The FMs might give you a few different answers if you ask them the origins of their name. The most popular one says that it stands for femmes, referencing the band’s androgynous glam style and queer identity. They’ve also suggested it might stand for Francis and Matt, two of the members’ names, as well as for “fuck me silly”—which works nicely with the band’s general aesthetic. The FMs are loud, industrial, sensual, and have a knack for making wonderfully depressing dance music. I talked to lead singer Matt Namer, and discussed cyborgs, atomic war, and saving the world.
Part of what attracted me to your band was your excellent, eerie videos. Your newest one for the song “Extender” has sort of a loose plot about a woman struggling to make meaningful connections through the digital realm. I know you’re a socially conscious group, so was it your idea to get across a point about tech addiction or privacy invasion?
MN: Yeah, so the song originally was about humanity’s quest for immortality through the development of artificial life and merging with the machine world. I think human beings are becoming…we’re making machines try to be more like humans right now, and in a much slower process, we’re also trying to incorporate elements of machines into our own bodies. So eventually, I think these two directions will merge, who knows how long, but it seems that both humanity and machines are heading for a merging, which will perhaps result in humanity finding a way to become immortal.
Some cyborg transhumanism stuff. I want to also talk about the music video for “Implosion Model” from last year. In it, you’re rocking to the song alongside clips of nuclear tests and military drills. The use of Cold War stock footage reminded me of some great early MTV videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers,” and it made me wonder—are you in close communication with your video directors to get across the aesthetics you want?
MN: Yeah, absolutely. I think for the “Implosion Model” video, more so in a way…for “Extender,” we kinda brought the concept I just mentioned to you to the video directors, and they really came up with this whole amazing video concept for that song. With “Implosion Model,” it’s probably a little bit more directed by us, in a sense. That particular song is really about the history behind the science of atomic weapons, and also the moral implications of it. At the time they were created, they were created by a community of physicists and scientists and intellectuals—people who were not necessarily warmongers by any means. And yet, they came to together to make the greatest threat to humanity in our existence…so, it’s an interesting thing to me. There was kind of the precedent of WWII and Hitler scaring all these scientists, and saying like “we really think what we’re building here is horrible, but we’d better build it before Hitler does.” It’s also kind of about how humanity’s psyche has changed since the development of atomic weapons. Because now, we all live—and it’s kind of hard to choose to ignore it—we all live with the fear that, at any moment, our world leaders could get angry and just kill all of us. We sort of forget that that thought is living in our subconscious somewhere, and how it’s changed humanity in the past 70 years. How much longer will we survive with the threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads, y’know? Will they never blow up the world, will they blow up the world someday?
Last music video-specific question, I swear. Your videos so far have an artful simplicity to them that’s similar to a lot of 80s MTV. The “Extender” video uses the effect of negative color filters to create a surreal hell world, and it works great. Did you have that stylistic choice in mind from early on, or was it a case of necessity being the mother of invention?
MN: So, that is actually not a filter, believe it or not. That is actually an infrared camera. The directors were really excited about it—they found this place that would rent them this infrared camera. It’s basically a camera that shows heat, so they were really excited to get access to one of those things, and lot of the concepts for the video, aesthetically, were developed around it, for sure. There were a lot of really cool little things we could do with it, and if you watch the video again, you’ll notice it’s a camera tracking heat…there’s cool little moments in it where the protagonist is getting out of the bathtub, and is walking down the hallway. You can see the hot water that was on their feet, leaving tiny little puddles. The bathtub was an interesting one, with the hot water coming over the protagonist in that scene.
“Implosion Model” has the lyric “70 years of modest peace, infinite more we’re hoping for” paired with shots of mushroom clouds. Now, thanks in no small part to Trump, the world is more anxious about nuclear war than it’s ever been since the Cold War ended. Is that just fortuitous timing for your music in the most depressing way possible?
