US acclaim was like a dream come true for Frou Frou

Story by Jack Foley

WITH the release of their second single, Must Be Dreaming, due for November 4 and a successful US tour behind them, Frou Frou's Guy Sigsworth and Imogen Heap talk exclusively to Indielondon about their worldwide fanbase, the possibility of at least one London tour date before they return to the other side of the Atlantic and their opinion on their hopes for the new single.

Both Guy and Imogen confess to being completely surprised by the level of popularity they enjoyed in the States, especially Los Angeles, and have already made plans to return soon.

"They love us in America," said Guy, with obvious delight. "Basically, we went to LA because there was one public access radio station that was playing our songs and we were going to play two gigs in LA and, like, there were people queuing three blocks to get in, and then they were singing along to the choruses of the songs, which was such a shock - we had no idea, especially when it's off such a little thing, that there's already so much love for it. It's great."

The feeling was all the more gratifying for the duo, given that America is such a big country, but the differences between listening attitudes in both countries is something which Guy is aware of.

"The curious thing about America, as opposed to here, is that there is a kind of tectonic slowness; it's the complete opposite of the UK, where there's a different number one every week. There isn't really a national radio station and because it's a bigger country, it's more lumbering; it takes time to get round it. If you don't make it in one city, there is always another," he continued.

Frou Frou are also making a huge impression in Italy, where their first single, Breathe In, is the number two most played record on Italian radio - so there is currently an unspoken love affair between the duo and Italian listeners.

"Milan, especially, seems to be the heart of everything in the music business there," said Guy. "Actually, a former manager of mine, who is Italian, is in the process of translating some of the song lyrics into Italian so that we can put them on the website, for the Italians to know what we're on about.

"It will also help to make them sound more beautiful in Italian. But it is such a beautiful language, so poetic, I can understand why so much opera is in Italian, it would sound terrible in English."

Frou Frou are clearly buzzing at the level of acclaim they are receiving both here and abroad, and they are also looking to play at least one date for their fans in London before they return to the States, so the hunt is now on for a suitable venue - something which will offer fans something a little bit different.

Imogen explains: "We are trying to organise something before we go [they leave on November 11], because we did this photography competition and got so many good entries that we're going to try and combine something with that. We're trying to make it something a bit unusual; with a bit of a gallery/arthouse feel."

Guy adds: "We were at the Royal Academy of Arts yesterday [Thursday] and we thought that would be brilliant and really clever, but the trouble is, acoustically, it is kind of terrible. So it would be great for the photographs but we would sound awful!

"Some of those exhibition-type places are not really made for music," he continued. "The sound you'd make in there would be quite hard, so it's trying to find the right location where you can have that chilled out, chin stroking art gallery vibe with the kind of pop-tastic, Frou Frou plays electronic strap-on keyboards and laptops, which is the other side of what we do live. But I'm sure we'll find a way to make it work."

The duo have already played a couple of low-key gigs in the capital, however, designed as a warm-up to the American tour dates - and they were, once again, surprised by the level of support they received from fans.

"For the first one, quite a few people managed to figure out that we were there, even though we kept it like a state secret, which was quite a surprise," said Guy. "We were deliberately not announcing that we were there so that we could just make a complete mess of ourselves, and try out all the new gear that we'd bought, to see that it wouldn't explode and short, or the computer doesn't turn on... which it did, of course, but being the type of people that we are, we pulled it off anyway," he adds.

It is clear from talking to both Guy and Imogen that they place a lot of emphasis on what their fans think; and that they are keen to please them, rather than simply doing their own thing. And they are clearly delighted that their music - of which they are rightly proud - has connected with people on some level.

Must Be Dreaming, for instance, was virtually chosen as a single by the fans, based on the reaction that has been posted on the website -

"We both love Must Be Dreaming, but we thought we've got an album of 11 singles, so after meeting so many people that said, 'oh, that's my favourite song', we thought, let's go with it and see how they do react to it," said Guy.

And having made the decision, they then went about attracting the interest of the number one video director in Japan, who has worked with actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio on adverts, believing that it was the perfect song to give him, because of its action-packed and pacy nature.

The video in question, which is already attracting acclaim within the industry, features Imogen running on treadmills, singing underwater and, as Guy puts it, 'in all kind of bizarre positions'.

Imogen recalls: "At one stage I had to, kind of, spin around this podium with a wad of thick, black hair wrapped around my face and I couldn't see anything, and I was made to walk around like a mummy. It made the record company a little bit nervous, because they hadn't heard of the director and they tend to like to stick to what they know."

Asked whether chart success was something that they really aspired to, or whether it was better to have a strong fanbase, Guy replied that it was something which gave them mixed feelings - especially as he has been told that Frou Frou need to be in the charts.

"It's difficult because what Immy and I both feel is that the good guys have to try, otherwise the bad guys win," he explained. "It's kind of like, we have to keep trying, even though sometimes you do despair, and you do go, 'oh my God'; you go through those moments when it gets you really depressed...."

Imogen adds: "The people that govern the charts, basically, are corporate companies and Radio One, and it just boils down to eight people sitting around a table deciding whether you're cool or not..."

"Basically, they are second guessing everyone on the assumption that they are stupid," continues Guy. "So while the listeners are not stupid, these people are sort of dumbing down their own expectations of their listeners on that. It's hard not to sound grumpy sometimes, and I'm not trying to personalise it, but you do kind of want more people who are real to come through.

"Take the new metal scene, which is not something I can say I am an expert on, but I can completely understand what the kids are getting into, because it was the antidote to, let's say, anything that Simon Cowell's ever had anything to do with (not that I wish him mean or anything); it's just that you can see that people want something real; and these people are real.

"I think people are sick of totally manufactured stuff, people fronting music they haven't written, and they are rebelling against that and want to find something that is real, and bands that are real, who have got something to say in their lyrics.

"And it's just great when you know you've connected with someone. I do think that the thing with music, is that you write a song, or put these words together, because it makes you feel something, and you have to believe that someone out there might feel the same thing to. I don't think you can just do it because it makes you feel happy... it's like a comedian just telling a joke to himself, it's pretty meaningless.

"I think you have to communicate music as well, and that's why it was, for both of us, a nice ego boost to get to LA and have people singing along with our songs. It's the most heartening thing."

The duo have also refixed Aphrodite's latest single, See Through It, which is attracting considerable airplay on alternative stations such as XfM, and which was a privilege to do, as they have been fans for a long time. Asked whether they would be looking to get more involved with remixing in the future, however, they quickly dismissed the idea of becoming 'guns for hire', saying that it would have to be for 'someone you love'.

So, with See Through It due for release on October 21, Must Be Dreaming out on November 4, and new American dates lined up after November 11, it is proving to be a hectic time for Frou Frou - so much so that they have yet to get round to writing some B-sides for forthcoming singles.

Indielondon wishes them every success over the coming months and looks forward to catching up with them in the capital when they next play - details of which, of course, will be published nearer the time.

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