IT’S been a challenging 12 months for Northamptonshire electro indie stars Fenech-Soler.
Six months after releasing their debut album, singer Ben Duffy was diagnosed with testicular cancer, forcing the band to take an un-planned hiatus while he received treatment.
They returned with a bang at Glastonbury this year, going on to play countless other festivals across the UK during the summer.
Now signed to Warner Brothers, Fenech-Soler are currently out on their own headline tour and in a few months will be joining up with chart topper Example and embarking on another run of dates before continuing work on their second album.
The Guide spoke to frontman Duffy about the past 12 months and what lies ahead.
“The festivals have been fantastic, we’ve had a nice mix of being able to do the much bigger ones mixed with the smaller ones,” Ben explains.
“V was great, we had a really good couple of gigs there – we were playing after Hard-Fi but the tent was packed and stayed that way.
“We’ve had a two-week period which has been mental.
“Glastonbury was our first show back for a while and then a few days later we were doing Ibiza Rock and Majorca Rocks – which felt like a holiday – then were doing the main stage of Lovebox.
“That week we ticked a lot of boxes when it comes to what we want to do as a band.
“Glastonbury was really special for us, it’s something every band wants to do but you have to do it when you’re in the right position.”
Glastonbury was the first time Duffy was well enough to rejoin fellow Fenech-Soler members and play live again.
He adds: “It was the first time we walked onto a festival stage and saw a crowd that was genuinely there for us, it felt great.”
Ben is joined in King’s Cliffe based band by his brother Ross, Dan Soler and Andrew Lindsay.
Their self-titled debut was released last year and the record broke into the iTunes Top 10 with the band receiving nominations for the Q Magazine’s Next Big Thing award.
Fenech-Soler kicked off their UK tour in Peterborough and other dates have already sold out.
“To get to the point where some of the shows are selling out at places like Koko in London and in Birmingham is a real validation for us,” he explains.
“We’ve got a month to crack on with the next record here in Northamptonshire before we go out with Example on his tour, which takes us to Christmas.
“We did a remix for Elliot (Example) and have met him numerous times around the circuit.
“He texted me asking if we wanted to go out with him and we jumped at it.
“It’ll be nice to get out there to some bigger venues and not feel the weight too much as being the headline act.”
In March, the band announced Ben had been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Having found a lump, he was diagnosed with the disease and has since received chemotherapy.
“I’m sure like a lot of men the most difficult thing is having the guts to go and get yourself checked out when you think there’s a problem,” he explains.
“I left things a bit, I’d felt a lump and as more things unfolded it turned out to be cancer.
“There was the initial frustration but that quickly changed, the support we got from the music industry and fans really pulled us together.
“It was quite strange, I found out two days before doing the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge with Jo Whiley.”
The cancer had reached “stage two” and moved to other parts of Ben’s body, requiring chemotherapy
“It wears you down but I was pretty conscious to not let it affect the music,” he explains.
“I was pretty lucky with the anti-sickness drugs.
“Everything’s good now. It’s in remission and I get checked out regularly. I still go into hospital for appointments, but it’s a very effective treatment
“I’ve got some hair back and we’re back playing.
Fenech-Soler subsequently donated the money raised through the sales of their next single to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Now firmly back on the touring circuit, Fenech-Soler plan to release album track Golden Sun as a free single before releasing a new track to coincide with the Example tour.
“The second record is still in the early stages but I think this is the point where bands find it difficult to start writing again.
“We’re talking about it and what styles we might be working on.
“I’m still very proud of that first album, it was a snapshot of where we were then.”
While their debut was self produced, Ben reveals he’d love to work with the likes of Paul Epworth (Adele, Friendly Fires, Plan B) or James Ford from Simian Mobile Disco on the record, conceding: “It’s a strange thing coming out of the cage you’re comfortable in and working with someone else.”
Earlier this year, Fenech-Soler signed to Warner Brothers who will be helping the band with their second album. The debut was released by B-Unique, who are part financed by their new label.
“It was the right time to bring everything under one roof at Warner,” explains Ben.
“They’ve got Foals, Muse, Biffy – we feel we’re in very good hands.
“It’s just up to us to write 10 hits now!”
Fenech-Soler play in Newcastle tonight and Birmingham tomorrow night.
For tour dates, see www.fenechsoler.co.uk.