Premiere: Fickle Friends Master Pop Passion & Intimate Depth in “Heartbroken (Acoustic)” ft. Amber Run

Fickle Friends © Polydor Records
Fickle Friends © Polydor Records
Fickle Friends team up with Amber Run in the hauntingly beautiful “Heartbroken (Acoustic),” a breathtakingly raw, stripped-down track full of devastating emotional power.
written by Mitch Mosk and Luke Pettican

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Fickle Friends’ long-anticipated debut album is crammed to the brim with pop bangers that are as catchy as they are beautifully heartfelt. There’s an undeniable and unstoppable energy flowing throughout You Are Someone Else (released March 16, 2018 via Polydor Records), with each track incorporating Fickle Friends’ signature, unflagging vibrancy led by Natassja Shiner’s distinct vocal.

You got me going in circles
You were using words, and they got no purpose
And you don’t say what you don’t say
And you’re saving me no time
You’re just a contradiction
Never saying anything with conviction
And we don’t say what we want to say
And it’s the same thing every time
“Heartbroken (Acoustic)” – Fickle Friends ft. Amber Run

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Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Heartbroken (acoustic)” featuring Amber Run, taken from Fickle Friends’ upcoming You Are Someone Else (Versions) EP. This track accompanies the previously released acoustic version of “Say No More” and an alternative version of fan favourite “Wake Me Up.” Stripped down to its raw, bare bones, “Heartbroken (Acoustic)” beautifully casts the listeners’ focus on its painfully sorrowful lyrics. Joshua Keogh, lead singer of (Atwood favorites) Amber Run, is a hauntingly beautiful and stunning addition to the already deeply moving song: He brings the same devastatingly emotional power that can be found on the band’s own work, especially tracks such as “No Answers” and “Haze.”

You Are Someone Else (Versions) EP - Fickle Friends
You Are Someone Else (Versions) EP – Fickle Friends

At its core, “Heartbroken” is a track aimed at the confusion and miscommunication that is too often the norm in the music industry. “‘Heartbroken’ has all sorts of meanings, but when we wrote it we were in a difficult headspace and kinda thought the music industry was out to get us,” Fickle Friends’ Natassja Shiner tells Atwood Magazine. ” I know a lot of people have felt that way at some point, including our good friend Joe (from Amber Run). Asking him to sing this with me gave it a whole new feel: His voice is incredible, and it made it more special because I think he could totally relate to the lyrics, too.”

Nonetheless, the feelings Fickle Friends and co. explore in this track are utterly universal, while the exploration of their own deeply personal experience results in earnest, authentic lyricism. Whatever you do, there’s occasionally an unsettling undercurrent of frustration and agitation that can desolate your passion, if you let it.

You think everything sucks
I really couldn’t give two fucks
And why do you rely on luck
When it don’t really work like that?
And man, do I wish it did
Imagine me throwing a fit
I can’t because you’re being cryptic
And I can’t really work like
‘Cause I’m so heartbroken
I’m sick of being so open
to anything you throw at me
‘Cause I’m so heartbroken
I’m sick of being so open
to everything you want from me
"Heartbroken (Acoustic)"
“Heartbroken (Acoustic)”

It took nearly five years for the Brighton-based indie pop band – which includes Natassja Shiner, Jack Wilson, Harry Herrington, Sam Morris, and Chris Hall – to release their first album, and the tension and turbulence they encountered throughout that half-decade reveals itself in this acoustic track, a dark standout from an otherwise bright, carefree collection of euphoric pop bliss. This interpretation completely changes the way we experience “Heartbroken,” completely engulfing us in the lyrics’ emotional depths. The combined vocal deliveries from Keogh and Shiner insist that their struggle and exasperation are not just heard, but felt. The relatively upbeat production on the original feels all-conquering and triumphant, while this version compels us with its unfiltered and raw disenchanted emotion.

“Heartbroken (Acoustic)” hits its peak as the two vocalists join together in entrancing harmonies, singing with heavy emotion:

You think everything sucks
I really couldn’t give two fucks
And why do you rely on luck
When it don’t really work like that?

