“Yeah that’s me believe it or not. This record really did let Emma and I explore what’s possible with our voices.”
When discussing ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On’, one of the many highlights to be found on ‘Sweet Sour’, Russell Marsden reflects on the more mature, layered sound which permeates Bands Of Skulls’ second album, released last February. Running throughout the record is the sense of a band exploring new corridors of their musical ability, and delighting in what is to be found.
Sure the familiar, full on ballsy rock which dominated their 2009 debut ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’ is still very much intact. The record’s title track, for instance, is a bluesy number driven by incessant drums and bass, packed tight with classic rock-inspired licks. But the general feeling is of a group moving forward, and using the confidence of a now-legendary live reputation to stretch the vision of their studio endeavours. For frontman Russell, that growth in both sound and popularity was brought into stark focus upon their return to the South By Southwest Festival last month. After their first visit in 2010, Band Of Skulls left Austin with a multitude of life changing experiences – and a reputation for working their way through amps with care-free abandon – in tow.
“It was strange to come back to a festival where so much happened for us two years ago,” Russell told Live4ever in an exclusive interview backstage at Music Hall of Williamsburg, NYC. “It was a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come I guess. Saying that, SXSW is a great leveller as new bands may play the same stage as huge artists – it’s about the music in the end. It was good to play Cedar Street Courtyard again. That was a very SXSW experience the first time and this year’s gigs was just as hot and loud!”
It was quite dramatic and ended in a cloud of expensive smoke.
And what of those blown out amps? Did the habit follow them back to Texas this year? “Yeah, Emma joined the club at this SXSW,” Russell says. “It was at the show we did for KCRW. It was quite dramatic and ended in a cloud of expensive smoke. That’s what happens sometimes when you throw yourself in to the chaos of SXSW.”
In the wake of South By, the trio embarked on more US dates with fellow Live4ever favourites We Are Augustines. For Marsden and Co., the musical heritage so intrinsically tied up in the various signposts which flashed past the tour bus windows was not lost. Indeed, the live stage is a setting where they truly flourish; consistently unleashing a wall of sound which belies their status as a three-piece.
The shared vocals of Russell and Emma adds another touch of genius to their arsenal, with both dipping in and out of lead duties at random intervals throughout their shows. With Russell playing through an array of effects pedals to produce an amazingly layered rock sound, and drummer Matt slapping the skins as if it’s the last gig he’ll ever play, Band Of Skulls could never be weighed down by that history. In fact, they’re now adding their own chapters to it.
“Some towns demand a certain respect,” Russell tells Live4ever of their US tour. “We’ve been really fortunate to play Nashville a few times now with some great bands. This time round was great as we got a chance to talk music with our friend Vance Powell – who we met back in London a while back – and our friends from Mona after the show. It was a great welcome to a great city. We are doing everything possible to make it back here later in 2012.”
And what of the future? With the obvious momentum currently driving the band on, it’s hard not to look ahead still further. Just a few short months after ‘Sweet Sour’s release, the desire for more is already becoming irresistible.
The question is, are the band still finding time to write on the road as their diaries get increasingly cluttered? “It’s tough sometimes to find the right place to think and write, the upside is we are playing together every single day,” Russell remarks. “So there is always an idea flying around at soundcheck. That’s what we did with songs like ‘Sweet Sour‘. It’s good to hear them on a big stage before you go into the studio sometimes.”
“We are always writing, and it’s great having three songwriters in the band to help ideas along when you get stuck,” he continues. “Just like the first record there were songs that weren’t quite ready in time for the album. That’s where we’ll start for the third album. Saying that new ideas come all the time, so it might end up completely new.”
Driven by gradual evolution and an unwritten, exciting future, the band are clearly bristling with an irresistible enthusiasm which, as attention turns to album number three, is showing no signs of slowing down – where Band Of Skulls will go next from the likes of ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On’ is anyone‘s guess.
“It’s that exciting time,” Russell says, “because even we don’t know what direction the new stuff will go in.”
Check out our full interview with Marsden and more photos of our night with the Band of Skulls and local Brooklyn indie rockers We Are Augustines supporting the Southhampton trio at Music Hall of Williamsburg, NYC here
Words: Dave Smith, Mick Baldwin
Photos: Paul BachmannJust Published: