Rolo Tomassi interview
With new album Cosmology due out later this month, Rolo Tomassi look set to take their brand of freaked out hardcore to new levels of commercial and critical acceptance. We sat down with James and Eva from the band to do a little star-gazing.
You formed in 2005. How did you all meet?
James: Eva is my younger sister and the rest of us met at primary school. We've all been at school together at some point or another.
Your new album 'Cosmology' is out on the 24th of May. Can you sell it to us in a soundbite?
James: 'Cosmology' is a progressive-hardcore record. It builds naturally on what we started with 'Hysterics' but has a lot more direction and is more cohesive as a whole.
I’ve been listening to it a lot recently. You seem to have mastered the circa-90 second burst of brutality but also the longer, form twisting-turning-track like ‘Kesia’ and ‘Sakia’. What’s your process for writing songs and has it evolved over the years?
James: Joe (Nicholson) will often write something on his computer and show the rest of us and we'll flesh out ideas for song parts in practice. We then try and piece songs together from there. Songs are rarely written in full. It's a trial and error system based purely on what feels right. It's a system that we've developed over time that works for us.
Are there bands in common that you all love and influence your work?
James: Absolutely. I'd say bands like At The Drive-In and Converge are influences that we'd all agree on and you can hear it in our sound. Other than that everyone has their own influences that they use on their specific instrument that brings something different to the table when we write.
Eva, your vocals are amazing. When did you start singing and how did you arrive at the style you have now?
Eva: I started experimenting with singing when I was about 12 in the first band I was in just doing backing vocals. I joined Rolo when I was 14, originally playing keyboard whilst we looked for a singer. I can't actually remember how it came about, but it was suggested that I tried to scream and I could just do it and throughout time my technique improved with practice and the experience of shows.
Do you think that lyrics aren’t always able to sufficiently portray the way you feel – so how you say them carries more meaning – is there a catharsis in such a intense performance?
Eva: I guess so, my lyrics are quite personal so I don't necessarily feed the need to portray anything on stage, I just enjoy performing,
Is it often a surprise to people who aren’t aware of your work when you start singing that you have such an abrasive delivery?
Eva: Yes, for people that haven't seen us before or come across the show on an off chance.
Your are remarkably tight musically. Do you have to practice a lot or is there a naturally chemistry that binds you together?
James: We've played in bands together since we were about 14 so we've had a lot of experience playing together and in that time have definitely developed an understanding of each other. Also, when writing songs, we'll start out by playing things much slower than they're intended to make sure they're as tight as possible. We speed it up when everyone is at the same standard and regularly play things over and over again to ensure its worthy of being played live.
When I first heard your songs I incorrectly assumed you were American. You’ve got a sound that is hard to geographically pin down, but are there any elements of Sheffield in your music?
James: I wouldn't say that when we set out we said that we wanted to sound like we were from Sheffield but in retrospect, looking at Sheffield's musical history especially with regards to bands who use synthesizers like Cabaret Voltaire there is a little bit of Sheffield in us!
You are named after a character from LA Confidential and not the confectionary, but if you could give your last Rolo to anyone who would it be?
James: My mum.
NASA describes Cosmology as: “the study of the structure and changes in the present universe, while the scientific field of cosmogony is concerned with the origin of the universe. Observations about our present universe may not only allow predictions to be made about the future, but they also provide clues to events that happened long ago when...the cosmos began. So—the work of cosmologists and cosmogonists overlaps.” What are your favourite flavours of crisps?
James: Roysters T-Bone Steak bubble chips. Every time.
How does the rest of the year look for you?
James: We finish this tour and then begin festival dates with Great Escape and Slam Dunk this month amongst other shows. We've just announced that we're playing at Download and have other announcements that are imminent! The new record is out 24th May and we'll be playing our biggest headline show to date on May 28th at the Underworld in Camden.