Their voices complement each other, while still allowing their individual vocal styles to flourish. This track evidences why both Amber Run and Fickle Friends are consistently flaunted as two of the UK’s finest emerging bands; it lets their respective talents and passions astonish in a breathtakingly compelling fashion.

Stream Fickle Friends’ “Heartbroken (Acoustic)” featuring Amber Run exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and dive deeper into the band and their debut album through our intimate interview below! You Are Someone Else is out now everywhere. Fickle Friends’ You Are Someone Else (Versions) EP is out later 2018.

“Heartbroken (Acoustic)” – Fickle Friends ft. Amber Run


Atwood Magazine: Hi Fickle Friends! You had a new record come out last month. How has the experience been, finally having this baby out there?

Natassja Shiner: It’s been a long time coming… It didn’t really hit me in the way that I thought it would, because… I keep forgetting that it’s out, d’you know what I mean?

Harry Herrington: Yeah, I guess so. It’s kind of like, we’ve been doing it for so long, and we’ve had so many of the songs done for a really long time that it was like, oh, they’re out still.

Shiner: The record came out towards the end of our big month-long tour in the UK, so people hadn’t really gotten to grips with the record when we were playing it at the end, whereas… I’m hoping [now] maybe people will know the songs quite well! We’ll get to play “Brooklyn” in Brooklyn, which is fun…

Herrington: I feel like it didn’t really hit until we got the Top 10 in the UK, and then that it was a bit like, huh! Oh yeah, we did an album! That was funny, and it was exciting. It didn’t feel exciting when we first dropped; I guess we were all too nervous and stuff, but when it was actually doing alright, that was cool and so exciting.

Shiner: To my friends and to people who aren’t in music, getting a Top 10 album is like, holy shit that is amazing… Whereas we kind of know how many records you have to sell, and that it was a good week…

Herrington: The industry’s just different now, isn’t it? The older people in my family were amazed: Wow, oh god!

Yeah. Does that change the experience now?

Shiner: I don’t know! We’re headlining a couple of small festivals in the UK. We’ve been doing it for about five years now –

Herrington: – it feels like a proper band –

Shiner: – exactly. We’re not kind of like… I would not say “up-and-coming” anymore, because we’ve put a record out – even though we’re just getting started over here. It’s a different ballgame. It’s kind of nice; it’s like a clean slate, America! (laughs)

One of the things that struck me about You Are Someone Else is how it manages to capture Fickle Friends' vibe and sound. I feel like there's a certain something, a quality to your music that's been there since your Velvet EP. Can you talk about that?

Shiner: I think it’s just because we stay quite true to the music that we like. We’re not very fickle; we just love Friendly Fires, and always have! That was the band – I couldn’t fault them, I loved everything! We all love Two Door Cinema Club and that first The 1975 record; we love Michael Jackson and Mutemath, and that’s still the music we continuously listen to now, so I think there will always be an element of that mix in our own music, even if we’re kind of modeling our song on the new Zed record (“The Middle”), which you know – we have done! It’s just the way he does the vocoder that we’ve just desperately tried to rip off, but failed (laughs)… There’s just more than pop music! There’s production stuff that’s just so cool and progressive, and we always want to try and use that in our music. But it’s also quite difficult because we’re a band. You’ve got to think about playing everything live, and how we’re going to do it.

One of the things that really struck me about your music is that even the sad songs can be danced to.

Shiner: Yeah man! We just want lots of sad people dancing in a room together! I always say I can’t write a happy song, but we want to write music –

Herrington: We struggle to write music that isn’t exciting! Like, even when we wrote “Paris,” which is the only slowey we’ve ever really written, it was a bit of a pain!

Shiner: It was a pain in the ass! Our manager at the time was like, you need to write a ballad! and we were like, Fine!

And that's one of your older songs!

Shiner: It’s really old, yeah

Is that one of the oldest on the record?

Shiner: “Swim” is the oldest… “Swim,” “Say No More,” “Paris,” and “She” are the oldest songs on the record.

We just want lots of sad people dancing in a room together!

So, why is it so hard to write a ballad?

