Band of Skulls
If we were to judge all up-and-coming bands by the calibre of their tour mates, Band of Skulls would arguably be top of the pile, having opened for Muse, The Dead Weather and The Black Keys in the past few years. Of course, sought after support-slots like these can’t be explained away by impeccable dressing room etiquette: it’s all down to their impressive ability to fuse some heavy, rock ‘n’ roll riffery with a softer, more psychedelic side.
We caught up with the trio to find out more about their new album, Sweet Sour. You can read the full interview below.
Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of writing and recording Sweet Sour please?
We started writing the record in a studio in Norfolk, in the depths of winter after touring solidly for two years. It was a productive time but we needed to get back to our hometown studio in Southampton to continue and start finishing things off, as it’s where we have always written and it’s a good testing ground for new material. We then moved to Rockfield Studios in Wales for the final recording and were joined by engineer Tom Dalgety and, once again, Ian Davenport. The time at Rockfield was much more relaxed and enjoyable as we could see the album as a whole and concentrate on making it the best we possibly could.
Why did you choose to work with Ian Davenport again and what did he bring to the record?
We wanted to work with Ian again as there were still ideas we wanted to try out with him, especially in a bigger studio. You build up an element of trust when working with a producer: he knows how we work and what we want our songs to sound like, so instead of changing a good thing we worked with him again. We did have an engineer this time in Tom Dalgety, and also Nick Launay mixing. Nick’s worked with Grinderman and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and he took the record to another place.
With this being your second album, did you feel any pressure?
Any album is tricky and this was new territory for us. We felt the pressure that we put on ourselves more than anything, but it’s good to feel a little pressure as it pushes us to better what has gone before. If it was easy to do we would all be worried!
If you had to pick a standout track on the record, which would it be and why?
It changes all the time but at the moment [it's] ‘Sweet Sour’ as it shows all the main elements of the band: rocking drums, big riffs and harmonious singing.
Sonically, you seem to take your cues from classic rock; is that a fair comment? Are there any of your contemporaries who you particularly admire?
There are a few classic bands and solo artists that we all agree on, such as Hendrix, Zeppelin, Neil Young, The Beatles, The Stones etc. But there are also artists such as Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Irma Thomas, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Bobbie Gentry, Scott Walker that are influential to us separately. And of our peers, we respect anyone that’s making music without a safety net.
Can you define your sound in one sentence?
Rocking drums, big riffs and harmonious singing.
What was your artistic goal for this record? And do you feel you’ve achieved it?
To keep exploring and developing as a band and as writers, and to experiment more with our sound. We are our own worst critics but we’re proud of this album.
Emma, you’re an artist as well as a singer and bassist! How was it working on your first solo exhibition in London? And do you find you sate different artistic needs with painting to those you fulfil with music?
It was a great feeling to get a chance to make some big work again and take my painting further. And as I started painting right after we finished recording, I was still in that creative mindset: I just had to flip it over to painting rather than writing! Then to get the opportunity to have a solo show in London just made my year! It was the first time all the work had been shown together and there was a great response. It does fulfil another need, yes. I carry sketch books on the road and draw whenever I can and when there’s another break in touring I will go and paint again.
You’ve supported some pretty massive bands during the past few years! What have been your best memories to date?
We always learn a lot from the bands we play with and we've been really lucky with the support slots. They have all been great people and it is always a professional set-up. Supporting Muse was probably our biggest gig: it was in front of a crowd of around 50,000 and the production was huge. It was an impressive gig.
What’s been your favourite record of the past year?
And whose album are you most looking forward to this year?
We’re really looking forward to the release of the new 22-20s album.
You’re confirmed to play Coachella: what are you most and least looking forward to about the festival? And what’s the plan for the rest of 2012?
At Coachella, we’re most looking forward to seeing Radiohead, The Black Keys and Snoop. The line-up is amazing! Not looking forward to the long wait before we get there though... At the moment, we know we’re also playing the Isle of Wight and Bilbao festivals. We’ll be on the road touring the new album for the rest of the year and we’re very excited about it.