Rolo Tomassi have unleashed one of the best albums of the year so far, ‘Time Will Die & Love Will Bury It’ on Holy Roar Records. Naturally, we were incredibly excited to hear songs from it being performed live at ArcTanGent Festival 2018. But beforehand, we caught up with Nathan [Fairweather, bass] and Chris [Cayford, guitar] to ask them a few questions…
Rolo Tomassi have undergone a massive evolution in sound from your early mathcore beginnings. Do you feel like you’ve pushed yourselves harder with each album you’ve released?
Chris: Definitely! We want to always outdo the last album, whether that’s more complicated, darker, bigger productions, or more interesting or poppy or whatever. Now we’re already starting to write for the next one and it’s like, fuck, how are we going to better the last one!?
It’s going to be a hard one to top… ‘Time Will Die & Love Will Bury It’ is your most ambitious album to date. We’re feeling elements of post-rock and even tinges of black metal on ‘Rituals’. Did adding these new sounds into your pallet come naturally or did you consciously want to throw more into the pot?
Chris: Or Twdalwbi as we’re calling it! [Laughs]
Nathan: I think it came naturally…
Chris: Yeah definitely. With [previous album] ‘Grievances’, we were all in a similar place and listening to a lot of dark and intense music, so with that record I feel like there isn’t a huge span in the sound. A lot of it is quite monochrome, dark, heavy shit. Whilst with this album we were all listening to very different things. James [Spence, Keyboards and vocals] was listening to a lot of experimental electronic music. I was listening to super heavy stuff, so that’s why we have a song like ‘Rituals’, which I wrote. Nathan wrote ‘Aftermath’, which was more of a pop song. I think this kind of reflects this new album and makes it more interesting, because there are so many different pockets of genres in there.
We really love the way those electronics add so much to the sound. Just the way the album begins with the ambient synths creeping in is magnificent…
Nathan: Yeah James spends a lot of time trying to improve himself on synths, so that will always make it through to the records. There will always be newer, more interesting sounds. We made a conscious effort not to start [this album] with a bang.
Chris: ‘Estranged’, the first song off ‘Grievences’, was quite a contrast to how the record before began. We were like, let’s just start that album with the fastest, heaviest song!
Nathan: We like to keep people guessing.
When you write setlists for shows now, do you still find the older, faster, more aggressive songs still sit well with these new epic, more ethereal tracks?
Nathan: Yeah, over the last few years we’ve been kind of working out which songs work, and sound correct in the context of the set. There’s plenty to pick from the last three albums that all work musically. Even mixing the heavy ones and the ethereal ones together. It’s been a slow process of playing songs and seeing what actually works live, and seeing what feels right from crossing things over with different albums.
Chris: We don’t play loads of old stuff any more.
That’s the point of a band evolving, you sort of grow out of the old stuff a little bit…
Chris: Yeah exactly, we don’t want to be playing the same stuff we wrote when we were fourteen!
Nathan: If we aren’t having fun playing it, then you can’t be having fun watching it!
Rolo Tomassi have had a long history with Holy Roar Records and you’ve become synonymous with the label. How does it feel to see Holy Roar’s journey and be a part of that?
Chris: Justine and Alex [Jones and Fitzpatrick respectively, label managers] have a good ear for new music. They consistently find bands that nobody has ever heard of that are fucking sick! They know what they’re doing. It’s always cool to be involved with a label like that and they’ve supported us through everything we’ve done. We like them as people and we have a really good working relationship with them. The roster of bands, especially in the last twelve months, are probably the strongest releases that the label has ever done. The fact that people are asking us in interviews about that shows that they are obviously doing something right, so long may that continue!
They turned me into a subscriber this year!
Your last two albums have explored more ethereal atmospheres. Eva [Spence, vocals] has worked in more clean vocals. Do you feel that adding in more clean sections brings out the extreme parts even more?
Chris: Definitely. When you have an album with like ten super heavy songs – Unless it’s Nails, they’ll quite happily play eleven songs that are two minutes, and it’s the heaviest shit you’ve ever heard in your life – but having those peaks and troughs in an album makes you appreciate both sides of it. If you listen to ‘Aftermath’ into ‘Rituals’, it goes from the cleanest, poppiest song we’ve ever done that slowly fades into probably the darkest, heaviest song we’ve ever done. I think it does make it sound heavier, and it kind of gives us that spectrum to work in.
You’ve mentioned you’re already thinking about the next record, how is that coming along?
Chris: James has written a couple of pieces. We’re just kind of slowly piecing together bits for the album. It’s a long process. The last album took about eighteen months. So when it starts to gain momentum, we’ll get an idea of what it’s going to sound like. A lot of the stuff James has been writing so far has been very piano driven, and it’s sounding really beautiful. Who knows what will happen, but we’re excited to start working on it.
So is it quite a collaborative effort. Do you like to take each other’s ideas apart?
Chris: Exactly that. We don’t tend to bring along just one section. Usually people have a few ideas to put together. We tend to chop and change a lot of things, and it’s super collaborative. Songs like ‘A Flood Of Light’ especially, the first riff in that was completely different when we started that. It had the same notes but was super quiet. But we changed up all the time signatures and made it super heavy. We worked loads together on that one.
So have you ever had a conflict of direction, or someone saying “this is my idea, I feel very strongly about this”?
Nathan: Nobody will be like, “I don’t want to change this”, it’ll be more like there is a consensus, and we’ll know when things aren’t working. We aren’t the type of people who will fight for an idea, because what is the point of making them play it every time! One idea that someone had, we said we didn’t like it. Then we took it away, and worked on it a bit more. We turned it into a different idea and used it in the end.
Chris: Nobody has stormed out of a band practice yet!
What are your plans for the rest of the year and into 2019?
Chris: We have a handful more summer festival dates. We have some things that haven’t been announced yet. But there will be a UK tour later in the year. We are playing the Scala [in London], in November, which will be our biggest ever headline show. So we are going to go all out on production and go mental with that one. And then we’ll get started on the next record.
Do you have any good festival survival tips?
Nathan and Chris: [simultaneously] Don’t Camp!
Nathan: We camped here two or three years ago and our tent collapsed in the rain at 5am. It was utterly miserable. Haven’t camped since, won’t camp again! Get an Air B’n’B very near the festival site.
Chris: Or just get absolutely annihilated! You might as well just get fucked!
What is your favourite thing about ArcTanGent and how does it feel to be playing?
Chris: Usually we try to stay here the whole weekend, but we have other festivals we have to shoot off to this year. But it’s always nice to catch up with people we don’t see that often. People we may have played with years and years ago. The social element of this festival is really nice. Everyone here is in the same boat, and likes the same music, and supports the music. People absolutely love it and come every year.
Interview conducted by Chris “Frenchie” French and Ross Baker.
Photo Credit: Ian Percival @trashmonkeypics
‘Time Will Die & Love Will Bury It’ is out now on CD/LP/DD through Holy Roar Records.
Early bird tickets for ArcTanGent 2019 are on sale now!