In the midst of a hectic festival touring schedule and with their debut album on the horizon, I figured it was time to delve deeper into the world of Drenge...
Drenge – Drenge Review
You know you’ve made it when a Parliamentary MP boasts to be a fan of your band. Everyone remembers David Cameron thinking that he looked good on the dancefloor when he namechecked Arctic Monkeys back in 2006, and now it seems the honour has fallen to also Drenge, the self-confessed soundtrack to Labour MP Tom Watson’s resignation from the cabinet this year. Nothing says rock n’roll like telling Ed Milliband where to shove it.
Naming themselves after the Danish word for ‘boys’, (something which the pair thought sounded ‘really ugly and vicious, a good way to describe the riffs we’ve been kicking about’), it was obvious from the off that brothers Eoin and Rory were hardly setting themselves up to be the next Ting Tings. From the singles ‘BloodSports’ and ‘Backwaters’, it was clear that we were dealing with something heavier, the same primal desire that is currently fuelling the success of Deap Valley and Wet Nuns. But can Drenge sustain this nonchalant passion for a whole record?
The simple answer is yes. The12 tracks that make up the boys self-titled debut are so typically rock that if the cd disk grew arms and legs, it would be off down the shops to buy itself a leather jacket with a waifish model hanging on its arm and a cigarette dripping off its lip. Considering the pair hail from Castleton, a mere bus ride away from Sheffield, there is northern history all over the record, from the Cocker-esque spoken word self-depreciation of ‘Fuckabout’, to the Alex Turner prize-worthy weighty pop mastery of ‘Dogmeat’.
Considering its status as a debut, it is a remarkably confident offering. Its influences are worn as clearly as an ostentatious forearm tattoo, although cultural appropriation done this well is no bad thing. ‘Backwaters’ is the natural brother to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ‘Spread Your Love’, and ‘BloodSports’ is clearly born from a loyal servancy to Queens of the Stone Age. It’s where Drenge add their own stamp that things get much more interesting, with new single Face Like A Skull’s dark sludgey sound the sort of song that Whitechapel-Vampire era The Horrors would consider trading their paisley shirts back in for, so dirty and relentless is the ode to ‘sunken eyes and rotting flesh’.
The only worry is that the trick could wear a little thin after so many variations on the same tempo and tone. Luckily the turning point is ‘I Don't Want To Make Love To You’, a witty take on the melody of the similarly titled Etta James classic, its tongue in cheek fuzz lifting the tone and reminding you of the youth behind the duo’s hard exterior. ‘Nothing’ also brings a welcome change of pace as Eoin flicks 50-Shades-Of-Grey-Gone-Charles-Manson worthy rhymes off his lips (‘Take me to the valley in the south/Put a sopping flannel in my mouth/And hold it/Choking/Please don’t stop till I’m reduced to nothing’)
What ‘Drenge’ offers is nothing innately complicated or profoundly smart, just a well-orchestrated thrill ride of bold rock that I imagine only gets more exhilarating live. No track outstays its welcome, there is a common theme both musically and lyrically and there is a just enough new influence on a very old sound. In a world where autotune and orchestrated RnB ‘drops’ rein king, it is a refreshingly honest change to hear. Maybe more members of the cabinet should take note.
Q&A with Eoin Loveless
SIS: How did you two meet? Just kidding - how did you end up playing music together as brothers?
EL:We ended up starting this band in the winter of 2010 in some pubs in Sheffield when we’d seen a load of other guitar/drum duos and thought that might be something worthwhile pursuing.
SIS:Do you think your success is down to your family tie? Would you ever consider playing with other people?
EL:I’d be really upset if the only reason our band was doing well was because people liked that we were brothers. It’s not out of the question to expand. We’re just waiting until the music dictates it, rather than us wanting all our mates to join our band.
SIS:Which bands/artists inspired you growing up?
EL:Beatles. Nirvana. White Stripes. I think bluntness is key here.
SIS:I feel like I can hear a bit of a Queens of the Stone Age influence, is this something you’ve heard before from anybody who has interviewed you? What do you make of the comparison?
EL:Yeah, it’s not uncommon. For anyone that hasn’t seen it, the Josh Homme Guitar Moves thing on YouTube is worth pursuing. I didn’t realise we were that similar in technique until I watched that video. It’s an honour. They’re a great band. I love it when we get compared to other bands that aren’t made up of just guitar and drums.
SIS:I like the DIY feel of your music videos and blog, is it important to you to do things yourselves?
EL:Once upon a time, we were hard-nosed DIY band that did our own press, booking, management and releases. Now we employ different people to cover that for us, so we’re not a DIY band any more, but we really love that aesthetic because it’s where we’re from. It’s important that bands maintain a direct relationship with their listeners.
