In the run-up to Poltimore, Exeposé spoke to 2019’s Battle of the Bands champions, FONIEE. The band is a group of freshers who came together from ExTunes Music Week and took Battle of the Bands by storm with their purely instrumental, brass -based sound. In this interview we talked about their sound, their upcoming performances, and their writing process.
You recently won Battle of the Bands 2019. How do you feel?
John Pang (Saxophone): We feel pretty good.
Robin Wright (Saxophone): It was quite unexpected.
Oscar Jinks (Bass): At the start of our rehearsals we joked that if we got to the finals we’d play ‘Parklife’ because we thought it was so unlikely we’d get there.
Chris Coveney (Drums): We’re all freshers and we’ve only been practising for five months before Battle of the Bands, so we didn’t really go into it with any expectation!
Robin: I think we surprised ourselves with how well we play together.
What was interesting about your band, and it was certainly a distinction between you and the other bands, was your divergence from the traditional guitar music that’s usually associated with Battle of the Bands. Was that a conscious decision? Do you think that contributed to your win in any way?
Robin: It definitely made us stand out, I think. Particularly as we didn’t have a vocalist and we were more instrumental it just means you can do less conventional things. A lot of people were doing rock ballads and indie rock. We didn’t really have a set genre going into it.
Chris: I think we were driven from the start. We had saxophone players which helped give us our direction. We knew we had to fit that into our style. But we’ve still got a lot of scope to change up.
John: It’s interesting because we didn’t really seek out a band. We just all played an instrument and decided to form a band.
Chris: I think it’s very different to the usual Battle of the Bands style but we didn’t go into it thinking ‘oh let’s pick this style specifically to stand out’. It was just a shot to perform.
Oscar: It goes with what songs worked well. ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ was one of our best covers and that style works so well so I think that’s what worked well.
Aled Midha: And at that point Jon decided to learn the saxophone, probably a month into university.
I expect you all have experience with more instrumental societies like Big Band. So I suppose you were able to blend your experiences with Campus Bands and Big Band?
Chris: Definitely, we met during Music Week which is run by ExTunes at the start of this year. It’s very much the classical styles of music. And that’s how we met. It definitely influenced our style.
Oscar: We all drew from our previous experiences as we are all multi-instrumentalists in some way. We can all look at things we played on different instruments in different groups and fuse them together.
Obviously, Poltimore Festival is coming up and, having won Battle of the Bands, you now get to perform there. How are you feeling about that considering it’s a bigger stage than ‘Battle of the Bands’?
Chris: It’s going to be huge, but I don’t know what to expect. When you put the label of ‘festival’ on it, it feels different.
Robin: We’re all first years and so we’ve never been to Poltimore before and we don’t really know much about it! It’s going to be great to play a bigger set.
John: It’s just exciting to play beyond the university and get more exposure.
Aled: It’ll be our first proper gig too. Besides Cavern, which was quite small.
How do you feel about the fact that you’ll be contributing to the local music scene?
Robin: It’s quite humbling really, when you see other societies and big, established bands are also in the line-up. It’s a fantastic opportunity – I wouldn’t say we were lucky because we worked hard for Battle of the Bands, but we worked hard for this. But it’s humbling to play alongside these bigger bands.
Do you have any new music in the works? Any original songs?
John: We played a couple of originals in Battle of the Bands but obviously being such a new band it was very hard to churn out as many originals as some of the other bands. So we weren’t sure how that was going to go down with the audiences.
Robin: The writing, I should emphasise, has been collaborative in the sense that, while I’ve come up with a few songs, we’ve all put our own spin on it. So often I’ll have an idea for a bassline but another member will funk it up massively.
John: We’ve all got the experience as well. Each of us brings something different to the song. I think that’s quite a key part of our writing style.