Herrington: I just think we don’t really get that excited about writing music like that, do we?

Shiner: No; I think my favorite all-time songs are not — like, a ballad has to be so undeniably amazing, that it grabs me!

Herrington: It goes back to those bands that we said we get our influences from, like Bombay Bicycle Club and Friendly Fires; it’s all just party music, and that’s what we love to do.

Shiner: Michael Jackson can do a ballad, you know? And that’s just… this is fucking sick! Prince, “Purple Rain.” I don’t want to try and write a ballad and make it so incredible, because I just don’t know — it will just happen naturally if it happens!  Otherwise we’ll just write party music with sad lyrics.

I really like Brooklyn because I can't tell if it's about a person or if it's about a place..

Shiner: It’s about anxiety, actually – but painting it, in how it was a very foreign feeling when it first began, and then how a foreign person or foreign place can make you feel a bit… spaced out… A bit kind of uncomfortable at times. It’s all kind of a bit metaphorical and confusing. It was written before we went to New York, actually. The reason it was actually called “Brooklyn,” which sparked the whole thing, is because you (Harry) started the song with some sort of Apple loop, and the Apple loop was called “Brooklyn” – so the file was called “Brooklyn,” and then that started the whole thing!

I try so hard to not gravitate to the same words, but I so often look at a song I really like, and it's because it's so intimate and it's so personal to that artist or writer, but at the same time it can apply to everybody - it's intimate, and universal. And I think that's something that isn't something you can do knowingly; you strive strive to create something that everyone can understand.

Shiner: Yeah. I don’t think many people understand what “Brooklyn” is about.

Herrington: That was like a crossover of you going a bit deeper into our lyrics than them no being so…

Shiner: “Hard to Be Myself” was super literal: It’s very easy to grasp. You know what that’s about. “Brooklyn” was, I guess, the first song that we were going in that direction…

To start at the end, I really like Useless. The refrain, why'd you call me useless, there's this energy around it that closes the record with this angst and agitation.

Shiner: It’s a bit of a horrid punt to finish the album with, but I just thought it was such a passionate song to whip at the end. It’s also got that final vibe.

It's not ending with heartbreak or freedom; it's ending with a fuck you.

Shiner: (laughs) Fuck you, play it again!

What are your favorite moments on the album?

Shiner: “Heartbroken” is one of my favorites.

Herrington: Yeah, I think “Heartbroken” is my favorite.

Shiner: I love it. It’s kind of a bit taboo, because it is basically saying…

Herrington: I feel everyone’s got one of those songs that’s like, fuck you music industry – you’re hard!

Shiner: But then we dressed it up as a relationship, so as to not make it too obvious. That was just like, channeling frustration from sending songs that we put our heart and souls into, and sending them to our label in the UK, and they don’t even reply or they send really misleading, confusing notes and stuff… It’s just making you jump through hoops the whole time. It’s so annoying! We wrote it all down, and we wrote this song, and we just love it.

Got any other favorites?

Shiner: I really like “Wake Me Up” as well. It’s the kind of euphoric moment that, when I listen to like a Coldplay record, I’m just like, Yes! – I just really like it!

Herrington: Acoustic, it’s a bit different for us, isn’t it? We don’t – we never really had one like that, and it was written so fast. And when they come together like that, it’s just…

Shiner: I think a lot of them, for is about the way I feel when I’m performing them. When we play “Wake Me Up,” I’m so in it! “Glue” is just super fun, I don’t have to think about it, and there was no stress involved in writing and recording that song. We wrote it, and we played the chorus to our publisher who was in town that day, and he was like, yeah – love that! And we just kind of finished it, and even our label, for once, were just like, yep, love it. It’s just nice for our work to be appreciated.

It's a very nice representation of Fickle Friends.

Shiner: I think so! When someone asks what songs represent the band, I always say “Swim” and “Glue.” Just because it’s kind of the right side of pop, still got the indie feel… the lyrics are more surface though. (laughs)

I think I first discovered your music like three or four years ago, and you were just a name on SoundCloud at the time -

Shiner: The good days! The good ole days.

