In Depth: Elly Bailey Meets Luke Griffiths (False Heads)

 Photo: Elly Bailey.  

Luke Griffiths, the lead singer of East London rock band False Heads, strolled into the Cross Keys Wetherspoons in Bank looking as a lead singer should, bleached hair shining, sunglasses in place, and some various scars on his forehead which he later told me was from hitting his head into his guitar, (“It makes a cool noise!”).

I sat watching him survey the room, looking over to where I said I was sitting, and started to wonder why he hadn’t seen me yet. (If you know me you will know that my hair, in particular, is pretty hard to miss!) Eventually spotting me he ambled over, immediately pulling me in for a hug explaining with a shy smile that his eyesight wasn’t great but was too worried about falling asleep while drunk to consider wearing contacts.

The three-piece rock and roll band known as False Heads and self-described as heavy rifts with melodic chords, is made up of lead guitarist and singer Luke, Jake on bass and singing drummer Barney. Together they have been taking on the music industry, jumping from high to high, and have found themselves all over the festival scene and supporting the likes of The Libertines and Queens of the Stone Age. All working class East London boys, Luke cites where he grew up and still lives as a big influence on his music.

“We’ve all had very similar upbringings growing up in East London, and moving to suburbia closer to Essex. It’s like we were working-class families but living in suburbia and that in itself can make you feel a bit lost. We actually met going to the same school but I don’t think we ever felt like we belonged there, especially me, I hated school. East London itself is a weird mix of the hipsters moving in and then the families that were born and raised, my first gig before False Heads was in Canning Town and the venue was just dead, there was nothing special there.”

But over this summer these boys have left their east-end life behind, and instead, have been welcoming blue skies and language barriers making festival appearances throughout Europe.

“My favourite festival to play was definitely InMusic, in Croatia,” says Luke, taking a sip of his gin and tonic.

Photo: Alan Wells

“We played the main stage and it was us, Queen’s of the Stone Age, David Byrne and Nick Cave, it was crazy. Plus the crowd was amazing, it was the most people we’d played to, it just all kind of fell into place. But it was a good test, if you have the ambition to be a big band then you need to be able to play on a big stage and play for an hour. You have to win the crowd over, in the audience, there are some people that know who you are but most don’t. If you play a festival and get a great reception that I think you know you’re a half decent band. Most turn up to see the main acts and have been waiting at the barrier all day so the opportunity to gain new fans is massive. And Croatia is a beautiful place. There are a lot of relics of the Soviet Union days, which makes it a bit eerie, but it is so beautiful.”

This band have been gaining fans all over the place, but try having a scroll through False Heads website or social media and you may find an unlikely supporter, the ‘Godfather of Punk’ himself Iggy Pop.

“They are young and talented and going places… if they came to my town I’d show up for that, if they come to your town you might wanna show up”– Iggy Pop

“We never actually met him,”laughs Luke, “We speak via email. Danny Fields, who used to manage Iggy Pop and The Ramones, is like an old-time music legend, an amazing human being. He came to one of our early gigs in Camden, actually to see the headliner but we blew him away and he emailed us like you guys are the future of rock n roll, anything I can do to help I’d be happy to and he kind of became a close friend.

He sent Iggy our stuff and he loved it! I now always send Iggy our stuff; we chat on email, check in on how each other are doing and that. It’s very surreal; he’s one of the last legends. He started playing us on his radio show all the time and did an interview where he said we were one of his favourite bands. He’s given us so much support it’s been brilliant.” 

Now, if you’ve ever seen False Heads live, you will know this: they tend to finish their sets with Luke jumping into the drum kit, and onto Barney…

“I’ve definitely hurt myself jumping into the drum kit, but not that bad, some gnarly bruises, I’ve cut myself, pulled muscles. I don’t know why it started but the first time I did it, it was Barney that got injured worse than me, he caught his arm on the snare and split it straight open, blood everywhere. It’s good fun, and I like winding Barney up,” he says with a sheepish grin, “He always tells me not to jump on him and I always do. I like doing it and it’s fun but  now I know that people are waiting for it, I’m not going to do it at every gig, I’d probably end up breaking my bones, and I don’t want people to come to the show just to watch me jump into a drum kit. There’s an element of self-destruction in our music and it comes out onstage. In the moment it just happens, I just don’t really think about it. But on our 27-date tour, I’m definitely not going to be able to do it every night! I hate bands that stand there and do nothing. I’m quite a reserved person, and when I’m onstage it all comes out, me being onstage is my outlet.”

After telling me that he hated school, and was suspended twice I didn’t think Luke would’ve gone to university, but it turns out I was wrong. After hearing this, I decided to dive deeper into the bands beginning and found out that the clever, sharp and even ambiguous name ‘False Heads’ was chosen by complete accident.

“I’ve always written songs and music and had the name False Heads for ages, like from the age of 15. I was writing down potential band names and one was False Hood, which was a terrible name, but I didn’t have my glasses on and at a glance read it as False Heads. As well as it sounding pretty cool I always felt it summed up my school, all the hipsters moving into East London, the people that pretend to give a fuck. Under that name, I was releasing demos, but couldn’t get a band together. I thought I could go to university and put a band together but it just didn’t happen. I came back with a 2:1 History degree,” he tells me with a hint of pride, “and Jake came back from university and then Barney joined and it just fell into place and we were like right False Heads this is it. I can’t really remember anything from that degree; I don’t know how I got a 2:1. The problem with university is you can go to one lecture and then fuck off for the rest of the term. I did find it interesting but I can’t imagine myself revising it soon. But I found it interesting and the religion modules especially have been a big influence on our music and my writing. I read the Bible and the Quran and just realised how much bullshit religion was. It’s a violent, horrible story that people believe, and of course there are good people that are religious, but to me it’s the fact that they still say that I’m going to burn in hell if I don’t believe in what they believe in and they can’t see how fucked up that is. 

God to me is a wife beating, Stella drinking, vest-wearing dude. It’s ‘love me and worship me or you will be punished forever’. Religion promises you the greatest afterlife if you experience the shittest life now, and it’s fucking bizarre, and something that I can’t get my head around. And it’s the same in politics at the moment. Why is it bad to have a genuine conversation with someone that doesn’t agree with you? We’ve had Brexit, we’ve had Trump and people think that writing a Facebook essay and blocking the people that don’t agree with them is going to help. For me, it’s people like that have blood on their hands for putting people like Trump in power. When you are constantly shutting others down, not letting anyone have an opinion or a conversation, they start to rebel and align themselves with people like Donald Trump. 

Photo: Alan Wells

 I don’t think you can call yourself a leftist if you believe your opinion is fact and everyone else’s opinion has to be shut down in order for your views to be thrown out into the world. People try to have actual debates and just get talked to like shit. The rising right is fucking terrifying but that type of leftist that has to go. The tactics have to be changed a little bit to deal with what’s happening.

Like, the polls are normally bang on but they were completely wrong for Brexit and for Trump because we’ve created an environment 

where people are too afraid to say what they really believe. I voted Corbyn but also didn’t agree with all the campaigning, the popular culture stuff. You should never worship a politician, no matter how much you agree with them. You should never worship someone who could have complete control over the country one day.”

Watching Luke talk about what he’s clearly passionate about, angry about and heavily opinionated about was fascinating. It was like watching a sudden burst of energy, one that you would only tend to see onstage from this lead singer.

After asking him if he had anything else he wanted to add, he left me with these words:

“Attempt to stop seeing the world in black and white. Try and have that conversation, an actual conversation with someone you disagree with and maybe you can change their mind, or maybe it’ll be your mind that will be changed.”

Check out more False Heads here

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