British three-piece Band Of Skulls have developed a bit of a reputation for being constantly on tour. Following the release of their 2014 album Himalayan, the rock outfit were pretty much on the road for two years straight, touring Europe, North America and Australia in that time. It was only this year that they decided that it was time to take some time out, to regroup, and to spend some serious time recording a new album.
One of the underlying desires of band members Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward was to record their new LP in a new space – and after a long search they came across a church in their hometown of Southampton. They then set about writing and recording songs in that church, and the result is their fourth album By Default.
We caught up with bass player and vocalist Emma Richardson to chat about what it was like to finally spend some proper time away from touring, how the unique venue of a church became the band’s studio and how their live show has changed with the influx of all this new music.
MF: By Default is out later this month. Is it a relief to have it all done and finally about to be released?
BOS: Yea, it’s really exciting. We’re in that limbo period at the moment before it’s released; we’ve done a few live gigs already. It’s a great taste of things to come; a lot of people were really excited about the new stuff and were already singing along. So we can’t wait to take it out on the road again and play it to even more people.
MF: Do you find that taking new music on the road before it’s released is a good way of road-testing new material?
BOS: Definitely, yeah. It’s always good to get out on the road and see what the reaction is like to see if we can actually get a response. We’ve been rehearsing a bit and we’ve got a new member who is joining us live so that’s adding another element and that’s all really exciting. We can’t wait to get out there properly.
MF: How else has your live show changed?
BOS: Well now we’ve got four albums to choose from, so the set list is going to change a bit and we’re going to have to really decide which songs to put in there. Will it just be the singles from the last record or will we rotate or change things up a lot. We’re going to try and put in a lot of the new material, so it’s going to be a tricky one but it’s a good problem to have I guess.
MF: When Killer was premiered back in March you guys said this album represented a new era for the band. What’s new on this record that we haven’t seen from Band Of Skulls before?
BOS: We were on the road almost constantly for the last five years so it was really good to stop and regroup. We wanted to have a bit more time to write a lot more songs. So we hired a church in Southampton; our home town, and we stripped back to the bare minimal equipment and began these writing sessions. We came up with over 100 songs and it was an intense period. It felt like a whole new era – the first three [albums] were like a trilogy and now this is a new, fresh time for the band.
MF: What was it like recording in a church; did you find it changed the way you wrote the album?
BOS: We found it really inspiring to be in a new environment, and to work in a church – which was a huge room, an image of it is on our album cover. Where we ended writing the record; the sound was so amazing – the acapella sounded awesome the drums sounded huge. We sampled a lot of the room on the record so it’s a special place for us.
MF: Did you just stumble across the venue, or was it a long process deciding where to record the album?
BOS: We were looking round for a long time, but it felt like this was almost meant to be. We were all walking past one day and we all looked up and said ‘what about this place, let’s go in and ask,’ thinking they might not even be able to hire their rooms out. We met the Reverend and he was very kind and very open to us using it, so it was meant to be really.
MF: It’s been written in the press that part of the reason this record came about was because you guys needed a break from touring so much. Was it just a case of being tired of being on the road for so long?
BOS: it was more just to have more time to create and write. We didn’t want to have a small amount of time, we wanted to challenge ourselves and come up with the best that we could. So we gave ourselves a little more time than we usually do but it seems to have really paid off.
MF: How do you balance touring and writing music, at a time when touring is vital to the survival of many bands.
BOS: it’s always good to have a balance. When you’re not on the road you’re obviously not earning money. But we needed to make sure that we come up with the best record every time. SO it was really important for us to take this time to make sure that happened – and now we’re really raring to go to get out live and play it.
MF: Having played festivals like Glastonbury, is it much different for you when you play normal headliner shows compared to playing huge festivals?
BOS: It’s always different. Every show is different because the audience is different. We treat every show the same, we come at it with much adrenalin, and try to play the best gig we can – now matter if it’s 200 people in a tiny club or a big festival. If we give everything the audience can see that and they give everything back. So we try to treat every gig in a similar way.
MF: And the obligatory question – can we expect to see Band Of Skulls back in Australia any time in the near future?
BOS: Definitely, we’re looking to get out there early next year – I think that’s the plan. So we will be hopefully playing as many cities as we can. Fingers crossed.
‘By Default’ is out Friday May 27, you can pre-order it here.