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December 2020 / January 2021

Ten Fé: "It doesn't feel like there's any limits to it"

The London duo talk busking, Berlin and their stunning debut album 'Hit The Light'
Published: 2:07 pm, February 16, 2017
Ten Fé: "It doesn't feel like there's any limits to it"
Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan are a duo fizzing with rock ‘n’ roll blood. It curses through everything they do, every fibre and scrap of history that binds them together and now as Ten Fe, is helping to paint their own portraits of classic songwriting dipped in technicolored batter. Moreish, engrossing and a world of their very own - debut album ‘Hit The Light’ is a statement of intent that opens up more and more on each and every listen. Now that it’s out in the world, their story is about to take on a whole ‘nother chapter.

“It feels like a big release in a lot of ways” explains Ben. “It’s been a real labour of love to get it finished and sounding right, and of course such a slow process of releasing it all and building everything up to it. We needed to make sure that we were in the right place to release it”.

When talking about Ten Fe, the use of the word ‘we’ is key. Whilst spanning stellar genres and gripping sounds across ‘Hit The Light’ - at its core is the relationship between Ben and Leo, one that has built through different bands, unique circumstances and an undying love for one simple ingredient.

“A huge element of our friendship is about the fun and love of playing rock ‘n’ roll songs” continues Ben, “I don’t think we knew at the time when we first met that it was going to turn into something that focussed on songwriting and the whole process of being in a band”

Playing rock ‘n’ roll songs may sound like a simple wish, but it’s something that Ben and Leo fully delved into, through their own projects and directions that constantly weaved themselves back into each other’s path. At the foundation level of every person to every step into music, is a desire to simply play to people - and for Ben and Leo, even before Ten Fe became a thing, there was nothing stopping them from simply picking up their instruments and heading out to take those songs to an audience, whether they knew it was coming or not.

When you think of busking, the usual idea that springs to mind is the guy playing an Ed Sheeran song outside Morrisons, or the violin player standing on their designated patch in a bustling Underground station. That’s not the busking Ten Fe had in mind.

“Yeah, I mean that was the beginning of us playing together as two people” remembers Leo, harking back to those regular days and nights spent around the London Underground. “We did that a long, long time before we were even in a band together, before we were even writing together. We’d jump on the carriages and really get in people’s faces, we loved and still do love the theatre element to that, it’s a bit different to this sanitised idea of busking where you have a spot and you just stand there - hoping that someone will drop some money as they go by.”

“It was much more inventive than that, we went and got in people’s faces and we found that people acted in a really positive way to what we were doing. It was an exciting new thing that we found we could do, and to make money from it - because to be perfectly honest we needed money and we didn’t want to go off to do another crappy job. We found that if we played those classic songs to people on the tube then it would really suit the environment. We had to sing loud, get people’s attention and play the songs people knew. All of these things we didn’t think about at the time, we just did it because it made us happy - and that’s how we really started our friendship.”

From the hairy times of finding out they were busking after a rowdy football match had finished (“Having the misfortune to learn that you’re busking at the same time as the Chelsea game ending is something” notes Leo. “Neither of us are Chelsea fans so we can’t even have any love there - but we had plenty of abuse from drunken football fans on many an occasion”) - busking built up a character that sprawls out of Ten Fe now, a confidence and commitment to the sounds they’re creating, and a knowing nod that what they represent and create speaks much louder volumes now they have that grounding in what music can do. That transition to actually being a band was then a natural one when the timing felt right.

“There was a point where Leo was in a band, and he invited me to join, and about 3 or 4 months in we just started staying late at rehearsals and jamming - just the two of us.” Ben explains. “Working on tunes that we were writing or grooves or whatever, I think that was the lightbulb moment where we were finding the sound that felt a lot more exciting to us than what we were doing before. That was the click really, where we started thinking y’know what - we should take this further and take it seriously.”

What they’ve delivered is a seriously astonishing debut album, one that jumps between unravelling 80s grooves, potent melodic-noir daydreams and sensual and electric pop in its purest form at a touch of the hat - delivered in a meaty serving that for nearly 50 minutes transports you to a world of rich and vibrant meaning. ‘Hit The Light’ takes the ‘Screamadelica’ vibrations and spins them through the ‘Exile On Main Street’ cannon into a record that is both eye-opening and comforting.

“We’ve always trusted our gut” Leo notes, looking back on the record with fresh eyes now that it’s out and about in the world. “We never went into it saying the whole album was going to sound a certain way, and when we write together there’s quite a different sense of style even between the songs that we each sing on. Like between ‘Don’t Forget’ which is one Ben sings, and ‘In The Air’ - there’s a huge difference stylistically.”

“We think of each individual song and what services that song best, so if we’re listening to Kendrick Lamar when we’re recording ‘Don’t Forget’ - you’ve got to trust your gut and not worry about it all fitting together. We always trusted that it would, and that’s what has made this so rewarding when we hear people’s reactions now.”

Pulled together in Berlin with Ewan Pearson (the guy responsible for helping produce the likes of Jagwar Ma and M83 amongst others), ‘Hit The Light’ is a free and expansive record, and one that captures a feeling and vision in a way that only those who have experienced the literal reactions in music can truly put to paper. Classic in style, but bubbling with creativity - Ten Fe’s path is heading overground in a way that’s going to be impossible to resist.

“It doesn’t feel like there’s any limits to it” states Ben. “There’s things we haven’t even talked about yet which could points towards where it goes next”

Ten Fe have hit the light, and now there’s nothing stopping them going higher and higher.

Ten Fe's debut album 'Hit The Light' is out now via Some Kinda Love/PIAS

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