Interview: Rolo Tomassi

Jake Longhurst

At the end of January, Jake Longhurst sat down and had a chat with James Spence of Rolo Tomassi a week ahead of the release of their eagerly awaited sixth album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’, to talk all about the album, their upcoming headline tour, and free pianos. 

So you’ve got a new album coming out this Friday, ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’. I’m sure you must be looking forward to it?

Thrilled, yeah! We’re just desperate to release it, y’know? We recorded it in January of last year, it’s been finished since, and we’re just desperate for people to hear it. That’s kind of it now, we’ve just started rehearsing and playing the songs now and kind of getting familiar with them, and it’s a really, really exciting time.

it’s always fun trying to pull all of those influences together to try and make a record

So, I’ve given the album a listen and I think it’s a really strong album, probably my favourite of yours so far. I have a tendency to the heavier side, but I would like to ask what kind of influences you’ve taken for the album, not only on the heavier parts, which to me sounded quite Dillinger, Escape Plan-esque, but also on the dream-pop sensibility type songs such as Closer?

Well I mean obviously Dillinger have always been a huge influence, right from when we started the band, I still think they’re the absolute best to do it when it comes to that chaotic style of heavy music. I think when it came to the heavy stuff we took a lot of influence from some bands we toured with on the last record, like I’m talking bands like Loathe and Gojira.

I think for me for the melodic side of what we do, I was listening to a lot of piano players, so not even I suppose sort of conventional bands, it was more just people making music on their own. [Olafur] Arnalds, Nils Frahm, other piano players like Hania Rani, and then I guess when it comes to the more guitar based dreamy stuff, Peripheral Vision by Turnovers is a big favourite of ours, and the latest Phoebe Bridgers record is fantastic. So I mean we do try listen to a lot of music, we are fans of a lot of types of music and it’s always fun trying to pull all of those influences together to try and make a record.

on the last couple of records we’ve really found our identity

You can certainly tell there’s been a lot of varied influence. I also have to say, when you mention Gojira, that tour was the first time I saw you guys, and it was a brilliant tour. It was in support of your previous album, ‘Time Shall Die And Love Shall Bury It’. Listening back, it feels very much like there’s an evolution between that album, the one before and the new album. How do you feel you’ve evolved as a band through that trilogy of albums?

I feel like on the last couple of records we’ve really found our identity, and I think we’re a lot more confident writing music, the most confident we’ve ever been I would say. The band naturally changes as people, as we change as musicians, and the thing that’s been the most striking on the last two records has been the chemistry when we’re writing, we’re really looking to be the best where we’re at with regards to that.

We had a new drummer join us for this record [Al Potts] and he helped immeasurably with that as well, and was a real credit to the record in terms of the writing and the creativity. I suppose the way it changes is quite natural, it doesn’t feel like we made any conscious choices before we start writing, we just do what comes naturally, I think that’s the way we’ve always done it, and the natural change in the sound is a result of that.

That makes a lot of sense, and now if I can get your point of view as the keyboardist, and the heavier of the two vocalists, how do you think you have stamped your personality onto the album?

I mean there’s more piano on this record than anything that we’ve done before, and as I mentioned previously I’ve listened to a lot of pianists, that’s been what I’ve listened to the most, and when we started recording this I went and got an actual piano. I went and viewed so many pianos that were going for free on Gumtree because I was just desperate to find one. We’re really lucky that we’ve got a lock up space where we live in Brighton so I knew I had the space to have it, and I must’ve viewed like 20 pianos all just in absolute states of disrepair but I finally found one that was in really really good nick and I couldn’t believe they were giving it away free, I felt like I was biting their hands off.

I spent a lot of time playing that, I think writing on a piano compared to a keyboard is such a different experience, so it definitely shaped a lot of my contributions to the record. It definitely helped balance a lot of the contrasts and I think, it’s an obvious comment to make, but there is that big split in the dynamics in terms of what we do, with the heaviness versus the much lighter stuff.

As you mentioned, on songs like Closer I think having the piano on there, with such a natural and rich yet sparse sound, it only serves to make the heavy stuff sound even heavier. In terms of my vocals, I sing a lot more on this album, where in the past I’ve only really screamed. But there were a few songs on this album where it called for it, there was space for it, and that was something that was quite new for me, we’re always trying to push ourselves and challenge ourselves to do new and different things, so that was really cool.

That’s really fascinating to hear. Just going back to that comment you made about rehearsing, you’re going on tour soon, and I for one am very excited to see you guys at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham! You’re also going with some bright names from the underground, Pupil Slicer and Heriot. Pupil Slicer have been making some big waves, so you must be very excited to be heading out with such a stacked line-up?

Yeah we can’t wait, we’re really glad they were both available to tour with us, and I mean we’re talking about two of the most exciting bands in UK heavy music at the moment. Whether you consider them underground or not they’re both doing amazing things, I’ve loved everything I’ve listened to from both of them and I can’t wait to see them both live, for six to eight nights each across ten days, it’s going to be terrific!

I’m also in that unfortunate situation, I’ve not been lucky enough to see either of them live. I do have to say though, as tour line-ups go it’s a very strong one, so for you guys that must apply a little bit of pressure to up your game?

We always go into tours wanting to bring the best that we’ve got, and we always take out bands that we think can keep us on our toes, so it’s great to have them along and to see what they’ve got.

getting to play at the Brixton Academy has been a dream for a while for all of us

I’m sure it must be brilliant for those bands as well, to be going on tour with a band who’ve now been going over 15 years. What was it like to tour with Gojira?

Yeah of course, it was absolutely wild, they were some of the biggest indoor shows we’ve ever done, and getting to play at the Brixton Academy has been a dream for a while for all of us. I think the whole experience was so inspiring, they’re really sort of pushing, with their live show in particular, what modern metal bands can and should be doing.

I think the whole aesthetic to their production and the effort they’re putting into it, and their performance and song-writing, it’s an event, it’s not just like going to a gig, more like watching some sort of spectacle. We took a lot away from it, it was great to see and we’ve learnt a lot from it, it was great to play to some big crowds and ultimately it was great to follow such a brilliant band and see what they do, and who’ve succeeded as a result of an incredible amount of hard work.

Absolutely, you can tell a band like that has worked incredibly hard, which translates back to you guys. You have a British festival appearance this summer at 2000Trees, which must be quite exciting, how are you feeling about that?

100% yeah, we’re playing that in July this year, it’s one we’ve played a handful of times and they always do a great job of booking a brilliant line-up, so it’s an absolute pleasure to be going back. I think everyone’s really missed what festivals bring to British summer time, as musicians and as fans, we like going to festivals just to watch bands, so to not have that for a few years was really tough, and now to be back playing one of the best festivals in the UK touring a new record is brilliant.

Well it sounds like a hell of a year, and not to get any sneak peeks, but have you got any plans for the setlist this year?

We have! Yeah, we think we’re set on what we’re gonna play now, which is really exciting.

And the tour is not even a month away now!

Not even that I think, it’s under three weeks, with the record a week away, so I think we’ll be playing in about two weeks now, certainly it’s very soon.

Soon is a brilliant word to hear about live music, and I for one am very excited to see you guys live, and I’m very excited for everyone else to hear the new album. To hear your evolution as a band has been brilliant. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to seeing you on tour!

You too, thank you very much, and we’ll see you on tour!

‘Where Myth Becomes A Memory’ is out this Friday, and Rolo Tomassi will be playing live at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on 21st February 2022.

Jake Longhurst

Featured image courtesy of Good As Gold Group. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image

In-article images courtesy of @rolotomassiband via @instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.

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