Interview: Sleekly Lion
Photography: Tom Halliday
In just a short space of time Rolo Tomassi have gone from the hardcore kids at the foot of an indie bill, to a mighty headline rock act in their own right. Their explosive performances alongside the likes of Biffy Clyro, The Bronx and Enter Shikari have spread their music wide, bringing in legions of fans from some unlikely sources.
Perhaps most unlikely of all was producer Diplo. Having produced for everyone from Britney Spears and most famously M.I.A, it feels strange to now include Rolo Tomassi in that list, after he took control on their latest album Cosmology. Fans can rest assured, though, because it’s still the same old Tomassi, who we recently caught up with before they took the stage at our Camden Crawl event.
So then, do any of the band skate?
A few of us messed around with skating when we were younger but never really pursued it. I was never really into it but Ed skated for a while. I remember once trying to come down a ramp, the board going from underneath my feet and smashing the side of my head on the hard edge of the ramp. I was put off after that!
Everything seems to be going well for Rolo Tomassi right now, are you excited to be playing larger stages?
We’re excited about everything. We have some pretty big shows coming up with festivals and whatnot and also some cool smaller shows too.
How was the recent tour?
It was great yeah. We were out for a week opening for Biffy Clyro with The Twilight Sad also playing. We got on really well with both bands and the shows were all great.
How would you account for your crossover success in, for example, the indie press, given the amount of heavier music that is virtually ignored?
It’s a difficult thing to pinpoint. I guess the fact that we don’t really look like we play in a heavy band helps, as lame as it is to consider that the way our band looks should even matter.
Having supported some bands that sound quite different to yourselves, you must have played to some pretty unresponsive crowds. Do you alter your performance to cater to different audiences?
I wouldn’t say we change anything about the performance but we might choose to play different songs. The Biffy tour was a good example of that. We used it as an opportunity to play almost entirely new material as we knew the majority of crowds wouldn’t know our band and we wanted to introduce people to our music with the new direction we’re going in.
What are the best and worst gigs that you’ve played so far?
We’ve been fortunate to have played a lot of amazing shows. I really don’t think I could pick a favourite! Recent shows that have been great would include our set at Great Escape last weekend, our headline show in Glasgow and the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool supporting Biffy. I tend to put a mental block on bad shows so I don’t realy remember any particularly bad ones.
What band have you had to follow on stage that you thought could be quite a difficult task after their stunning performance?
Trash Talk. They were consistently brilliant when we toured with them.
You worked with Diplo on the new record, how was the experience in the studio in LA?
It was unreal. We’ve only ever recorded locally before so to go to the other side of the world was ridiculous. He was great to work with and we’re all really pleased with the record.
What were you hoping he would bring to the table, rather than, for example, an experienced rock producer?
Just a different outlook on doing things. I think it would have been an easy choice to go with a more obvious rock producer but we would have made a more obvious rock record. We wanted to challenge ourselves and move outside our comfort zone.
Lyrically what does this record tackle the most?
The lyrics are about the experiences we’ve had on the road inbetween releasing Hysterics and beginning the writing of Cosmology. We spend a lot of our time in vans so theres plenty of time to think and get pretty philosophical with things. A lot of it, from what I wrote, deals with self assessment.
How do Eva’s vocals withstand the strenuous studio sessions and live battering?
She does a vocal warm up and looks after herself.
Any other band members other than Eva dating other band members?
No. Those of us who have girlfriends are all dating people who are studying!
How does Cosmology differ to the first album? And how do you feel about Hysterics now that the dust has settled?
Cosmology is a much more rounded and complete album. Hysterics was us trying to learn how to write an album. Looking back at it, Hysterics is definitely flawed in some areas but it means it served us well as a learning curve when coming to write the new record. That’s not to say we’re not proud of what Hysterics did for us. I don’t think we could have made a better album at that point in time.
Does it feel good to read articles about your band these days that don’t mention your age or is that still a ‘thing’ for journalists?
It seems to be mentioned less and less but it will still occasionally get brought up. Eva turned 20 recently so none of us are teenagers any more!
What other bands/records are you all excited about at the moment?
I’m really pumped about the Fang Island record. It’s so posi it’s ridiculous!
Did you all vote in the recent election?
I think 3 of us did. We were away during the run up to the election and I didn’t find time to register to vote. I’m not trying to make an excuse for myself as I’m pretty embarrassed about it.
What’s your take on the hung parliament?
It’s not the best thing that could have happened. I think it’s too soon to judge. A lot of people were seriously freaking out about Cameron being made PM. It was almost like the ‘About Last Night‘ episode of South Park that mocked the American election with supporters of other parties thinking the world would end the following day. That’s not to say AT ALL that I was backing him. Purely an observation. I think only time will tell with whats happened.
Pick 3 artists/songs that you would play David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg to sum up their characters…
Gordon Brown: ‘It wasn’t me’ – Shaggy
David Cameron: ‘Eton Rifles’ – The Jam
Nick Clegg: ‘The Kids Are Alright’ – The Who
New record is out, we have a bunch of festival dates coming up. Check out our blog. Thanks to everyone who reads this!
Here’s some words with Rolo Tomassi from the Crossfire hosted Camden Crawl at the Barfly this year.