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Catching Up With: Ten Fé

Way back in 2017, shortly after ANCHR was just starting, I talked to the duo Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan of Ten Fé over a spotty FaceTime audio connection in honor of their first full length album, Hit The Light. During our first conversation, I learned about their early days of busking in the London Underground, who some of their favorite bands were at the moment, and how they collaborate together.

Recently, Moorehouse and Duncan, along with their bandmates Johnny Drain, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley, made their first stop ever in Chicago to perform to a sold out Schubas Tavern. I sat down with the full band this time to catch up face-to-face and chat everything from their newest album Future Perfect, Present Tense to performing on JBTV and what they do to stay entertained on the road. For all that and more, catch up with Ten Fé below!

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

You just put your second album, Future Perfect, Present Tense out at the beginning of March, so first of all, congrats on that! What would you say are some of the biggest differences stylistically or as far as the process goes between this one and your first record?

Leo: The biggest difference is we did the first record completely just me and Ben. Rob played on a bit of it [the first one]. It was mostly me and Ben and then when we came to do this one, it was the five of us, although we had a different drummer. Greg’s just joined us. The process was different because it became more about capturing five people’s energy you know? Sometimes that works and sometimes we had to work in a way that we’d done on the first record. I think stylistically we wanted to make it a lot more rootsy and honest and less electronic, and break down any distance between the listener and us. I don’t know, can you tell that?

Yeah, I think so! This past week I was listening to Hit The Light and the new record, and I can definitely see that. Anyone else have anything to add about their mindset or stylistic goals going into this second album?

Ben: Yeah, I think we had just come back from tour, sort of what Leo was saying. We were back from tour and thinking of that in the time we had as a band and playing on the stages and the sound we were making. I think we were sort of excited by that and the prospect of then doing it again and making it grow and getting bigger. I think that was quite a driving force behind this album. We wanted it to sound more live and more kind of visceral I think. It’s like, it feels like it’s an ongoing thing is we want it to get more live and rootsy. We’re still sort of developing that now.

Yeah, there’s definitely that energy of being together and playing live that comes across. What would you say was your favorite moment or memory during the process of recording or writing this new record? Anything you look back on with a fond heart?

Leo: There’s been plenty of highs and lows during the making of it. We ran out of money. I lost my voice totally. So it hasn’t been the easiest to make, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. My favorite memory probably is during the summer when we were coming to the end of it in London. We finished it in London and we collected everybody in our studio in Tottenham and we recorded a choir of about twenty of our friends. The football was on, it was the World Cup, and we had the BBQ on the roof the studio. Then we all went downstairs to record the vocals of the song “Superrich.” There’s loads of people singing on that song in the chorus, sort of a hard knock life style singalong. That just felt really good. It was a very hot day.

Nice! Then this is actually your first time in Chicago right? How has Chicago been treating you so far?

Rob: Well we haven’t had much time to explore. We sort of skimmed Chicago on the way up to Milwaukee. We went to Illinois state beach is it? It was coming down from Milwaukee about half way to Chicago, there’s like a strip of green and you get right up to the shore on Lake Michigan. Which was pretty wicked, we don’t really get horizons like that-- well you’ve got to go to the sea. That was pretty special. Last night we didn’t really have that much time to explore. We just sort of had to grab moments when we can.

Leo: We went to Greek Town. We went to a really nice restaurant. Greg is Greek.

Greg: Yeah we had really nice Greek food. I approved.

Then today you played JBTV in the afternoon, which is a staple in the music community here! How’d you like Jerry and the experience?

Leo: So cool man! It just seems like he’s got this thing that he believes in. And he’s just surrounded by all these interns, you know. He was saying he hasn’t been well lately, but he’s got so much energy. It’s just unbelievable so that’s amazing to see.

Yeah, he’s still always there despite having cancer. He’s a fighter!

Rob: Yeah he said he had his operation two weeks ago. He’s bouncing around still.

I know, his energy is great. So the show tonight is also sold out, which is pretty great for a first show here!

Leo: It’s amazing! To come so far away from home and have it sold out is the best feeling.

Do you have anything special planned for this show or this tour that people can look forward to?

Leo: Like Ben was saying, it’s a real process still. You know, it’s hard work but it’s also exciting. We’re really trying to do more with the vocals on this tour. It’s taking a bit of time to get it as right as we want it to be, but hopefully that will come through.

How was the rest of the tour been going so far? Have there been any other stand out shows?

Leo: Montreal was a real favorite of mine. It was like an oasis in a desert of America and Canada. But all the shows have been wicked in their own way.

How have you guys been staying entertained on the road? Any favorite podcasts or albums or shows you’ve been watching or listening to?

Greg: I’ve been watching loads of “Only Fools and Horses.” I don’t know if you know what that is. It’s a British sitcom.

Leo: Yeah, “Only Fools and Horses” has been keeping Greg happy, and the rest of us are just trying to keep--there’s a big bag of prunes in the back of the car. We’re trying to avoid eating too many of them.

So then the last time I interviewed you, which was just over two years ago, you talked about how you’re into Kevin Morby and Twin Peaks and some other Chicago bands. Are there any other new bands that have been on your heavy rotation lately?

Leo: Amen Dunes has released a great album. We listened to Delicate Steve’s new album in the car. The same people really, there’s no one really new that’s come along that I can think of. Kevin Morby, Whitney--

Oh some of the guys from Whitney were here yesterday for Stella Donnelly’s show.

Leo: Stella Donnelly played here last night? No way! Ewan Pearson, the person who mixed our first album mixed her album as well. That’s mad! So she’s touring the states at the moment?

Yeah, just missed her! It was a sold out show last night too, so a good weekend at Schubas.

Leo: Did you see her?

Yeah I was here! It was really good. It was one of the best shows I’ve been, so you have a lot to live up to. You know how you can get jaded, or maybe it’s just me, from going to shows all the time? But her show was so great, I just forgot about being tired and it being long week and the mood of the room was just so positive.

Leo: Oh so we’ll blame Stella if you haven’t got any energy tonight. But how come there seems to be a lot of bands [coming out of Chicago], like Whitney, Twin Peaks…?

Yeah there’s something in the water in Chicago. There’s just so many bands coming out of Chicago that might not be at the level of Whitney or Twin Peaks yet but they’ll sell out shows here and a bunch that went down to South By.

Leo: Oh can you give us a few names so you can check them out?

Well so I actually put on an ANCHR Magazine showcase at SXSW, so a few on that were Blue Dream, The Evening Attraction, Thompson Springs, Uma Bloo….I’ll just send you guys the flyer. There’s a lot of great local bands that play here at Schubas too. So wrapping up, anything else you guys are looking forward to this year or hoping to accomplish on this album cycle?

Leo: Stay in one piece by the end of this tour!

Don’t eat all the prunes in one day?

Leo: Finish all the prunes by the time we reach the west coast!

Rob: Hopefully we’ll be back out here in the autumn. We’re still quite early on with this new album. We’ve got this tour, we’ve got another big tour straight off the back in Europe. Then we’ll hopefully be back here as soon as possible.

Keep up with Ten Fé on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

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. 

Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan

Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan

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.

Official video for "Elodie" 

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]

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.
— TEN FÉ on their upcoming tour

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 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 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?

2017 Bonnaroo Lineup

2017 Bonnaroo Lineup

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 FÉKeep listening!

Well, you heard the guys...keep listening to them by checking out their complete Spotify playlist below. You can also pre-order Hit The Light here. UK and Europe folks, make sure you grab tickets to the upcoming gigs, yeah? You can see all of the dates here