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Rolo Tomassi - Interview

  by Adrian Huggins

published: 22 / 5 / 2009

Rolo Tomassi - Interview


Rising young Sheffield-based hardcore band, Rolo Tomassi, recently toured with Gallows. Adrian Huggins talks to them at a gig in Newcastle about it and also their second album which will come out later in the year

Rising alternative stars Rolo Tomassi recently toured with Britain's newest punk-metal heroes Gallows. For a band who are still not yet into their 20s Rolo Tomassi have already achieved of a lot through ambition, regular touring, and above all in producing music that is beyond their years. Despite their youth, their maturity and intelligence really shone through when I spoke to singer and keyboardist James Spence and bassist Joseph Thorpe at a gig on that tour at the Newcastle Academy. I was able to talk to them about touring with one the biggest and most important bands of recent years, how they have already reached the level they have and what they plan to do in the future. Oh and we spoke a little about Barnsley as well. PB : How have the dates with Gallows been going ? JS : Really well ! We have just finished our own headline tour as well. We did a few weeks in England and Ireland, and then we had a week off. Then we came back out onto tour with Gallows. Tonight’s our sixth gig with them of this tour and we’re with them for the rest of the month. Then we’re going over to Ireland with them as well for four dates. It’s going really well. PB : Have you toured with Gallows before ? JS : We have never really toured with them, but we have played with them three or four times at various places across the country. They are really good in taking other bands out on tour with them and giving them the chance to open for them. PB : Are these a lot bigger gigs than you have played before ? JS : Oh yeah. We did one show with them last year, the Pyramid Centre in Portsmouth, that was ridiculous. It’s enormous. It’s really cool for us. We had just come off a tour playing 150-200 capacity venues and then played there which is around 1000 capacity. It is one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done, and we are going to be playing there again. PB : Have you been over to Europe much yet then ? JS : We went over to Europe properly for the first time in January. We were doing similar shows to the ones we’ve been headlining over here. We were by no means filling them out, but we were getting people down to them. It was a really good start. We’re going to be playing a lot of festivals in Europe this summer, so we will probably be head back over there again on another of our tours later on in the year. It is always the same. You’ve got to do it a few times. You go round and build it up and tour hard. You can’t just expect loads of people to come out and see you the first time round. PB : Is that the way you have done it over here? JS : Oh yeah, completely. Last year we did around 120 shows over here. Fortunately it is noticeable that you go back to places and more and more people come down. We toured our debut album ('Hysterics') in September and we played in Bristol. Then we played the same venue again on our most recent tour and there was nearly twice the amount of people there. We were really happy about that. You have to play and play and play, but we’re really seeing it start to pull off now. PB : You are from Sheffield, are you not ? (It is worth noting here that being a Steel City native myself we then delved into a discussion about the pit falls of nearby Barnsley night life and where exactly in Sheffield they were from, only for me to discover that they went to the same school as my better half, which is Penistone Grammar School for any statisticians out there.) There has been quite a lot of great heavier bands from that area, such as 65 Days and Bring Me the Horizon in recent years. Do you think that there is any reason for that ? JS : Well, it’s always been a really industrial place, and can seem quite bleak. I think that does seem to be reflected in the musical output. It’s a bit different for us. We are from a smaller village on the outskirts rather than the town, but for Bring Me the Horizon - Ollie (Sykes-Ed) and those guys. we’ve been friends with them for ages, pretty much since we all started - it is very much the case. It is a weird one. There really does seem to have been a resurgence in heavy music coming out of South Yorkshire in the last few years. There are the Arctic Monkeys and that kind of thing as well. There is a real buzz about it. PB : You’re all credible bands as well. You have also done recent tours with the Leeds groups, Grammatics and Pulled Apart by Horses, as well. Are those also bands that you know from gigging in the past ? JS : Yeah, Pulled Apart by Horses are really good friends. JT : They’re super sweet players as well. They are great to play with every night. PB : Do you think that camaraderie has helped you all ? JS : Oh yeah. JT : There is a real sense of it. We all get on really well and it’s been great actually doing tours with them and with guys you have known for a few years. JS : That sense of camaraderie creates much more of a