Upsizing from The Louisiana to Thekla in ‘just over a year’, Leila Mitwally caught Brighton based Fickle Friends at their sold out show on Bristol’s favourite boat last Saturday to enjoy their ‘distinctive carefree sound that you can’t help but bounce to until you’re wheezing’.
Shuffling through the excitable bodies gathered on the infamous sticky floor of Thekla’s main room, I was struck with the sort of quiet smugness you’d expect of a proud parent waiting for their seven-year-old to sing a solo in the school play. Except this was nothing like that because rather than a slaughtering of ‘Any Dream Will Do’ delivered via blocked nose, I was waiting for an hour of grooving synth-pop from indie Brighton-based band Fickle Friends.
This was the first time I witnessed the quintet getting the hype that they truly deserve – this sold out Thekla night seemed a far cry from their last Bristol gig in February 2016 at the Louisiana, which in retrospect now seems like the size of a bedroom. When they do take to the stage – incredibly punctually to let us know that the hype hasn’t yet gone to their heads – the noise of the crowd reinforces just how far they’ve come in a year.
Front-woman Natassja Shiner appears in true Bristol style sporting a bucket hat and camouflage jacket, and much to the delight of the floor bursts into ‘Hello Hello’ – a single not released all that long ago, though you’d never tell from the flawless echo of lyrics emanating back from the crowd. The song moves from a light opening through to a thick bouncing chorus and back again, showcasing Shiner’s astoundingly clean vocals set over deep synth sounds and syncopated beats.
The group navigate their way through their upbeat, summery set with enviable ease – each song being somehow completely different from the last while still retaining their distinctive carefree sound that you can’t help but bounce to until you’re wheezing. ‘Brooklyn’, a funky tune about a love that’s not what it seems appears early on in the set – another recent release which may as well have been written to ring out between the vibrating walls of a sweaty Thekla, though would seem just as at home in an open-topped arena.
Midway through the evening Shiner acknowledges the difference between this and their last Bristol headline, humbly claiming that ‘there were about six people there’. Whether or not this is true – which, due to my level of intoxication at said last headline gig I can neither confirm nor negate – the statement is met with a few shouts of familiarity from the crowd.
To everyone’s excitement, the band preview a few new tunes which feature on their forthcoming debut album – including ‘Wake Me Up’, ‘Rotation’, and ‘Hard To Be Myself’ – a bass-heavy song with an infectious rhythmic hook about being socially awkward. As expected, the audience lap these tracks up as though they know them inside-out, despite only learning of their existence half an hour prior. If this isn’t enough, Shiner reveals (though she’s not sure that she’s supposed to) that their long awaited album will be out in March of next year. This news, understandably, receives a healthy cheer from the crowd.
To keep the balance, Fickle Friends also performed a few older tracks – a personal highlight being ‘Paris’ from their 2015 EP Velvet. This tune takes the tone down from “80s bop” to something more like “emotional groove” for the first time in the evening, and features a wonderful chilled drop which a more cliché writer might describe as an ‘eargasm’. But I won’t do that because I’m bigger than that.
With their time almost up, the group returned to the stage for their encore – which, by process of elimination was obviously going to consist of the main single from their new EP Glue, and their older but most popular tune ‘Swim’. Before the latter, Shiner attempted to split the crowd into two parts to sing the separate components of the song’s bridge, and seemed genuinely surprised at how many voices were able to sing the lyrics without her help. Despite the speed at which Fickle Friends have grown since they first formed in 2013, it’s clear that the success hasn’t quite sunk in.
Having upsized from the Louisiana to Thekla in just over a year and with their debut album dropping in a matter of months, Fickle Friends show no signs of slowing down any time soon. I’m just excited to find out which Bristol venue I’ll see them play next.
Did you catch Fickle Friends live @ Thekla? What did you think? Let us know!