Sweet Sour: Band Of Skulls

The difficult second album...

Southampton-based three-piece Band of Skulls (Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward) enjoyed a meteoric rise after debut album ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’ was released to widespread acclaim. That record, coupled with support slots for the likes of Dead Weather, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Muse, exposed the band to numbers that saw their Twitter followers fast approaching a quarter of a million.

Having now got the difficult second album out from under their belt (titled ‘Sweet Sour’, due out in February) the band are looking forwards to a UK tour which will finish with a headline show at London’s Roundhouse. For Band Of Skulls, things are going nowhere but up. We repeat: meteoric rise.

ClashMusic writer Sam Ballard caught up with Matt Hayward from the band to find out about the journey so far.

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How would you say this album is different to Baby Darling Doll Face Honey?
Matt: When we made the first one there was no deal in place and really we were making it for ourselves. There was a lot less focus. This one has been a lot more considered. We’ve been touring pretty solidly for the last two years and have got a lot better at our instruments and the record shows the other side of what we do a lot better – away from our louder side.

‘Considered’ in what sense?
Matt: Every part was gone through with a fine toothcomb. Nothing is in there that shouldn’t be and, because we’re now a lot more experienced in the studio, we’ve taken that knowledge and applied it to the record. It’s got bigger. We’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands that were a lot bigger than us and we’ve learnt a lot from them – putting on a bigger show and watching bands like Muse or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – when we’re such big fans – has been fascinating.

And you’ve got your headline tour coming up – who’s supporting you?
Matt: We’ve got a band called Broken Hands supporting our UK tour, who are a great band – great musicians and great guys. We finished up our European tour with them and decided that we’d give them this one too.

You say that your sound has changed on the new album, would you say that your writing has changed too?
Matt: We have a very strange process that we go through when we write a song. It’s very much the three of us that put a song together and we’re a lot quicker and better at understanding parts than before when we were shooting in the dark a lot of the time. Everyone has their strengths in different areas.

What is the process?
Matt: We all go away and work on parts ourselves and get them to a certain point and pass them around and work on each other’s ideas. I’d come up with a guitar riff and give it to Russell who would work on it in his own way, or Emma could have a melody and we’ll piece it together and the best ideas win. It’s a weird one because only the three of us can do this but it works for us.

So it’s individual but very much a collaboration?
Matt: Yeah. I think if an idea has been worked on too much by one person we don’t feel that it’s a ‘band song’ you know? It’s their own song. When you get an idea to a certain point you put it into the machine and then see what comes out of it.

Band Of Skulls – The Devil Takes Care Of His Own

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Why is it called Sweet Sour?
Matt: It’s named after the first song of the record but it’s one of those things that we’ve struggled with. We went through a lot of the song lyrics and titles and this was the one that best suited the process of making the record. It wasn’t the easiest to make.

So the album was a struggle?
Matt: Yeah it was bloody horrible! We’d been touring for so long and then we went straight a studio in Norfolk and it was like – go on then, write your second record. And everybody was tired and we’d spent way too much time together, along with drinking habits. It was just a bit of a mess and the pressure we put on ourselves was really heavy – trying to force ideas through – we’ve obviously never made a second record before so it was all getting to us a bit. We decided to take a break over Christmas, spend some time with the family, and after that we went back to our little studio in Southampton and things fell into place. It was a massive sigh of relief.

What are you listening to right now?
Matt: Russell and I don’t listen to new music while we’re recording because we don’t like the idea of things influencing us. We want to come up with our own material naturally. So when the last Radiohead album came out we wouldn’t listen to it because we knew it would creep into something that we’d make and we wanted to keep it pure. Emma would be far better at answering this question than me! She’s listening to the new Tom Waits album a lot right now.

What’s next?
Matt: We’re going to be on tour with the Black Keys in February and then we’ve got our own tour around the UK, ending at the Roundhouse. After that we head to the States. The touring just carries on – after that it’s festival season!

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Band Of Skulls are set to release ‘Sweet Sour’ on February 20th.

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