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- Posted on Mar 6th 2010 8:00AM by Stephen Dowling
Despite the horned helmet moniker -- and the sometimes crushing volume of their music -- Southampton's Band of Skulls have more in common with Jack White/Alison Mosshart project the Dead Weather than they do with Norwegian death metal. After all, they can partly thank the British art school tradition for developing their sensibilities. No devil worship going on here.
"We all sort of went to art school with differing commitment levels and success rates. Emma [Richardson, bass] went and got a really nice degree, I went for a while and decided, well, got thrown out because I was an idiot," admits singer Russell Marsden ruefully.
Drummer Matt Hayward says, "I never actually signed up for art school but I just used to hang out."
"Matt liked the kind of girls that went there," says Marsden, laughing. "We were all in that environment for sure, it was exciting times really and it gave us the freedom to tinker around with music."
Hearing Band of Skulls' music for the first time, you can't help but wonder if this trio are disciples of Jack White -- the likes of 'Friends' certainly sounds like this three-piece know their way round the likes of 'White Blood Cells' and 'Elephant.' But Band of Skulls' take on electric blues goes back much further.
"We were playing the blues, that style of music, since we could play the guitar. Matt was 11 years old and I was a couple of years older. We were listening to Hendrix," says Marsden.
"I used to come and watch them rehearse and sit on the couch and I'd just be playing blues solo for like four hours non stop and it wouldn't be boring, we'd be having a great time," says Richardson.
What Band of Skulls will agree on, however, is a liking for the analogue recording techniques White has helped bring back to the fore. "Some of the best sounds are from some of the older records," says Marsden. "In the 70's probably got the best production sounds. How good can you make a bass drum sound in a rock band? We'd probably go back to that. And in the end, it's just a couple of amps and a drum kit, quite simple ingredients really. We're not set out to be old school or anything, that's just the purest way of doing it for us at the moment."
Their debut album 'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey' was recorded in Radiohead's original studio in Oxford -- now mostly used to store the various bits and bobs of the band. "It was funny, they used the place to have all their s--- delivered to them,'" says Hayward. "Everyday day there were like 10 gold records that turned up. Delivery for Radiohead."
Marsden continues, "At the moment when you think 'Oh, were doing pretty well were in a sweet studio' a box of gold records comes and just puts you back in your place. They had quite a lot of gear being delivered as well. We were at that time using guitars held together with gaffer tape and stuff. We got put in our place by Radiohead."
'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey' came out last year and it wasn't long before Hollywood came a-calling. The track 'Friends' cropped up on the soundtrack to fang-centric blockbuster 'New Moon',' alongside the likes of Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Muse. Not a situation to be sniffed at -- especially when the track in question wasn't even included on their album...
"We wrote it when we were writing the record and we kind of ran out of time really for that song to be included," Richardson says. "So it sort of sneaked on to a CD, landing on the desk of someone."
"If we had more time, it probably would have ended up with a different time signature, a brass section," says Marsden. "It's the first version we did of the song. It's interesting for us. From the time it was finished when it came out was quite a short turnaround, an interesting surprise to read in the newspaper."
Band of Skulls tour the US this month with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.