Drenge have been gone a while, releasing their last album in 2015 before disappearing into the wilderness to record some songs and find a new member. Having accomplished both of those tasks, the boys are back and ready to remind the world just how much fun they are. Did you miss them?
Catching up with the two core faces of the band, Eoin and Rory Loveless, is a bit like trying to interview two hyperactive kids who’ve had a whole packet of flying saucers each. They stay on topic for a minute or two at a time before grabbing at something new, with the first five minutes consisting of musings on beer brand Singha (“They should do an ad campaign with famous singers and claim it’s good for your throat,” Eoin jokes), how photoshoots make you feel excitable and how Dork should start a band (“You’d be guaranteed coverage from at least one magazine...”).
Once they’ve actually been steered towards the topic of music, they’re more reflective than you might expect. “There’s an extra one of us now, so there’s four on stage when we play,” starts Rory. “It’s good, and I think it ties into the idea that we’re always going to push ourselves...”
“No, no, no,” Eoin chimes in. “We don’t always want to be pushing ourselves, that’d be exhausting. We wanna push a bit, then relax a bit, then maybe push a bit more, a nice steady pace.”
“Ok, fine,” Rory continues. “Maybe we’ve just grown sideways a bit, especially thinking back to when we used to be a two-piece, which was just so different on stage compared to now. For me, it’s a completely different way of playing, and musically there’s a lot more subtlety to what you do, rather than just going out and playing as loud as you can. It’s been interesting.
“That’s not to say we were ever a two piece by choice though; it was definitely more by necessity. I think if we were easier to get on with, or maybe had a few more siblings, we would’ve had more members from the start!” he laughs. “But it was just us two and those were the limitations that we had to work with. We had two on the first album, three on the second and four on this one. Just wait until album 27, we won’t all fit on stage.”
Despite their ever-expanding line-up, they’ve tried to keep the writing and recording process pretty similar to when they first started out. “We still record with mostly just me and Eoin,” Rory explains. “It was only as we were making the new album that we realised we’d need another person on stage with us, but at that point, we decided not to worry about it too much and just to do what we wanted to do in the studio. The result of that is we have to worry about it now instead, and recreating it properly live is still something that keeps us up at night.”
“This is our most considered album, but I guess you could say that about every album you put out, to be fair,” he muses. “It’s been a long time coming, we’ve been recording it on and off since the last one, but we’ve been Drenge the whole time, there was no hiatus. It was just a case of when the studio was available and when we were ready, it’s frustrating how long it’s taken, to be honest. The pre-release part is hard too; I feel really nervous about everything, probably the most unsure of myself ever in the band. Now that it’s finally done and you’re ready to release it, you do start to worry.”
“I went through a load of photos last night from between when we stopped touring and now,” Eoin chips in. “And you really notice how much we changed over the past year, we just both look so much more tired! I was just trying to get some photos together because I thought it’d be funny, but I was kind of amazed at the difference.
“It’s what Rory said about feeling unsure of yourself. It’s how you naturally feel in the circumstances, but when you get involved in the music world, it’s easy to start living on this false confidence cushion, where nothing really touches you because you’re so glued into what’s going on.
“Then you step outside for a while and knock on the door to come back in and you just kind of realise that all the apprehension you’re feeling this time around is how it should feel because of course it’s going to be scary putting your work out there, it’s a real sacrifice.”
Even with the exhaustion that comes with writing and recording an album, Eoin is firm on it never feeling like just another job. “I’ve got some rules on it, definitely,” he says. “The creative thing isn’t the day job, that’s the luxury. The day job is all the promo, the travel, the setting up for gigs, the interviews. [Sorry about that, mate…]
“When it’s fun, it’s really fun, and that’s probably the most important bit. For me, if I start thinking of it as my day job, that’s when it’d be time to think about quitting and getting a real job at Norwich Union or something.”
“We did spend a lot of time working on this one,” Rory adds, referencing the effort they’ve put in this time around. “We wanted to take it somewhere and avoid making the same record again. I think we made three different versions of this album…”
“More than that,” Eoin says, counting them on his fingers. “The original demos, then the rehearsals as a live band, then we recorded it, then we scrapped most of that and recorded it again, then we scrapped that and recorded it a final time. So that’s six versions, at least.”
“I guess it was that many,” Rory agrees. “We could see where it was going right from the start; it was just trying to get it to a point where it was fully realised that took time. It was a new thing for us because the first album was just done in a few weekends and polished off in a couple of weeks, and the second album was done almost as quick. This was the first time we’ve really slogged it out until everything was just right. We missed so many deadlines…”
“Rory’s worried it’ll be our Guns N Roses ‘Chinese Democracy’ moment,” Eoin laughs. “But it isn’t like that, because we didn’t get lost in it, we just kept coming back to it and working on it when we could. We haven’t spent too long in the studio with it; it’s just taken a while to get it together.”
“I dunno, it’s just strange!” Rory protests. “I feel this weird pressure for the first time to live up to people’s expectations of us as a band; I feel kind of insecure. Maybe it’s just my little underplay, so when the reviews roll in, I can celebrate. It’s shit, just a terrible album.” He pauses, struggling to keep a straight face. “No I’m kidding, I’m very proud of it, of course I am.”
“I guess the thing is this is the first album we’ve stopped and thought about,” Eoin explains. “The first time you put out a record as a band you’re so caught up and lost in the uniqueness of the situation that you’re on this really weird sugar high. The second time, especially because it came out so quick afterwards, we were drilled into it and thinking it was the same as the first time. This time, we didn’t have any sugar, we just had to go in dry, which meant a lot more scope for self-reflection.
“Having said that, I’m not sure if there are any themes behind the album, despite the self-reflection. It’s more a collection of ten short stories, a little paperback book. You can pop it in your top pocket, take it out and have a read. Up to you if you read them all at once, or just wanna read one at school in front of the class.
“If you want to record your own version of the story and make an audiobook, you can do that as well. Little stories, creative writing by some young adults that would appeal to… some people, but not everyone. I guess you could say it’s a… strange creature,” he says with a grin, before adding: “That’s the name of the album, by the way: ‘Strange Creatures’. That’d probably be a good joke to end the interview on.”
Taken from the March edition of Dork, out now. Order a copy below or subscribe here. Drenge’s album ‘Strange Creatures’ is out 22nd February.
Featuring Sigrid, Drenge, Sundara Karma, Indoor Pets, Stella Donnelly and more.