One of the perks of Independent Venue Week, other than promoting your city’s independent venues, is that you get the chance to see some incredible bands do their thing – all while supporting those equally magnificent venues. 2017’s Independent Venue Week (IVW) took place in January, but the organisation works hard to promote live music throughout the year, and have set out to give the summer festivals a run for their money with a tour from Southampton’s Band of Skulls hitting independent venues across the country. As they get ready for the shows, we chatted to guitarist and vocalist Russel Marsden.
Band of Skulls have been together for over a decade, gaining attention relatively quickly once a mainstream audience discovered their music thanks to being featured on the likes of Friday Night Lights, Guitar Hero and even Twilight. “We’d been an underground band for a while before that moment. It was more a case of suddenly becoming more widely known,” explains Marsden. “We treated every opportunity equally and had different songs everywhere, rather than being known for one song. It helped our fans understand our music and the different styles we love to play.”
The music a band creates is often influenced by all of the band members’ creative input. When it was announced earlier this year that Matthew Hayward (drums) would be leaving the band, it was inevitable that this would affect their writing and recording process. “It’s certainly changed the dynamic in terms of song writing. We’ve still got two songwriters and still got far too many songs though!” jokes Marsden – But while it might have been challenging to re-think these processes, it has also pushed him and Emma Richardson (bass, vocals) to explore their own limits. “Having less people around forces you to get hands on with instruments and technical stuff that you are less familiar with. I guess it has intensified that aspect, and it will be fascinating to see where it leads.”
The departure of Hayward may have had an impact on the songwriting and recording process for the band, but it hasn’t changed their love for either. “It’s an obsession. It’s now more than ever driven by a need to better ourselves and discover what’s possible. We have no rules with the writing, any combination that makes exciting new music is the best one.”
Band of Skulls’ success has made it possible for them to share stages with some amazing names over the last few years – The Whigs, The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age and Muse, to name some of Russel’s favourites. “They’re my favourites because I prefer the tours where you find things in common, and it’s almost like a friendly rivalry to play a better show each night.” When it comes to his preference between playing venues or festivals; Russel is undecided: “I love both for different reasons. Festivals are always a controlled chaos. You don’t get a souncheck and it’s open to the elements, but there’s always a chance that something special may occur. On the other hand, a proper gig in a venue gives you control to put a real show together. Saying that, you have to keep it exciting night after night. Maybe it’s time for a festival?”
This rise to success doesn’t mean that they forgot what it was like before they became almost household names. We asked Russel if it’s all been worth it, and if there is anything specific he misses from when they weren’t so well known as a band. “Being broke? Not really. It’s a cliché, but the journey is a lot of fun. You tend to forget the broken down vans and disappointment. It’s important to remember where you came from at all costs. It makes the good moments even sweeter.”
As with so many bands, Band of Skulls started out playing small shows in local independent venues. Because of this they can’t stress enough how important Independent Venue Week is. “It’s the absolute bedrock. We’ve got a few independent venues in Southampton. They hold the past and the future of music like no other. It’s where you see your friend’s band play and a year later, they are the next big thing… Britain’s got talent in every small venue, in every city. Not on fucking Saturday night garbage TV.”
Band of Skulls play The Cookie on August 31st.