“I’ve never been so fucking cold,” says Lias Saoudi, singer of the riotous scuzz rock outfit Fat White Family. “I thought we were going to die.” Saoudi is recalling an evening when he and his band took psilocybin mushrooms, hit Hastings beach at 1am, stripped to their underpants and soaked up the white glow of the frosty night’s winter moon. The result is Moonbathing in February, a film made with director Niall Trask that is part performance, part fly-on-the-wall document of recording the band’s new album, the follow-up to 2019’s lauded Serfs Up.
“I find bands filming with polished setups in a venue really boring,” Trask says. “We didn’t have a plan, just a few days cooking for each other and fucking around, but it ended up a film of the band’s writing sessions.” Influenced by the lo-fi approach of La Blogothèque’s A Takeaway Show, the film is a point-and-shoot gem. Trask also roped in This Country’s Charlie Cooper to appear in the trailer, as he’s a fan of Fat White Family, “to make the whole thing more grandiose than it is”.
This isn’t the first lockdown film Saoudi has made. Last year, he and Pregoblin’s Alex Selby began a shot-by-shot remake of The Shawshank Redemption. “I really believed I was going to finish it,” Saoudi says. “[But] it started taking five hours for every scene and it wasn’t funny any more.”
This film’s much looser approach garnered some unexpected creative results. “It’s rekindled my desire for doing music,” Saoudi says. “We were trying to find this little nugget of goodness of being in a band during lockdown. Like, can we find some joy from this fucking disaster?”
Much of that joy comes from camaraderie among FWF’s members as they shape new tunes. “This early writing stage is interesting,” Saoudi continues. “People don’t realise how hopeless and puny it is when you’re flailing artistically. I thought it would be funny to have a window into that process.” Accordingly, in one scene the band are debating taking hallucinogens for a creative burst: “I’m a psychedelic ranger,” declares keyboardist Nathan Saoudi. “I can drop acid at 11am and cook a family dinner by 4pm.”
Despite the band’s reputation for drama and chaos, the film also captures a softer side. Acoustic guitars are plucked gently, backed by flute or saxophone, as Lias reveals his inner Lee Hazlewood. They perform in various locations – even a public toilet where they pass a spliff around singing Wild Mountain Thyme in resonant harmony. “It was bitterly cold and we were on a cliff top, freezing, arguing, and wanting to go home,” remembers Lias. “Finding that toilet was a sanctuary.” Who needs the Royal Albert Hall for an elaborate virtual gig when Fat White Family can pluck magic from a bog?
Moonbathing in February is streaming at fatwhitefamilymusic.com