Over the past two years or so, you’ve likely come across a number of posts featuring the London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe. Initially comprised of singer/songwriter duo Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan, the duo won national and international attention for pairing their distinct writing styles and voices into a unique sound.
Now, as you may recall Moorhouse and Duncan had played in a number of London area bands in which they individually felt as though there was pressure to fit into a particular scene, whether through a one way of playing or a certain way of looking, and it was something they felt unnatural and unnecessarily labored — and it was something that they deeply reviled. Interestingly enough, as the story goes, Moorhouse and Duncan met at a party and became busking partners in the London Underground. In those very early days, they enjoyed the very simple pleasures of playing music they loved — mostly early rock, early Beatles and the like — and earning cash while doing so. Coming from a place of pure joy, they noticed a profound simpatico, and they began to play their own original material. “We had a very clear idea of what we wanted. For things to be simple, based around songs that are unashamed in their directness, and that we love: The Cure, U2, Springsteen and The Stones. We’d spend years playing through these on the tube, realising you don’t need to break the mould. Its best to ignore all the voices telling you that you need to for the sake of it, and go for something deeper,” the duo explained in press notes. And with Ten Fe, Moorhouse and Duncan wanted to focus primarily on the song with style serving the song — and while being anthemic and downright arena rock friendly, their sound is difficult to describe and even more so to pigeonhole, as it possesses elements of the Manchester sound, Brit Pop, Americana, electro pop and contemporary indie rock. They manage to do this while balancing careful, deliberate attention to craft with soulful earnestness and bombast.
Moorhouse and Duncan then spent the next two years, writing, revising and recording in each other’s bedrooms, which included prolonged writing sessions at Duncan’s dad’s house in Walsall, UK, relentless busking, hustling and saving, and an impossibly lengthy list of band members and producers before they signed a publishing deal and briefly relocated to Berlin, where they recorded their Ewan Pearson-produced full-length debut effort Hit the Lights. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo Duncan.
After spending the past 18 months touring to support their full-length debut effort Hit the Light, which included an incredible set at Mercury Lounge earlier this year, the project officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums). Returning back to England, the newly constituted quintet began writing material for their highly-anticiapted sophomore effort, and the first bit of recorded output as a quintet “Single, No Return” may be a bit of a taste of what we should expect from the new album, as it manages to capture the band’s live sound and energy, complete with a swaggering and jaunty stride. Interestingly, the band has referred to the song as being a descendant of Hank Williams‘ “Ramblin’ Man,” a song which the band’s founding members used to play while busking in the London Underground, and although they claim that when it came to the song’s arrangement they thought of The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young but with a bit of swing to the mix, to my ears it sounds a bit more like the Psychic Ills, filtered through Brit Pop; but no matter — the song manages to evoke life on the road and its seductive pull on one’s soul while further establishing their ability to craft effortlessly slick, hook-driven material.