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'It Feels Like Those Years Apart Never Happened': Fightstar On Wembley and Two Decades Of Music

Wednesday, 06 March 2024 Written by Jack Butler-Terry

Photo: Chazz Adnitt

Charlie Simpson was trying to tell an old friend some big news, but on the other end of the line something wasn’t clicking. “When I got the call, I was in Asia,” Fightstar drummer Omar Abidi recalls. “The word ‘Wembley’ just would not compute.”

Later this month the reunited British post-hardcore greats will add their name to a growing list of alternative metal bands filling up London’s fabled OVO Arena Wembley, but their ascension tells a different story to some of their peers. Sleep Token fans congregated in worship at the venue in December, setting the seal on their status as a major buzz band after their fourth album ‘Take Me Back To Eden’ became Spotify’s most played metal album of 2023.

Enter Shikari played there in February, a show that was announced in the wake of the long-serving electro-hardcore band securing their first UK number 1 album with ‘A Kiss for The Whole World’. Both groups have put in the hours to remain relevant in an ever-changing landscape. But for Fightstar, their performance is based on the strength of a legacy that's remained untouched for more than eight years.  

The band — completed by guitarist Alex Westaway and bassist Dan Haigh — have all been busy with their own lives since their latest hiatus started in 2015. Charlie reunited with his teenage boyband Busted and won The Masked Singer while dressed as a rhino. Omar has taken to acting in TV and film, while Alex and Dan have continued their work as synthwave duo Gunship, releasing the fantastic ‘Unicorn’ as recently as September 2023. 

So why are they getting back together now? “We've been offered stuff over the years but never went for it,” Charlie explains. “This year marks 20 years since our first show together, so it feels like a very natural point of celebration.”

Only a month before booking the show, the band were all in the same room together for the first time in almost a decade to celebrate Alex’s birthday. “Don't say the number!” he yells, prompting the kind of hyena-like laughter on our Zoom call that you only get from old friends. “It was like the universe was conspiring,” Omar adds. “It felt like nothing had changed.” 

While there have been no formal band meetups over those eight years, the quartet have kept in touch and visit each other when the chance presents itself. “Chaz popped round mine on his way to a DJ set he was doing,” Dan says. “We played Enter Sandman and a couple of minutes of Fightstar stuff. Muscle memory just took over.” 

Charlie adds: “It's a weird thing, but we were so immersed in it for so long and did so many tours that I think we will always be able to slip back in. Obviously we need to practise, but I think we will be fine.”

When we speak early in January, it’s before a first rehearsal has even taken place. “I think we are all just so excited to pick up our instruments again” Alex posits. “Obviously we all play in very different bands these days, but there's something unique to Fightstar’s sound and I just don't think you get this anywhere else, where we are chatting and joking and it feels like those years apart never happened.” 

Indeed, Fightstar’s work is immediately recognisable, a brand of alt-metal and post-hardcore that's as informed by emo titans Funeral For A Friend as it is classic metal juggernauts Judas Priest. Across their four studio albums, they evolved to take in new inspirations and avenues. Whether it’s in the orchestral grandeur of 2009’s ‘Be Human’ or the electronic-tinged fury of 2015’s ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’, there's always been that red Fightstar thread running through their sound that makes it wholly their own. 

But how do you go about building a career-spanning setlist when you have travelled down so many different avenues? “We were actually supposed to meet and finalise the setlist and that's not happened yet, but we all have very similar lists set out,” says Charlie. “We made wildly different records, so it will need to be a coherent journey, but this will be one for our core fans.” 

Omar adds: “We will be bringing out some songs that we’ve not played much in our careers. I'm pushing for one of my favourite Fightstar songs and it's one that I barely even play on.” Dan reminds his bandmates that “there are so many different guitars — we all need five each already.”

One thing's for certain: their last album has been under-served live. They embarked on just one tour for ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ before the hiatus, owing to Charlie’s reunion with Busted. “Those songs aren't in my muscle memory,” Charlie admits. “Dan started playing Sink With The Snakes when I popped round there and I just had no idea what to do. But ‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ is my favourite Fightstar album so I'm really excited to play some of that.”

Alex, meanwhile, goes back to the start for his favourite. “It's ‘Grand Unification’ for me. Those songs are nostalgic and trigger a lot of good memories. Then there's the singalongs, too.” He raises a fair point. As much as Wembley will be their largest headline show by some distance, tracks such as the driving Build An Army and cathartic charge of Waste A Moment always felt purpose-made for arenas.

For their big night, Fightstar has also called upon a pair of openers that cannily cover both ends of their sound in the process. By bringing in Liverpool metallers Loathe and the seasoned Scottish alt-rockers Twin Atlantic, the Fightstar camp have also made sure to shine a spotlight on bands they really believe in. “My brother put me onto Loathe and they're amazing,” says Charlie. “And then I toured with Twin Atlantic when I was doing solo stuff, they're lovely boys.”

As for the future of Fightstar, they've remained very tight-lipped, stating only that new music is always in the back of their minds. The reunion at Wembley is all the Fightstar we are getting for now. With so much focus being put into the show and the promise that this will be a night of celebration specifically targeted to their most die-hard fans, it might end up being the perfect bookend to a career; a full stop on one of Britain’s greatest post-hardcore stories. But, to hell with it, never say never.

Fightstar Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri March 22 2024 - LONDON OVO Arena Wembley 

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