Leah Hamer || October 27th
The grand staircase of the Albert Hall in Manchester led me to a dimly-lit, mahogany walled dressing room, in which the three members of Band of Skulls occupied themselves in individual pre-performance rituals. The most notable of which was Emma Richardson, who sat on a leather sofa painting delicate flowers onto a fresh drum skin, ‘We’re going to sell it tonight on the merchandise stand as a special one off,’ she smiles before handing me over to frontman Russell Marsden, the source of my interview.
Here on the second date of yet another UK string of shows, Band of Skulls have barely had a day to recover since returning from their North American tour a couple of weeks ago. ‘We covered a lot of ground in record time so it was great. It was weird to be there amongst all the election stuff going on though.’ The cultural boundaries between America and the UK are all the more apparent in recent times and they transpose onto gigs all the same. ‘In America the crowd like to express themselves. In England, people dance a bit more and are cheeky, they’ll do a bit of banter with the band. In America people shout out how they feel, they’ll shout hell yeah or I love you at Emma. It’s a very different place.’
With this endless touring, there are few places that Band of Skulls are yet to set foot, next on the list is Brazil. ‘We’ve been down to South America a couple of times, but we haven’t been Brazil, it would be fascinating to see the music there.’ With the hustle of the road, Russell is making a note of all the places he would like to return to as a tourist one day, ‘I’ve never seen Niagara Falls but I’ve driven past it about twenty times.’
Life on tour has not removed their love for the home in Southampton however, which is where they are all still based and produce their music. ‘We’re proud to be from there and give it a bit more of a musical name, so far it’s just Craig David who’s from there... but I’m not knocking him.’ He laughs.
As avid supporters of up and coming musicians, on tour they handpick their support acts and make sure to take a deep interest with the artists they work with. ‘On this tour we have BONES, two girls that are really rock and roll. In America we had Mothers from Athens, Georgia. They have this spooky, eerie new wave thing on the go.’ As well as a love for new music, it is the old classics and unknown treasures that really influence Russell. ‘We have to be well versed in the classics but I like the people no-one has heard of like Charlie Feathers- somewhere between Elvis and Buddy Holly. He’s long dead and was never as famous as he should have been but the music is still there. If you even just make one record it can outlive you and influence someone in fifty years time. Immediate gratification isn’t always given.’
After all of this talk I have to ask, Do you ever stop? Emma and drummer Matt Hayward laugh in the background as Russell ponders, ‘Christmas? Not really, we’ve never wanted to, we’re pretty relentless. Last year we didn’t stop working, we just stopped touring, but then we wanted to get back and do shows after that. Then when you get sick of touring, it’s nice to go and write some songs- but it’s not relaxing. It’s even more stressful because what you produce is what you get judged upon, whereas gigs are in the moment. The hard work goes into the writing.’
Last year the threesome cooked up over one hundred songs in the run up to the release of their fourth album, By Default, ‘With the album we wanted try some new styles out, some are quite experimental but it’s made our shows better. Now we have four albums to choose from, so we can build a show around the new stuff and the old. We’re proud of it but we’ve moved on already. Only twelve of those one hundred were finished, so we want to think about the others that we will put out next. By Default was just the start.’