In Conversation: Drenge

Rocking brothers on what was, what will be, and World Cups...

It’s been a whirlwind year or so for brotherly duo Drenge. At the beginning of 2013, few beyond the gritty circles of the nation’s grottiest venues knew of Eoin and Rory Loveless, and their infectious brand of stripped-raw rock ‘n’ grunge. But come last summer, courtesy of their phenomenal eponymous debut LP (review) and a vote of confidence from outgoing Labour MP Tom Watson, you couldn’t shake their sizzling sounds. A month after their album’s release, they were sharing a studio with Kanye West, on the set of Later… With Jools Holland.

Quite the rise, basically.

So, what now? The festival season is upon us, and Drenge are hitting as many stages as they can – including three at this weekend’s Dot To Dot events in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham (details and competition). Dot To Dot is again partnered by Fred Perry Subculture, which encourages the emergence of new talent through a range of activities, as befits a brand with such a connection to British musical history. Clash called up Eoin to check in with the older Loveless brother about new recordings, the value of Dot To Dot-style festivals to new bands, and a small thing called the World Cup.

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Drenge, ‘Backwaters’

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Hello Eoin! So, where do I find you right now, in terms of band activity?

Right now we’re writing new songs, and then recording them.

Cracking. I’ve heard about That Sort Of Thing. And you’ve done it before, on the first album. Has the last year, ish, been something of a blur to the pair of you?

It’s been hard work, but it’s definitely been fun. I guess it has gone by in something of a flash, yeah.

How long have you been focusing on the writing of new material?

Any time that we’ve had off, over the past year, has just been spent in our practice room, trying to write our next bunch of ‘greatest hits’, I guess. We’ve had one song kicking about for about a year, and we’ve played it live a lot. We’re really proud of it, but we wanted to make sure that it fitted on an album. But I guess, despite the distorted guitars and the shouting, we’re ultimately a pop band. And I find great pleasure in writing that kind of accessible music, only to distort it at the last second.

You’ve got Dot To Dot coming up. Do you have a lot of experience of these city-based, multi-venue festivals?

Earlier this year we did both Liverpool Sound City and Live At Leeds – we passed on The Great Escape this year, but we played it last year. So yeah, we’ve done this sort of thing before. Dot To Dot is cool, because it’s got the touring line-up aspect to it, which always excites me. The logistics of having lots of bands stopping off at the same service stations, arguing over what sandwiches they’re gonna get from M&S. Like, we stopped off at services between Liverpool and Leeds, and it was just full of bands.

The introduction of M&S at motorway services pretty much saved touring as we know it, didn’t it? There were only so many Ginsters pasties that any vocalist can take…

Yeah, it is welcome – but M&S is draining on the finances. You can get a pretty basic sandwich fairly cheaply still, though, like an egg and cress for £1.75 or something like that. They do put out those yellow discount stickers, but it’s never on anything you need. Like, we’ve gone into M&S and come out with loads of jelly and custard, and weird things that we just don’t need.

I’m now imagining you travelling in a convoy with these other bands, and you’re at the back as the pudding van… But anyway. Dot To Dot and the other events you’ve mentioned – they’re quite important for helping to bring new British talent through, aren’t they?

They are, yeah. The stages tend to be pretty well managed, so that if you show up to one venue you can just stay there. I feel a bit sorry for the journalists that we run into, who have to dash between stages, seeing 30 seconds of a band they want to see before having to leg it elsewhere.

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Drenge, ‘Bloodsports’

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Are there any acts that really catch your eye – or ears, for that matter – on the Dot To Dot bill?

I hope to be able to see a few bands. We’re playing late on in the day, so there’s no real rush to get there, but there are bands lower down the bill who I would like to see. Like, Bad Grammar and Brown Brogues are two that I’m keen on; likewise Peace, who we’re on just before. We played some dates with them at the end of last year, which were a bit of fun. I don’t know how they’re feeling about a reunion, mind. There are others – Wolf Alice are great up-and-comers.

Do you feel there’s a good, healthy crop of British bands right now, out to support each other, rather than getting overly competitive?

I guess so. We have friends who play music at the festivals we’re also playing at, which is nice. That doesn’t mean there’s no backbiting, or bitchy comments that get thrown around. But there is a healthy, friendly, young bands scene… No, wait. I don’t want to say scene. There’s just a bunch of good bands around now, who all sound different but who get along with each other.

You and your brother are pretty young – born in 1991 and 1993 – so I’m curious as to how much you remember of 1998. I ask because you list “ENG. Vs ARG. 1998” (watch the agony) as one of your influences, on your website. Was that a real football ‘moment’ for you?

I would have been six at the time of that World Cup. It’s there, because I don’t think we’ve ever learned a faster, or more painful lesson in injustice. It’s a World Cup year again now, and… Well, back then, that was the first time I’d actively got into football. I went to a sports camp, and I got a football smack in the face, but that didn’t stop my interest in the World Cup. And yeah, England losing like that, on penalties, was very… disappointing.

People remember Beckham’s sending off, but tend to forget the chance that Paul Scholes had to make it 3-1. Sitter, so it was. Could have killed the game.

It was full of moments. Michael Owen’s wonder goal. Sol Campbell’s disallowed goal in the second half. It’d gone in.

I think it was ruled out because Alan Shearer had been a bit pushy, or something. So are you excited about this summer’s tournament, then?

It is going to be good. I’m looking forward to 2am football somewhere – I don’t know where I’m gonna be. Is it England against Italy at 2am?

I think it changed to 11pm.

Right. I was watching that Bear Grylls: The Island on the telly with my mum the other day, and there were a lot of adverts on encouraging you to get your crates in for the football. And my mum said, “But it’s not football again… is it?” So I felt sorry for her. I suppose it’s pretty inescapable. But I get quite excited about it.

And just to return to the new material, presumably everything is going as you’d hope it would? Are you seeing any notable progression of any kind?

It’s all going in the right direction, I think. I hope so! I don’t want to say anything aggressively over confident, like how we’ve invented a new genre or something. Because we haven’t! We’re not straying too far from the formula, but we’re trying to be a bit more on point with what I’m saying, lyrically. Musically, we’re trying to be a bit more coherent. I think that’s the word here: ‘coherent’.

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Drenge, 'Nothing'

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‘Drenge’ is out now, obviously. Find more information on the band at their official website. More on Dot To Dot, partnered by Fred Perry Subculture, here.

Enter our Dot To Dot ticket competition here.

Related: Drenge On Film, discussing their own music videos

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