Time Out London recently described the comedy acoustic trio Fair & Square as the “one to watch”. I would not disagree having seen them in action at 2000trees this summer.
Time Out London recently described the comedy acoustic trio Fair & Square as the “one to watch”. I would not disagree having seen them in action at 2000trees this summer. It was a privilege then to spend some time with them prior to attending The Musical Comedy Awards (MCA) 5th Birthday celebrations, Bloomsbury Theatre at which they were to perform. They’d even washed off the mud.
Some of you may already be familiar with their work- they have won numerous awards and were voted Best Newcomers at this year’s MCA but what do we actually know about these fresh faced comedians? I was on a mission to find out… I have to say I did learn a piece of gossip but it was only at the end of the interview – so you’ll have to wait until then… (it involves ‘&’ and the shower).
There was a sense of a somewhat secret rendevouz about the occasion, with every place we tried to conduct the interview being locked or us being turned away. There are however worse places to be trawling the streets than the surrounding areas of UCL and the guys were very chatty; any fears I might have had about getting them to talk faded away by the time we reached Square’s halls where I was treated to a cup of coffee, comfy chair and three exceedingly affable comic guys.
They have known each other since their Cambridge school days and are in fact “less than two years from school talent shows”. I felt sorry for the other members of the school at this point. It would have been like competing in the Great British Bake Off and finding yourself up against Nigella or Delia Smith. & and Square were in a play together in Year 7 and the friendship grew … or as Square likes to say, “I forced the guys into a death metal band called the Apostles of Lucifer”. A name that Square chose by himself. & is adamant that this is a theme running through their musical relationship – and I start to see why the guys work so well at bouncing ideas of each other. There is a great deal of friendly, productive bickering come banter that goes on between all three. Strangely the Apostles of Lucifer disbanded after two songs…which they stretched out over two years. They then formed a ten piece funk band which I gather from the change in tone when telling me about it, they approached with a tad more enthusiasm. “It was so much fun.”
I must point out that recently Fair has been replaced in the band…by another Fair. This may seem confusing but I guess it stops the confusion over the band name. The original Fair is travelling Australia on his gap year and so ‘new’ Fair, who is a songwriter of modern disco for Sony and Universal has stepped into the breach. And having seen them perform later that night I am going to add, seamlessly. It maybe they have to rename themselves next year, Fairs &Square or Fair Fair & Square – (providing Square would allow that.) The guys have no qualms in performing in front of an audience. In fact the first time that Fair & Square performed together was in front of 70 people at secondary school after Square had written a song for a girl he wanted to ask out. The result? “She said no. And its on youtube.”
All was not lost however as the performance had been a success and they decided to stay together. Along with this and a timely comedy influence from Flight of The Conchords, Fair & Square were up and about to start running. Initially they tried to write serious songs, which considering their witty personas I would imagine was fairly hard. They started to write about things they knew and what came out was musical comedy. I felt compelled to ask & what comes first – the music or the lyrics. “We need to have a concept so there needs to be both ‘original’ and ‘funny’. So I guess that’s partially lyrics because it needs to know what it is before you slot some music in with it. Saying that however, we’ve found that jamming really inspires you to get some great tunes and put some funny idea with it.” Square agrees, “A concrete example of this is “Letter To My Future Wife”. I had it as a note on my desk for ages…just a few lines…and something about the goat. I thought, mmh that’s quite good and we sat and wrote it out, adding to it and then we put some music to it. It took quite a while but it ended up being funny.”
The collaboration within the group is important. “It’s not funny until we are all together. We came through the music route as there wasn’t a comedy scene in Cambridge so we had to do the acoustic nights which was fun but we felt it was a cheap way in as no one was expecting what we delivered – so they would always laugh. The MCA was our first comedy gig where we had to battle against other comedians.” In a symbolic move last month they changed their page on Facebook from musician to comedian. “We sat around the table and made the decision, ‘is that what we are?’” They don’t want to lose their music tag though and agree they would get bored of doing straight stand up. “We enjoy our band because we get to be with each other,” enthused Square, “And besides, It’s a good excuse for you two to visit me at uni.”
Square is studying Law with French Law at UCL whilst & and Fair are both on gap years …doing their bit for the economy with jobs at Marks and Spencer and Top Shop respectively. Fair and & busk together and write a few comedy songs which they do they say for fun. And they want Fair & Square to be exactly that – fun. The name originates from the name of the funk band they were previously in… and they decided to take ownership. The percussionist & grew into his name, as before he could play the cajon, his job seemed to be handing out doughnuts to the audience, dressed in his pyjamas. They assured me there was relevance to his actions at the time. He has his mother to thank for his role as & since she was the one who encouraged him to learn the cajon and hence he got to ditch the doughnut boy routine. “The fact that I’m & is perhaps a rather rude comment by these guys about percussionists not being a real part of a band. However I take it that I’m the glue that combines it all together. Fair Square.? You guys need me,” he laughed. The centrepiece literally is & sat playing his cajon and reacting with his amazing elastic face to the lyrics that fly between Fair and Square. You have to be there to appreciate it. It is worth the ticket price alone. & explained, “When I started gigging I realised it is easier for me to play the mute. I pull faces anyway when I’m playing through concentration. I also came from a drama background when I was younger and I guess using my face as a tool came from that.”
Reviews have often commented on this along with the guys dress sense. They wear white shirts with ties, an unusual choice for 18 year olds staging a gig, albeit one that works. The idea behind it was a quote from Brian Ferry who was replying to a question as to why he wears a suit on stage. The reason was “Because I’m on the stage.” “We have a duty to be smart and have a respect for the audience.” Fair would like to point out at this moment that he remembers seeing the guys on stage once upon a time dressed as fish. They look at each other, “Yes that did happen.”
Moving on from the fish costumes, which they have done so successfully, they talk about how pleased they are to be doing what they do. They are learning so much from the acoustic comedy scene and have had a great deal of support from people in the business. Last year they ran, hosted and headlined a gig at The Junction in Cambridge which was a highlight and they also appeared at the London Wonderground. They also have had their, “doom day”, as they like to call it, when they were up at the fringe in Edinburgh. They played one set underneath an Italian restaurant…to ten people. Ten people who didn’t find them funny. Square’s voice was going, Fair’s guitar string broke, the ukulele was out of tune and it all went downhill. After playing half the set they took control by announcing to the audience that they were leaving and asked them to forget that they had ever been born. I think this showed great maturity, not least because it left them slightly more time to find a replacement guitar string for the next show the following night. They feel they have learnt their lesson on complacency and audiences – and I doubt there are many bands that can claim that at 18 years of age.
Their friends have enjoyed watching them progress and they appreciate the encouragement they have been shown. They stress how important all those involved with the MCA are to them. They come across as funny charming and down to earth talented guys with their feet very much on the ground. They would within two years like their own Edinburgh show and one day their own TV show. Having seen them perform a couple of times now, I don’t think that is too much to ask.
So, speaking of asking, I wanted to make sure that this funny, charming affable image was for real. Was there anything about any one of them they’d like to tell me…that perhaps they wouldn’t want me to know? And this is where the piece of gossip comes in. Apparently & takes too long in the shower! And it winds up Square no end. What can I say? They really are charming. So, clean ‘safe’ guys; but not just safe guys. Hilariously talented, not to be missed guys. Find them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and go and see them. I can’t say fairer than that.