A broad South London accent floats between a nonchalant tone and a childlike interest in the curiosities of time differences.
Fat White Family lead vocalist Lias Kaci Saoudi is a funny guy, attentive though distracted, and harbours a darkness that has affected him and his band for longer than most may realise.
Drugs have been the band’s mistress for far too long, but with the release of their third album Serfs Up!, Fat White Family might finally be treading a straight and narrow path.
With Serfs Up! set to drop in May, Fat White Family have grown musically, but not without some tumultuous personal events. “The two things are definitely intertwined,” says Saoudi. “It’s been a long running battle to get the band clean and off heroin, but the absence of that big brown cloud during the recording of this album meant that for the first time in years we were able to communicate with each other.
“I think that’s made the record into a far more eclectic, dextrous, melodic kind of an animal.”
Saoudi’s unfiltered discussion of Fat White Family’s dabbling with heroin is, to say the least, shocking. There aren’t many who could admit to having a problem, and even fewer who can be so candid about their experiences.
“Saul [guitarist Saul Adamczewski] had been fired after the last record and he very much wanted to quit the whole thing – I never felt comfortable with that, that we’d never managed to live up to the promise of our first record.
“I thought if we managed to get out of London and all the bullshit, the distractions, the vampires, and the crack and the smack, then we could really do something interesting.
“It’s been a difficult couple of years and I didn’t know if we’d be able to pull it back from the brink and be able to do anything worthwhile again. But I think we have – I’m more proud of this record than any of the other ones, that’s for sure.”
Serfs Up! represents a new creative philosophy within Fat White Family, where Saoudi flatly says that instead of everything being about Adamczewski and “his heroin dictatorship, bullying everybody”, now there’s an even hand. “My little brother’s writing songs, Saul’s writing songs, I’m writing songs … There’s less of a wheel in tolerating that smacky bullshit in the group anymore.”
Like many successful bands of our time with drugs up the wahzoo, Fat White Family have still come out on top – heck, look at Mötley Crüe, however, Saoudi says has one big difference. “Well, I guess the difference to those guys is that there was some money in it. We finished our European tour and it was like, ‘well, we’re all still poor’.
“I felt like I had less than nothing to show for it. I felt like I had chronic anxiety, paranoia, minor problems. My spirit and my psyche and my ability to live normally was all messed up and discombobulated by the whole experience.”
That’s the past and the band are moving forward to Serf’s Up!. For many bands the third release is make or break, cementing reputation and style, something Saoudi thinks applies more perfectly to Fat White Family than any other band around now. “We love our clichés and stereotypes – we’re like a slightly more tasteful version of Spinal Tap.
“You do two albums and you’re etching out some sort aesthetic framework within which you exist – but you’re still given the benefit of the doubt because you’re a new band.
“We’ve been around nearly a decade as band – by that time people want some sort of justification for you polluting the cultural atmosphere.”
“The politics within bands, especially when hard drugs are involved, it gets really sour. It got nasty in our band. So I’m proud of this record but the fact that we’re still friends is a big deal as well, because we really punished each other.”
Fat White Family’s new album, Serfs Up!, is out Friday April 19 via Domino Recording Company.