[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Hard-Fi battle to beat Mercury odds
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

This year's Nationwide Mercury Music Prize is awarded on Tuesday, with new British band Hard-Fi threatening to upset the odds.

Hard-Fi singer Richard Archer
Hard-Fi had rave reviews for their debut album, Stars of CCTV
When Mercury Prize favourites Kaiser Chiefs bumped into Hard-Fi in Chicago recently, the Kaisers' singer Ricky Wilson had a message for Hard-Fi's frontman Richard Archer.

"Ricky came up to me and he was really sweet," Archer says.

"He was like 'We're well made up for you being nominated, we're really pleased for you. But if you win it, we're going to kill you'."

And he meant it, Archer says. "The look in his eyes said it all."

Hailed as one of Britain's most refreshing new bands, Hard-Fi have been nominated for the tuneful mix of rock, pop, ska and disco on their debut album Stars of CCTV.

It went to number six when it was released in July and has spawned two Top 20 singles - but has not been ranked among the favourites for the Mercury by the bookies.

Our recording budget is Coldplay's macrobiotic yoghurt budget
Richard Archer
"We feel like outsiders so if they want to rank us as outsiders then that suits us fine," Archer says.

"We're quite happy to come and gatecrash things."

For a group who recorded the album themselves in a disused cab office in Staines, just west of London, the nomination alone is seen as an achievement.

"When you think we made the album for 300, it's a vindication of what we've done," Archer says. "Our recording budget is Coldplay's macrobiotic yoghurt budget."

Staines plays a big part on the album - the frustration and drama of being young in suburbia ooze out, as does the desire to escape.

I don't want to spend my life working in a crappy job that I hate, trying to make ends meet and then you die
Richard Archer (second right)
"It's just close enough to the city but no-one ever goes there," Archer says.

"There are loads of towns just like that, where you're bored. You're bored of being bored. You're bored of having no money and you want to get out but you can't afford to move into the city.

"There's nothing to do there, so you either make your own entertainment or you go crazy."

Music was the only alternative to a string of dead-end jobs - including collecting trolleys for supermarkets, data entry for British Gas, and sitting "in a trench full of disinfectant peeling potatoes and onions" - Archer says.

"I don't want to spend my life working in a crappy job that I hate, trying to make ends meet and then you die, basically.

"My mum and dad did that and they always said 'If you can break out of that and follow your dreams you've got to do it'.

Hard-Fi singer Richard Archer
The band's influences range from The Clash to Lee "Scratch" Perry
"There's so much pressure on you to consume, to buy, to borrow, that you fall into it. I want to follow my own path, thanks, not one that's pre-destined by society."

No other British artists were writing about real life in the same way when Hard-Fi were making Stars of CCTV, the singer says.

"We're singing about things that affected our lives and our friends' lives or things that move us in some way because no-one for me has really done that since Oasis."

But rather than being downbeat, Hard-Fi's album has a positive outlook - inspired, Archer says, by 1960s soul music that has uplifting tunes while the lyrics "break your heart".

The band's influences stretch far and wide - when asked about their musical heroes, the list spans The Clash, The Rolling Stones and ska stars The Specials.

That's life - it kicks you in the teeth just when you think you've clawed your way out of a hole
Richard Archer
It also takes in reggae giant Lee "Scratch" Perry, soul legend Al Green, electro-pop heroes New Order and trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack.

That combination of influences helped their first major single, Tied Up Too Tight, reach number 15 in April while Hard To Beat went to number nine in June.

But the success was tinged with tragedy when Archer's mother died the week Hard To Beat went into the Top 10.

"It was extremely hard," he says. "Instead of enjoying that moment, it was the pits of despair.

'Extremely supportive'

"Both of my parents were extremely supportive and the one thing they wanted was to see me do well.

"But unfortunately, that's life sometimes - it kicks you in the teeth just when you think you've clawed your way out of a hole."

His record company said he could take time off, he says - but he did not want his band to waste the chance he and his parents had fought for.

"I was very conscious that you don't get many opportunities in life and we had an opportunity," Archer says.

"We had a window. Me and my brother had already suffered - I didn't want to suffer again by losing the opportunity.

"There was no option, we just had to get back out there and make this happen."


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific