Interview: Drenge

Ahead of their slot supporting Wolf Alice at the packed out Newcastle University SU, Eoin Loveless sat down with Jack Bates to chat about the evolution of their music, adding a third member and what its like to be skint on tour.

29th September 2015


So how are we today?

Good! It was my birthday yesterday and it was like the first birthday where I’ve done nothing.

Did you not have a show yesterday?

No, I was just at home. Spent most of it in bed and my girlfriend was at work so I got a curry, I watched Barcelona vs Levante, went for a glass of wine and got back and watched Ryback vs Kevin Owens on WWE Night of Champions then went to bed. I watched some more in the morning and I was thoroughly entertained by the Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment.

How’s life on the road with Wolf Alice been so far?

It’s been great, really good. We did four shows last week, three with them and one we did in Leeds. It’s great being on the road with such a talented band and great to be back on tour after a summer of festivals.

What happens after the shows? Any chaos?

No we just drive home. I don’t know, the amount we get paid per show isn’t enough to cover going out and stuff. It’s back to the old days of touring, no crazy nights out.

Not even in Newcastle?

Not even in Newcastle, the party town of the real north.

That’s a shame, I was hoping to see you guys out there tonight.

(Laughs) No no, maybe next time we come back.

Have you been up to Newcastle many times before?

Yeah plenty of times. We did a show at The Sage in Gateshead in April and yeah we’ve played here a bunch of times

How do the crowds compare to your hometown Sheffield?

You know, less crazy but that’s what you’re going to get against hometown shows. But growing up lot of my friends and family friends have come from Newcastle and it’s always had a strong musical heritage, a lot of folk artists. I’ve even had mates that have studied music at Newcastle and at shows you feel like people are listening more.

Just off the back of festival season, how was summer for Drenge?

Busy, but not hectic. Good, but I feel tired. We did Bestival last weekend and then straight into tour which is weird ‘cause we’d usually have a couple of weeks to recharge our batteries but it does mean we get to keep on top of our game.

How was Bestival?

It was really nice but we were only there for about 3 hours and then we left (laughs).

Did you get to stay at any festivals and see other bands over summer?

Glasto was the only one that we got to really see anyone at.

Who was your highlight from Glasto?

I don’t know - Patti Smith was incredible, Courtney Barnett was inc- like everyone around us was saying how she’d be much better in a venue but I felt like that was one of the rawest musical displays I’ve ever seen and I was like, I’m going to be telling my kids that I saw her at Glastonbury, she’s a legend.

Cool cool, so what other influences go into your music?

Video games, shit meals, like when you can’t be bothered to cook. Driving – well not me driving but me being the passenger, and nature. Nature is probably my biggest influence. I got a cat the other week as well, Suzie. She threw up on the stairs the other day. She lives with me, my girlfriend and Rob who plays bass for us.

Oh yeah, so what impact has Rob (new bassist) had on the band?

We’re just a lot heavier and a lot cooler.

How many tracks does he play on live then?

All of them. We taught him all our old songs and I’m not into bands where they’ll wield someone in and out so if we’re going to play a song he’s going to be playing bass on it.

How would you say latest album Undertow has developed from the debut LP?

I think we just wanted to make a record that we could feel more at home listening to. The first record was like a nude photograph.

So how would you describe the second album?

The second one was like we’d put on some nice silk pyjamas. First record is very peculiar, it’s very raw, very naked. A lot of mistakes in there. We’d never been on tour and we weren’t particularly good at our instruments at that point. Undertow is different because we’ve been on tour for two years and we’re so much more in tune.

So would you now class Rob as a full time member, or would you say that Drenge is still the two of you (with brother Rory)?

Yeah Rob’s a full member but it’s peculiar, Drenge is very stylistic of a very specific type of music and there’s a fucking bunch of rules and ways that we do stuff that normal bands wouldn’t do stuff because we are brothers and there’s unwritten rules that come with that. Me and Rory will just do something and it makes sense whereas other people just wouldn’t get it. But yeah Rob’s a full time member in the band and we love having him.

Are you guys working on new material?

Trying to. I splashed out on some studio equipment for my spare room the other day and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I can now record. Some mics and a computer and some audio software. In a creative sense it was one of the best things I’ve been allowed to do.

What are each of your favourite songs to perform live? And why?

I don’t know about Rory. ’Let’s Pretend’ is my favourite song to watch Rory play, or ‘Never Awake’ or ‘The Snake’, they both have some mean drum fills in. For me, it’s either ‘Side by Side’ or ‘Let’s Pretend’.

I find Rory great to watch, reminiscent of Dave Grohl’s drumming for Nirvana, would you say?

Oh right, I have no idea because Rory’s drumming to personal to him.

Even just as a visual thing, the way he plays?

For me I can’t compare him to anyone and I do consider him to be a true original and he’s very considerate about everything he does. Every drum hit and the timing, everything about it is so calculated. It’s like watching a maths genius really going through the ropes of what’s going to make each song sound it’s best.

So when you go into the writing and recording process does he spend a lot of time working on his drum parts?

Yeah, way more than I do with my guitar parts and the lyrics. It’s the most considered aspect of the band. Also the producer that we’ve worked with on both of our records is meticulous. He will listen to a raw drum track, which is a very difficult task and can send you crazy, fifty times in a row and then he’ll go ‘I knew there was something there’ and what he will be hearing is Rory accidentally hitting a cymbal but the only way it’s being picked up is through the most obscure mic that’s not even pointing towards it. Ross (producer) can pull apart any drummer and make them want to give up drums. If you’ve not given up drums by the time you’ve finished recording with Ross you’ve probably cried a lot. He’s meticulous and you need to get into that mind-set.

Does it take a long time to record your albums then?

Not particularly, I mean the first album didn’t take too long, two weeks of studio time maybe, maybe two or three weeks. Undertow, with time on and off, three to four months. A lot more time for writing as we needed to write in the studio.

Would you say the second album is better in your opinion?

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to take a step back. Nobody wants to make the same record twice. If you like the first record then listen to it again, if you don’t like the new one you don’t have to listen to it, it’s not my problem.

Any set dates for any new stuff coming out?

No, nothing in the diary. It’d be nice to write some new stuff but nothing planned yet.

Fair enough, and to finish up, in a word, what can we expect to see from you tonight?

Just hopefully a normal, good set.

We’ll go with ‘good’ then?

Good, yeah. We’re a lot different to Wolf Alice and it’s their show so we’re here to have a good time and play some music and hopefully it goes well.

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