“The Purple Lights have a strange effect on people. They can turn an atmosphere of studied cool into glorious, glorious carnage.” GIITTV
Purple Lights – Biography
“The thing to remember is that we’re two different people,” state Akeba Fridye, drummer/singer and one half of acid funk rock duo The Purple Lights. Nevertheless, he and guitarist/singer Rob Fincham are making serious waves with a live show that creates glorious, joyful havoc wherever they take it, not least festivals as illustrious as Latitude and the Secret Garden Party. With the release of their first single ‘Warning’, an uncompromising political diatribe about the gathering dark forces of globalisation and nationalism, they are looking to extend that reputation even further, beyond the live arena and into the iPods and hard drives of the nation’s music lovers,
It’s true that on paper Akeba and Rob make an unlikely pairing. Rob originates from rural Suffolk, was weaned on a diet of AC/DC, Nirvana, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. His first band performed topless, their torsos covered with painted on black stars, and were best described as ‘glam grunge’. “We played like Nirvana,” he says, “but we looked like Kiss.”
Akeba, on the other hand, grew up in East London and was immersed in an eclectic array of musical influences, everything from grime and reggae to Johnny Cash, Pearl Jam and Guns ‘n’ Roses. By the age of 10 he was playing in bands with 18 year olds, soaking up all the knowledge of confidence that his elders had to share. “It was pretty good because at first it was quite a nervewracking thing being up on stage with all those people watching you. But quite quickly you start to think ‘I’ve done this before, I know what I’m doing.”
While Rob is very much the band’s frontman, unafraid of adding a theatrical flourish to his performance – “from an early age I was fascinated by the fact Angus Young was the frontman of AC/DC even though he was the guitarist, not the singer” – Akeba is his more serious counterpart and their anchor. “I think that’s what I bring to The Purple. Lights,” he reckons, “a certain sense of maturity, a feeling that ‘I know what i need to do in this or that bit of a song’.”
The pair first met when they were studying different music courses in High Wycombe. Rob was already recording and playing live as a solo acoustic act. Akeba felt he could add a little rhythmic flavour and began contributing handclaps and shakers to a track. He then took to the bongos for a live show. Before long the pair’s relationship had organically grown into a more formal pairing and they were writing songs together as The Purple Lights.
Given their common musical ground, and Akeba’s distinctive drumming style, it was inevitable that reggae and ska formed the backbone of their sound from the start. “Reggae had the biggest influence on my drumming,” says Akeba, “I understood the reggae groove and I loved the way it sounded on tracks.”
But equally, around that foundation, the duo rule nothing out, including their wide array of influences from punk and metal to electronica and even grime. “You can tell the difference between where it’s organic and where the influences have kind of been sellotaped together,” says Rob.
Necessity is often the mother of invention and the restrictions of being a duo have led to plenty of ingenious creative thinking. “You have to make sure, as a two piece,” explains Rob, “that you make a big noise and fill up the sound. So that’s where things like the electronics on the Loopstation come into play, as well as the harmonies with us both singing.”
Just as their music takes in a diverse spread of styles, so the subjects they tackle in their lyrics refuse to follow any predictable formula. In the ever evolving live set that they’ve been touring around the UK there are straight up love songs, like ‘Give Me Your Love’ to songs about ones mind frame told in the track ‘Brain’. These tracks nestle alongside songs with a social message such as ‘Don’t Change’, ‘Devil Man’ (penned about a former landlord) and ‘Warning’. Although Rob takes a lead when it comes to lyric writing, like everything else they’re very much a collaborative process, with Akeba insistent that “Instead of just talking about yourself we try to talk to people about situations to do with them.”
With Rob working as a tech in their top notch university studio back in High Wycombe, the pair had the luxury of laying down a number of tracks during down time, often recording in the dead of night. The first fruits of their labour emerged last year with the release of their five track ‘Sow The Seeds’ EP.
But with a move to London early in 2015 – “we needed some fresh scenery, we’d been playing the same venues three times a week” – the band have moved on from self-producing their material and recently followed in the footsteps of Adele, Madonna and Mumford and Sons to record at Westpoint Studios in Acton, West London. “A fresh pair of ears on a track brings a whole new dimension to it,” says Rob.
It’s still early days for The Purple Lights, but as they move on to this second chapter in their career they’re already carrying with them a confidence and musical freedom that many bands take years to grasp. Shine on you crazy diamonds!
Live Shows 2019
Wed March 13 – Old Blue Last London
Sat March 23 – Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Fri July 19-22 – Magical Fest, West Sussex
Fri August 23 – Maui Waui festival, Suffolk