FEW BANDS MAKE IT TO A DECADE IN THE LIMELIGHT. EVEN FEWER ARE STILL TRYING SOMETHING NEW. THEN AGAIN, MOST BANDS JUST AREN’T ROLO TOMASSI.
WORDS: ALI SHUTLER. PHOTOS: EMMA SWANN.
Ten years (and a few months) into a career they never thought they’d have, Rolo Tomassi have just played one of their most fun shows they’ve ever. Last night at The Black Heart in Camden, “everything just came together,” as the band celebrated the release of their fourth album ‘Grievences’ at the second of four tiny London shows. Tonight they’re going to do it all over again at The Waiting Room, but first Eva Spence and Chris Cayford explain how “everything we do from now is beyond anything we could have imagined.”
“You’ve just got to go with it. One of the things Gok Wan said about accessorising,” starts Chris on the band’s previous approach, “is that you should always take off the last thing you put on. That was his rule, and ever since I’ve based my life on Gok’s teachings. If you ever think something’s getting too complicated, just take the last thing you did off.”
This streamlined approach is reflected in ‘Grievances’, a record that takes a step back before hurtling itself forward. It goes some way to explain how Rolo Tomassi are still pushing against their self-imposed boundaries after all this time.
“It’s hard to know what to expect when you’re putting out new music,” explains Eva. “It’s the most nerve wracking part of anything we do because so much goes into releasing an album.”
“It shouldn’t really matter what other people think of it, but it does,” ventures Chris. “We, as five people, are very confident in this record but the reaction validates how we feel about it; that the hard work has paid off.”
Written over the course of a disjointed year, ‘Grievances’ took its time to come together. “We had a practice space in Nottingham that the boys were travelling up to and I [at home in Brighton] would get rough demos emailed to me so I could start thinking about what I wanted to do lyrically,” says Eva.
“It let the ideas work themselves out,” states Chris. “With ‘Astraea’ there were some ideas that could have been developed but because we stretched out the writing process this time, we worked each one out to its fullest. We have a much more rounded record. It suits our music as well, you can’t write one of our songs in an afternoon,” he adds. “We’re lucky we don’t have to cut things down to three-minute pop songs. If a song is ten minutes long, it’s ten minutes long for a reason, we just go with our instinct. You know when the ideas click together and something sounds right. The songs take a lot of hard work to get them to where we want them, we’re never going to write a record in three months.”
“As a group we have so much fun playing shows but recording is something that both Eva and I aren’t that comfortable with,” admits Chris. “It’s a tricky, stressful environment to be in but recording with Lewis Johns, we had a really good time.”
“I find recording difficult and Lewis was absolutely incredible,” states Eva. “It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in a studio. His input definitely made this record.”
That comfort can be felt from the opening collision of ‘Estranged’ to the ethereal sway of ‘All That Has Gone Before’.
“We are getting more comfortable in working together,” Eva says. “It’s the second record we’ve done with Nathan [Fairweather, bass] and Chris and everyone has fallen into their position within the band. That’s given us confidence. We’ve toured the world together and that’s definitely lent itself to how we’ve written. Nobody’s afraid. We feel like we can say anything together, we’re such a tight knit group of people.”.
“And we’re all older now, we don’t have to go for that shock factor or try and do something to be a bit out there,” continues Chris. “We can let there be space on a record, be more musically creative with it and add things like strings. We get to push and expand. It’s something we’re always happy to do and it’s something we’ll continue to do on the next record.”
“The energy for the heavier songs was from not playing in a year,” Eva offers. “It is a darker record because there was a lot more pent up aggression. We’ve been doing this for such a long time now that having a year off, a lot of stuff caught up with me. It’s a personal album. A lot of our lyrics are confessional, it’s like a diary,” she says before going on to explain why she doesn’t offer meaning to her own songs. “As somebody who just adores lyrics in general, I think it’s nice to apply meaning for yourself and make it relate to you rather than how one person feels. I like to take my own experience away from music,” she continues. “It’s really cool when people sing along with something you’ve written though. It’s something I will never take for granted.”
“This album has our most melodic dynamic moments but songs like ‘Estranged’ are some of the heaviest and most chaotic music we’ve ever written. It doesn’t sound like two different bands,” Chris reflects. “It’s just the feel of them. Once it goes through the process of all five of us having an input, they feel like a family of songs.”
“We’re lucky that we’re in the position where we can go in any direction and it not be too shocking, weird or throw people off,” Eva adds before Chris concludes. “It just allows us to grow as a band and it makes the next album even more exciting. “
Ten years is a fearsome milestone and Rolo Tomassi passed it by announcing an album that sees them at their most progressive and daring. “Always with this band, I’ve taken it how it comes,” starts Eva. “If I was to reflect, I just feel incredibly luck for what we’ve done and achieved. When I first joined the band I would not have expected we’d last ten years, toured outside of Yorkshire, or that we would have even recorded an album, let alone four,” she says with a small sense of uneasy disbelief. “It’s not anything I was expecting so whatever expectations I did have, they’ve been completely blown out of the water. Everything we do from now, in the future, is beyond anything I could have imagined. I feel very fortunate to still be doing it and still be enjoying it as much as I am,” Eva concludes. That disbelief replaced with defiance.
“I still don’t feel like we’ve realised the full potential of what we can achieve,” Eva points out. “It’s nice to grow with every record and while we’re still very driven creatively, there’s nothing really stopping us. We’re just enjoying it so much at the minute, which is exciting. We’ve just released an album and I’m already excited about what we’re going to work on next. We’re in a really good position at the moment.”
“We’re constantly writing,” Chris says with a smile. “This is the third day the album’s been out and we were downstairs sound checking a new song earlier. It’s a slow moving process so we better kick it off now.”
Taken from the August 2015 issue of Upset. Rolo Tomassi’s new album ‘Grievances’ is out now.