The famous Fyfe

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TO watch him in full flight it’s hard to think of Fyfe Dangerfield as a speccy schoolkid once teased for being a bit rubbish at sport.

Then the Guillemots frontman – Sheffield bound for two Tramlines festival shows this month – found his ‘cool’ via music.

“I don’t remember getting teased because of my name,” recalls the uncommonly-monikered Fyfe. “I did get teased but it was more because I was a shy kid with glasses and was s*** at sport, good at music.

“But although the schools I went to were relatively posh, rugby schools, they had a good music department.

“I wasn’t a tough kid or anything, I was a bit of a namby, definitely not cool.

“It was only when I got to sixth form that I stopped trying to fit in and did my thing. At that point people stop taking the p*** anyway because they see you’re confident.”

These days the only people who pick on the Guillemots leader are critics, but few found much to mock with latest album Walk The River.

An often cinematic-sounding record, it conjures imagery of wide open spaces and escape, but also possesses passion to match previous albums Red and 2006 Mercury-nominated debut Through The Windowpane.

“When I was eight we lived in Birmingham but moved to an old converted farm in the countryside,” Fyfe says, by way of explanation.

“Even before then with my mum and dad we’d always go off into the country go for walks and things. I love being in the countryside but I love being in the city as well. They’re both so different and I’m not sure I’d want to lose one of them.”

How much of that background infiltrates his music and lyrics is less certain and Fyfe struggles to define his ‘fire’.

“It’s pretty much always the music first. I write lots of stuff, try to work on words more because I feel it’s less my area. I’ll often sit down and write loads of stream of consciousness stuff, but it doesn’t often find its way into lyrics.

“Lyrics are weird and I think people under-rate how important they are. Music is what I’ve always done and is my world, really; as soon as you put a certain vocal and lyric on something it puts it in a box in a way. You’re suddenly imagining a context or a place.

“I get a feeling from the music and then it’s about trying to bring out that feeling in the lyrics. It’s a weird process.

“Also, what tends to happen, I’ll get a tune and want to sing whatever comes into my head and not worry about it being cliched or making sense. Out of that there’ll be one of two lines that fit.

“It’s not generally an intellectual thing or sit down and go ‘What will this song be about?’ Something comes out and you get to the point of being happy with it.”

In video dispatches about the making of Walk The River, Fyfe claims the record has this feeling of being lost in space.

“I said that but I was always a bit worried it would sound like it was a concept album about an astronaut or something. But a lot of the songs seemed to have this atmosphere, a lost feeling.

“It was that idea of how things turn out in life, you lose a thing and you get it back, but you have to carry on.

“I just kept imagining someone waking up on the face of the planet and thinking ‘Where am I?’ – loneliness but resilience. It just seemed to be something in the music.

“We definitely wanted a record that had a mood across it.

“It just seemed more and more songs kept coming out that had this expansive, widescreen, melancholy-type feeling. They were the ones that found each other.”

Either way, in the likes of single I Must Be A Lover, the album exhibits plenty to fatten the band’s two sets for Tramlines.

The Guillemots first play The Leadmill on July 21, followed by a DJ set, ahead of a Devonshire Green slot on Saturday.

When we speak, Fyfe is uncertain what those shows will comprise.

“I haven’t planned it yet. The Leadmill is an unofficial warm up, but they’ll probably be relatively similar shows. I tend to operate a day at a time at the moment.”

What he is clear on is smaller usually means nerves.

“It’s a strange paradox in music. I used to get nervous about performing, but when I’m actually up there I quickly realised I was at home on a stage.

“I’ll be totally happy playing a gig to a lot of people but then I’ve been at a party and someone will be ‘Play a couple of songs’. I can’t do it.

“It’s not like I’m ‘No, I’m here to socialise’, there’s something about a scenario where you’re not supposed to be playing and go ‘Listen to me everybody’. It completely flummoxes me. Whereas at a concert it’s pre-determined, you know people have come to do see you and I don’t feel like an idiot.

“It’s nerve-racking playing in front of just a few people. I often get more nervous about that.

“When you’re co-writing and have got to play them a song... it’s horrible.”