WITH a hometown show and their eagerly anticipated debut album You Are Someone Else coming up, Brighton-based Fickle Friends are set for a memorable year. Since forming at BIMM Brighton in 2013, the band have been signed by major record label Polydor and been played on Radio 1. As singer Natti Shiner looks ahead to a big 2018, she tells EDWIN GILSON about life in Brighton, managing her mental health and how Jamie Oliver played a pivotal role in their progression

How are you feeling before the album’s release?

It’s terrifying. It’s been such a long time coming that I’m excited for it to come out, but I’m also just a bit scared.

Where does that fear come from?

It’s just classic major label worries that your album won’t hit certain targets and they’ll drop you.

You recorded some of You Are Someone Else in LA. Was that always the plan?

Yeah. We were supposed to record the whole album there with [producer] Mark Crossey. We signed the record deal and thought, “let’s go do the album”. We didn’t have a chance to breathe. This is the classic “learn from your mistakes” thing, because we rushed it so much that there were quite a few songs that we couldn’t use or that weren’t good enough.

You said the album “talks about the feeling you don’t fit your own life”. Did writing these songs help you understand that alienation?

It is very therapeutic to write about it. I’m the kind of person who can only ever write when I’m feeling really, really bad. I’m the biggest worrier in the whole world. Whenever I’m making mountain out of molehills, that’s usually the ammunition for a song. The whole feeling of being trapped in my own head is something that happens every day.

Have you always used writing as a means to manage that anxiety?

I’ve always either sat down or written something or gone for a long run or a walk. My anxiety was getting worse and worse but being put on anti-depressives made me feel really foggy. I was on it for a year and it almost stopped me enjoying things. I came off it and now I’m meditating, which is working much better. My mum is a complete hippy so she was all for me coming off the anti-depressives and learning to meditate. It’s the best thing I’ve found.

Why do you think anxiety is more pronounced in this age than ever before?

People have been embarrassed or afraid to open up before now. A lot of musicians in particular have come forward saying they struggle from anxiety, because at times it’s quite an alienating career choice. You go from huge highs to severe lows. You have loads of adrenaline when you play a show and then you’ll be in a van on your own for the next six hours. When you’re starting out you’ve got no money which makes everything worse. It did for me.

Have you learned how to deal with those highs and lows on tour?

I still have trouble with it. I get so nervous I can’t go on stage without two glasses of red wine. It’s kind of sad, because at times I’d like to play sober – especially considering it’s dry January. Never play drunk, never play sober.

Do you ever have any reservations about giving yourself away in your lyrics?

I think if anything we need to be more honest in our writing. We need to dig a bit deeper. It’s easy to write about breaking up with someone, but it takes more to write about mental health or the environment or politics. We’ve done that a bit on this record and would like to do more on the next one.

Your press release says you want to document the “joy and uncertainty of growing up a millennial”.

Yeah. We’re living in such a social media-dominated time, that you can connect with the world about anything. I never went into it saying “I want to be the voice of the milennials” though.

It’s obviously very important for you to emotionally connect with your fans, though?

The first time I listened to Let Go by Avril Lavigne I was this tomboy kid who didn’t fit into any social circles. I thought, “I love this woman so much”. If one of our songs can do that to someone else, that would be the most rewarding thing in the world.

How do you reflect on your time at BIMM?

I came into BIMM ready to start a band and get on with stuff rather than having to find my feet. All the staff there were great but in the second and third years we were barely ever there. We were always on tour, and BIMM paid us to perform in colleges and get people to enrol in the university. I think my attendance in the third year was six per cent.

And you’re still based in Brighton.

Yeah. We’ve just rented a studio in Brighton but I’m moving to London in a month. My boyfriend lives there. It doesn’t really matter that the band will be apart – we can just back together when we need to.

You had a leg up from Jamie Oliver, of all people, after you played at his food festival. How did that happen?

Our drummer Sam went through a phase of submitting our music to loads of competitions without us knowing what he was doing. Jamie Oliver was running his “summer jam”, which he does every year. Jamie loved our song and said he wanted to record a live video with us at his restaurant. Jamie made us pizza all day and we drank beer while we made this video.

That won a public vote and we ended up playing his Big Feastival. We were freaking out backstage because we knew we’d be playing to 20,000 people. A week later Jamie rang me saying he wanted to do more with us. He paid for us to spend time with a producer he knew. I was like, “is this some kind of prank, are you kidding?” He wasn’t.

Fickle Friends
Concorde 2, Brighton, March 19
Debut album You Are Someone Else is released on March 16, 7.30pm. For tickets and more information visit concorde2.co.uk or call 01273 673311