- and so it's very fun to be in the same room and hear how much everything has developed!

Shiner: Yeah – it’s been slow! We’re a slow burner band, and we’ve kind of made our peace with it, which is totally fine. Nothing’s gonna – I don’t think it’s going to explode anytime soon. As long as it’s a good trajectory, and that we can keep doing this… It’s always been this, which I think a lot of people can’t grasp.

We’re a slow burner band, and we’ve kind of made our peace with it.

What's wrong with this?

Shiner: There’s nothing wrong with it at all!

What do you love most about where you are as a band right now?

Shiner: I think that we can be self-sufficient. We just put out this album, we get to play to festivals and tours, and we can sell tickets and we can come to the States for the first time and we’ve sold out all of our shows. It’s just a nice feeling of not having to worry that we’re going to play to twenty people or something – which is kind of what it was when we started, but…

Herrington: I love that we can play a show with songs that are all out, because we’ve always played a show and there’s just those couple of songs that nobody knows, or that aren’t out, so they don’t know them as well or whatever. And like, no matter how great a song is, if you don’t know it, you’re not going to get into it – so it’s hard to watch people, when you’re playing, like, this is good, isn’t it? D’you like it? – and they’re like, yep… Really good. (laughs) and that’s it! It’s good to just have all those songs out.

Shiner: They’ll stand there like this (arms crossed) and you don’t know until after the show, on Twitter, when they’re like, “Oh, what’s the name of that new song?! I loved that!” And I’m like, but you didn’t fucking look like you loved it. Come on!

Herrington: So it’s great to just have all those songs out, so that we can always have a show that feels good for us, which is selfish really…

Shiner: It’s all about how I feel! (laughs)

It sounds like you're really excited to be in this moment right here right now.

Shiner: Yeah, definitely. This is the most positive I’ve felt about the band in a long time, just because the album’s out now. Not to say that I’ve been negative, but with the whole first album, there’s been a lot of negative moments because there has been so much pressure… You need another single, trying to sell tickets, it can all get a little bit… just, enjoy it! And we forget to enjoy it sometimes, whereas at the moment I feel like I’m just really just really just enjoying everything.

The saying goes that you spend your entire life writing your first record.

Shiner: Yeah, exactly. I feel like we can start enjoying everything now. It’s like the beginning – like it’s just started again.

When you're making music, are you making it for the record, or does the record reflect the live show?

Shiner: A bit of both, I think?

Herrington: I’d say it’s always the record, and we just make it work, don’t we?

Shiner: Yeah but more recently, like with the San Fran song, we were thinking, let’s start the song with the chorus, because we need something in our set which starts massive! So little things like that might affect it, but usually we’ll just write the song, and we always make it work. Occasionally, we change the structure to have a certain kind of moment in the life show. I think… Our live show is the thing about this band that people respond to the most. We’re kind of a party band at festivals: You want to go watch us, because it’s really energetic! And I think we’re good live, so… (laughs)

That are some bands that are good for brooding, bands you want to listen to in your room alone. Your energy, that's right, it's a party energy. Does that reflect you as people, as well?

Shiner: (laughs) I think so!

Herrington: We like to party

Shiner: We like to party! Yeah, we’re definitely a bit more mental than when we started out. I think we’ve realized that if we want to play a sick show, I can’t get fucked up the night before.

Herrington: Can’t be getting that drunk. Our keyboard has a saying that is, “Never play drunk, never play sober.”

Shiner: – which applies to me as well. I get hideously nervous otherwise, and I have two shots of JB, and I’m set: I’m good, let’s play the show!

Herrington: I feel like that’s a bit much! Like, you’re one glass of wine –

Shiner: Two wines –

HerringtonOne glass of wine (laughs) –

ShinerTwo small red wines, and I’m good to go!

Not quite to the level of The 1975.

Shiner: I don’t know how he does it!

I've seen him swing an entire bottle onstage.

Shiner: Yeah, no I know he does – it’s absolutely insane! And he’s smoking in-between songs. That would fuck me up.

Herrington: I feel like it’s gotta be a pretend bottle. I feel like it’s just juice in there. He’s just got some really tasty, lovely like, summer fruits.

