Band of Skulls is one of those groups whose music instantly transcends itself to become badass. It’s the fusion of his (Russell Marsden) and her (Emma Richardson) voices into a kind of echoed, sensual androgyny, and chord-heavy rock ‘n’ roll bedded in steadfast drums courtesy of their third, Matt Hayward, that makes their music so gratifying. Grinding on with a bluesy tenacity, Band of Skulls sound like leather jackets and lipstick-stained cigarettes drenched in inky nighttime blackness. The Southamptonians have done rather well for themselves since their humble beginnings in London bars, attracting attention from the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Keys and, most recently, fellow English rockers Muse, whom they are currently supporting on tour. “It’s been a great adventure so far and we are very fortunate to have fans all over the world,” says Marsden. This, along with the positive reception of their sophomore album, Sweet Sour, and a third one “indeed in the works,” the trio seem to pressing forward with the dynamism liken to their music.
Band of Skulls approach their rock ‘n’ roll in a minimalist, bare-bones fashion. For a simple three-piece consisting of the skeletal instruments, the group manages to keep things intriguing and newfangled. “For us, that’s just the challenge that spurs us on. It’s like a painter having to stick to a limited palette of colours,” says Marsden. “Having two singers gives us two more instruments at our disposal. We try to have a lot of variations in the music even within one song and we try to create space within the music.” The result is something dark and hook-laden wherein the songs swing into subdued yet emphatic ballads, only to later burst with prolific energy.
With Sweet Sour having been released in October 2012, Marsden thinks back to the development of the precarious second album, which made for a distinctive kind of pressure. “Looking back, it was a very interesting time for us. It was a process we had to go through and we learnt a great deal about our music and ourselves,” he reflects. “The pressure is always there, whether you use it to drive you, or let it get the better of you is up to you. Sweet Sour came from a chaotic period for the band and it’s got a strange atmosphere that I love — just a snapshot of that time, and we are very proud of it.” He adds: “But our minds are always looking forward. We are always thinking of the next thing. The new riff or drum beat. That’s what feeds the addiction.”
The group continues to push forward in their musical explorations and express no signs of even remotely anchoring. Rock music according to Marsden is the most tangible music that’s out there, and the trio delves deeper into themselves and their instruments with the onset of each album, to produce something graspable and soulful. “There’s a need in everyone to hold on to something real and Band of Skull’s rock ‘n’ roll is straight from the gut and the heart.” Not to mention badass.
Catch Band of Skulls open for Muse at the Saddledome on February 4.
By Nivedita Iyer