“Do you know what to do when you’re on your own? Do you know what to do when you’re on your own again?” Fear of Men singer/guitarist Jessica Weiss wonders in “Seer,” the opening track on Early Fragments. This nine-track album is a collection of the singles and cassette releases that made the indie pop quartet one of Britain’s most blogged about bands of 2012.
Combining lush, dreamy vocals with lyrics influenced by Anaïs Nin and Sigmund Freud, the London and Brighton-based band sounds like the Cranberries in the midst of an existential crisis. Their first-ever single, “Ritual Confession,” was inspired by letters between Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, while “Green Sea” references the Greek myth of Prometheus, or perhaps Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (Opening lyrics: “Fall asleep in the green / Under the waves / Til the birds steal the liver I grew.”)
You won’t be surprised to learn that Fear of Men began as an art student project. The band formed in 2011 as an extension of the ambient soundtrack recordings Weiss made for her short films. She met guitarist and fellow art student Daniel Falvey when he came to one of her exhibitions, and they were soon joined by Alex Flynn-O’Neill on bass and Michael Miles on drums. (You read that right – despite the name and Weiss’ vocals, Fear of Men is 50% male.)
Even if their lyrics didn’t give them away, Fear of Men has made no attempt to disguise its intellectual background. In between links to their surrealistic music videos and latest gigs, Fear of Men’s Twitter and Tumblr pages contain ephemera like quotes from Edgar Allan Poe and Sylvia Plath, a photo of a Yoko Ono art piece, a YouTube video of a Philip Larkin poem, and shorter-than-short Tweets like “Visiting Basquiat’s grave.”
And let’s talk about those videos. There are three of them, each a three-minute work of art in its own right. The most recent music video, for “Seer,” shows Weiss as a beekeeper in a sunny wasteland, looking like a lonesome astronaut in her white coveralls and veiled beekeeper’s hat.
Their name, background, and videos all hint that there’s something special here, but above all, what sets Fear of Men apart is their haunting lyrics. Darkly poetic and unsettling, the lyrics dwell on birth, death, sex, and spirituality, even when the melody is a little more lighthearted. “I remember being born / I remember when I die,” Weiss chirps in the upbeat, almost-danceable “Born.”
Fear of Men recently crossed the pond for the first time to play nine sets at SXSW, as well as shows in Monterrey, Mexico and New York. There’s a proper debut album in the works, so make sure you pick up Early Fragments now.