Whilst it remains to seen if the band take their daily dose of crowtein, Fightmilk have delivered an utter haymaker of a record with their new LP Contender. The second full length effort from the South London indie punks, Contender is a masterstroke of composed consideration, joyful inclusivity and poetic affluence that is delivered with delicate nuance and giddyish glee.
Touching upon themes of melancholy, vulnerability and societally induced pressures, the record plays in the sounds of artists such Muncie Girls, Fresh and even emo stalwarts My Chemical Romance to explore a variety of subjects ranging from the patriarchy to toxic perceptions of beauty. However, what makes these thematic explorations so vividly animated is how their presented. Grounded yet wonderfully buoyant, Contender see’s Fightmilk exploring such subjects with lived in heartfelt first hand experience and colourful imagery.
With the record out today via Reckless Yes, we got in touch with the band to break down the record, track by track.
(Contender / Tender / Bartender)
"Once we’d decided there would be interludes, we were scared people would think we’d come down with a bad case of second-album syndrome, so we had to undercut it somehow. The false start was honestly a total accident, but we liked it too much to leave it out. Plus it’s the only swear on the album - not bad going considering we led the last album off with a single that was far from radio-friendly. But it sets the tone for how it's going to be, trying not to take it too seriously but writing about real things? Plus, they all have little melodic callbacks to some of the “proper” tracks, and break the sides up nicely."
"A song to make you feel invincible, or ‘Born to Run’ for people who can’t go anywhere. ‘Lucky Coin’ was one of the last things we put together for Contender, but from the first time we played it, we knew it couldn’t go anywhere but track 1. Written when we weren’t anticipating a pandemic, were still technically in the EU, and the future was wide open. Recorded after all of those hopes had been utterly dashed, giving us a four-minute space in the studio to pretend we were free and unstoppable. Also features the only time a wah-wah pedal will ever appear on one of our songs: that’s the Fightmilk guarantee."
"Another of the last tracks written for the record, and our shortest, pettiest song in ages. It’s all shang-a-lang and doo-wop-shoo-bop (handclaps and cheering aided and abetted by superproducer Keith TOTP), to the point where we only realised after the fact that it sort of cops from the song at end of School Of Rock. There are worse Jack Black movies to accidentally steal from. Yes, Annabelle is a real person, and no we’re not telling you any more about her than that, though we do sincerely hope she’s doing alright."
I'm Starting to Think You Don't Even Want to Go to Space
"Someone pointed out to us last week that the opening 10 seconds sound like “Do You Remember The First Time?”. Again, not intentional, but fun to discover some fourteen months after it first came out. They asked for something cosmic. Or spooky. We forget now. Anyway, this is a song about a hypothetical billionaire and his hypothetical popstar girlfriend, who we now know have nothing in the way of comedy chops. It was the first single off of the album, which came out on the first day of Lockdown. Delightfully cursed."
The Absolute State of Me
"A song to celebrate being a human binbag, and crushing on somebody so hard that your body betrays you. You know when you're in love with someone in your English class, and one day when they ask you how your weekend was you open your mouth to reply and to both your horror you accidentally burp in their face? That’s very much this song’s energy (and sadly another true story). The title came courtesy of our beloved ex-bassist Adam, who for a while was constantly in despair at "The absolute state of" everything. The music came out of a dream Alex had where he had to audition for Superchunk by writing them a new song (dream big)."
Girls Don't Want to Have Fun
"The very last song written for the album, even though we had the title kicking around since 2018. The greatest trick we ever played was making this song sound so effortless when it took bloody ages to work out how to get it right. A sad folksy disco song, like that dark half-hour at a clubnight (remember those?) where everyone is drunk and maudlin enough to be more concerned with how they’re getting home than whether the person they fancy fancies them back. Technical note: always record the fake drums before the real drums, or you’ll have to buy the engineer apology doughnuts."
Cool Cool Girl
"The oldest song on the record, and one which took two and a half years to do justice. Or sing in a way that doesn’t blow Lily’s (Guitar, Vocals) voice out by the big finale. A tongue-in-cheek jab at internalised misogyny, stemming from frustration at seeing and hearing women putting other women down for the sake of joining some imaginary cool club where everyone agrees that men are just better at stuff. What’s the point? Surely the patriarchy doesn’t need any more help? Also rhymes “interesting” with “into wrestling” after superproducer Keith TOTP misheard actual line after Lily’s first take, giving us what might be our best lyric in return."
"Very much a DUMP HIM, I LOVE YOU song. We’d been listening to an awful lot of Carly Rae Jepsen. It’s about trying to help a friend-you-are-secretly-into to get over their crap deadbeat ex, but also a gentle reminder that romantic heartbreak is only temporary, you’ll always heal, and nothing bad ever came from splitting up with a wrongun. We could not agree on a title for love nor money until superproducer Keith TOTP suggested “It’s a banger, just call it Banger #4”. He refused to tell us what the other three were. We hope one day it’ll be the new BBC News intro music."
If You Had a Sister…
"Written at Healey’s (Bass, Vocals) first Fightmilk rehearsal. If it weren’t for the way their slinky bass holds it all together, we’d have worried they thought we were no longer the band they’d signed up for. We were so excited to embark on a lifetime of rocking out together that we ended up making our most minimal track. There’s the fingerprints of Sharon Van Etten and The Cure, and the most indulgent guitar solo Alex (Guitar, Vocals) will ever commit to tape (another Fightmilk guarantee!). The lyrics are about too much to fit into a short blurb, but for the love of god, if anyone who works in TV is reading this, please stop making TV shows about Ted Bundy. We beg you.
You Are Not the Universe
Originally a song despairing at our dreadful leaders, but the metaphors got out of hand, so it turned into a laundry list of comebacks. Perhaps you’re having an angry shower and a full blown imaginary argument with your nemesis or, say, an ex who wrote a whole standup show about what a bitch you are. Has this also happened to you? Get in touch. There's a healthy dose of anger at gate-keeping in the arts and being told that little bands like ours aren't real cause we're not ~Proper Musicians~, too - but really, it's your imaginary argument so choose your target wisely! We were also thrilled to have gotten one of the Michaels (there are three) from Slime City on board for the silly Mclusky homage in verse two. The ending was written to give us a rare moment for us all to get a bit heavy, which we’ve grown to appreciate even more over the last year.
This came from the memory of a very tiny moment, and now it feels like our closing credits song. We don’t often do very quiet bits, and so the acoustic part at the beginning feels almost unnervingly vulnerable - especially as it gradually mutates into a full-on shouting match between Healey and Lily in the final chorus. We really had to force ourselves to not feel self-conscious about how windswept and emotional this is, but by the time we recorded it, we fully leaned into it (“Hounds of Love” was a big reference point). Also the only Fightmilk song that doesn’t rhyme.
Somehow, for a song that’s pretty much about a) fancying someone with wonky teeth and b) a little mantra to remind you that you’re perfect exactly as you are, this turned out sounding like gothy surf-rock, or as Healey said when we were working on it, “like every My Chemical Romance song being played at the same time.” We decided to double down: synths, gang vocals and pickscrapes oh my! This is one of the most uplifting, happy songs we’ve written, and by bookending Contender with big joyful explosions, maybe it’ll do something to soothe the collective woe we’ve all been living through. Jono Ganz made an animated video for the single and it is incredible - you should all watch it!