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Writing songs was a religious experience for UK rockers Band of Skulls

Written By: admin - Aug• 14•19

ON TOUR: Band of Skulls are playing at The Cambridge on November 26. Tickets are on sale now. THERE is something very down-to-earth and refreshing about Band of Skulls –if drummer Matt Hayward is anything to go by, that is.
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Pleasant, quietly spoken and fond of a giggle, he is one of those rare rock stars thatlets his sticks rather than his ego do the talking. I’m not sure he would even feel comfortable being referred to as a rock star.

Band of Skulls are the quiet achievers of British rock and arguably the hardest workers. When Weekender spoketo Hayward the band had just returned from a “brilliant” five-week stint in the US and Canada and were “readying ourselves for the next instalment”.

When asked if Band of Skulls had consciously avoided “the hype” some bands tend to revel in, Hayward said it simply wasn’t their thing.

“The media machine can be used in certain ways that I don’t think we’ve ever really signed up to,” he explains.

“We’ve been a band for quite a long time, growing up in our home town of Southamptonas kids, and it’s been a very organicprocess. Put it this way – we’ve been playing music together longer than we haven’t been playing music together.

“And we’ve always based everything on the idea that we’re only as good as our last record. We love playing, we love writing. We’re not so much into the drama of it all.”

What matters to Band of Skulls, Hayward says, is makinggood records and playing good shows. They chose the old-fashioned path to success: hard touring.

Instead of signing a traditional record deal when they started out, they struck a deal with a company in LA whowere keen for the young trio to tour.

“Wewere kids and worked in pubs and played in bands. So when you’re offered the chance to play in America, you’re not going to turn that down. So our career started a little weirdly. A lot of British bands are lucky to get to the States and have to work the UK circuit for a long time to warrant going out there.

“We did it backwards. It has had its positives and negatives but we were in no position back then to say no.”

Haywards says Band of Skulls have been around long enough to be able to recognise the “smoke and mirrors in this business”.

“Yousee a lot of people getting screwed up because there is a false element to what they’re doing and it isn’t necessarily an honest representation of who they are as people and who they are as a band.

“We’ve always steered away from that side of things. We like to keep private and let our gigs and records do our talking.”

Their latest album, By Default, was recorded in a baptist church in Southampton and produced by Gil Norton, who has worked withthe likes of Pixies, Foo Fighters and Patti Smith. The Reverend wasn’t entirely sure what was going on in his church but other than making tea and biscuits generally left the band to it.

“We released our first record in 2009 and since then we’ve been pretty much non-stop touring and only stopping to make another record,” Hayward says.

“It’s been a pretty incredible journey but there came a time when we all decided to go back to our home town and set up there. Everybody took a bit of time to remember where we all startedand what it means. Stripping away everything and going back to the original lifestyle we led there.

“I’d been walking past that church my whole life. We were looking for somewhere new to write in that would be inspiring. A lot of rehearsal spaceshave a sterile kind of atmosphere and you’re in your room and next door is some big famous person and it’s a little unnerving [laughs].

“The last time we were in one The Specials were next door and everyone was a little self-conscious because ofthis amazing band next door. Welike to hide away and do things our own way.”

As for working with Norton, it was a surreal experience.

“When Gil got in touch and said he wanted to work with us it was kind of mind-blowing. The records that he has produced have been soundtracks to our lives. It was kind of like ‘How the hell has that happened?’. I’m a drummer and Gil has worked in the studio with Dave Grohl. No pressure or anything,” he says with a laugh.

“It’s quite daunting but Gil is a wonderful guy andmakes you feel at ease. He works you incredibly hard and we’re just honoured to be learning from him.”

Hayward admits he still gets “starstruck” by musicians in other bands.

“It never leaves you. I’m the worst for it, so I find it funny when people think of me that way. We’ve done tourswith Queens of the Stone Age, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys.

“You have to maintain a bit of professionalism and act normal even though that kid inside you is screaming.”

Catch Band of Skulls at The Cambridge on November 26.

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