Rolo Tomassi exploded onto the country’s rock scene in 2008 with their phenomenal debut album ‘Hysterics’, arriving after a couple of years of hard touring and a self-titled EP released in late 2006.
The Sheffield five-piece’s furious fusion of hardcore histrionics and ambitious jazz-minded innovation won them fans aplenty once the nation’s rock press picked up on their singular sound. Touchstones are there – The Locust, Dillinger Escape Plan, Refused, At The Drive-In – but no British band of late has caused quite as much of a stir at such a young age.
Because Rolo Tomassi’s success is even more impressive given they’re not all out of their teens, vocalist Eva Spence only turning 18 in the spring of ’08. But already their vision is clear, and achievements amassing. And there’s surely more to come in 2009, both on record and across the world’s stages.
Clash invited the band – completed by Eva’s brother James on vocals and keys, Joseph Thorpe on bass, drummer Edward Dutton and guitarist Joe Nicholson – to keep a diary of their year-ending tour dates in December ’08. Here’s the result…
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11th December, Oxford Academy
James: We began what was our seventh UK tour of the year in Oxford playing with Foals. This was the first of two nights that they played at the Academy as part of a sort of homecoming after all the touring they've done, so the mood was pretty excited. We were second on, played to a packed-out room and had a fantastic time at the show. The Foals gents had gone all out on super tech lighting and, although uncomfortable due to the near unbearable heat in the venue, it was a brilliant stage show to watch.
We dropped in at the Big Scary Monsters Christmas Party afterwards and caught up with our friends before going to Bar Love for an afterparty that Edwin Foals DJ'd at. I got suitably incoherent before we made our way back to the Travelodge.
12th December, Tunbridge Wells Forum
James: Having been pretty hoarse the previous day, in retrospect going out after the show and drinking wasn't the best plan. I could barely speak for most of the day and when it came to actually playing my throat just about held up. A highlight of the day was definitely the meal we had. Our tour manager Finian is a huge fan of curries and we all went to a curry house together before the show, which is always a really nice thing to do on tour
13th December, Aldershot West End Centre
James: Today was the first day we would be joining The Ghost of a Thousand and The Casino Brawl so everyone in camp Tomassi was suitably excited. We got to Aldershot fairly early and spent the majority of the day in a pub. Arsenal disappointingly drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough in a fairly average match and the bet I put on didn't come off so I was mildy annoyed but it was more to do with boredom. There didn't seem to be an awful lot to do in Aldershot...
There was a really decent turnout for the gig and TGOAT were on top form tonight. I hadn't seem them live since much earlier this year and the new material sounds absolutely banging. We played okay but my voice is still incredibly sketchy.
14th December, Exeter Cavern
Ed: Our second of the Ghost of a Thousand dates took us to Exeter. We arrived pretty early so collectively caught up on a bit of Christmas shopping. Eventually we all met at the Cavern! It's a pretty nice venue. Quite cosy. There was WiFi for the geeks within the Tomassi camp, and we got fed very well. Because of the small amount of space, I ended up sharing Mem's bass drum, which meant I played a beautiful looking sparkly yellow, blue and white drum kit! The show itself was pretty good. We all expected a smallish turnout with it being a cold Sunday night December. But it filled up. And it seemed that almost everyone there bought merch off at least one of the bands, which is awesome! So overall, Exeter was a lovely evening.
15th December, Manchester Satan’s Hollow
Ed: We had a lengthy drive back up to the north in the rain. Satan's Hollow is visually, the most interesting venue I have ever been in! The ceiling is covered in daemons and devils and shit. Our backstage area was a large cage. And the stage was in the middle of the room! Which I guess was cool, but I could not get use to the fact that people were watching me drum from behind.
After the show, we went out to some nice bar. The Ghost of a Thousand boys met us there, and the fun continued. It was sweet for everyone to hang out together in a non-gig environment. We drank and played Pro Evolution Soccer on a big screen. I had a lovely night.
