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Interview: Drenge

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“Our mate threw up everywhere in the van getting down here, yet he claims he never gets hangovers…,” Eoin Loveless says, welcoming me into Leicester’s O2 Academy.

Later that night, the boys dedicate ‘I Want to Break You In Half’ to the poor guy.

Drenge

The Loveless brothers are chilled out and softly spoken, a world away from their music as Drenge.

Words like ‘bratty’, ‘crude’ and ‘aggressive’ have been slung their way over the time span of releasing two albums.

The band name itself translates into ‘boys’ in Danish. Though Eoin reassures that he and Rory aren’t at all laddish.

“I just think that the people that go out on stage and play the music, and where the music comes from aren't the people who have to travel to the gig and have to set up... There's a bit of a personality change that happens just before a show. You have to become a different person.”

Since their debut, Drenge have become anarchic pioneers for British teens, all snarling vocals and gnarly riffs, the phonics of their name are bought to life.

Stomping through firecrackers of tracks, they become more battered and bruised. Drenge were pissed off as a frenzied duo stuck in the small Midlands town.

Fan favourite ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ from 2013’s self-titled album, falls short of two minutes, but kicked its way into become an alternative clubnight favourite.

“I was a teenager when I wrote all of those songs (on the first album). I was super frustrated. I remember sitting in primary school, aged eight or nine, and the teacher said, ‘You're going to school, then you'll go to big school for three years, then you've go t to choose your GCSEs, then you choose your A Levels, then you go to university.’ It was already set out for us at a very young age.

“I feel as if we're a huge herd of buffalos running off of a cliff by getting degrees and stuff in a very difficult economic climate. There's not a lot of jobs going around, for whatever reason. I got to this point where I was like whatever system was put in place to give kids an education and advance their future, combined with the increasing of student fees and cutting of grants has created something nasty. So the first album was that.”

Fast forward a couple of years and Drenge had acquired a bassist in the shape of their childhood friend Rob Graham to work on the follow up. Staying close to their middle-finger-up attitude, Undertow is more observational and built around fiction. It’s thicker, orchestrated, and almost cinematic.

Eoin thinks for a moment, finger on forehead. What if Drenge were a movie?

“I know who I wouldn't want to direct it!” he looks right at me. “The guy who directed The Revenant.”

“It's tough viewing, so tough! I think I'd like Ken Russell to direct it. He's not alive any more but it's hypothetical isn't it?”

“The plot of ‘Undertow’ is like a getaway. It's the CD I want bank robbers to have on when they're doing their getaway in the cars. You know at the start of Drive? When he's just waiting for the guy in the car. It would be like Ken Russell's version of Drive. The vibe would be all Derbyshire and the woodland, over LA in neon.”

Having written basslines into the live versions of their back catalogue, their latest material glugs with it. Rubbery bass cements an extra monstrosity to spitting vocals and grimy crunches.

Single ‘We Can Do What We Want’ cites Bonnie and Clyde as the fast-paced track runs with exhilaration and foot-stomping carelessness. Whilst ‘Undertow’ and ‘Side by Side’ slink with grubby garage glam.

Heavy guitars and controlled growls endear mystery in intensity. They play with hypnotic psychedelia (‘Running Wild’) and groove (‘The Snake’). Their second album flirts with pop.

Though the songs with the poppiest melodies, are the ones with the darkest lyrics.

“That's the only way that I can justify writing that sort of music, to put something underneath it. So it's not too clean or happy. I couldn't do a full poppy song with poppy lyrics,” explains Eoin.

“My problem is that I just can't listen to music that's like our music. I find it too close to home. If I start getting influenced by that stuff then I find that my work becomes like a snake eating their own tail, or somebody drinking their own urine... or whatever.”

Drenge’s small-town frustrations obviously translate into angry lyricism that comes with an ‘explicit’ warning.

They create violent imagery of pig fat, roadkill, and tongues being turned into dogmeat. Recounting seeing a mother kick and breaking its baby lambs neck, with the bluntness of their words and a stale air of arrogance. It’s like their tracks are having a temper tantrum, but they’re justified because the frustration has been welling inside for far too long.

There are however, moments of romanticism. Recalling ‘You drove me to the woods, watched me fall asleep, like you said you would’ and crooning ‘have you forgotten my name?’

“'Trouble from a distance'? Yeah, I'd agree with that. It sounds good.

“When I write songs I try and write them in the broadest way, I write them in a way that anybody could sing the song. Rather than it being a boy singing about a girl or a girl singing about a boy... I always try and write from a general perspective.

“I think when you start putting references into music that are quite specific to gender then it... I don't know. If I was listening to a song about a girl falling in love with a guy then my feelings about that song would be different to a girls. Even though I'd enjoy the song, I try and make everybody who listens to our songs the same. Almost?”

The Loveless brothers take influences from their surroundings of growing up in Castleton, a honeypot town in the Peak District. Eoin tells me it’s a place where everyone’s old, there’s little to no phone signal, and the broadband doesn’t run down the river quite far enough to where they lived. He pulls his hair slightly in exasperation, “As a teenager growing up in the middle of nowhere does send you insane.”

Though he does sneak a smile when talking about visiting his parents there at Christmas, recalling fond memories of his teenage years working in caves, finding fossils, and speaks proudly about Castleton’s main attraction; the castle.

Interestingly, Eoin tells me that the house that his parent’s live in now is in the shade of a rock face.

“From Valentine's Day through to Halloween they get the sunshine. Then from Halloween to Valentine's Day the sun never comes out of the rock in front of their house. It's really weird!”

The contrast of light and dark between the binary holidays reflects in Drenge. One minute they’re taking the piss out of Etta James, the next they’re quoting the Lord’s Prayer. Blowing hot and cold. Mixing gothic with pop, hiding gruesome with melody.

Excitedly, he continues. “There's a track on the second album called 'The Woods'. It starts off being about a walk that I did with my dad just before I went off to uni.

“We did six hours of walking in October. It was an amazing walk. Really amazing moors, and a little valley that we went up. There were these rocks that just kind of standalone on the moor, they've had all this wind over thousands of years blow them into amazing sculptures. There's a plane crash site up on the moor. Then we were heading back down to the car, and we had to go through a forest. The forest was all kind of golden, there were all these spoors flying around in the air.

“For a few months after that, I had a really bad kind of lung/chest thing going on. Every time I breathed in it'd be like *big gasp* it was really odd. I don't think I'll ever forget about it. That's kind of where 'The Woods' came from.”

The past year has taken Drenge around the world, and next month they’re heading back out as part of the NME Award Shows with Bloc Party, Bugzy Malone and Ratboy. The band are aiming to make Ratboy into a “Ratman”, getting him suited and booted, running a comb through his hair…

But what’s next in terms of releases?

“I'm in a very peculiar place in that I live with my girlfriend, and Rob who plays bass, and I live in a house. When I'm not on tour, I write songs. Every day I'll sit at my desk and write songs and I don't do words, just the music.

“Then I'll spend time with the music and allow vocal melody to come together, then fit words into the vocal melody. But because there's such a normal-ness to what I do, there's a structure. There's no anger and no fear, it means I have to create another mindset. The first album is all true and opinion. The second is more fictional and all narrative. This third one will probably be a bigger splash.”

 

Catch Drenge on the NME Awards Show tour this February

read more



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