“For You” is a disarmingly sugary New Wave lament, with singer Natassja Shiner cloaking her melancholy in a graceful melody on the song’s ascendant hook. The single follows “Play” and “Swim,” the latter of which radiates positive energy from its meticulous harmonies and spiraling guitar riffs, and has collected an impressive 681,000 Soundcloud plays since becoming the band’s debut single in January. Although “Swim” has popped up on only a handful of U.S. music sites, the song registered with U.K. listeners and helped bring the band onto 23 overseas festival bills, including Great Escape and the Berlin Music Festival, in 2014.
“It’s been completely overwhelming — I could never have expected it,” Shiner, calling in from the sofa in her Brighton home, tells Billboard of the success of “Swim.” “The blogosphere went into kind of a frenzy when it was released, and I think it was featured on about a hundred blogs over here. I was constantly checking Twitter — I never had to be so attached to my phone in all my life!”
Shiner met Fickle Friends drummer Sam Morris while attending Paul McCartney’s music school, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and struggling to find her voice while playing folk songs at open mic nights. She and Morris headed to Brighton to attend university, and recruited keyboardist Jack Wilson, guitarist Chris Hall and bassist Harry Herrington to form a proper band in early 2013.
Soon after forming, Morris submitted one of the group’s earliest songs to U.K. chef/media personality Jamie Oliver, who subsequently crowned Fickle Friends the winner of his annual Summer Jam competition for up-and-coming artists. The contest win put Fickle Friends on the lineup of Oliver’s Big Feastival food and music fest in August 2013, where the group shared the same stage as artists like Basement Jaxx and KT Tunstall without a proper first single to play.
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Fickle Friends writes their songs as a collective, and their first three tracks find Shiner sighing about unrequited love over jittering production. “I feel like a one-trick pony,” she says with a laugh. “I’m 22, so I’ve had my fair share of heartache and wonderful feelings for people. It’s the thing I find easiest to write about, and the most fluid … It pours out of me. People always comment on the fact that we have upbeat songs but bittersweet lyrics. I like to think about the silver linings.”
Currently working with Killing Moon Records in the U.K. and Ghost Beach’s Crazy Heart Records in the U.S., Fickle Friends will remain without a major label as long as it can, says Shiner. “I’ve always believed that we want to do as much as we possibly can on our own backs until we get a point where we need a bigger team,” she explains. A debut EP is on the way in early 2015, which will feature four as-yet-unreleased songs, and the band is “not even thinking about” an album for the time being, says Shiner.
The group’s 2015 plans are taking shape, but the U.S. is a goal that’s looking more attainable with each successful single release. “It’s not the cheapest thing to fly five band members [to the U.S.],” says Shiner, “but we’re hoping to get out to America next year — we have some offers for festivals and New York shows. Everything’s coming together.”