With two lead singers and songwriters, each with their own distinct voice and songwriting style – and after the long journey the two have been on together – it is perhaps of little surprise that Ten Fe’s debut album ‘Hit The Light’, due out early 2017, is characterised by its diverseness. Each track on ‘Hit The Light’ stands independently, whilst the overall experience is balanced by the accomplished interplay between style and song. Their mix of Americana with darker, driving electronics, and vocal harmonies make the London band a genuinely exciting prospect. With Ewan Pearson’s (Jagwar Ma, M83, The Rapture) production underscoring the forthcoming LP, and its trademark pulsating electronic grooves, Ten Fé have created an album that is fluid and varied.
Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan who share the singer / songwriter role in Ten Fé had this intention from the start. Both had been in bands before where there was a pressure to fit into a scene: one way of playing, or a certain way of looking, which felt unnaturally and unnecessarily laboured. Consequently, Ten Fé focuses on the song itself; with style serving song rather than the reverse. The few singles released so far on SOME KINDA LOVE / [PIAS] have shown the band’s contrasting sides. Make Me Better had a Northern swagger and epic, melancholic strings, In The Air was a driving slice of Americana, Elodie an alt-pop gem and Turn a sizzling, soulful groover.
‘Hit The Light’ comes following this run of acclaimed singles that has seen the band lauded by tastemakers, from Lauren Laverne and Huw Stephens to NME and Noisey. There is a surging online momentum behind the band, who have been no. 1 Hype Machine and amassed over 6 million Spotify plays across their early singles, and have gathered a legion of fans of those who have witnessed their visceral live shows.
Having met at a party, they became busking partners on the London Underground, performing on District line trains. The pleasure of playing the music they loved and the money they earned to survive shaped the duo’s choice of busking songs – mostly classic covers that people would easily relate to. “It was early rock ‘n’ roll, early Beatles – the bootleg stuff, when they were at the cavern. Some people now are ashamed of playing covers but our sets were full with them.”
Ben and Leo became inseparable, and after years of playing in different bands, they started to play each other their own tracks. “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.”
As personalities the two are different, Moorhouse the more melancholic and purist, and Duncan the more impulsive and direct. To balance this they instinctively fell into a songwriting process where, although later they come together to finesse in a fully immersive and collaborative manner, each of their songs starts out as written by one or the other of them; and Leo or Ben will take lead vocals on their own respective composition.
“We really value that”, explains Ben. “When Leo comes forward with something, I may add to it but we want to preserve his original vibe. And vice versa”. “Collaboration is trust,” adds Leo. “You’ve got to drop your ego. You have to say ‘ok I wrote this song, this melody, but it’s still 50% yours man’ because we’ve been through so much together in writing this.”
And they have. It took 2 years of writing and recording in each other’s bedrooms, busking and saving beneath London; prolonged writing sessions in isolation away from the city, at Leo’s Dad’s house in Walsall; an array of different band members and producers, before they were able to sign a publishing deal, and move to Berlin to record the album with Ewan Pearson. “Its no coincidence that the name of this band means ‘have faith’” says Leo.
Pearson was in many ways an ideal choice. A veteran DJ and dance music producer, he’d also worked with The Rapture, Jagwar Ma and M83, and was a past master at capturing the core of a groove, he was able to balance the analogue and electronic elements at the heart of Ten Fe’s tunes, while also understanding the song. And Berlin was the ideal location, as it allowed the pair to remove themselves, again, from London, from any scene to be associated with, or other set of rules.
As might have been expected, Hit The Light feels expansive. But like so much about the band, and more specifically Ben and Leo’s relationship, there’s also a welcoming sense of inclusivity. The tension between Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan’s voices and the openness with which they work together pulls you in and leaves you with a sense that the two songwriters are drawing upon one other’s strengths to propel themselves forward.
The band are now based in London permanently – living close to their studio in Walthamstow, E17. To create the live band which would fulfill the new sound, they got Leo’s two school friends from Walsall involved, bass player Rob Shipley, and keyboardist Johnny Drain, Alex Hammond is on the drums.