The trumpet-toting sorts return...

Trumpet-toting fellows The Rumble Strips are back. Fresh from Mark Ronson fingering their brass on upcoming second album ‘Welcome To The Walk Alone’, the Devonshire lads are hell bent on conquering the country, one sax-starved heart at a time.

Clash catches up with Rumblers Charlie Waller and Sam Mansbridge prior to the band’s gig in Chatham, Kent, and talks festivals, the “weed smoking” West Country and the influence of Vanilla Ice and Gary Glitter on the band...

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The Rumble Strips, live and acoustic in Dundee (1/2)

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It’s been a while since 2007’s ‘Girls and Weather’ debut. How does it feel to be back in the UK touring the new material?
C: It’s been really good. The last few tours with the last album we were so busy, it didn’t feel as exciting as it used to, you know. But now because we had a break and wrote stuff it’s exciting again to play. You kind of forget all the things you love about touring. It’s been a real laugh.

The new album is produced by Mark Ronson, how did that come about?
C: We did a remix of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ for a B-side, and he asked me to sing at the Electric Proms with him doing that song, and we ended up touring with him and stuff. First he said, “I’ll produce a couple of songs on your next album.” But he ended up doing it all. And we’re going through his label now in America.

Some people see Mark Ronson’s work as taking classic songs, adding a few horns and killing them, but what has his producing brought to the record?
S: He definitely had an idea about how he wanted it to sound. Certainly for the drums, he kind of built the sound around this particular technique of drums. And obviously coming in fresh, he sort of sat down and listened to the songs, and trimmed off bits. But he’s no megalomaniac, he doesn’t come in and insist it has to be ‘this way’, but he’s got ideas. It might not work, but he’s quite open for it to not sound good and therefore do something else.

Mark Ronson famously produced Amy Winehouse’s album, and since then she’s had an infamous fall from grace. Can you promise us that won’t happen to the band?
C: That won’t happen no, Amy’s quite young, we’re old buggers.
S: He’s got a lot of influential friends though, who tried to lead us astray when we were out there. We had this steady procession of pimps and pushers coming in the studio. But we were more interested in watching American TV.

What are your festival plans for the summer? You’ve been confirmed for the Great Escape, but there have been rumours about the Camden Crawl and Glastonbury… is that all signed and sealed now?
C: I think so yeah. There’s talk of Reading and Leeds, but I don’t know if that’s definite yet.
S: Latitude might be happening, and maybe Bestival. I’m looking forward to that.

How do you find playing festivals?
C: There was one year when we did nearly 30. We’d go to a festival, play, then drive to another festival and play. We did start to get sick of them, you know. But when you can go and stay for the weekend it’s brilliant. That’s why Bestival is always a really good laugh – it’s right at the end of the festival season, everyone has a party.

Do you think it is essential now as a band to use things like MySpace, YouTube and Twitter to engage with your fans, or is the expectation to do it a burden?
C: I don’t know, I really have no part in that at all. I only really recently started to go on the internet and stuff, like a real fucking old-fashioned bastard. I haven’t got a telephone or anything! Matt (Wheeler, drums) is really good at computers, and Henry (Clarke, trumpet/piano), so they’re always talking to people on the web and posting blogs and things. But I never even look at the MySpace.

Is keeping fans posted of every little thing they’re doing through the internet key to a band’s success nowadays?
S: Only if you’re posting things actually via the band. It’s bullshit if a record company exec fills out blogs from the band.
C: From a personal point of view I kind of feel there’s too much information about everybody, it kind of ruins the mystery for me. I remember when I was a kid and would buy a record, like when I first bought the Adam and the Ants record. All I had was the record and pictures on the sleeve. You build up in your mind what they’re like, and a kid’s imagination is much more exciting than the truth. But... I dunno, maybe I’m just a bit backward.

You’re not what people would class as a ‘generic’ indie band. Is this something you intended, or was brass just something you grew up with?
C: It kind of was I suppose, as Tom (Gorbutt, bass/sax) and Henry grew up with brass. There are a lot of ska bands in the West Country, so they played in quite a lot of ska bands. Reggae and ska is just really big for some reason down there, they’re just kind of stuck in this bubble that doesn’t know what the hell is going on in the rest of the world... just listening to Bob Marley and smoking weed.
S: We just used all the instruments everyone could play. You know whatever you can play can add to the sound. It started just with Charlie hitting a drum, Tom playing clarinet...
C: And a guy on a kind of gay keyboard, it was quite a weird burn.

You all come from Devon, but have lived in London for quite a long time: do you see yourselves as a Devon or a London band?
C: I kind of think of us as a London band. We are all from Devon, but the band started in London and we’d never really played together anywhere else.
S: I only moved up to London recently. But it’s almost like, fuck Devon. It’s been a pain in the ass, hasn’t done us any favours recently. Every time we go back and play gigs there it’s not a massive homecoming or anything, it’s better in towns like this (Chatham).

Devon may have produced Muse and, er, Joss Stone, but it hasn’t quite got the musical heritage of somewhere like Manchester in terms of a scene. How do you rate it?
S: I suppose coming from somewhere like that, you are isolated if you don’t like what’s around you, ska, reggae and stuff. So you do something different than in the cities because you have no connection to it. There was quite a lot of good music happening when we were younger...
C: But it was 15 year olds, it wasn’t like anything you’d hear, and it’s not like there are record companies in Devon, so no one really got anywhere.
S: And it is the typical thing to move up to London, but most of the bands just disappear after that. The thing is no one goes down [to the West Country].
C: It’s not really on the circuit, and it’s quite rare that the bigger bands will have it on their tour list. I went to see The Prodigy in Plymouth when I was younger, that was pretty good. When something does come down it’s really exciting. Exeter, bands go there sometimes, but they never go further down.
S: Vanilla Ice didn’t have a clue what he was doing!
C: Yeah, I saw Vanilla Ice at Cornwall Coliseum, it was amazing. It was my first ever gig! It was bizarre, I don’t know why the hell he was playing Cornwall.
S: Ash played down there... and Gary Glitter.
C: Gary Glitter, saw him as well. I went with my mum to see Gary Glitter!

So in terms of early influences you’ve got The Prodigy, Vanilla Ice and Gary Glitter?
C: (laughs) Yeah, yeah... it’s the big three!

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The Rumble Strips, live and acoustic in Dundee (2/2)

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The Rumble Strips’ new album ‘Welcome To The Walk Alone’ is released via Island on June 8; get a free download of new track 'London' HERE. Find the band on MySpace HERE.

Videos shot exclusively for by Robin Murray.
Words: Sam Rowe


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