I am so ready for summer now. I’ve just watched Fickle Friends deliver a headline set in Southsea’s Wedgewood Rooms, and now I can’t wait for long balmy evenings by the beach. The indie pop quintet’s sound is so full of playful 80s-sounding bubblegum-synth, it’s hard not to imagine yourself driving a convertible down Miami (or Southsea) Beach at sunset.
I’d seen Fickle Friends twice before at festivals in recent years (Cornwall’s Boardmasters and Portsmouth’s own Victorious respectively), so I was more than happy to watch them bring a little sunshine to a chilly March evening. The Brighton band’s star has been steadily on the rise for a while now, with a growing presence on primetime Radio One and a multitude of gigs and festival sets. The show at the Wedge took place just two days before the launch of their debut album You Are Someone Else, and the band’s excitement was contagious.
Taking to the palm tree-fringed stage at 10 pm on the dot to an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, the band launched straight into their first number. Say No More is pure Vitamin D, with a big, bouncy 80s beat and a Haim-inspired chorus. As with all their songs, it’s the vocals of frontwoman Natti Shiner that take centre-stage – sweet, feminine and full of feeling. Yet, despite their uplifting sound, Fickle Friends aren’t afraid to write songs about life’s struggles, often featuring themes like insecurity and anxiety, which only makes them more relatable.
It was straight into Brooklyn next, a sparkling slice of pop set apart by its heartfelt lyrics about dealing with worry and self-doubt. Ode to a failing relationship, Wake Me Up and my personal favourite, the irresistibly catchy Cry Baby, followed in swift succession before Natti announced the first of three brand new songs from the debut album to feature in the set list. Bite has more edge than most Fickle Friends songs, with less sun-drenched sugariness but just as much pace and melody.
Slower-paced but bouncy B-side Vanilla brought us back to the band’s signature style, then, with the stage bathed in orange, Natti and the boys introduced us to She – a dreamy, reflective song full of subtle reverb and conflicted emotion.
The final new song in the set, Hard To Be Myself, is classic upbeat Fickle Friends, and sounds like a song you know and love, even when hearing it for the first time. As Natti told the crowd, it’s about dealing with social awkwardness, although I can’t have been the only one wondering how she, or any of the band, could ever feel anything other than effortlessly cool. But that’s one of the best things about Fickle Friends, they’re great at making you feel like part of the gang.
Bubbly drunken love story Glue was the last song before the encore, which featured fan favourite Hello Hello and current re-released single Swim, complete with a classic split-down-the-middle crowd sing-along to end the night. Relationship dramas and self-consciousness never sounded so good.