Looking like a Cook-From-Skins and Burberry model hybrid, Sam Fender burst onto the music scene 4 years ago, being named by BBC Sounds as an ‘artist to watch’ for 2018, along with Lewis Capaldi. A year later, he won the critics choice award at the BRITS.
Fender makes music that is at once political and spikey, as well as being stick-to-your-ribs fulfilling and satisfying. Lyrics that dissect the status quo sit happily alongside melodies that soar like The Killers’ first album. Fender is making music here in his own mould; though it is reminiscent of the best British guitar music, he is forging his own way.
Born and raised on the coast in North Shields, in a ‘drinking town with a fishing problem’ Fender (aptly named) is understandably seen as a kind of class hero, singing about real life from a real perspective. This isn’t another middle class boy with a guitar from the home counties, this is an authentic Northern voice, the like of which we don’t hear enough of.
Fender maintains a sense of poeticism without compromising the authenticity of his view point. A modern, British, northern Tom Petty perhaps: his music seems the furthest thing from pretension imaginable. Although he sings songs with tales that if told by another artist might seem disingenuous — social media addiction, millennial culture — from Fender’s voice and his guitar they don’t.
Fender is genuinely concerned with the state of things. When, on ‘Dead Boys’, he sings about the suicide rate in young men, he is really communicating with his audience. When he sings about growing up in a conflicted environment on ‘Friday Fighting’, it is with the same genuine earnestness.
The music that Fender makes is narrative in the same way that classic guitar music has been for years. You can hear the influence of Springsteen in his music, but Fender’s songs could only have been written by a Northerner. Whilst they speak to a wide and varied audience, Fender’s own experience is the only life that could have led to making the music that he does.
In 2019, Fender’s debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, was released to a huge reception: his fan base was already enormous and the record was excitedly received. It was the fastest selling vinyl of 2019. The title track, in keeping with the idea of social consciousness, or at least social narrative, centers arout fears of nuclear disaster thanks to political ineptitude. The track served as an anthem for the album, which brought even more recognition and admiration to Fender as a musician and, as his press circuit increased, as a person.
Fender’s personality is as pleasingly blunt and straightforward as you might expect from a Northern Lad, and he has demonstrated in every interview that he is not afraid of honesty and is happy to speak to mind, whilst guarding his boundaries and his privacy and that of his loved ones closely. As his music demonstrates, he has a strong streak of social responsibility running through him, which manifests in his work and in interviews, where he lambasts the government for its lack of good enough welfare and support, calling a couple of our world leaders ‘ham bones in blonde wigs’.
He has a habit of deconstructing the political agenda, and makes the explicit point that you don’t have to be politically literate before you worry about your country and it’s future. Fender is an extremely exciting artist to have on the scene, and is only now at the very beginning of his meteoric career. He looks set to well and truly take the world by storm, and I can’t wait to watch.