In Conversation with Drenge’s Rory Loveless

Drenge’s self-titled debut (2013) was a masterclass in musical austerity, with pummelling drums, scrawny guitars, and lyrics that turned towards the gruesome more out of boredom than malice. Their imagery was prominent (the cover, and their tour t-shirts, were a photograph of a graveyard) but it was always about more than that. Eoin and Rory Loveless wrote proper, good, well thought-out songs like ‘Fuckabout’ and ‘Backwaters’, which distinguished them as more cerebral than many of their British indie rock peers, even if Eoin’s just-smug-enough declamations on sex, death, and violence seemed tooled-up to excite primal instincts. The brothers Loveless were clearly channelling the stone age by choice, rather than being actual Neanderthals. Undertow (2015) was somewhat different, though it speaks more to the sparsity of Drenge that the inclusion of a bass guitar on some tracks was something of a shock.

And Strange Creatures is another step along that same path – with a vastly widened musical palette and more adventurous detours away from their core sound, it is palpably the work of a band who have grown up, and reaped the benefits of taking their time over their art. Pera Cumur spoke to drummer Rory Loveless to understand where Strange Creatures came from, a story which takes us through their childhood in rural Derbyshire, their past six years in Drenge, and last year’s World Cup.

To start off with the new album, what can you tell about me about it? You’ve moved away from the basic guitar and drums approach of previous albums. 

Yeah, for the first two albums we played a lot of gigs and were around a lot of similar bands as well. You know, guitar based and quite angsty. So with this one we eventually finished touring the second album and just had no idea what to do and we didn’t have any songs at all ready to demo and record so we spent a bit of time writing and trying to get something going but it just wasn’t happening. But eventually the songs started to flow, and it was because we took a different approach, we wanted to experiment and do something different. The first two albums being guitar-heavy we wanted to try more sounds, try out different band setups with keyboards and…

The saxophone…

Yeah yeah exactly, different instruments. 

I guess it’s very difficult to be always inspired, and produce new material all the time, so how do you keep yourself inspired? Is there something that keeps you always inspired? 

I think it’s about finding things that inspire you, listening to a lot of music, lots of different things. We also love cinema, we love films. We watchedloads of cinema and discussedit a lot. It’s also about putting yourself in the state of mind where you feel that you can create something rather than just sitting and waiting for inspiration to strike you up. It’s something I have realised throughout(?) the last couple of years, it’s that you have to be in themindset to catch those ideas because otherwise they just won’t come to you. 

On the new album, there are a few songs like ‘Teenage Love’ or ‘Prom Night’ which are related to high school and being a teenager, can you tell us about your teenage years? How was it growing up in Derbyshire? 

Yeah we grew up in quite a rural place, out in the sticks. So when we got to about 16 we went to Sheffield for sixth form and saw howthe other half lived in a way. We’d watched lots of films and TV and we had this idea of how other people had grown up,which we were interested in, and we were kind of isolated and like really wanted to move out and go somewhere else and see the world. I guess that sort of isolation got wrapped up in a lot of, like, young male teen angst and that’s sort of where this first album came from. And then the second one I suppose is a hangoverof that. 

Yeah because for me for example, as I was listening to you back in Paris, where I come from, your band was like the epitome of British kids, in the rural areas, getting drunk in the fields, listening to Drenge….With regards to Brexit and everything that goes with it, do you think your country is being torn apart? Do you see a growing divide between the city and the rural areas? 

I think people wanted to make their voices heardwith the Brexit vote, people who felt marginalised in society. I think that’s fairly obvious with all the cutsand everything that their voices weren’t being heard so theygave the politicians a response to that, which has now completely torn the country in two. It’s just horrible seeing this polarisation, this complete divide when only this summer for the first time in my life did I see some amazing, really uplifting patriotism in this country thanks to the World Cup, which is ridiculous!But it was so joyous, it was the nicest thing, you know, being able to celebrate with people you didn’t know, all because you were from the same country which seemslike horrible and weird to think about because it gets mixed up in a lot of right-wing things. And the Union Jack doesn’t necessarily show a positive image for a lot of people, or Saint George’s flag. It was just strange to feel like we are all part of the same country and be proud of it, and that now just completely dried up again and we’re still left with this horrible polarised country, which is really sad. 

How do you think you evolved as a band and if you had to have an overview of your work and yourself as a band? 

We started out, me and my brother just as two angry teenage kids who wanted to get out of our little village and play some music. We’ve been playing instruments since we’re about 4 so … very natural to do. And we go on stage and be like really stand-offish. And we didn’t really know how to talk to people. Through doing this constantly we’ve changed a lot as people and started to realise “You know, it’s not that bad, it’s not that everyone’s out to get you” and we really started enjoying it and wanting to experiment a lot more in our output and trying to branch out into different areas of art. We’ve been really involved in making music videos recently and we’re starting to come up with ideas for others things as well. It’s quite a difficult question to answer being on the inside of it but I think we’ve opened ourselves up as people with it, if that makes sense. And grown a lot more confident in ourselves, in our output.  

About the artwork for Strange Creatures, I guess it’s a strange creature on the album cover. Did you get the idea of the artwork before or the title? What came first? 

We had the title of the album from one of the first songs that we had finished, called ‘Strange Creatures’ and we were like “How are we gonna personify this album?” Andthere were loads of ideas that we hadaround. It’s something that we really care about, it’s getting the whole package right and we’ve always tried to make our artwork visually appealing. With the last record we saw we’d set the bar maybe too high for ourselves so we were a bit stressed-out and worried about what we were gonna do. But then we saw this poster from Mardi Gras in New Orleans that this artist had done and it was like this perfect mix of like scary, quite a spooky character, which is how we wanted it to be. That was the big word when making the album,we wanted things to be spooky. And also quite inviting and something that would make you question it. So we staged a kind of Renaissance era masked ball and got lots of friends in to this old hall that we’d rented out and then just kind of threw a party and then took lots of pictures and that one was one of the last ones that we took that day and it seemed the best one. 

If we were to talk about the music scene in the UK in general, is there a new band that you would recommend or that you really like? 

I’ve been listening to this band called Eyesore and the Jinx from Liverpool which someone recommended to me,I’m really intothem. And I’m excited for Crows’ new album as well, I think that’ll be good, a band from Sheffield I like. Precious Metals are good and my friend is in a band calledAll Girls I think their songs are really good. They’re about chicken nuggets, things like that. Yeah, check all them out. 

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