Chocked full of various drums parts, broken instruments and threadbare carpet, I am perched precariously on the edge of a Marshall Amp, in the centre of what might be kindly referred to as a large cupboard. I am backstage at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, quite literally nose to nose with one of Britain’s most hyped new bands. Clearly, something is needed to break the ice.
If Drenge were to start an online dating profile, what would the description be?
Brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless pause and consider me. It’s obvious that they are trying to work out whether this interview is going anywhere, or if it is going to be another one of those vacuous ‘what’s your favourite colour’ types that they are so obviously pained by. It is younger brother Rory, the more whimsical of the two, who offers up an answer. ‘Two boys, two toys’, he deadpans, an impish smile teasing at his lips.
What unfurls from our exchange suggests that what is actually being toyed with here is me. They’re a sharp pair, not short of the quick-fire witticism that drew people to their dark, twisted lyrics and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer delivery. It’s very difficult to know whether to interpret their words as truth or hyperbole constructed for their own amusement, extensions of the sort of inside jokes that only ever come from siblings.
So we start things basic. Having grown up in Castleton, technically in Derbyshire but on the Pennine periphery that see them often treated as Sheffield sons, the brothers find themselves part of the elite Blues-Rock revival that was ignited by The Black Keys and dirtied up by the likes of Wet Nuns (rip), and the leather-clad era of Arctic Monkeys. Having started out on Piano and Drums respectively, playing Keane covers in their old Music Teachers house, they claim to have formed officially in the winter of 2010, inspired by their friends in similar guitar/drums outfits to start gigging around the Sheffield circuit. ‘We grew up in a tourist honey trap. Rob from Wet Nuns is just over the hill.’ Eoin explains. ‘Most gigs we went to in Sheffield were the gigs all your mates went to. Rory saw Reel Big Fish three times. That’s the perfect example.’ He emphasises that despite going to school in the city, they very much consider themselves ‘a village band’, and sniff at the idea of attempting a city themed concept album, a la Bloc Party’s ‘A Weekend in the City’ or The Clash’s ‘London Calling.’
‘It wouldn’t be right to do that. It would be like Wayne Rooney writing an Iraq war concept album’
Rory, previously picking his sleeve with disinterest, pipes up. ‘I would kill to hear that. Have you heard that rap song Andy Murray did? Maybe sports stars aren’t the best people to be making music.’
Eoin reply is brisk. ‘I think most musicians aren’t very good at sport either. Okay, next question.’
And so it continues. As a pair, they are very much the antithesis of one another. Older brother Eoin, whilst satirical, is very much more aware of the task in hand, and often lapses into quiet whilst he contemplates a question, searching for the words that will best convey his opinion. As the singer and lyricist, he is the pragmatist, the one who admits to reading their own reviews despite knowing how uncool that seems, because ‘on tour I have nothing better to do.’ Rory is far more mischievous and flippant, claiming his favourite album of the year to be a close call between ‘Jake Bugg, Abbey Road and Beethoven’s Fifth’ and often lapsing into a tuneful hum or a snatch of song when he decides he has nothing to offer to the conversation. They interrupt one another constantly and it is often up to Eoin to rein the conversation back in when it floats too far into ridiculousness.
For a band who like to wander off point, their self-titled debut album is remarkable direct. Released on Infectious Records (home to the likes of The Temper Trap, Local Natives and These New Puritans), it’s snotty grunge for the post-millennial generation, from the Queens of The Stone Age-esque thrill ride that is BloodSports to I Don’t Want To Make Love To You, which takes the Etta James classic and subverts it into a cruel dismissal of an eager lover. For such an accomplished debut, they both seem to agree that it had a fairly pain-free conception. ‘‘Let’s Pretend’ is my favourite song, but it took bloody ages to record’ says Rory. Eoin is fast to interject. ‘It only really took a day. I’m proud of the whole thing; I think it’s odd to single out a track. But to record ‘Let’s Pretend’ in a day is a pretty mean feat. I think to spend too long on a song ruins the object. There’s capturing a song, and then there’s writing a song; we aim to capture.’
It’s clear that whilst under no illusions of their somewhat precarious position as a band with only one album under their belt and a lot of hype press sustaining them (‘we’re not worried about image. Backlashes are inevitable with new bands. I’m so prepped because I’ve seen it happen a million times.’ Eoin assures me), they have plenty to boast about, most recently a bucket-list worthy appearance on Jools Holland alongside Sting, Kings of Leon and Yeezus himself, Kanye West. ‘It was an out of body experience. Lots of the stuff we do, we’re really lucky to do, but it’s not the sort of thing that other people recognise. There’s never really been a tick list for this band, just really lame stuff, like if we made enough money we’d pay to reroof our parents’ house.’ Eoin says.
So you haven’t had that ‘wow, we’ve made it?’ moment yet?
‘No, but our parents do, because of people in our village. Nobody from home knows that we’re famous, loosely famous anyway. But as soon as we’re on telly, they’re all like “oh, they’re really famous, as famous as Kings of Leon and Kanye West and Sting.” Incidentally, Kanye was really nice. I’m going to do as much to damage this PR persona of him being a bad ass as I can, because he was a total dude and clearly really cares about music.’
‘He was eight minutes late though’ Rory chimes in, just to add balance to the argument.
‘We were 50 minutes late to sound check today.’ Eoin reasons, restoring order once more.
It is clear that like their new celebrity chum Kanye, Drenge really do care. Asked their opinions about the music journalism industry, they visibly perk up and sit forward, reflecting on a conversation I had with them some months ago in which Eoin labelled music press ‘fine and mainly harmless, but lacking in the brutal honesty that makes flicking through old reviews and articles such a pleasure.’
‘It sounds bad thrown back at me like that, but I think what I meant by that is things like reading Connor McNicholas’ NME.’ he explains. ‘It was like a musical fashion magazine; it read more like Heat, aimed at kids who said they watched Skins but really, their parents wouldn’t let them stay up that late. Good music journalism arrived for me when I picked up a copy of Niche Homo in Leeds three years ago, or when my teacher handed me a copy of the sniffing glue fanzine. I don’t know many bands today who I would openly say are c***s, but then I read reviews which say “I interviewed this band today who were a bunch of c***s and I didn’t like them.” I don’t see how that sort of personal opinion is really in anyone’s interest when it should just be about selling records, but the PR people make you do these things. We get interviewed by so many people – sometimes it’s just someone who really likes your band and you end up having a massive discussion about one line of a song, and then other people, like this massive French newspaper who interviewed us, ten minutes into the interview he goes “I didn’t even know you were brothers.” It does get a little bit like please, do your job.’
And so our interview is hastily wrapped up by the touring manager, and I am left wondering whether I have indeed done my job. I know very little more about Eoin and Rory Loveless than I did when I entered the room. But then again, maybe this was exactly the point of their game.