“We just feed off one another when we’re playing. You can’t describe it – you just instinctively know what’s going to happen next, or who in the band is going to make the next move. There’s a trust there.”
From humble college beginnings to all-encompassing world tours, Bristol’s Band Of Skulls can truly count themselves as the little band that could. 2014 saw the alt-rock-leaning trio emerge from the studio with a third studio album, Himalayan. DAVID JAMES YOUNG reports.
Himalayan. It’s an album that scales the kind of peaks suggested by its literally mountainous title – and one that the band feels is its strongest work to date.
“We wrote and recorded it in London over our summer,” says Emma Richardson, the band’s bassist and co-lead vocalist. “We worked with Nick Launay, which was really cool as we hadn’t worked with him in the producer role before. When we were making it, it was all a matter of pushing ourselves, bettering ourselves. We wanted to bring something out that we were all proud of, but it actually came out better than we could have ever hoped.”
Band of Skulls – completed by guitarist Russell Marsden and drummer Matt Hayward – have developed a method within their collective madness when it comes to writing new material. It was never more prevalent than during the creation of Himalayan – as Richardson explains, it was a matter of breaking down the elements of the band and rebuilding from there.
“It all comes together piece by piece, really,” she says. “We all write individually and have a bunch of ideas, then we’ll get our demos together and just go from there. We see what works together – it’s like we’re assembling a puzzle or something. You can’t see the full picture until you get it all in the right order. It’s an interesting balance between some kind of competition and some kind of democracy. We want to always better ourselves and compete, in a way, with one another, but it’s always for the greater good. A better song always comes out of it.”
Despite the often layered nature of their songs, Band Of Skulls have never employed another guitarist – or any studio, session or touring members, for that matter. They put a great importance on what you hear being exactly what you get. “I think there’s something there when the three of us play together,” says Richardson. “It’s an unsaid thing, in a lot of ways. We just feed off one another when we’re playing. You can’t describe it – you just instinctively know what’s going to happen next, or who in the band is going to make the next move. There’s a trust there. We may start out playing the songs as we know them, but we don’t ever want to be limited by that.”
2015 marks the 11th year of Band of Skulls. They’ve achieved a lot in that time, but perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects is the fact they have never changed their line-up. While many groups come and go, Band Of Skulls have remained a constant. Richardson narrows it down to an ability to see true friendship over everything else.
“We were a bit of a gang back in school,” she says with a laugh. “We were mates, and we ended up just playing music together. It was never meant to be anything beyond that – we had no greater hopes of becoming famous or anything like that. We just wanted to play music and make records. Sometimes you just don’t think about what could happen from there. It doesn’t factor in. So I suppose that core friendship has been what kept the band together all this time. It helps you to deal with the knocks, the blows, the bad times, the good times – it’s what makes you stronger as a band.”