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Shield Your Eyes, Pneu, Silent Front

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The top floor of The Old Blue Last is creaking. A circle has formed, a natural amphitheatre amongst the crowd. In the middle of the baying masses stand two Frenchmen, sodden with sweat and screaming at each other, howling, guttural and primal. Neither is backing down, arms primed, sinews strained to the point of failure… The crowd joins in, howling to the moon in appreciation, there is a seconds pause, a stop motion freeze frame, and then they lunge forward grabbing the throng and dragging us down, down into the heart of their world. This is Pneu…and this is all that matters.
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Written by Jonathan

April 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Rolo Tomassi

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Article for Subba Cultcha.

They say that waiting is the hardest part, and anyone who has witnessed the kinetic speedball explosion that James Spence helps to create on stage, as part of UK underground pioneers: Rolo Tomassi, will have no problem imagining how hard it must have been for the young dynamo to spend the summer cooped up at home waiting for the fervour that the September release of their debut album ’Hysterics’ would elicit.
“Oh absolutely, it’s been tough. I can’t want to get back on the road.”  James states when quizzed as to whether this summer has been a  little cabin feverish. If a week is a long time in politics, then the gap between Rolo Tomassi’s last original release and ‘Hysterics’ is a virtual lifetime. Barring the repressing last year it’s been over 18months since  the release of the Rolo Tomassi 12” EP.

So why the wait and has it been worth it? Bands can be funny beasts, to the listening masses  there are only the end results, the live shows and the releases, it is often hard to remember the investment bands put into an album, how long they have lived with the songs. There has been  a spate of great young British bands recently who have disbanded shortly after their debut albums, a pertinent example being the demise of schizophrenic Guilford rockers Meet Me In St Louis who’s debut was so long in the making that by the time it came out the band had moved so far on and were so over the album that they couldn’t keep it together. It’s with this in mind that the gap between the Ep and ‘Hysterics’ makes me a little nervous as to the  well being of the Rolo Tomassi camp. “Well we were still at school and we wanted to do this album properly so we basically took a year off” confirms James as to the delay in releasing ‘Hysterics’. They have not been idle though. ‘Hysterics’ is a huge leap forward musically and also sees the band departing Holy Roar Records and joining hot little indie label Hassle  and so now count amongst their label mates Alexisonfire and Anti-Flag. They have also been crafting their most accomplished work to date. It’s a blunt force trauma of a record that hits you from every angle possible, it is also a more complete sound. Despite this new depth, though, it manages to avoid moments that might bring with it the tag ‘maturity’. This might usually be seen as a negative but for Rolo Tomassi it is quite the opposite.  There is no denying that they are a young band, any more than they are a band with a female vocalist, to gloss over these seems more contrite to highlight it.  They are primarily a live band, indeed that is the way they write, no Billy Corgan style 100 track guitar overdubs here, and the  energy and anger of youth that the band  produce live is translated wholesale onto tape without compromise.  Songs like ‘Scabs’ and ’Abraxas’ pulsate and explode in the headphones like the band do on stage.  “Absolutely everything we do is written for live. If we can’t reproduce it live we change it.” States James.

Rolo Tomassi trade on opposites, quiet and loud, menacing and seductive, light speed key loops versus half time drum slams and that old confrontation of male versus female. It seems contrite to highlight but the juxtaposition between  the Spence siblings, James and little sister Eva informs the heart of the band more than the protagonists maybe wish it did. It seems impossible to read a Rolo Tomassi feature without the presence of  hell raising screamer Eva being raised and paraded like the one stop badge  to define the band.  “I’ve never thought about it like that, or with it put like that but I guess it has helped yes,” says James when asked if in some way it has helped to have a female co-writer to balance out the perspectives.  Although many of the songs on ‘Hysterics’ are written from an ambiguous sexual identity about subjects that come from universally accessible source, it is noticeable that the protagonists seem to be more rounded and aware than some all male bands manage.  They manage to avoid tackling every subject in the well worn grooves of simply boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy loses girl and writes angry song.

Talking with James you realise that more than anything else the band are simply a collective of hardcore music fans and record collectors that are giving back into the very thing that they have loved for years. “It’s all there is,” notes James about record collecting, “I’m totally obsessive, I have to have everything that a band I like has released. I’m constantly trading play lists with friends. Music is all there is.” It’s something that’s highlighted by the bands MySpace site where their releases are meticulously catagorised, from their early demo tapes through to ‘Hysterics’.  To coincide with the release of ‘Hysterics’ the band will hit the road for a gruelling 6 week tour that takes in the length and breadth of the country. They will finish the tour playing with Blood Red Shoes but the first half sees them taking Mirror!Mirror! and Throats on the road. It’s one of the perks of taking another step up the ladder. “We always look at who’s playing when we’re considering shows and that’s very important to us but this is the first time we’ve really got a say in who goes out on tour with us. They are both amazing bands.”

As you read this ‘Hysterics’ will be being loaded onto and swiped off shelves up and down the country. It’s a record that you need to own this year, it’s the fulfilment of a 2 year old promise made on the Rolo Tomassi EP and it does not disappoint. There will be endless reams of hyperbole spilled about Rolo Tomassi this year but the best advice anyone looking to witness a band playing genuinely adventurous music with a passion they didn’t download in a ’startaband’ kit from can take is to catch Rolo Tomassi live, now. You might not understand it in the moment, but in time you will rave about the fact you were there.

Written by Jonathan

September 23, 2008 at 10:33 pm