Fun Lovin’ Criminals finding themselves all over again to mark anniversary

From left, Brian Leiser, Huey Morgan and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin' Criminals.

From left, Brian Leiser, Huey Morgan and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin' Criminals.

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Time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s as true for the Fun Lovin’ Criminals as it is for anyone else.

It’s now 20 years since the US pop trio released their debut album, Come Find Yourself, and they’re as surprised as their fans to have that two-decade anniversary come around so soon, according to Brian Leiser, the band’s bassist and keyboard-player.

“I don’t know where the time has gone. When I try to remember the 1990s at all, never mind that album, it’s hard,” said the 43-year-old New Yorker, nicknamed Fast because of the speed at which he speaks.

“We’ve all got old since then physically. Our bones are old, but our souls are still young.

“We’ve been playing that album for 20 years, though, so it still feels fresh, rather than something that happened a long time ago.”

They might have been playing some of its 13 tracks – or 14, depending on which version you’re talking about – for the last two decades, but what they haven’t been doing is going the whole hog and performing it in its entirety, including its four hit singles – The Grave and the Constant, a No 72; The Fun Lovin’ Criminal, a No 26; King of New York, a No 28; and Scooby Snacks, a No 22 first time round and a No 12 when reissued in 1997 as a double A-side with a cover version of 10cc’s I’m Not in Love later featured on Mimosa.

That’s an oversight they’re about to put right to mark its 20th birthday, and their anniversary tour will bring them back to Newcastle next month.

They can be seen at the city’s O2 Academy on Friday, February 5, and that’s a diary date Leisner is looking forward to.

“We’re all really excited,” he said.

“Some places blend into each other in your memory, but not Newcastle. Those Geordies, they know how to party. The next day, you always have the worst hangover ever.

“We always have a good time in Newcastle.

“The people know how to party, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.

“Newcastle is always one of the dates we look forward to, and it’s good that it’s on a Friday. Actually, this tour is all Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays as people don’t really want to go to a show on a Monday night and have a hangover at work the next day.”

Tickets for their Newcastle show cost £26.43. For details, go to www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academynewcastle or www.funlovincriminals.co

The band – formed in New York, the one in America, not its North Tyneside namesake, by Leiser, Huey Morgan and Steve Borgovini, since replaced by Frank Benbini, in 1993 – are also reissuing a remastered and expanded version of Come Find Yourself, a No 7 hit over here, as a birthday present to their fans on Friday, February 19, and it will be available in a variety of formats, including a deluxe edition vinyl box set and three-CD package.

The reissue is being put out by Edsel Records via the Demon Music Group and will feature features an abundance of rarities, live recordings and alternate mixes.

It has taken Demon the best part of two years to seek out all the bonus tracks featured, but their efforts have paid off, reckons Leiser.

“I always wanted to find the instrumentals for this one as we lost the original digital audio tapes years ago, and now we’ve got them,” he said.

“It’s taken two years of going through tapes at Abbey Road in London, and a lot of the tapes were mislabelled, but Demon have done a great job.

“They’ve got a good team, and they work hard.

“I don’t like it when a label repackages something and it’s just the same stuff, like when some subsidiary of EMI puts out a greatest hits album you’ve never even seen, and that’s not the case here. It’s important to give people something else, and everything to do with that record is being released.

“It’s amazing putting it out again. And putting it out on vinyl, that’s something cool. It’s important to us.”

The plan, he said, if the Come Find Yourself reissue proves popular is to give the trio’s subsequent albums, from 1998’s 100 per cent Colombian to 2010’s Classic Fantastic, taking in 2001’s Loco, 2003’s Welcome to Poppy’s and 2005’s Livin’ in the City en route, the same treatment round about their 20th anniversaries, then package them all up in a box set.

Mimosa, 1999’s compilation of B-sides and covers, featuring a version of the 1966 Frank Sinatra hit Summer Wind sung by Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch, might also get a look-in, all being well.

Leiser can still recall how the band managed to recruit McCulloch, a hero of his, for the record.

“We were hanging out in the Viper Room in Los Angeles, Johnny Depp’s club at that time, and I found Huey in the VIP room, and he said: ‘Meet this English guy. He’s in a band’, and I was like: ‘Man, that’s Ian McCulloch. He’s in Echo and the Bunnymen’, and Huey said: ‘Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard of youse’.

“They’re very similar characters, Huey and Ian, and we all just had a mutual love of the Rat Pack, you know, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and the rest of those guys.

“Ian ended up doing his song in New York, and we did the rest of the album in Hawaii.

“We actually did a few songs with Ian, probably for a solo thing, that never came out. We still have the songs. They’re really good.

“I think we finished two songs – I can’t remember what they were called – and had ideas for another four.

“I love Mac’s voice. You just know it’s him when you hear it.”

Among the bonus material on the Come Find Yourself re-release will be a collection of the band’s BBC sessions from that time, including tracks recorded at London’s Astoria venue.

An accompanying DVD features TV performances from Top of the Pops to Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, promotional videos including both versions of Scooby Snacks, and a recent interview with Leiser and Morgan.

Morgan, 47, added: “It’s a very unique record for the times and remains so today. It’s not dated. It burned a path for crossing genres that we now take for granted.

“Looking back, it was a good start for a career in music that was uncompromising.

“You can tell, listening to it, that it was exactly the way we wanted it to be.

“There’s still a lot of love out there for Come Find Yourself.“

The band’s tour also takes in Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, Worthing, Norwich, Cardiff, Exeter, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.