Emerging as part of the "angular movement" of post-punk-inspired bands from the U.K. in the early 2000s, the Futureheads soon proved they had a distinctive take on that tradition. While the influence of Wire, XTC, and Gang of Four was unmistakable in their spiky guitars and concise songwriting, the intricacy of their music — which included four-part harmonies and unconventional song structures — was all their own. On 2004's The Futureheads (which included their exhilarating cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love"), their unlikely but winning mix of rawness and sophistication offered a breath of fresh air. As time went on, they gave this sound different nuances, adding intimacy to it on 2006's News and Tributes, streamlining it on 2008's This Is Not the World and stripping it bare on 2012's a cappella album Rant. Despite taking a hiatus that for much of the 2010s, the Futureheads proved the joyous vitality of their music was still there when they returned with 2019's Powers.
The Futureheads' founding members were vocalist/guitarist Barry Hyde, vocalist/bassist David "Jaff" Craig, and drummer Peter Brewis, all of whom met while studying at City of Sunderland College. Hyde and Brewis were tutors at a lottery-funded organization called the Sunderland City Detached Youth Project, which aimed to get kids off the street by having them play music instead. The band — whose members were still in their teens themselves — used the building as a practice space, along with other area groups. The rest of the Futureheads' lineup was also culled from the Sunderland City Detached Youth Project: vocalist/guitarist Ross Millard and Hyde's younger brother Dave, who eventually took over drum duty from Brewis (who later formed Field Music).
Though the band played its first show in December 2000 at a cricket and rugby club, they took their time to record; their debut EP, Nul Book Standard, appeared on the Project Cosmonaut label in late 2002. The Futureheads followed it with two more EPs on Fantastic Plastic in 2003: that March's 123 Nul and August's First Day, which reached number 58 on the U.K. Singles Chart. After signing to 679, the band worked with Paul Epworth and Gang of Four's Andy Gill on their debut album. Arriving in September 2004, The Futureheads won acclaim for the band's precise harmonies and angular riffs. In February 2005, their cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" hit number eight on the U.K. Singles Chart and was later named NME's Single of the Year.
The Futureheads spent most of 2005 touring, including dates supporting Foo Fighters, Oasis, and Pixies, though they returned to the studio long enough to record the single Area, which was released in the U.K. that November and as an EP in the U.S. the following May. That month, the band's second album News and Tributes appeared. Produced by Blur and Depeche Mode collaborator Ben Hillier, it featured a more polished sound and songwriting that covered topics ranging from casual sex to the 1958 Munich air disaster, which claimed the lives of many Manchester United players.
Like its predecessor, News and Tributes earned favorable reviews, but its sales disappointed 679, which dropped the band. The Futureheads then founded their own label, Nul Records, and released the track "Broke Up the Time" on their website as a free download in November 2007. Their third album, This Is Not the World, was released by Nul in May 2008 and boasted a rawer approach than News and Tributes. Two years later, The Chaos arrived with a slightly more ambitious feel that echoed the band's idiosyncratic debut album. In 2012, the band released Rant, a completely a cappella album including reworkings of older songs as well as instrument-free covers of Kelis and the Black Eyed Peas.
Over the next few years, the band went quiet, with Hyde announcing in 2015 that the Futureheads were no longer a functioning band. A 2019 reunion saw them releasing the single "Jekyll," which was to be included on their sixth album, Powers, later that year.
Following the Rant tour, the Futureheads went on hiatus in 2013 to let Barry Hyde attend to his mental health issues, which had grown worse during the band's career. For several years, the band's members pursued different projects: Craig became a teacher and played with School of Language, the solo project of Field Music's David Brewis. Millard worked in theater and the arts and also joined Frankie & the Heartstrings, appearing on their 2015 album Decency. David Hyde trained as a tiler and formed Hyde & Beast with former Golden Virgins member Neil Bassett. Barry Hyde became a music teacher and earned an M.A. while continuing to make music, first releasing the Ivor Cutler covers EP Ivory Cutlery in 2015 and the full-length Malody — which featured a suite of songs about his experience with mental illness — a year later.
During this time, the former bandmates remained friends, but had no plans to reunite. That changed in late 2017, when Barry Hyde played a solo gig that included Futureheads songs and sparked the band's interest in making music together again. They reconvened in mid-2018 to make Powers, a re-energized set of songs that touched on Brexit and parenthood as well as more familiar subject matter. ~ Heather Phares