It’s a late-November Friday night in Kingston, London’s all but secret music capital. The Christmas light switch on has made the London traffic even more typically ‘London’ than usual, which would be comical if it weren’t for the fact that even the support acts are cutting it fine.
Tonight’s venue, The Fighting Cocks, is decorated with posters proudly announcing that tonight it will play host to “Farro (ex-Paramore)”. Inside, US-newcomers Farro are preparing for a hypnotic set in support of their atmospheric debut album ‘Walkways’, released in February of last year. They’re doing it with no parentheses needed.
Settling in with afterLIVE, the man himself, Josh Farro, concedes that ‘Walkways’ was a long time in the making.
“Walkways came together after many years of writing,” he says acknowledging his length
y absence. “I tried forming a couple of different bands with some friends but nothing really ever came of it. I started to write on my own and thoroughly enjoyed it so I made an album.”
It sounds like the utterings of a breakthrough artist but those unnecessary parentheses are nevertheless true. Josh Farro is a genre-defining song-writer who most will recognise as the original guitarist and founding member of Paramore.
Seven years ago Paramore had spent 2010 playing and headlining festivals, arenas and stadiums all over the world quickly securing their place as undeniable rock history legends. In December of that year, Josh and his brother Zac took the very public decision to leave the band.
The statements made by the Farro brothers at the time were difficult to digest but were a pretty unique, if not damning, insight into the world of stadium-sized rock bands.
What was said may have been wrong, it may have been right, but what’s indisputable is that to leave a band of that magnitude at that time was an almighty courageous thing to do in defence of creative integrity. To now be starting over, revisiting venues that tend to house smaller names, deserves the utmost respect.
The time that has passed since Josh was a member of Paramore is now equal to the amount of time that he spent in the band and his solo project has an identity completely distinct from Josh’s past, drawing on different influences and carrying a different character.
Taking to a stage drenched in projected stars Josh, dressed down in black tee and black jeans, performed a
set much more simple then some might have expected. But the half-sullen, half-up-lifting, fully-emotional set sent shivers down the spine.
Goosebumps are hardly a surprising reaction to a performance from a man whose song-writing has never been anything short of exceptional, which makes it unnerving to discover that his past experience with the music industry almost stopped him from continuing creatively at all.
“Farro was born after a few years of searching for what I wanted to do next,” he says. “When I realised I wanted to release music and play shows again I decided to move forward by myself. I knew that would be the easiest route.”
The result of that decision is an expressive and at times morose performance synonymous with the likes of Coldplay or Arcade Fire and certainly deserving of a similar platform.
‘Color Rush’, ‘Cliffs’ and title track ‘Walkways’ are elevating songs with stadium sized echoed-guitars and sing along choruses that will fill the corners of any summer festival field.
The magic of this album, however, might be held by the beautifully bleak offerings of ‘Islands’ and ‘Say The Word’ the morose nature of which is special.
The effects of extensive touring on family life was one of the reasons Josh made the decision to leave
Paramore. It was an understandable concern and heart-breaking to read in light of the circumstances but Josh, now married, appears to be much more at ease with his work/home life balance. When I extended my sympathies that he was away from home for Thanksgiving he responded with a laugh and said: “that’s okay, I’ve had many Thanksgivings at home.”
“I was busy playing a show that night. My family did the usual Thanksgiving gathering with turkey and a bunch of other food. I’m at least glad that I missed out on gaining 20 pounds after one meal!”
Tonight’s performance is not perfect. The band dynamic is still developing and Josh is still finding his way as a frontman. However, it definitely showcases the fruits of being true to authentic creativity and true influences. Josh appeared just as happy playing his own material as he did playing a Coldplay cover and a vocally impressive Fleet Foxes cover. After all, sacrifices are easier to make when they are in aid of a cause that feels right and is producing intriguing, cultured and sophisticated results like ‘Walkways’.
So why, then, was this tour billed as ‘Farro (ex-Paramore)’? Well, I can’t answer that question but I agree with Josh’s answer when I asked if this tour felt different to his past visits to the UK:
“It was definitely a bit different…” he answered “considering it’s an entirely new band.”
Fair enough Josh. Fair enough.
FARRO WILL PLAY FORECASTLE FESTIVAL IN LOUISVILLE, KY, JULY 14-16 2017. GET TICKETS HERE.