Rolo Tomassi have had the most successful year of their career in 2018. Having released their critically-acclaimed fifth album ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’, they’re now playing their biggest headline show to date, at the legendary Scala in Kings Cross, London.
Ahead of this milestone of a show, we chatted to keyboardist/vocalist James Spence to find out how they’re dealing with all the hype, and what they’ve got coming up.
DP!: So this is your biggest ever headline show! How does that feel?
J: Really, really, really good! It kinda feels like we’ve been working towards something like this for a long time now, and feeling like we deserve to be playing in a room like this is a really nice feeling. We’ve kinda been plugging away, doing our thing for a really long time now, and this is a venue I’ve always really loved coming to.
We’ve played here a couple of times but never in our own right, and to actually be in a position where we can justifiably play a really iconic venue in London means a great deal to all of us. It’s gonna top off what’s been the best year this band has ever had. It feels like a celebration of a lot of hard work.
DP!: How have the last few shows been?
J: So, we did four shows last week, and they all went amazingly. We got to go to places that we’ve not been for a few years, and there were more people than the last time we went, and the new material went down really well. That’s kind of as much as you can ask for really. It was really cool and just super relaxed. We get on really well with all of our team, we’ve got a really nice group of people that come with us to help make the shows work. It’s been really great just seeing people engaging with the tracks from the new record. So, yeah, no complaints.
DP!: You’re preparing to go out to the US for the second time this year. How do you find you’re received out there?
J: We did it for the first time in December 2017, touring the East Coast, and now we’ll be going out to do the West Coast in just over two weeks. The reception is unbelievable. I can only really speak from the experience that we’ve had doing the East Coast dates, but it was wild. I think the style of music we’ve pursued definitely has a lot of roots in America and American influences, in terms of the artists that we like. It’s been something we’ve been trying to do for years, and I think there’s been an audience that’s been waiting for us to go over. So, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming dates. Hopefully it’ll be more of the same!
DP!: You guys have always been quite big on the DIY thing – you stick with indie labels, you even co-ordinate your own lights. Have you always wanted to keep your independence?
J: Yeah, our bassist and our drummer programmed our light show, so we tour with a self-contained light package. I mean, DIY isn’t necessarily a label I like to attach to it anymore, because I think whilst we’re certainly independent and we’re very hands on, to me DIY is people doing everything themselves. You know, booking, releasing their music, and I think for us to still wear DIY as a badge would be a bit disingenuous. I wouldn’t want to take away from people who are actually doing things fully DIY.
But, we’ve maintained a strong level of independence, and we’re involved in every asset of the band. That’s just how we’ve always operated, and there’ll always be an element of that in what we do even if we are working with other people who are helping us to achieve what we want to, whether that’s labels, booking agents, or promoters.
DP!: ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ has been out for a while now. Has it achieved what you hoped it would for the band?
J: Above and beyond! We sat on that record for a really long time, it was finished in September last year, but no one got to hear it until March. That’s the longest time that we’ve ever had to hold back music, and you’re always gonna second guess yourself during that period of time. I don’t know if we had any specific goals in mind for the record, we just wanted to write a better record than the last one, play some shows and see what happens. But people have just really taken to it, and it feels like it’s almost enabled us to break through a glass ceiling and reach more people than ever.
We’re all completely blown away and overwhelmed by the reaction that the record has had. Considering the kind of music that we play, it’s not something that you can digest immediately; it’s something that you need to take away and spend time with. But, almost instantaneously, compared to previous records, people were just so in on it, which was amazing for us. It’s exceeded any sort of expectations we’ve had.
DP!: Your songs are always quite complex. Does it get harder over the years to keep things interesting and challenging?
J: Yeah, of course. I think the difficult thing when you write music with no rules is you can have option paralysis, because there’s so many choices and directions and when people don’t know what to expect from you, it’s even harder to deliver. If you’re in any kind of specific genre, you know what kind of record people want from you. But, for us, we can literally do whatever we want, and it’s as terrifying as it is liberating. I think certainly when we try to follow-up this record we’re gonna feel that a lot more, but it’s the kind of pressure that we need.
DP!: Are you planning on doing anything to celebrate the tenth anniversary of ‘Hysterics’?
J: No, because we did like a boxset that celebrated the tenth anniversary of the band, and we reissued all the records on vinyl and put everything together really nicely. I wanted to celebrate the milestone of the band reaching ten years. I’m not particularly interested in celebrating the birthdays of any of the records though, especially as it’s happening six months after we released the new album. We’re not a heritage band. We’re pushing ourselves forward to keep creating new music, and I would sooner celebrate the tenth anniversary of ‘Hysterics’ by just coming and playing an amazing show tonight.
It’s really nice to be in a position where we’re talking about an album we did ten years ago, and still feel that we have relevance, but I think as soon as we reach a point where we’re celebrating albums that came out that long ago, it’ll mean that no one gives a shit about what we’re doing now. I’d rather just play the one song from that record so that people who like it can hear it, but that they’re mainly here because we’ve put out a new record that they’re really into.
DP!: Anything else coming up for you?
J: We’ve got stuff planned for next year. It can’t be announced yet, but we have already got things completely sorted for 2019. We’re gonna start having a little think about new music, and there’s a couple of tracks that we’ve got written already. I think similarly with this record, we started writing it whilst we were still touring ‘Grievances’, so I think we definitely want to follow that pattern again and make sure that we’re not taking breaks.
We wanna capture the energy and the feeling we get from playing these songs live and channel that into new material. I don’t wanna rest on our laurels because we’ve had a successful year. I really wanna continue to push forward and make new music, because that’s what we do. We write because we enjoy it, not because we feel like we have to.
The band’s fifth full-length album, ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’, is out now through Holy Roar Records.