Southampton trio Band of Skulls have quietly been producing a sizeable discography of not so quiet songs on their own label for seven years now. Despite a complete lack of fanfare throughout their career, their latest album, By Default, will be their fourth release in that short space of time.
What they lack in media attention they have made up for in barn-storming singles such as 'The Devil Takes Care Of His Own’ (listen below) and ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls‘ to benefit their plight immensely.
As a result, the band’s music has been used commercially on the likes of Top Gear, Skins and believe it or not, Gossip Girl.
A first listen to By Default shows off a Band Of Skulls with a spring in their step. The trudging garage rock you’re used to from the band still remains but has been quickened in spots to add to the intensity.
This becomes apparent during the album’s second track, 'Back Of Beyond', which has unquestionable T. Rex qualities in its crunchy guitar tones and swinging melodies.
Currently rehearsing for their forthcoming tour, drummer Matt Hayward stepped out from behind his kit to talk to Henry Lewis about recording the album in a church and all that lies ahead including festival appearances at Glastonbury, Liverpool Sound City and Kendal Calling.
Hey man, what are you up to?
We’re in a rehearsal studio in South London but honestly it’s a welcome break to the rehearsal. It’s such a beautiful day outside, I’m basking.
How are you feeling ahead of your forthcoming tour?
We’ve been waiting for this for quite a while now the build has been a long process kind of finished the record then you’ve got a whole load of time before you get to play it out live so it’s very exciting now that we’re actually getting to get into a room and start going through it all very exciting
When did you actually complete the record?
We finished it at the very beginning of this year and recorded it at the end of last year. Then with all the mixing and the mastering it got wrapped up at the end of January, so we’ve had a few months where we’ve been itching to get going on it but, it's finally come so I’m pretty happy.
What was the inspiration behind it, was the recording process any different to normal?
We started writing it in Southampton, our home town. We rented a church which was pretty amazing. The thing is, when you’re touring you have this big set up and this big rig of all your amps and your big drum kit.
We kind of decided when we first started writing that we’d strip everything down to what we originally started with two years ago when we did our first record.
We rented this church and went back to sort of this very basic kit. The church was very inspiring, the sound we got in it was incredible and it dictated a lot of the writing really because we had a great sound. Then we went and met Gill Norton who produced the record.
It seemed like a week later after meeting him we were in the studio making it so it was a really great fast process and we thrive on that sort of situation.
We’ve had a new lease of life with it really, going back to stripping everything away is what it is that gets us excited in the things that we write. It breathes this new life into everything and it sort of felt like our first record again I think that’s come across really well.
We spent a lot of time writing it so the speed of recording it added this energy and there was an excitement in the studio. We were giving ourselves a very short deadline to do it so it gave it that edge to it I think.
Can you sum it up in a few sentences?
It’s an exciting record, it’s loud and its fast and it’s got so much more dynamic to it than I think anything else we’ve done before. It’s something we’re 100% proud of and we’re so itching to get out and play it live.
And your new single ‘Killer’ is being aired on Radio 1, great news for you guys.
Yeah massive, it’s Radio One so it’s pretty big stuff and yeah we’re very honoured to be played on there and supported by Annie (Mac), it’s great.
The album is released after a large amount of your tour dates, will you be debuting a lot of tracks from it on the tour?
Yeah we’re really keen to play as much of this new record as we can get in. We’re always going to play songs from previous records but to be able to play the whole of this record in its entirety live is very important to us. We’re sort of starting there and seeing what we can wedge in between of it from our older material I guess.
Do you ever worry about how the new music will go down with your fans?
I think we used to have a lot of the anticipation and be sort of apprehensive about going out playing, but I think this time everyone’s feeling a lot stronger and in a more confident place.
There’s always anxiety with any gig but this time it’s been such a long time I think everyone’s excited to show these songs to people. I might give a different answer this time next week when we’re about to play our first shows, right now it’s very relaxed.
You already have two sold out shows on your forthcoming tour, how encouraging is that?
There’s always that question, you put your record out, you go touring and then you go about making the next one and there’s always that little bit in your mind going does anybody remember will anyone turn up again? So far it’s been encouraging.
There’s also some pretty notable venues in your tour later this year, have you played many of them before?
We’ve played Rock City before but we’ve never played the Albert Hall in Manchester. We’ve always played the Ritz which is an incredible venue but then everyone says how incredible the Albert hall is as well.
It actually resembles your album cover an awful lot.
Oh really? So it’ll sort of be like the album artwork coming to life!
You’re also making an appearance at Glastonbury, you must be buzzing for that?
We played it not last year but the year before and one of the biggest crowds we’ve had turn out at a festival slot. It’s just Glastonbury there’s something magical about it so to be on that bill is incredibly special for us.
How does playing it compare to going as a music fan?
I went when I was about 13 or 14 that was the first time. My parents wouldn’t let me go because it meant taking days off school but I said to myself ‘I’m going’ and it was one of the greatest weekends ever.
As a kid you’re always looking up and I looked up and thought one day it’ll be us up there doing it and it finally came true. It takes you back to being a kid; you can see yourself in the crowd when you were 14, looking up and thinking ‘yeah’ so it’s a really great feeling.