As a budding guitarist and self-confessed rock music lover, the opportunity to interview a band like Drenge was one of the reasons I took to music journalism. Not only are the Derbyshire-born trio (consisting of brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless and recently appointed former Wet Nuns bassist, Rob Graham) one of the most raucous and refreshing guitar bands to have broken through in recent years, they are also an act I greatly admire. Where other bands found within the widely stretched ‘alternative rock’ bracket look to catchy hooks or penny plain lyrics to attract larger audiences, Drenge have achieved it by reveling in the dark, primal riffing that has also makes them such an electric live entity. Here’s what happened when I caught up with frontman Eoin Loveless to talk the future of Drenge, song writing and Kanye West.
Following the release of acclaimed sophomore album, Undertow, last year, Drenge have toured relentlessly, playing festivals of all shapes and sizes and garnering notable praise as one of the country’s best and most ferocious live bands. However, I find the band at a time when they are beginning to wind down following years of back to back touring. I opened with the big question, what is next for Drenge? “Trying to make a good record”, Eoin replied sincerely. “That’s all that’s on my radar at the moment”, quipping that “there’s no Katy Perry style documentary in the making”, much to the disappointment of their diehard fan base. One thing for me that stood out on the band’s latest release, in comparison to their 2013 eponymous debut, was the addition of Rob Graham on bass, giving the band an extra layer of depth to their sound. I aimed my next question at what the band were planning on doing to take their next record that extra bit further. “Everything that I’ve come up with so far would be impossible to play with two people so I either need to make a change to how I’m writing songs or we need to find someone else”, he replied with his trademark deadpan humour before adding, “so yeah, to anyone that’s reading this you can hand your job applications in at any show that we do, you just have to bring in a CD of you playing whatever instrument you’re good at.” Quite how serious he was I am unsure, but it would certainly make for an interesting third album and add an interesting dimension to the band’s trademark sound.
Song writing is an area of Drenge’s performance that for me is grossly underappreciated. I was eager to find out what inspired Eoin’s lyrical thought process, whether it’s the anarchic call to arms of “We Can Do What We Want”, the dark tales of twisted love seen in “Let’s Pretend” or the biblical referencing anthem, “The Woods”. “I think lyrics are the most terrifying bit of what we do. I think everything else is really easy and then the lyrics are a really horrible cryptic puzzle that I have to do right at the end when the songs sound pretty good.” A modest answer from a lyricist who is far more talented than he is letting on. He continued, “I’ve been asked a couple of times what comes first, but I can never imagine writing some words and putting some music to them. For me that’s a really alien concept.” And many would argue that for Drenge the music does come first, with the wall of distorted guitar and thundering drums the band creates being very impressive for what was originally only a two-piece. I asked Eoin what led to him and his brother forming a band together, just the two of them, with the two piece being very much in fashion at the moment with the rise of fellow bands Royal Blood and Slaves. “It’s just that we didn’t really have anyone else to be in a band with. We didn’t really have any friends where we were living”, he remarked. “I think its also because we couldn’t handle being in a band with other people”, humorously wisecracking “I think two-piece bands are inherently anti-social.”
“I think two-piece bands are inherently anti-social”
When discussing Eoin’s career highlight, we reached the topic of the band’s surreal meeting with none other than Kanye West whilst filming BBC’s Later with Jools Holland in 2013. “He just started walking over to us, like the cool guy at school, in fact the coolest guy in the world. Making his way over to us to have a conversation?” he questioned seeming as if he was still in a state of shock. “It was pretty terrifying”, he said jokingly. This was clearly a story that the band enjoyed retelling, with Eoin gleefully indulging in all the details. Curious of what must have been a rather bizarre meeting, I went on to ask him what they spoke about. “He just kind of said that he liked the way we performed and we talked a little bit about music and stuff”, he replied nonchalantly. “I was going to give him my CD but then his bodyguard was a bit of an idiot. He got a bit rude to me and he asked for two CDs. So I gave the bodyguard another CD and I’m not sure that either of them got their way to Kanye. They’re probably in a bin outside the Maidstone Studios.” Nethertheless, it remains a humorous tale of how a grunge duo from a small village in Derbyshire caught the attention of one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
“It’s just a phoenix, rock music. it always burns out, but it will be back again”
I ended the interview by asking Eoin his thoughts on the current state of guitar music, with other bands including the likes of Peace and Wolf Alice (both of whom are friends of Drenge) beginning to breakthrough into the mainstream. He pondered the question before exclaiming that “it’s been a good few years for guitar bands”, something he contrasted with when Drenge started out. “I feel that recently there have been a lot of bands that have come through that are doing really well for themselves,’ before retorting, “I think guitar music will definitely go out of fashion or definitely die within the next year and then be resurrected in the years after that.” A rather honest prediction for a guitar orientated movement that he and his band are a big part of. “You wouldn’t want the media to have any control over that, so we want it to die,” he continued before leaving a metaphorical parting message, “it’s just a phoenix, rock music. It always burns out but it will be back again.” For now though rock music shines brightly, and so long as there are bands of the calibre of Drenge it remains in very capable hands.