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Hard-Fi talk Once Upon A Time In The West


Feature by Jack Foley

HARD-Fi are approaching a dramatic new apex in their career. Critically acclaimed, commercially successful and tower block tall, the West London four-piece must now overcome the “difficult second album” syndrome.

They intend to do it with the eagerly anticipated Once Upon A Time In The West, which is released on September 3 and preceded by the excellent new single, Suburban Knights on August 20.

Written by frontman Richard Archer and co-produced by Richard with Wolsey White, it’s described as “a landmark LP of scopic, wide-eyed, unrepressed tracks”.

Mixed by Spike Stent (U2, Bjork and Madonna), it’s their second studio album and – hopefully – their most cohesive, definitive release to date.

“We’ve learnt a lot in the making of this record,” explains frontman Richard Archer. “People say that debut albums are always the best because you have a lifetime of experience to pour into them – but that’s bullshit. The last three years have been like 20 years compressed.

“Before we started the LP, I wanted to make something that sounded dark, atmospheric with elements of The Clash and Stones – and we’ve really fucking nailed that. Stars Of CCTV was put it on and turn it up, this is sharper, more tactical and raw.”

He continued: “We were tempted to fuck off and record it abroad, but it didn’t seem appropriate. So, we looked around at other UK studios but decided that everyone else records there… and we definitely didn’t want to sound like everyone else.

“Ultimately, nothing really made us feel comfortable but, saying that, recording in Staines was anything but comfortable – we returned to our converted taxi office, which didn’t have running water until halfway through.

“It was more the fact that we could do what we wanted. We used bigger studios to mix, but conceived it in our natural environment.”

Whereas the first album came together in stagesm, via a single track that gave way to an EP, a mini album and then the album, this was more cohesive and felt to the band like the first time they truly made a record.

“It’s like anything we do, it’s never contrived,” says Richard. “It’s just what comes out. There are still elements of CCTV-style social commentary but it’s more subtle and integrated. The 12 tracks are simply the best ones written, and they just happened to mean something.”

As for the albums name, explains Richard: “We were on tour and watching Once Upon A Time In The West while on the bus. Ultimately, that title reflected the theme of the album – these are stories from our west, west London.”

Hence, the album promises tracks like the 70’s SKA-inspired We Need Love and Tonight.

“The latter is a big piano-driven number – it had a few incarnations before it became what it is, but it’s about the possibility of night time. History is made at night,” observes Richard.

Meanwhile, the former harks back to The Specials and was inspired by Billy Bragg’s acclaimed novella The Progressive Patriot.

There’s traces of R&B on Can’t Get Along with its stomping Motown lilt and a stark fragility to Help Me Please, a track written about the death of Richard’s mother. I Shall Overcome, meanwhile, harks back to early Clash.

We await the album excitedly…