Published on August 21st, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Drenge, Drenge, Drenge: it’s so fun to say that this Sheffield duo named themselves *and* their debut album Drenge, so that you can see it listed as Drenge – Drenge and be happy in the knowledge that you’ve just said ‘Drenge’ to yourself twice in quick succession.
What a sparkling LP it is, too – we described it in our four-quail review as “a sludgy, crunchy kind of lo-fi that’s so much smarter than your average modern garage rock” and “a blast of fresh air from start to finish” – so Rocksucker picked up one of those old-fashioned telephones and barked “operator, put me through to Drenge!”
We are delighted to reproduce for you below our ensuing conversation with Rory Loveless, one half of Drenge alongside his brother Eoin…
Could you have imagined, when you were writing lines like “Cut off my tongue, turn it into dogmeat”, that you would wind up as The Guardian’s album of the week?
Absolutely not! It is totally bizarre.
The attention that’s come your way has gone some way to restoring my faith in the ‘record-buying’ public. Has it surprised you?
Yeah, it has totally surprised me. I guess I’m a little bit encouraged as well, not because it’s our own music but because it’s quite different to a lot of other stuff that’s out there.
It’s a breath of fresh air from the reams of young bands who seem to be more concerned with how they look and come across. Is this something you perceive, perhaps even rail against?
Yeah. I mean, we’re not the most original band, but I do think we try to be different as much as we can in other regards, or just don’t bother in any way.
There were a few bands in Sheffield when we were started out who seemed to be quite obsessed with hair and clothing. I don’t really get it; that’s not the reason you start a band, is it? If you want to do all that, don’t bother with the music.
If you’re in a band and the music doesn’t come first, that just doesn’t make sense.
Those bands notwithstanding, there is a fine tradition of Sheffield bands with a wry sense of humour: The Human League, Pulp, Longpigs, Arctic Monkeys, yourselves…whereas bands from, say, Manchester often seem to take themselves more seriously. Why do you think this might be?
I think it’s less to do with Sheffield and more to do with the water. There are three reservoirs quite near us, between Sheffield and Castleford, and they supply everyone around here.
It’s fresh, probably the best water in the UK; soft water that lathers up nicely with your soap.
So it’s literally a case of “something in the water”?
I genuinely think there is!
You remind me a bit of Mudhoney, not necessarily in terms of sound but in overall spirit. Are they someone you’ve listened to?
Not extensively, but I wish I had. All my friends went on about them when I was about 12 but they didn’t really come onto my radar.
Now that you’ve mentioned them I will go and check them out, and probably want to stop doing whatever we’re doing because we’re not as good as them!
How’s your summer been in terms of festivals? I know you played Glastonbury, but what other highlights have there been?
Yeah, it’s been busy. We’ve just come back from Beacons Festival, which was really cool, and we played a festival in Cornwall called Knee Deep which is probably my highlight of the year, bar Glasto.
It was totally unexpected, just the coolest small festival. The area was probably about the size of two or three football pitches, with two outdoor stages. Everyone was just really up for it and having a good time; but chilled out as well, which was really nice.
One of many lines from the album to have jumped out at me is “When I put the kettle on, you put heavy metal on”. I was wondering what this relates to, because in my mind it’s a tableau of your studio downtime…
You’re not far wrong, actually. When we were in the studio with Ross, there was a lot of dicking about, as well as a lot of hard work of course. One of the things Ross used to say was “put t’kettle on, listen to some heavy metal”; but Eoin had already written the lyrics to that tune, so it was a bit of a weird coincidence!
Maybe Ross had a look at his notebook or something, I dunno.
Did “I Don’t Want to Make Love to You” require any kind of clearance or permission?
Yeah, I think we had to write to the estate of Willie Dixon. It was his wife’s birthday or something recently, so we had to be very tactful about it.
Did they give you any feedback on the song?
(Laughs) Probably not. I kind of hope they don’t listen to it, actually!
At what point, if ever, do you envisage the band being expanded and/or the production set-up becoming more elaborate? Do you have people in mind that you’d like to rope in?
Yeah. Not people in mind per se, but I think we want to write songs rather than just write songs for a two-piece and play them.
If we can contribute to that ourselves in the studio then that would be really cool, but if we’re saying “oh, I’ve just come up with this really amazing guitar thing that I hummed into my phone and we need someone really good to play it”, then yeah…we’ll see what happens.
It’s ridiculously early to be asking this since the album’s only just come out, but do you have material in mind for a follow-up?
We’re going to try and keep things new and carry on, because we’ve been touring the same songs for seven months and now we’ve got a tour through to October.
It’s kind of for ourselves, in a way, to know that we’ve got a few behind a sealed door. Although we’ve been playing a few of them live recently which have had a good reception.
Are you really fans of Keane? I’m sure I read something like that somewhere, but it doesn’t quite seem to add up.
We used to play their tunes when we were younger because we were having lessons with this guy where I was playing drums and Eoin was playing piano. So we did covers of them, but to be honest I probably didn’t enjoy it back then, and I think my enthusiasm for Keane has waned over the years!
Having sat through their last album, I can only empathise. Finally, which albums from this year have you enjoyed?
Big Deal – June Gloom, Hookworms – Pearl Mystic, Mazes – Ores & Minerals, Goat – World Music…apart from that, I’ll probably agree with most end-of-year lists!
Rory Loveless, thank you.
Drenge is out now on Infectious Music UK.