Rolo Tomassi: “We’ve been pushing the extremes further”

2018’s ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ saw Rolo Tomassi received as rock royalty. So how do they plan to follow it? Eva Korman and James Spence explain.

Rolo Tomassi are hardly newcomers; they’ve been honing the nuances of their brand of heavy for over 15 years now. But as they approach the release of seventh album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ there’s a sense that this could be their biggest moment. 2018’s ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ saw them received as British rock royalty. How do you follow that?

As ‘Where Myth Become Memory’ proves – you follow it in style. Both tightening their sonic identity by cutting down to their very core, and by pushing their light and dark sides out further than ever, Rolo Tomassi return with confidence. The individual facets of their heaviness (both in sound and emotion) shine on this record of detail, a by-product of the challenges of the last two years that’s turned out to bring out the band’s best. We had a chat with Rolo’s Eva Korman (vocals) and James Spence (keys and vocals) to delve into the whole lot.

The band are split across continents, with Eva based in America and the rest of the band spread over the UK. What was putting together an album through that level of geographical separation like?

James: We had intended to write it pre-pandemic. Some of the songs were written in 2018 just after the previous record had come out, but then the most intense period of writing happened during the pandemic because there was just nothing else to do. We write separately anyway. We’re not the kind of band that needs to be in the same room to make music happen anyway - but the pandemic made us even more obsessive over detail because we had more time.

Eva: It worked for us, in that sense, because in the absence of being able to play shows we could focus our energy into writing. Obviously usually we would play the songs together as a five-piece before going into the studio, but we didn’t do that with any of the songs on ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’. I hadn’t played a single song with the band before going into the studio to record the vocals! We never do that! But I don’t feel it was a hindrance, because we really took our time and really went into every song before we went into the studio. Things that could have been an inconvenience gave us more attention to detail and made us more thorough with what we were doing.

You’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of shows already - what was it like translating the new stuff to a setting where you’re all playing together after that? Anything you’ve not played yet that you’re excited about?

James: It felt a bit self conscious! We only played the singles, so there’s still a lot we need to work on, but it’s gonna feel really good. ‘To Resist Forgetting’ is a really hard and heavy song, and we definitely had a live setting in mind writing that. But ‘Almost Always’, my favourite song personally, is the one that poses the most challenges in terms of playing it live. But we’ll relish that when it comes to it.

Eva: We are quite meticulous with planning our setlists to make sure that the flow is right, so we put a lot of thought into that. So I hope there’s nothing that will stand out particularly.

James: It’s a really natural progression from our previous album!

It must have been exciting - if not a bit nerve-wracking - following up ‘Time Will Die…’ given how well it was received. How did that impact the process of making ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’?

James: We wanted to make a record that sounded different – different is definitely the word, rather than better. Better isn’t for us to say, that’s for the people to decide! With anything we do, it’s quite natural. There aren’t big conversations where we say ‘We’re gonna do this, these are the aims of this record…’ we just individually take what we liked from the last one and especially what worked live. That’s when you really get an idea of what a record is about. We’ve just been pushing the extremes further than we did the previous time. We distil the elements of what makes the band even further each time, so it becomes a more focused version of itself. The heavy stuff is way more intense, and then there are more minimal piano elements and Eva sings more than on any previous record. It’s a really balanced one, and we all wanted to push the balance further.

Has it been creatively freeing, knowing that ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ is coming out to a crowd who really appreciate what you do?

James: Oh, it was great the reaction that ‘Time Will Die…’ got, I’m not gonna pretend that we ignore it because we are definitely aware that people liked that record way more than our other records, but for us it was just about setting a benchmark for ourselves. How do we take that and use it to inspire each other rather than letting it be something that we’re overwhelmed by. We took a few risks musically on the last record, and the reaction justified them, like, ‘You know what, we can be a bit more confident’. ‘Time Will Die…’ really gave our band identity, and it’s even stronger this time round.

Eva: When we finished ‘Time Will Die…’ in the studio, we were all very happy with what we’d done, but we didn’t have any expectation of what the reaction would be. I felt like I’d been doing what I’d been doing for every record! But this one took it to the next level for us.

James: I’d agree with that wholeheartedly!

‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ is out now via MNRK.

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