community, despite the fact we don’t all sound exactly the same. People use the word ‘scene’ but I just feel that has got a negative connotation. We’re just a part of community of bands that play lots and do as much together as we can. That is what it about. It is not just about what we sound like. JT : It’s definitely not just to do with sounding the same. JS : We are all bands that have done it ourselves as well and worked our way up. PB : You’re all pretty young. How have you got this tight and at such a young age ? JS : We’ve all played in bands together since we were about 13. We formed this band when we were all about 16. I think it’s literally a case of playing with the same people for so long we just all know how we work as musicians. We used to practice every day. If it’s not dead on then, it doesn’t sound right. PB : You do have a really mature sound and I think that shines through. PB: You’re on Hassle Records, who deal with mostly Canadian and American bands. How did they come across you ? JS : Well,they have a lot to do with licensing North American artists over here and they kind of courted us for a while. Then they asked us to put a track forward for a compilation, ‘Hassle Hardcore’, so we did that and then we got working relationship with them and they eventually offered us a deal to release a record with them because we’d worked with them in the past and liked what they did. We got on with them and really liked what their label was about. It made sense and we are really into all the stuff they’re putting out, so we have really enjoyed working with them. We are really happy with the way it’s all going and we’re gearing up to doing our next record with them. PB : Are you going to be touring over in North America any time soon ? JS : We are still trying to sort that out. We are still sorting out someone to put our album out over there, and as soon as that’s sorted we’ll go over. We played South by Southwest in March and that was absolutely awesome. It is not like here where you can go for a week. You really have to do six weeks, that sort of thing. PB : Have you played with any of Hassle’s bigger names such as Alexisonfire and Cancer Bats ? JS : Yeah we played with Cancer Bats recently. We were over in Ireland with them in Belfast. They are such nice guys and I think we complimented each other musically as well. We get to meet quite a lot of bands from a similar school of thought to us and they are all great. PB : So what is next after the tour ? JS : We’ve got a lot of festivals over the summer. Then we’ll be recording the new album and then will be back out on tour to do it all over again. So yeah, sweet summer, sweet recording of an album and then tour again. The gig itself was an early affair on account of it being an all ages show so Rolo Tomassi were on at 6:30 p.m. prompt which felt insanely early to be watching such an intense band. Playing to a crowd who clearly were not all that familiar with their music and sound, they wasted no time or energy at any point and played a set which was as ferocious and chaotic as they sound on record. They won over the crowd in the process, even if it seemed a little hard to take in for some of the more senior members of the audience. They came onto a dark stage that seemed to at first dwarf them. They, however, play much louder and noisier than they looked like they should, They kicked off with ‘Oh, Hello Ghost’ which sounded huge. Petite singer Eve Spence took command of the stage, saying very little between songs but always completely captivating she was the perfect front person. The rest of the band, her brother James on keys and vocals, guitarist Joe Nicholson, bassist Joseph Thorpe, and drummer Ed Dutton, were all also unbelievably tight. I was not prepared for just how well they would be able to pull of their intricate brand of hardcore. They played tunes from 'Hysterics' such as ‘Abraxas’, ‘I Love Turbulence’ and ‘Nine’ that made them seem like musicians far beyond their years. Clearly the amount of touring over the past years has not only paid off in the numbers turning out to support the band, but it has also helped them hone their craft to perfection without loosing any of the energy that their music conveys live. One of the last gigs I saw in the same venue was the Dillinger Escape Plan, and technically these guys were every bit as good, if not even better. This is a band that have an enviable future.

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Rolo Tomassi - Interview

Rolo Tomassi - Interview

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Interview (2010)
Rolo Tomassi - Interview
Paul Waller speaks to keyboardist and effects man James Spence from Sheffield hardcore band about his group's soon-to-be-released second album, 'Cosmology', and the strong childhood friendships that cement his band
Interview (2010)

live reviews

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Rolo Tomassi finds hope for the punk and hardcore movement in the shape of young Sheffield-based five-piece Rolo Tomassi at a gig at The Cluny in Newcastle

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Hysterics (2008)
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