A Chat With: Ten Fé
London based duo Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan (AKA TEN FÉ) are set to release their debut album, Hit The Light, in just two days. The album feels like a long time coming, as the pair have been making music together for years. For the past few months, Ben and Leo have been steadily cranking out unique and dynamic earworms, like the single "Twist Your Arm" with its climactic introduction and relatable lyrics, or "Overflow" with its nostalgic synth sounds. In support of the album, the guys will tour the UK and Europe in the spring, and they've even been announced to play Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Prior to the album release and what's sure to be a great year for TEN FÉ, we chatted with Ben and Leo about their early days of house boats and tube stations, their influences, and some of their favorite bands at the moment.
ANCHR Magazine: Can you tell me a little bit about how you met and started making music together?
TEN FÉ: We met a long time ago, many, many years ago. We ended up living on a boat together on the Thames for summer. Whilst we were there, we were very poor, so we needed to busk on the underground to make money together. And um, we started busking then and found out it actually made us quite a lot of money. So for a long time, we didn’t really write songs together, we just busked on the underground and played other people’s songs. Old rock n’ roll songs, really, cause we both love that kind of music. Elvis, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and early kind of Stones and Beatles stuff. Then after we’d been in relatively quite a lot of separate bands, we just came together and started playing each other our songs and realized that there was something really special going on. We quit the bands that were in and started this one.
It’s taken a fair while, but we’ve kept the faith through out.
AM: Very cool, so what was your favorite tube station to busk in?
TEN FÉ: That’s a good question! We always used to start at this station called Ravenscourt Park. It’s got a great sort of little waiting room that’s heated during the winter. We’d sort of start strumming in there and kind of warm up, get the fingers moving. That was always good. We once filmed an acoustic video in that station with a friend of ours for one of our early singles.
AM: Where did the inspiration for your name come from?
TEN FÉ: Um, I think like any band, it’s torture finding a name. But it came to do with what we’d been doing a long time, through thin and thin, through not having much at all. We wanted something to show that, you know, that we’d kept going. The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan, you know that album? There’s a song on there called “Santa Fe.” We were called Santa Fe for a while, then Fe. We just liked the meaning of having faith. We kept the faith, you know? [“Ten Fe” translates to “have faith” in Spanish]
AM: Very cool. So who else would you consider your influences? Is it pretty much the bands that you guys would play when you were busking?
TEN FÉ: Yeah, we’ve always...those busking songs, we’ve been playing for so long. And we still play them, so we’ve still got just like you know...we’re quite close to a lot of that music. Even these days. Then there are others. The band was founded probably on a night we spent watching U2 and The Cure live videos on YouTube...a night of passion.
AM: Haha, cool. So talking a little bit about your debut album, which is almost out, so congrats on that! How are you guys feeling now that it’s so close to being out there?
TEN FÉ: We’re feeling really good, really good. As we say, it’s the product of lots of good, solid work. I mean, what it really means is that we get to tour it...play it live. We get to tour it now for the next few months. That’s really what we live for, that’s our favorite thing. We’ve got a great band who we play with. It really is well exciting for that reason alone. It’s a bonus, a great bonus, that people seem to like it...the responses have been really positive.
AM: Yeah, I mean I definitely love everything you guys have released so far, so I can’t wait to hear the whole thing. So going into the recording process, did you produce it yourselves and where did you record?
TEN FÉ: Well we wrote all of the songs for the album, the two of us. By kinda working on our recording equipment, [we] made like demos of the songs. Which when we went to record the album, we met up with Ewan Pearson and he basically, he really liked the demos, and was sort of up for kind of taking them as a good basis for what we did with him. So we went and recorded in Berlin [with him]. You know Compact Records?
AM: No, actually, I’m not aware of them
TEN FÉ: They’re the electronic dance label that Ewan is signed to, so we were recording a lot of the pre-production in his studio there. Cause we’re not really, we don’t have much experience of electronic music ourselves. We’re kind of wood and guitar strings, rather than that. That was great meeting those people.
AM: Cool, so talking a little bit more about tour, which you mentioned you’re really excited to do, what are some of the cities that you’re most excited to play in?
TEN FÉ: Anywhere! Absolutely all of them. That’s the reason why we’re musicians...to see the world. All of them really, and we’re not just saying that. We keep going on about how long it’s been, and it hasn’t been that long, but we’ve been looking forward to it for a while. Everywhere in Europe and obviously America. I mean the world’s in such an interesting place at the moment. To have a job that allows you to go out and travel through it is just something else.
AM: Speaking of America, I saw you’re on the Bonnaroo lineup. Did you get a chance to look at any of the other bands playing, and is there anyone you’re hoping to check out while you’re there?
TEN FÉ: Other than U2 obviously, we noticed that we’re almost within arm’s reach on the line up of a guy that we got really into the last six months, Kevin Morby. Is he from Chicago? He’s from that area...he’s mates with like Twin Peaks. We love all those bands. There’s a lot of bands coming out of Chicago right now!
AM: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been interviewing a lot of up and coming Chicago bands lately. Have you heard of Post Animal? They’re opening for Twin Peaks for some of their shows.
TEN FÉ: Oh, wicked!
AM: Yeah, check them out. So other than those bands, any bands that you’re really into lately?
TEN FÉ: The Delicate Steve album! That’s wicked. Do you know Delicate Steve? He’s an American...from New Jersey. He’s wicked, absolutely wicked, you should check him out. He actually did some work with Paul Simon this year. He’s just a guitarist, he hasn’t got any words, and he does a guitar sound exactly like George Harrison. I don’t know how he does it! He’s amazing, and he just released something last week.
AM: Very cool, I will definitely check him out. Other than that anything else you want to say about the album or anything to your fans?
TEN FÉ: Keep listening!