Interview: Rolo Tomassi
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Vocalist and synth player, James Spence, of mathcore experimental band, Rolo Tomassi speaks to The National Student about the essence of the live gig, their recent £5 ticket tour and the band’s own record label, Destination Moon. What were Rolo Tomassi doing in the eight years leading what you are today? We stared messing around with it when we were 15 and I’ve played in bands when I was 13 playing guitar mainly. Eva [Spence, James’ sister] and I were in a band with our old guitarist Joe and it just kind of came to it’s natural conclusion that some of us were more into it than others and it stopped being fun. We started getting into heavier music and we wanted to make something that was reflecting the music we were listening to at the time. So myself, Eva and Joe joined up with Ed and Joe started a band because we started listening to heavier and weirder music. What were those influences? At the time, it was bands like The Locust, The Sixth, Converge; bands like that were the ones that stuck out to me at the time. Are they still bands that you listen to now? Maybe not as much. I still listen to Converge a lot and they are evolving making great records. I listen to those bands from time to time but it’s not in heavy rotation with what I am listening to. You’ve said a few times that the new album, Astraea is more direct and accessible. Was that the aim going into making the album or just an outcome? I think it was just an outcome of what we were doing. We had a bit of a break when both Joes left. Even in the last six months of being a band we weren’t really doing that much. So I think everyone was like working and because we weren’t touring, the way that it came out was more direct and heavy I think. I think it was frustration of not being around the music. Whereas, Cosmology [the band's second album] was a bit more weird and experimental. I think that’s because we toured so hard and we were constantly surrounded by heavy music, we wanted to make something different. Whereas with this, I don’t want to say back to basics, but it was a lot of pent up energy because we’d been away from it for so long. Possibly the frustration of touring has gone into Cosmology instead? Yes, exactly. So, you’ve got a quite a technical nature in your music, is there ever a temptation to keep adding to songs to make them bigger than keeping them as separate tracks? When something’s finished, it feels right. But, we are not afraid to mess around in practice and really push our gears and the limits of what we are doing because it’s fun and that’s the best part of writing music. Sometimes you know if it’s too much or not enough. When you were recording the new album, were you thinking about the live reception of tracks or was it more to make a great sounding album? I think in the past we’d kind of inhibited ourselves to think that there were certain elements that we couldn’t recreate live. And now I see the studio output and live as two very different things. And if we have to do things slightly different when playing live then I’m kind of more for that because if you just go to see a band when you may as well have listened to the CD, then what’s the point in that? There has got to be variations to make things interesting. So, with the new album, we really went all out to make it the best sounding we could. There is one song that we can’t really play live because the pedal changes are just too much. It’s called Gloam. We’ve tried it live before and it just doesn’t quite work. It’s kind of cool to have challenges to play live though. It keeps it interested. The band recorded Cosmology in California. For the new record, you recorded it in Nottingham and a lot of it at your house. How was that working and living there?
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