MN: (laughs) I think that we kinda underestimate the threat of nuclear annihilation. I don’t know if I would say it’s fortuitous timing, but certainly…I think it does remind us, having a leader like Trump, reminds us of the fact we knew all along that we could get killed any moment. So when you have someone who is clearly mentally unstable, and clearly has some psychological issues, in control of the nuclear arsenal, it definitely reminds you that we’re pretty fragile in our existence here as a civilization.
The group’s mission statement is “The FMs want to save the world without being dicks about it.” Can you elaborate on that?
MN: It was kind of a thing that was said tongue-in-cheek…I think that, it’s sort of a parable in a sense. We want to try to accomplish as much good as we can for the world. But, sort of not be smug about it. And you know, it’s a bit of a joke, that statement, but I think there’s truth behind it, and it’s like a good philosophy for anyone to live by, right? Try to do what you can for the world and other people, but like…don’t be too proud about it, you know?
Your album “Machinacene Epoch” apparently has sort of a narrative about machines overtaking humanity. Sounds like you’re mixing in a bit of a sci fi concept album thing with your goth rock. Do you have major influences on this album you could name?
MN: I think that, conceptually, the album is about the world we see today and where it’s heading. The issues that are important to us as a band, and with “Machinacene Epoch” the concepts are very large. They sort of deal with humanity as a whole. They’re not as intimate or personal. I think that our next album, we’ve already finished demos for, and we’re really excited to start working further—I think that one’s gonna be more personal. Still, a lot of the big political themes, the kind of themes that are on “Machinacene Epoch,” but I also think it’ll be more personal, in a sense., and from the perspective of more of an individual in this world, as opposed to or contrasting rallying cries for the whole planet.
The band prides itself on raucous stage shows with what you call “gender-bending interpretive dance.” Do you have any standout stories from your live shows that could give us an idea of what it’s all like?
MN: Well, we had one of our last shows where we chose a person performing fire for our show. We’ve had a few performers during our shows—one guy was eating fire, we’ve had a show where people were doing hook suspension above the audience while we were performing. We also found really fun to perform out in the Pride Parade the other day. It was great, because I feel like maybe there was a thousand other people who walked by, and it was really cool to see all kinds of different people walking by and dancing to our music, really getting into it. That was really inspiring. It was also really inspiring to be able to be performing recently, and hearing fans who know the words to some of our songs, singing along, and putting the mic in their faces for some of the choruses with them—so that was pretty fun. I think that, it’s generally hard to explain. We like to give a really entertaining show. I think that other bands in this genre have sort of a cold, mysterious persona onstage and give off that vibe to the audience, which is great too, although I think we’re more of a “fuck it” kind of attitude, and we just get out there and get in people’s faces, and engage them like “this is us, this is who we are, we’re not trying to hide anything.” So it’s a little bit of a different approach, in the kinda goth-industrial world, which tends to be a little bit more on that coy side of things. We wanna be a little bit more of an in your face, fun, energetic, like come-dance-with-us kind of thing.
Congrats on growing your fanbase. If you had to sum up the general goals of your band in one word—two words tops—what would it be?
MN: One or two words? Um…”something different.”
What can we expect next?
MN: Well, we’re working on a new album that we’re really excited about. I think it’s gonna be on a whole next level from what we’ve put out before, so that’s the thing we’re really excited about now…we’re gonna get in the studio and record a new album.
You think the new record is going to be stylistically similar to what you’ve done before, or a departure, or a bit of both?
I would say it’s a little more electronic, in a sense. It’s a little bit more…there’s a lot of real dance tracks, kinda more dancey stuff. Conceptually, it’s a lot more personal, I think. And, it’s still The FMs. So, I’m really excited to put out a unique product that stands on its own.
Right. I’m excited to hear it.
MN: We also actually have a remix album that’s gonna be coming out with remixes from “Machinacene Epoch” songs. So that’ll be fun too, look out for that as well.
Thanks for mentioning that too.
MN: That’s gonna happen first, actually.
Well, thank you. I enjoyed a lot of songs on your album, so I’m looking forward to it.
MN: Thanks for the time.