Interview: Eoin Loveless of Drenge

By on Monday, 25th January 2016 at 11:00 am
 

If they aren’t already, Sheffield-based Drenge are a band that should be on your radar. The trio from Castleton, Derbyshire, have been gaining a significant amount of traction over the past 3 years since the release of their self-titled debut: a raw, grunge filled masterpiece Cobain himself would be proud of. They’re now heading out on tour again, as part of the NME awards tour alongside Bloc Party, RAT BOY and MC Bugzy Malone, and in support of their second record ‘Undertow’, a more polished, but still savage sophomore statement. Ahead of the tour, which starts in Cardiff this Friday, the 29th of January, I had the opportunity to speak with vocalist/guitarist Eoin Loveless about changes to Drenge’s music going forward.

The addition of bassist Rob Graham, a long time friend and figure in their career, has allowed the Drenge sound to progress from a monstrous duo to a mammoth trio. This is something Eoin felt necessary: “It’s not really a band if there’s only two people in it…if there’s one person playing on a stage, then it’s just them playing music, if there’s two people playing music then it’s just two people playing with each other. But if there’s three, you need to start lending your hearing around the room a bit more. That’s where I think the traits of a band, like listening and being aware of what’s going on around you musically, that’s when those skills tend to get tested”.

‘Undertow’ is a cleaner effort, for lack of a better word. While their self-titled debut saw a new dawning for grunge/punk, 2015’s ‘Undertow’ built upon this, seeing the sound become more monstrous and, at times, sinister. In terms of contextualising the second record, Eoin came up with a rather pleasing metaphor. “Think of the first record like a car, and then the second record like a polished car…the next car/album will have…hydraulics…” Though there are currently no plans for the follow-up to ‘Undertow’ as of yet, they’re definitely on the horizon.

Lyrically, Drenge have always had a certain appeal with the way they convey their message, utilising both religious and carnal symbols in their writing. Though in terms of self-appreciation towards his skill, this is where Eoin struggles. “I kind of lose a relationship with [the lyrics] through over-performing … like the lyrics for ‘Nothing’ (from ‘Drenge’), I don’t think are particularly good, but when we play it live I’ve discovered that the way that they’ve been written, the syllables and the harshness of the sound all sits together and now whenever we play it live, I kind of scat it, so I’ll take syllables and hold them back and drop them in the space where they’re supposed to go next.”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJqpAjpzRWQ[/youtube]

For the past 3 years Drenge have been a constant presence on the Glastonbury lineup. 2015 saw them appear as a secret act on the Williams Green stage on the first day of the festival. When I ask him about the possibility of playing this year’s event, Eoin considers this. “If we did it this year, it would be 4 [times already], we’re probably not allowed! I think there’s some rule that unless you’re Billy Bragg…I think Mumford and Sons did it 7 years on the trot, and you know you don’t want to end up like that, do you?”

Last year’s festival was a unique opportunity to witness someone who is undoubtedly one of the current generation’s musical focal points, Kanye West, someone the band had met previously after their appearance on ‘…Later With Jools Holland’. “I’m a huge Kanye fan”, admits Eoin. “I listen to like his new tracks three times a day. I think he’s exceptional and vastly underappreciated…we’ve got a great artist on the planet and a lot people aren’t willing to take him seriously.” On the Kanye set itself, “That’s one of the main reasons we chose to do the show”, Eoin confesses, laughing. “I went and thought it was amazing, but people really weren’t into it…I think one of the delusions people had if they were at the festival was that Kanye was performing to them, but he wasn’t. He was performing to the world’s media.

Those who have been following Drenge from the beginning may remember at their earlier shows in 2013, they would distribute a self-made zine titled ‘Blood & Milk’, the initial title for the self-titled album cut ‘Backwaters’. Though there are no plans to resurrect this perfect piece of audience engagement, they have are plenty of other ideas that they’d like to put into action. “I’ve been thinking about…doing a podcast, where I could go around and talk to other bands about stuff … If I can find an interview where one of my favourite artists is being interviewed by another musician, then you get a level of reference points that I can relate to as a musician. I can also relate to the fact that because they’re not guarded, because it’s not an interview scenario, and they’re not worried there words will be taken out of context. I think there’s a lot that me and Rory (brother and bandmate) want to do that exits out of the music that we make.”

Many thanks to Ian for arranging this interview for us. ‘Undertow’, Drenge’s second album, is out now via Infectious Records; for more on the Sheffield group on TGTF, head here. Catch them on the NME Awards Tour starting this Friday through mid-February.

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