Music News

Family Plot

If you think U.K.-based Funeral for a Friend must have been named for a song from Elton John's 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you've just dated yourself in the eyes of young Funeral drummer Ryan Richards. Each time an interviewer makes this assumption, Richards figures that he or she is over thirty -- probably a lot over thirty.

Then again, Richards admits to being clueless about the act that really did inspire Funeral's handle: Planes Mistaken for Stars, a collection of local notables who included an identically named but otherwise different tune on their 2001 disc, Fuck With Fire. "I wasn't aware they were from Denver," he says. "I joined the band after its inception, so it already had the name before I got there. And I've never really been into Planes Mistaken for Stars' music."

For that reason, Richards prefers the EJ association, even if it has no basis in fact. "I love Elton John," he declares, "so I have no problem being linked with him. Actually, I find that more comfortable than being linked with Planes Mistaken for Stars. I don't even know their material, but I know plenty of Elton John songs and can relate to them better."

Although no one will confuse Funeral for a Friend with a Sir Elton cover group, the music Richards makes with his mates -- singer Matt Davies, bassist (and brother of Matt) Gareth Davies, and guitarists Kris Coombs-Roberts and Darran Smith -- is described very differently on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Here, Funeral, touring in support of a new CD, Hours, is frequently depicted as a practitioner of emo or hardcore. Overseas, the quintet is considered to be a metal combo, albeit one with hit-making capability; the 2003 long-player Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation generated three Top 20 singles in Britain.

Richards doesn't mind these inconsistencies. "Rather than feeling like we don't belong anywhere, we feel like we belong everywhere," he says. Even so, he concedes that living at the intersection of two styles can be challenging. For instance, Funeral has opened for Iron Maiden on several occasions in recent years, and even though the veteran metallers are big supporters, Funeral for a Friend has yet to receive a warm response from Maiden loyalists. At the Reading and Leeds festivals in August, the two bands again shared a stage, and bassist Steve Harris, Maiden's founder, expressed bafflement at such reactions. "He said how much he enjoyed our show, and how he couldn't quite understand why their fans didn't take to us," Richards reports. "And if Steve Harris doesn't understand it, I definitely don't understand it."

He might discover more common ground between Funeral and Planes Mistaken for Stars, but using the Denver visit to find out isn't a particularly high priority for him. "Matt loves the band, and they were his inspiration," he says. "As for the rest of us, it's not something we're that interested in, to be perfectly honest."

That's some Friend.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts