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Honesty lies in an up-close splitter van tour and a great veggie sausage

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

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Curious little things get filed away in Kris Coombs-Roberts' memory banks as he tours the globe with Welsh rockers Funeral For a Friend.

Pressing matters like where in the Westcountry to find a chip shop selling the best-tasting vegetarian sausage tend to take on a certain significance when you're on the road for 11 years.

Mild-mannered, bearded, guitar-thrashing Kris awards that particular distinction to Saltash, where he recalls discovering a particularly fine example when the post-hardcore outfit played a triumphant warm-up show at the Livewire Youth Music Project last year.

"It was a really nice place, altogether... it reminded me a bit of where we grew up in the Valleys. And I do remember there was a good chip shop," muses Kris, pondering if there might be time for a detour when the band come down to play some intimate gigs in Plymouth and Exeter at the end of the month.

Quite a bit has changed in the Funeral For A Friend camp in recent times. As the band release their sixth studio album, Conduit, Kris and vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye are now the sole remaining duo from the original gang of young hopefuls who emerged from the town of Bridgend at the turn of the century.

And their current tour will take them back to some of the club haunts where they cut their teeth gigging a decade ago – squeezed into in a splitter van with their gear rather than the 60ft tour bus that just about made it down the hill to the Saltash venue a few months back.

Far from feeling any regret at this turn of events, Kris says he feels positively invigorated by the prospect.

"There is something about playing live... it's the most organic form of your music that anyone can hear," he muses. "And on this tour it's going to be right there in people's faces."

The band were UK front runners of a genre that gave punk-fuelled, heavy metal a screamy-voiced, emotional twist, moving on a step from US outfits like Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance.

Funeral For A Friend rose quickly on the back of their acclaimed debut album, Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation, released in 2003 on the Atlantic label.

They have played to massive festival crowds as well as major scale venues on both sides of the Atlantic – even employing a 28-piece orchestra at one point – but they have always favoured more intimate stages.

In 2007 they warmed up to tour their more melodic Tales Don't Tell Themselves LP – their concept album about a fisherman – with a string of 200-capacity pub and arts centre gigs around the coast of Cornwall.

Kris says it feels right to be getting right back to basics.

"We never set out with the intention of being the biggest band on the planet. I don't think we ever thought we would get a record out – we just wanted to play shows," he explains, speaking from his adopted home city of London.

"We have always played things down a bit – if things don't come off then you're not too disappointed.

"I have more excitement about performing now. Having taken almost a year off and changed things around a bit we are chomping at the bit to get out there and play again.

"Making the new album was amazing, and we have a new drummer as well, and his enthusiasm is putting new life into everyone," he adds.

"It's almost like we have come full circle; making music is the most honest and expressive thing you can do, and the more successful you are, the more it becomes a business and it's taken out of your hands.

"More than anything you have to believe 100 per cent in the music you write and play, and with the new record we looked back over everything we have done and seen that what we started out with is what where we want to be. This LP is the closest thing we've done to our first EPs, and we can stand up and say this is us and this is what we do."

Funeral For A Friend play the White Rabbit, Plymouth on Wednesday, January 30 and the Cavern, Exeter, on Thursday, January 31.

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