Of Loose the night before, they were very popular at the time, and it wasn’t even full so we were thinking “how are we going to manage tomorrow?” When we came out on stage there was a couple of hundred people and after the first song it was about 1000, and after two songs it was maybe 2000. People were streaming in and because of the light outside you see it so clearly, people were running to get up the front. We ended up with the tent quite full, it was a real super feeling, and it felt like a coming-of-age thing.”
So as they prepare to play for the last time, how does Joseph sum up FRED, “our legacy ultimately is that we tried our best, we really did, as a group. Frustrations came with that but the greatest part of what we did was that we wrote good albums and that can’t be taken away from us. Towards the end we were writing really good songs and we were writing them together which was great, in the early days Jamie wrote all the songs but towards the end we were all writing the songs, it was great, it was a collective and that was always my idea of a band, when you get to the point of everyone thinking along the same lines that is where the magic comes from.”
Fred play the Last Hurrah in The Pavilion on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 December.