Practice Sheffield, the relatively new rehearsal room complex deep in the heart of Shalesmoor about a mile from the Sheffield City Centre is the venue for our interview with one of Sheffield finest bands Driftrun. Renown for their live set they have just released a fine ep of 8 tracks headed by a pretty brilliant opening track Addiction.
Embarrassing to report, after living in Sheffield all my life, I drive past the side street twice before I eventually roll up to the former industrial building, its oozes with the history of bygone days when this area was bursting with steel works and associated industries. Gratefully though this and countless similar units have been snapped up (rather than knocked down) and become home to the booming music community in Sheffield.
The Driftrun room is much smaller than I’d expected and they explained using electronic drums in here makes it manageable. The guys are though, as we speak, getting ready to move into a bigger rehearsal space at G2 Studios.
“If you think about it, outside Sheffield no-one has really heard us yet, we are relatively unknown and that’s something we need to put right this year.”
After the offer of a hot drink of something vaguely similar to tea we settle down to introductions, the band all present, consists of Rich, the bass player, Tony the drummer, Gilly vocalist, and Chris the guitarist.
Bands always have problems finding a unique name and many have to change it after building up a big fanbase and tasting success, but Driftrun seems fairly unique. Gilly starts explaining then gradually all the guys chip in “we started life as Ocean State, but other bands had that name so after about 18 months we changed it, we wanted something that wasn’t in the dictionary, something with two random words in like Coldplay, so we ended up choosing Driftrun.”
Since starting in 2007(ish) their quartet has been unaltered, no mean feat these days. Chris takes up the time-line “we had never had without a break (from gigging) until the last 6 months when we sat down to write more songs and tailor the set around Addiction.” Gilly agrees ”that was the pedestal, we have been developing the sound around. From what people have said we were seen as a melodic indie rock band trying to get to somewhere else (musically)”, Rich then explains “we hadn’t realised til we got some reviews that some songs were a lot different to others in the set and it maybe became a bit confusing for the audience” they agree it was a steep learning curve and an they made a conscious progression to where there are now.
Chris gives a few secrets away “we now have a computer in here and a sampler and we record it all and put it on an 8 track sampler. We’d been playing with it at Tony’s house and it just opens up so many other vistas and avenues. We have a style now and know our boundaries and how far we want to go with the drum and bass thing” Tony adds authoritatively “We are still a guitar band essentially, we’ve always had strong melodies and we don’t want to lose that.”
The creative process is not fixed in stone, sometimes a vocal part comes first or an idea worked up on acoustic guitar or it may be a bit of programming, and as an example they related how recently Tony brought something in he’d worked on and they wrote The Answer from that, so very much a collective. Chris laughs “we are almost a remix band of our own songs, we write as we’ve always done but now we can put it in another format via programming.”
We discussed the possibility of being tagged unfairly as ‘just another guitar band from Sheffield ‘ and they rightly feel they now stand out from the crowd as Rich says proudly “at our last gig, people were saying they can’t really put (our music) into a genre at all or relate it to another band.” Then Chris adds “we’ve got our own sound and we are enjoying it more than ever now.”
Gilly agrees and offers “if you think about it, outside Sheffield no-one has really heard us yet, we are relatively unknown and that’s something we need to put right this year.”
They discuss the stress of putting an ep together themselves, then promoting a big gig (at Leadmill, Sheffield recently) and that now was the time to allow themselves to enjoy it a bit, though not rest on their laurels.
Their acclaimed live set has become more complicated with the use of samples etc on what is effectively a backing track triggered by drummer Tony. Chris explains “its full of stereo drums, stereo synths or pianos and there’s that much going we can’t replicate on stage” and Tony tells it as it is “people used to frown upon it, but lots of bands use them now, U2, Pendulum and Muse for example, if you want a big sound without having 30 people on stage what else can you do?.”
Mid interview Rich mischievously asks “have you ever got to the end of an interview and realised you hadn’t turned your recording device on?” To howls of laughter and a skip of my heartbeat before I check. I feigned outrage at the perceived lack of my professionalism before owning up to switching it to pause halfway through one interview last year and having to ring the interviewee up to confirm some facts (but Iain Hodgson Of BBC Radio Sheffield is too much of a gent to tell).
How does a band like Driftrun get to be so good live? They ooze professionalism and its no surprise to hear the guys say that they all have what amounts to fulltime jobs and they all put as much time in again into the band, be it writing, recording, mixing or practising then when a gig is approaching producing flyers and networking. We tease Gilly about being very active on facebook especially leading up to gigs and can often be seen in Starbucks meeting and handing over tickets to fans.
There is a consensus that at times things can get very intense for them being in the band but then they are very ‘hands on’ and have mixed the ep themselves – and a fine job they made of it too. Purely rehearsing they do 3 evenings a week at 4 hours a time, a good yardstick to younger bands starting out who are hoping to ‘make it’ on the back one rehearsal a week.
Management is via Manchester based MCC Global Entertainment, to whom they signed on an 18 month contract which runs ‘til June this year and is more of a production arrangement out of which Driftrun basically record for free with clauses in place based on success. They currently are weighing up options including, among others, a London based company. The guys also have had help from John Catton, who has a sound engineers background and is getting involved in their live sound and pre-gig production so things are moving forward nicely.
Future plans include a bit of a break from writing and concentrating ‘nailing the new set’ and playing it to as many people as possible. Interestingly their management company are looking at forming a label and funding it via private investors, something akin to what the remarkable Sheffield based musical entrepreneur Roo Piggot did very successfully with Leeds outfit 4 Day Hombre some years ago. Ever a pioneer Roo now runs his own Sunshine HQ publishing company.
Fast forward a few years and where will Driftrun like to be? Gilly looks to the future “I think we have done the rounds, developed into who we are, so it’s a case of getting the exposure now, maybe via a tour support with someone big” Tony adds with commitment “3 out of the 4 of us have causal jobs so as long as we can survive its just a case of giving it a go.”
Dream gig? Chris jumps in “for me Pendulum, Muse would be good too, all big production bands” he says with a smirk. When pushed Rich says “my dream gig is not supporting anybody but us headlining a big stadium, ‘cos I think we’d be a good stadium band. I do like Pendulum though so I’d like them to support us” delivered with a deadpan poker face you couldn’t argue with.
Driftrun’s aforementioned ep is a paltry £2.50 for 8 tracks, a DIY casing and artwork, but the quality of the music is what its really about, and having had it blasting out in my car I would give it a ‘highly recommended’ stamp of approval. To get hold of a copy contact the band on myspace, facebook (Gilly is always on I’m told) or in person.
Driftrun of old were a cracking live band playing indie rock with very good recorded material, this version of Driftrun has moved up a notch on both counts. They now include a pinch of drum and bass and a sprinkling of dance whilst keeping more than a few dollops of melodic rock to give them a standout sound of their own.