SIS:You’ve toured with Temples, Deap Vally and countless others, who have been the favourites?
EL:Every band has been really great to play with but special mention to FIDLAR who bowled us over every night with their commitment and energy. The Wytches were really great as well, tough to follow.
SIS:Are there any other emerging bands you’d like to champion?
EL:Kagoule and Menace Beach are really great.
SIS:You’ve had lots of support from places like NME; what do you make of the current music press?
EL: Fine and mainly harmless; lacking in the brutal honesty that makes flicking through old reviews and articles such a pleasure, yet I’ve read some really lovely and affecting stuff in the past couple of months from journalists and bands alike.
SIS:Do you ever worry about the perils of being a ‘hype’ band? Are there any hype bands recently that have really pissed you off?
EL:We’re not cool. We’re not worried about image. Backlashes are inevitable with new bands. I’m so prepped because I’ve seen it happen a million times.
SIS:You’ve lots of festivals coming up, which are you most looking forward to and why? Are there any bands you’re particularly excited about catching over festival season?
EL:Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts was really special. Latitude was great too. There was a mosh pit and I didn’t think that was possible at a festival like Latitude. Bestival will be great, Beacons too. Most of all, I think Reading and Leeds will be unbeatable. If there isn’t a circle pit, I’ll cry.
SIS:I’m looking forward to catching you boys at Beacons myself, what can people expect from your live set?
EL:We’re getting better as a live band. We can play a whole set. Depending on how many minutes we get we’ll do a frantic set or an intense set. We’re also on right before Wet Nuns, so we’ll be doing our best to pretend that we’re not the same band.
SIS: Is Drenge now a day job for you both or do you do other things to fund your music? What do you make of the trend for fan funded music?
EL:It’s a day job. Fan funded music is fine. I think it’s a really genuine way to fund a band’s release, but only when done fully independent and not if said artist has a couple mill in the bank.
SIS:You’re from Sheffield, an area of true musical heritage that is being rejuvenated in a slightly heavier way with bands like you and Wet Nuns; what was it like growing up there? Did you go to many gigs as kids? Do any venues stand out?
EL:We grew up just outside of Sheffield in a tourist honey trap. Rob from Wet Nuns is just over the hill. Most gigs we went to in Sheffield were the gigs all your mates went to. Rory saw Reel Big Fish three times. That’s the perfect example.
SIS:Incidentally enough, the two-piece also seems to be making a resurgence; why do you think bands are downsizing?
EL:The recession …
SIS:You turned 2 in September, has it been a steep learning curve so far?
EL:We turn 3 in 2 months time. By that age you can walk, talk and shit yourself shamelessly in public.
SIS:You told the Guardian that you weren’t particularly interested in releasing an album. Has this changed? And what are your long-term aims for Drenge?
EL: The Guardian nabbed that quote from an interview we did a couple of years ago. It’s rendered totally irrelevant now. At the time we didn’t think we could pull off an album. Then we signed a record deal, bundled a couple of tracks together and they sat really nicely together. So the album, beautiful and deformed, arrives on 19th of August, 2013.
SIS:Being of a similar age to me, what has it been like seeing this resurgence of 90s culture that you must have lived first time round? Are there any aspects of 90s culture you miss?
EL:If you can remember the 90s, you clearly weren’t there.
SIS:What were the first records you bought?
EL:I bought the Steps double-A side single of Tragedy and something else. Rory bought Shenanigans by Green Day.
SIS:You mentioned on your blog in a Record Store Day post that you like Los Campesinos … my favourite band. Have you ever seen their fanzine Heatrash? Would this ever be something you’d consider doing yourselves for fans, kind of extending the blog into a tangible product?
EL:We made a bunch of zines when we started out. We made like 25 different zines and handed them out at gigs for free. I like that Heat Rash thing. Seems like the most honest way of communicating direct with their supporters, as well as including some exclusive music. Occasionally we put one out, but we’re not very good at writing when we’re in the van. No one’s sold any of our old zines on eBay which means that they are either rubbish or really good.
SIS:Do you think it is important in the modern musical climate for bands to offer something extra to their fans?
EL:I think musicians should be able to get away with offering just their music to their fans, but yeah, today, there has to be a video, or a zine, or an IPA designed exclusively by the band. Not of these things fully contribute to the music. It’s just a way of getting your name out; ‘fans’ is also a deplorable term … ‘supporters’ or ‘listeners’ is far more apt.
'Drenge' is out on August 19th. Listen to their single 'Face Like A Skull' below -