16th December, Glasgow King Tut's
Ed: Nearly everyone I know in a band loves King Tut's as a venue. I think it's mainly because of the soup you get before your meal. It's the little things that please us in Rolo Tomassi. The only problem now is that a limiter has been installed meaning that the sound can be nowhere near loud!
Luckily for us, super Finian the soundman managed to make it sound wicked on stage, making it all the more comfortable on stage.
After sound check, the Ghost boys pointed us up the production office where about 20 crates of Rockstar energy drink had been sent for them! They told us to help ourselves, so that we did! We all had about three cans each before playing. Needless to say Glasgow was a good one for us. A very good one! Despite its effects on the gut, this drink would play a great part in the days to come.
17th December, Birmingham Barfly
James: Having just about got my voice back I was ready to face Birmingham. The show had set itself up to be a good one. Having cancelled our last show in Birmingham to do our BBC Electric Proms session I was hoping that 1) we hadn't pissed people off and 2) people would come again and be excited. Well, they came, but unfortunately we were quite off the mark…
Joe's footswitch didn't work in the first song so when we were supposed to drop in heavy it kind of just plodded along. A lot of our equipment is broken. Both my keyboards, lots of Joe's guitar setup. Even so, we tried our best to make sure it didn't get in our way and I still thoroughly enjoyed playing. I just hope we weren't judged too much on tonight’s performance!
18th December, London Borderline
James: Having conveniently stayed across the road from a Sainsbury’s, we had our supermarket cafe fill and made our way down to London. Upon arriving at the venue no-one appeared to be inside and because of how central Borderline is I decided to do a little bit of Christmas shopping. I'd only ever been to Borderline when it was open as a club and the room's pretty decent so I was excited to be playing there. And the show totally lived up to expectations…
It was close to capacity and everyone was having a sweet time despite our brief technical troubles with microphones. With it being their first London headline show for a good while the GOAT guys had a great night too. It's been a good while since I've seen stage diving to that degree! A thoroughly good night.
19th December, Brighton Freebutt
Joseph: At this point I think we're fairly worn out but still continuing to enjoy this tour immensely. After doing an interview for Artrocker I had to nip to the van to get us all some of the now infamous Ghost of a Thousand Rockstar drinks so that we were more like animated corpses rather than lumps of inanimate meat.
Today is my 20th birthday it feels weird not being a teenager anymore. I've spent half of today sleeping and the other half feeling pretty rough. On the plus side I've spent loads of money on things purely for me, including two Weezer albums to make winter more summery. Ed says now I'm 20 I need to think like a 20 year old which means drinking lots of Jägermeister while people chant my name. I disagreed.
The gig wasn't too great for me today mainly because the Freebutt stage is shaped like a wedge of cheese, meaning I had zero room for any rock maneuvering. Ghost of a Thousand were one of the best bands I've seen for ages tonight - great fun, and a great end to a great tour partnership.
20th December, London Scala (Underage Festival Christmas Party)
Joseph: Today is a sad day because we will not be joining The Casino Brawl and Ghost of a Thousand in making a mockery of the term 'heavy metal'. I keep wanting to hear Ghost playing 'Back in Black' by AC/DC but no such luck.
Despite not being that much older than them, all these people seem very young, making me feel like I shouldn't really be there, like people's older siblings coming to post-GCSE house parties. The stage is MASSIVE and the sound is TERRIBLE on stage, but I think most of the people there didn't know who we were although James got some 'whoo-hoos' when he was checking his vocals.
In our last song I got all Dillinger Escape Plan and jumped off a monitor onto the heads of some small and unfortunately placed girls. "The best thing you've ever done," was the reaction I got off two people which led me to think up until this point I've been wasting my time. The venue was quite cross. I hope I didn't hurt anybody.
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‘Hysterics’ is out now on Hassle. Rolo Tomassi tour the UK as part of Shred Yr Face 2, featuring both Fucked Up and The Bronx. Dates as follows…
02 CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
03 NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms (get Nottingham tickets)
04 LONDON Electric Ballroom
05 BRIGHTON Concorde (get Brighton tickets)
06 BIRMINGHAM Academy (get Birmingham tickets)
Photo: Tom Barnes