Interview: Drenge

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There is nothing grand about the sibling duo Drenge, they are the farthest from rock stars and that does them just fine. Growing up in the small village of Castleton, not far from Sheffield (for those who know their British geography) their outlet for their boredom lied in raw rock music that they felt channeled growing up in the dull rural countryside perfectly. Their song “Backwaters” is about living in a land of muck and grime where there is nothing to do but while that music resonates well in the many pubs and smaller venues they are use to playing their profile is becoming much bigger than anticipated showing up on many “best new band” lists and even being name dropped by the odd British politician here and there.

This doesn’t go unnoticed for brothers Eion and Rory Loveless who while humbled don’t like showing off much and would probably prefer not being glamorized in the press as the next big thing out of England. Their music while noisy and of the style that can cause a ruckus is well written often very intelligent songwriting that sets themselves apart from most buzz bands of the UK. With their self titled debut finally seeing a release here in the US after almost a year out they have been hitting the road for a spattering of shows across the country. Pop-Break sat down with Rory Loveless to discuss all these new happenings as well as the issues of genre labeling and whether or not they truly loathe the things they speak often of in their music.

Photo Credit: Devin Ainslee
Photo Credit: Devin Ainslee

Pop-Break: How has living in a small town influenced not just your lyrics but your perception of the world you live in? “Backwaters” in particular really paints this image of murky swamps and an area that would really make youth pissed off from boredom.

Rory Loveless: Our hometown in the Hope Valley is extremely beautiful, and definitely sparked our imagination as kids; we use a lot of imagery in songs from round there. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody and things have been as they are for a long while, I wouldn’t expect the gift shops and country pubs to disappear anytime soon. It’s too small for much culture outside of karaoke and the odd barn dance so you have to get out to Sheffield to see any of that. A lot of people are happy to stay there, just as their families have done for generations, but we moved a while back ago and I think we’d rather keep moving. It’s also really touristy, and every week hordes of tourists come out to walk slowly in front of you, throw their litter about and ask questions about how it is to live there.

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Pop-Break: What do you feel would be a worse scenario; growing up in the middle of nowhere or growing up in a congested suburban neighborhood where houses are just squished together?

Rory Loveless: We had plenty of space in the countryside to run around get wild as kids in, which was incredible, but as we got older I would’ve preferred living near my friends. I’ve gotten this tendency now to walk huge distances unnecessarily rather than get a bus, often drunk if after dark, with a huge backpack on. I’m quite a sight. I think it’s because I grew up fairly isolated and unmotivated to get a car. I was so jealous of all my friends in Sheffield who hung out every night, but I’m still glad I grew up in the middle of nowhere.

Pop-Break: Many of the titles have an aggressive stance to them like “I Want To Break You In Half.” Do many of the lyrics reflect your personal feelings? Do people in love really make you feel yuck?

Rory Loveless: They certainly used to, we were pretty misanthropic at times, but we’ve changed a little since we’ve been touring constantly. A lot of the lyrics on the first album stem from generic teenage angst, delivered by two of the least able candidates to break anybody in half. I wouldn’t even call it fantasy, we thought it was pretty funny to break someone in half, like Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode 1. There’s definitely a hint of personality in there, smothered over by ridiculous imagery and humor.

Pop-Break: Do you find yourself being compared to a lot of your influences? I know Queens of the Stone Age is a name that has been dropped in your interviews as a major influence.

Rory Loveless: Not too often- people tend to play the two piece card a lot. Sometimes we get compared to other bands from Sheffield like: Arctic Monkeys, and even Pulp and Heaven 17. Those bands have lived in Sheffield their whole lives, whereas we’ve only ventured out in the past few years, so I wouldn’t call us a Sheffield band. To be honest, it’s pretty hard to say who our influences are, because we listen to so much music, a lot of which has nothing to do with what we come out with. Queens of the Stone Age are pretty important, perhaps they’ve been the template for a few songs that we push the rest of the influences through to get something else, I don’t know.

Pop-Break: How hard is it to create an identity without being compared to artists that have come before you? Even being a two piece makes people immediately think of The White Stripes or the Black Keys to name an obvious few.

Rory Loveless: It’s especially hard for a two piece, a lot of people are hell bent on your apparent obsession with either of those bands, and it doesn’t help that my long hair makes me look exactly like Meg White. It doesn’t matter if you have a different drumming style or guitar sound – the fact that there are only two of you on stage is enough for people to draw their own conclusions, so we just leave them to it. To be honest I think we need a larger body of work to convince people, so until then you’ll have to deal with this lame White Keys Black Stripes wannabe rip off cover band.

Pop-Break: Your self titled debut is finally arriving here in the US after almost a year of release everywhere else in the world. What’s it like presenting your music to a new market after having spent so much time doing that over the rest of the world?

Rory Loveless: It’s really great to see new places and play to new and smaller crowds, and sometimes it feels like we’ve taken a time machine to our early shows back home (although now we’re a lot more confident on stage). We’re really excited about working on new songs at the moment so it’s a little disjointed to go back to playing songs we’ve been playing for a while, but it’s cool to see how everyone reacts when they hear it live for the first time.

Photo Credit: Devin Ainsle
Photo Credit: Devin Ainsle

Pop-Break: Much of your music has a rather heavy American style of rock music. Would you say your tastes are more in line with American culture than in British culture?

Rory Loveless: We watched a documentary called New Garage Explosion: In Love With These Times that was about American garage bands like: The Black Lips, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Jay Reatard, Girls, Smith Westerns, Hunx and his Punx etc., and it was the sort of thing we’d been looking for but hadn’t found too much of in the U.K., apart from The Hipshakes from Sheffield. Sheffield gets missed out by a lot of touring bands and we had no way to get out to see anyone decent, so what we found on the internet really laid down the foundations, but Eoin managed to catch Pulled Apart By Horses and 80’s Matchbox before we started the band which was pretty special. I think we’ve caught a lot of Black Sabbath and other classic British bands, digested by newer bands and regurgitated into our ears. It definitely feels like the tennis ball of rock and roll has hit the British side of the net for us though, just with plenty of American backspin on it.

Pop-Break: You were here earlier in the year playing some dates and festivals including South By South West. Is there a plan of attack this time out since you are promoting an album?

Rory Loveless: Maybe you’re referring to fact this is the first time I can drink over here, but there’s never a plan. We just go out and play like any other show. Maybe we have to bring you up to speed, but I’m sure you’ll catch our drift.

Drenge on Tour:

8/1 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street

8/4 Seattle, WA @ Sunset

8/5 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir

8/7 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill

8/8 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Bar

8/9 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

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Jason Stives is the resident Anglophile and Pop-Break representative for BBC America conducting weekly reviews of Doctor Who and Orphan Black. He is currently a contributing writer for PropertyofZack.com and a freelance creative consultant for fundraising and marketing campaigns in New Jersey’s various art communities. He is a graduate of Rutgers University’s class of 2010 with a bachelors in Journalism and Media Studies. When he isn’t attending concerts or writing the great American novel he moonlights as lounge crooner J.M Heavyhart turning the works of Dokken and Dio into Sinatra-esque standards (or at least he would like to be). Follow his constant retweets and occasionally witty banter on Twitter at @jaystives