Band of Skulls Interview at Bonnaroo
I was lucky enough to attend this year’s tenth anniversary of the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN with a press pass again. Thanks to http://www.inforoo.com where I’ve been a moderator for 5 years now. My partner and I had some time to interview all three members of Band of Skulls. If you aren’t familiar with them you should check out their album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. It’s a couple years old, but as you’ll read in the interview, they are pretty well along with their new album, due sometime in the near future.
This is your first time at Bonnaroo, what’s your impression of the fest as a whole?
Russel: “Yeah, it’s our first time at this festival. It’s sort of a baptism by fire. It’s quite literally the hottest show we’ve ever done. I think the heat sort of adds to the atmosphere.”
How is Bonnaroo different from European festivals or festivals you guys have played in the past?
Matt: “This is more of a European type festival. We’ve played Coachella and Lollapalooza in the past, and yeah, Bonnaroo definitely has a more European vibe to it, with the atmosphere and everything. Yeah, it’s been great, really awesome.”
Have you seen anyone else? Who are you excited to see?
Emma: “I caught a bit of The Walkmen last night and Sleigh Bells were amazing. Looking forward to seeing My Morning Jacket. There’s loads, Bootsy Collins is playing, excited to see him. We’ve got the whole weekend to hang out and see people.”
At your show last night, you played a lot of new songs. What are your plans for the new album? When’s it coming out? What can we expect?
Russel: “We’re working on it. This is like a break for us from recording. We’re going to go back in the studio when we get home and finish it off. However long it takes to get it all worked out, but it’s coming together quite strongly now. Yeah, it was great last night to try out the new songs on a huge audience and check your work. It was a great feeling to know that the songs aren’t broken.”
A lot of the new songs we heard last night seemed to have a bit of a more straight forward Rock N’ Roll sound to them, whereas your last album was tinged with the blues. How would you describe your progression from your first album to this new one?
Russel: “I mean it’s always going to change a little bit because things change for us as a band. I definitely think playing in front of larger venues has opened up our minds to what’s possible. Things are written for our three-piece and it’s just exploring that. Yeah, it’s a little heavier in some places, but it has some softer moments. I think the balance will be sort of a bigger version of our last record. As for the blues, I think it’s just different ways of using that whole feel, that whole sound, it’s exciting for us to experiment with.”
I’ve been wondering how you guys decide who sings on what song. Is that something that gets decided in the writing process or does it get worked out when you’re recording?
Emma: “It’s just whatever works the best really. We all write lyrics and melodies, so it’s usually who’s voice sounds the best at whichever part. You know, if someone is straining to sing a chorus, the other one will take over. There’s a lot more unison, with us both singing on this new album. It’s been interesting to kind of fatten up the sound of it.”
You released your current album exclusively on iTunes, when it first came out. What made you decide to do that? Do you feel that was a good method to get your music out there, more so then putting out a physical album?
Russel: “It was an opportunity that we were sort of presented with. We realized that if we did that we’d have to hit the ground running and that there wasn’t going to be a slow, slow build up. We had to have some other songs ready and have the show ready. It was a bit of a risk, but we did it. Yeah, it wasn’t the defining moment, but it was a very positive start. We got the album to a lot of people very quickly. It went live one morning and that was it. It went from songs only being heard by us and our producer, to days later it was out. It was exciting.”
You’ve lent out many of your songs to various commercials, TV shows, soundtracks, and video games. Do you feel like that’s something that has helped you gain notoriety and get your songs recognized?
Russel: “I just think that, it’s really difficult to survive as a band. So if you get a chance to get your music out to people, there are lots of opportunities to. It’s not so much that people are buying records anymore, and sometimes it’s difficult to get alternative music onto the mainstream radio. So yeah, people discovering you, it can happen anywhere, and for our first album it was quite important.”
How do you feel about albums leaking before they’re released?
Emma: “There’s sort of an excitement before a record comes out. If it gets leaked, I mean, people are going to hear it anyway. Hopefully if people like it they’ll go out and buy it when it comes out.”
What have you guys grown up listening to? What have been your influences?
Russel: “There are some things that are all the same with us. The Stones and The Beatles and all that sort of classic rock stuff. It was basically our parents’ record collection. Mine went from punk to Pink Floyd, which I think, my taste probably sits somewhere between the two.”
Emma: “My mom had a lot of solo singer/songwriters like Carole King and James Taylor. My dad was more into bluesy kinds of music, so we had a lot of old blues records. We had a lot of BB King, Stones, and Beatles, so it was a good mix.”
You guys have toured with Muse, Dead Weather, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Do you guys have more fun on a tour where you’re opening for a bigger band, or when you’re doing your own headlining tour?
Matt: “Yeah, it can be more fun to open for a larger band because you’re done by nine o’clock and you have the rest of the night to relax and enjoy the other band. Headlining you kind of have to sit around, wait, and get nervous. Yeah it definitely has its benefits. Plus, when you play with someone else, they’re not your crowd, so you sort of have a blank canvas to try and steal as many of their fans as possible and win them over.”
How do you guys keep your energy up playing gigs every night on a long tour?
Russel: “I don’t know really…..Beer.”
Emma: “Beer and sweets.”
Russel: “That’s in America. In Europe it’s more like cheese and meats. Yeah, it sort of depends really. Every day is sort of timed out. It’s like a science experiment. Eat at the right time. Drink at the right time. Get terrified at the right time. You just sort of have to get it all worked out every day.”
Where do you guys hope to be as a band in another five years?
Russel: “Well, you know, we’ve been a band for a while and I’d really love to still be doing this in five years’ time. Yeah, we’ve definitely not explored everything we want to, and we’re in no rush. We’re definitely looking forward to it…..here, here at Bonnaroo.”