Shiner: He’s so lean as well, it’s like how are you not absolutely off your pig. He’s really holding it together!

You mentioned them earlier, and one of your producers also worked with The 1975.

Shiner: Right, Mike Crossey. We’ve got quite a lot of ties with that band, but we’ve never really fully befriended them. We’ve always kind of been at the same party or worked with the same producer, or kind of – yeah, it’s a little bit weird.

I can hear similar influences, similar patterns and storylines... but you're so different!

Shiner: I think we are really different! People do like to kind of pigeon hole music, don’t they? I read something in the UK, they’re calling it basically like “the post-1975 bands,” like the whole bubble of music that has basically been inspired by that first record. There’s loads, but luckily they didn’t put us in that list. I think we basically wrote “Swim” because we loved this one vibe in “Chocolate” and also Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun,” and we basically wrote this song because of those two songs.

Herrington: But there is a difference between taking influence and that, isn’t it? I don’t like it when people are like, you sound like The 1975 with a girl singer, and I’m like…

Shiner: No we don’t!

Herrington: Do we?

Shiner: We’re super pop – if you… I’m trying to think of a song now, but like “Lovesick” or “Heartbroken” – they’re so pop! We don’t, I don’t know, want to do all the songs which have to sound in a certain bracket or whatever. We just kind of do whatever.

There's a lot of negative connotations that go along with pop these days. Have you found yourselves having to fight those barriers or reconstruct it for yourselves?

Shiner: I don’t think so; we always get the occasional comment on something like a sponsored post of the record or a song. People are just like, “Ah, just another soulless pop record! What’s happened to music these days? There’s not a depth!”

Herrington: But that’s what make our live show more exciting, I think, because I think it’s quite hard to recreate those pop songs live. I think we do it really well, and we are still just a band that just rock out and play pop songs like a rock band.

Shiner: There’s quite a lot of similarity between maybe a Katy Perry record and one of our songs, apart from the production on hers being far more superior… It’s not like a million miles away, but we’re very much a band, as opposed to a pop artist.

I get that!

Shiner: I think we might go a lot more pop for the second album.

What are you most excited about where you are now? Do you feel free?

Herrington: Yeah, definitely. I think we’ve established ourselves enough to do exactly what we want to do, and it will still be us.

Shiner: And now the pressure’s off for the first album! Literally, we’ve written like half the second album, kind of. We wanted to have ten songs by the end of the summer that could be what we think the record should be, and we’re halfway there. It’s just nice; I really enjoy writing music again! It kind of got a little bit like always hitting a brick wall up until we submitted everything for the album. It was difficult! There was a lot of our label trying to put us in writing sessions, when we were already a group – three of us! – I mean, I don’t want to have to go and write with big pop producers and all these people, because they don’t – they can’t get what the band is. They not writing for pitch; they’re not pitching to Selena Gomez… which is very difficult. But now, we’re just enjoying writing music, and we’ve written quite a lot of things recently.

What are you most excited for, beyond people hearing your music?

Shiner: Festivals in the UK. For the actual album tours, we’re doing two weeks in America – an actual American tour – and then our biggest one yet in the UK. I don’t know (laughs) I actually don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m kind of chill – it’s fine. I think this summer’s going to be really fun.

Summer feels like the best time for your music.

Shiner: We had like a mini-summer in the UK – three days of like, twenty-five degrees, and our Twitter just went mad because everyone had the Fickle Friends album on – and I’m just like, Yes! This is our time.

A quintessential Fickle Friends moment. If people were to experience your record for the first time, how should they listen to you?

Shiner: If you can – if you live on the West Coast – with the windows down in your car, for sure. You just want it on when it’s warm and sunny!

Herrington: Or when it’s cold, to make you feel warm and sunny.

Shiner: It’s not an album you’ll put on to have dinner with your mates; it’s the kind of thing you’ll put on when you need a bit of a pick-me-up or something; spring cleaning. When you’re pre-drinking. It’s not too taxing, you know – unless you really want to dig into the lyrics too much; it’s quite light-hearted.

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