By Default feels like the new era the band hail it as – they’ve always had a certain swagger in their music but here you can really feel an authority and confidence – The Independent UK
To celebrate the release of their fourth album By Default, Southampton rock trio Band Of Skulls are heading back to Australia this November! With a string of headline national shows as well as a headline spot at Perth’s Disconnect festival, this will be the first time Australian audiences will be able to experience the sheer brilliance of the album in the flesh.
Written in a Southampton Baptist Church, produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Patti Smith) and recorded in Rockfield Studios, the follow up to 2014’s Himalayan resonates the sound of a group on the sharpest form of their career, more engaged and focused than they’ve ever been.
“We went back to Square One,” says Matt Hayward. “In the church – between visits from the vicar, bringing tea and biscuits on his trolley – they found the new songs in hours of woodshedding on ratty old practice amps. “It’s definitely a new era,” says Russell Marsden. “The first three records were like a trilogy, a piece of work in of themselves. We wanted to do those things, and we did them all. We took a breath, took a look at what we’d done, and started from scratch again”
Jen chats to Emma Richardson
Hi Emma, we are stoked to hear that you are heading down here in November for an East Coast Tour. When it was announced that you would be playing in WA for Disconnect Tour I think your east coast fans would have been waiting for this announcement.
When was the last time you were here? 2014?
We have been lucky enough to play in Australia for pretty much every album and the shows and festivals have always been really exciting and the crowds really supportive. We were there in 2014 and then back again in Feb 2015 to play Bluesfest and do a small run of our own shows too. We are looking forward to returning this year!
You had a super hectic lifestyle with your first three albums, as soon as you finished writing and recording you went back on tour. How do you think the relentless pace change the way you approached your fourth album?
It was good to have a short break and take stock of what we had achieved and to think about what we wanted to do next.
We wanted to find a new and interesting place to write and so we ended up working in a beautiful old church in our home town which was a great inspiration and led to us writing a lot of material.
You have headed back to square one on ‘By Default’ can you explain how hiring a church in your home town contributed to the sound and style of ‘By Default’?
The room in the church,which is on the front cover of the album, sounded amazing right off the bat and it allowed us to play with really stripped down equipment and we sang in there without needing amplification. We were playing off the sound of the room and sampled it and when in the studio we were referencing that and also using sounds captured in there so the room effectively made it on to the record.
How does your writing process go? From what I have read it sounds like it is a whole band approach.
We all write and contribute and don’t stick to our own instruments so it opens up the possibilities song by song.
Sometimes an idea comes from playing it acoustically, sometimes it’s from working with a completely new instrument or it could be a melody sung into a phone or a fully fleshed out demo. We show each other our ideas and then work on them together and add to them. Sometimes it’s a super quick process and some songs take a lot longer to finish but there is always a pot of ideas that we are thinking about and adding to.
How do you think your sound changed from the start of writing to the end of the recording?
I don’t think the sound changed that much. We demoed a lot of ideas in the church and when we started working with Gil he really liked the sound of the room and the vibe on those early recordings so we tried to keep that atmosphere on the album.
Working with Gil Norton for the first time on the record do you think that he contributed to the tighter sound of ‘By Default?
Whenever you work with a new producer they bring their style and technique and they are the 4th member of the band for the session. It was great working with Gil as a lot of he records he has produced have soundtracked our lives so it was really interesting to see how he approached the recording process. He worked in quite a different way to what we have experienced before and it was a good challenge in the studio as he set the bar very high!
You wrote over 100 songs for the record, how do you even attempt to cut it down? Do you ever feel that one of the ones that were cut could have been your biggest hit?
We make a lot of lists and the most finished make it to the top so we ended up with about 20/25 that we thought fitted together and from those we picked the final 12/15 to record.
You have posted on facebook that your first stop on your tour in Leeds was ‘Awesome’, and you also finished a US tour in mid October. How have the crowd respond to the mix of new and old tunes?
It’s been really great to play a big mixture from all four records and the new stuff had been going down really well. All the crowds have been brilliant and super supportive on this tour and when you get that energy coming from the audience it makes for a wild show.
I really like the music video for Black Magic, there is so much going on! Same with ‘Killer’ and ‘So Good’ I thought this was a theme until I watched ‘Bodies’, being a live show video. Who does you’re the concepts for your music video? How do you come up with the concept and see the videos to completion?
For each song we get pitched different concepts from different directors and we choose what we think works best for the song. Often it’s the most surreal idea or the most visually intriguing. We’ve been lucky to work with some very talented people.
Can you tell us if your live show has changed with the addition of new music?
We try and curate the best set list to make the most exciting show which flows and also a set which we can change up and add to depending on where we are playing. It gets more and more difficult the more songs you have so we try and change it up and switch out songs.
You have had signed CD’s at your gigs, will that be an option for us?
In conclusion, in 5 words can you tell us what we can expect from your Aussie Tour shows?
Loud fast heavy rocknroll
Thanks heaps for your time!