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December 2018 / January 2019
Feature

Drenge: "The songwriting's a bit more mature, we've written things like choruses"

Drenge are kicking off 2019 with a surefire albums-of-the-year contender.
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Published: 10:10 am, December 06, 2018Words: Jessica Goodman. Photos: James Winstanley.
Drenge: "The songwriting's a bit more mature, we've written things like choruses"

Drenge have never been ones to do things by halves. From taking to the stage at Reading in 2014 wearing dresses, to strolling around the streets of Sheffield dressed as a robot for the ‘Fade To Black' and ‘Outside' music videos (it's almost enough to make you question if they own any sensible attire), Eoin and Rory Loveless have always done things their own way – and with a new album imminent, there's plenty more of that to come.

Making their return to the live circuit dressed in boiler suits and cutting ceremonial ribbons on stages up and down the country, it's clear that the band – now a four-piece, completed by Rob Graham and Ed Crisp – have lost none of their flair. "It was so good to go out on the road and indulge ourselves," Eoin recalls. "Play some new songs, play some old songs... We had a lot of fun."

"We were quite good as well," drummer Rory enthuses (not at all biased). "Sometimes you can be a bit surprised by it," he adds. "Night after night I was like 'oh, this is quite good - I'd go and see this'." Sure, watching your own band's gig might be just slightly beyond the realm of possibility, but the group came pretty close with a karaoke show in Sheffield, where they invited the audience to perform Drenge songs with the band themselves as backing.

"We just thought it'd be funny - and maybe a bit scary - to see other people possibly better us at our own songs," Rory explains. "There were some great renditions, a particularly brave version of 'Fuckabout'," he grins. "We made the instrumental quite sparse, but he really carried it through, this guy. I think afterwards he told me that he'd actually - and I don't know if this is true, but I really hope it is - been in a Drenge tribute band. I, personally, feel that's the epitome of making it. I've been beaming with pride ever since."

"The epitome of making it is when you've got a tribute band that can make a living off your songs," Eoin agrees. "That's the epitome of success."

"We can't remember what it was called," Rory admits. "It might have been something similar to 'Drenge'... Something like 'Dungeon'?" he guesses. "If it isn't, 'Dungeon' is a great name for a band – if you're reading this and looking for inspiration" (sadly, that name has already taken by an Australian metal band).

Inspiration is something Drenge have had no shortage of. It's been three and a half years since they released ‘Undertow', and while they may have spent a lot that time out of the spotlight, they certainly haven't been idle. This year's ‘Autonomy' EP sparked excitement and slightly sated ever-growing appetites for new music from the outfit, and now, at last, their long-awaited third album is right around the corner.

"We knew we were going to release an album after we put the EP out. We were just waiting to announce the record, really," Eoin states. "That's not to say that the EP is to be ignored," he quickly interjects. "It's a nice amuse-bouche to whet peoples' appetites for the record."

The electronic-tinged EP, promoted in style by dustbin-built robot DR3-NG3, marked a new direction from the band, and one the brothers are thrilled for people to hear expand with the release of ‘Strange Creatures' in February.

"I thought it would sound good in like, a regional album awards ceremony," Eoin explains of the title, "like ‘Best Yorkshire Album Of The Year'."

"It looks good written down underneath 6/10," Rory offers (prompting a startled "…what?" from his brother), "which is what I'm thinking it's probably gonna get," he laughs.

Regardless of how the record fairs in ratings, Drenge couldn't be more excited to share it with the world. Making ‘Strange Creatures' allowed them to explore their creativity in a way they haven't been able to up until now. Well, sort of.

"We have never really played a song live much and gotten confident with it before we've gone into the studio," Rory details. "It's always been that we've sort of learned the song after we've done it in the studio." He pauses, thinking over his words. "Apart from the first album," he clarifies, "which actually makes up a third of our output, so that's a slightly misleading statement."

"Have you thought about the question, Rory?" Eoin taunts.

"The songwriting's a bit more mature, we've written things like choruses"
Rory Loveless

What ‘Strange Creatures' did allow is for the band to really experiment with and hone their sound in a way they haven't in the past. "It was an interesting experience being allowed to mess around with our songs so much," Eoin portrays. "We'd have the bare bones of a song, and then when it kind of gets to that bit where production steps in we'd try something out. If it sounded good, we'd continue down that path, and if it sounded rubbish, we'd kind of strip it back to what we had.

"The songwriting's a bit more mature as well," Rory portrays. "Eoin has gotten into the craft of songwriting, and we've written things like choruses," he enthuses, "which on the first album we didn't really do. It was all about being an angry man!!!!" he mimics, "and doing things quickly and without a lot of thought."

"It was nice to think about the songs and make them sound the best they can possibly sound," Eoin states. So when ‘Strange Creatures' arrives in February, that's what there is to look forward to: Drenge at the best they can possibly sound.

"I think it's sonically diverse. Isn't it, Rory?" Eoin describes (with an affirmative "hmm," from his brother). "It's got pace. It's got emotion. It's got a bit of narrative. It's got some slow, moody songs. It's got some fast, angry songs."

"I think there's, like on the last album, a lot of emphasis on imagery in the lyrics," Rory details. "We've just tried to experiment a little bit more with the sound and production, working with Ross [Orton] again, as we have done for our other two albums. We just got really interested in trying out different instruments, and ways of playing instruments differently, and doing more different things."

Summing up their approach to the new record as "different is good" (with a quick amendment to "well, different is more exciting,"), what the new year holds for the band – and, indeed, for the record they've made – looks set to be something of a surprise for even the band themselves.

"Your relationship with a song changes once it's out there and other people are listening to it and interpreting it," Eoin illustrates. "When the song is yours and yours alone, it's yours to discover and understand, and it means something to you. When it's out there, it's like it's not your deal any more, it belongs to other people."

From Drenge, to you, with love: the group will be taking ‘Strange Creatures' on tour across the UK following its release. "It'll be a few stressful weeks trying to piece it all together, but right now it seems like it's going to be a pretty joyful time," Eoin laughs.

"I think we'll be looking forward to going on tour," Rory agrees. "We'll probably be doing some more writing, going out on the road a bit, cracking on, just doing the band thing."

As the artist Natasha Bedingfield once sang, "the rest is still unwritten." When it comes to what they'd like to see happen, Drenge have no shortage of ideas.

"First gig on the moon," Rory states, the idea quickly being contested by Eoin. "We watched The Thing the other night, and I think playing on Antarctica would be quite good." "Or the first gig in the centre of the Earth," Rory counters, before deciding that'd be "too hot." "It's the 50th anniversary of Woodstock next year. Maybe we could headline that," Eoin suggests. "Drenge at Woodstock, that'd be good. Hendrix, ten years after."

It all might sound a little out there, but with ABBA planning a tour of the world as holograms, never say never to anything. "Just two tickets to ABBA then, please," Rory asks.

Wherever this next year takes them, you can be sure they're going to have a damn good time making it there. As the band themselves sang on their second album, "we can do, we can do, we can do what we want." With a brand new album of material ahead of them, and more besides, Drenge aren't letting anything stand in their way.

Taken from the December 2018 / January 2019 issue of Dork. Drenge's album 'Strange Creatures' is out 22nd February.

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