Russell Marsden of Band of Skulls: "It's Not a Style, It's an Attitude"

Categories: Interviews

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Debbie Scanlan
Band of Skulls

England's Band of Skulls is the perfect mixture of style and substance. For over a decade, this alternative blues rock trio have been impressing just about anyone who gets a chance to catch the band's distorted fuzz. Although Band of Skulls has only released three full-lengths, each album has something different to offer.

Speaking from a tour stop in St. Louis and in anticipation of tonight's show at the Granada, guitarist and vocalist Russell Marsden talked with DC9 about Band of Skulls interesting experiences in our state, including a time when he was almost electrocuted in Austin.

DC9 at Night: Early on, did people assume from the band's name that you were a metal or punk act?

Marsden: That happens less and less now, but yes, at the very beginning, there was often this confused goth person at the front of the stage wondering what was going on. We can be loud and we can be heavy and our name certainly gives us the opportunity to do that. We like making quiet music too and experimenting. The name really means the three of our heads, the three of our minds coming together rather than anything gothic.

Have you been tempted to add a fourth member?

Practically speaking, all of the time. We are always writing music that is more tricky and challenging. That can be hard to pull off as a three piece. But I think the magic of the band is that it is a three piece. Having a limited line-up makes the music exciting. We don't have anyone standing around on stage hanging out. We are all working really hard all of the time. That brings energy to the music. I don't think we would add another member. We like to see what we can achieve as a three piece. We like to get the biggest sound out of three people.

You recently played an outdoor festival in Atlanta. Is it a beating playing festivals?

It's funny because often it's a shorter set for the band. It can be a small stage which means less equipment and less we can do with it. It does happen a lot faster and at the festivals, you have to work fast to make it all happen. It's a good change. It can be fun.

You've played SXSW many times and the ACL Festival as well.

I remember the first time we came to Texas because it did feel like a challenge. We started very small and we seemed to get more and more people coming out to see us. You feel like your hard work is paying off. At SXSW this year, we had this really cool experience of doing the regular club thing in a theater. On our first tour in American, SXSW was a highlight. We've had some really epic moments in Texas. In Dallas, we were there on St. Patrick's Day. It was a sea of green chaos.

In 2012, you played ACL during a tremendous thunderstorm.

That's when lady luck was not shining down on us. Basically, the rain came down in a big wave and swamped the stage. It was all over the pedals and electronics. It all went silent. We had to stop. Someone, they managed to get everything working again. I think I went for the bus for a while and then we came back and carried on. It was highly unusual, but very memorable. It had a kind of a Woodstock feeling to it.

That sounds fairly dangerous.

I was really worried. I think that was the main thing that the pedal boards would electrocute me like a bolt of lightning. It was going to be epic. It was that moment where you better play well because this may be your last chance.

Your songs have been used in many movies and television programs. What is it about your songs that lend themselves so well to film?

I don't know what the particular reason is, but what helps is that we have a lot of variety in our music and we have three songwriters and three vocalists. We also love lots of different kinds of music. The songs can fit into a wider range of things because they are all quite different. Having music in a film is a great way to reach a larger audience. We can't be in America touring all the time. We have to tour in other parts of the world. When we are not here, there might be a song in a TV series or in a movie. It's still keeping people aware of the band and that is great for us.

You get a song like "Friends" into one of the Twilight movies and it can become exposed to millions of people who may have never heard you otherwise.

Exactly, especially these days when it is tricky to get on the radio. Getting a record into people's hands is a challenge. I think for us or any new artist, you should keep an open mind and see these opportunities as a way of getting your music to the people. These people might come to a gig or buy a record or whatever.

Your music has been described as alternative rock, blues rock, garage rock and indie rock. Do you identify yourself with any of those?

I think we play rock and roll. It's not a style; it's an attitude. Rock and roll music is what can be done when a kid picks up a guitar and starts to play. It's accessible. You can pick up a guitar and get three friends and start a band. You don't have to have expensive equipment. It's the voice and we are passionate about it and very proud to be a part of it. We hope to introduce our music to kids who are forming bands now. It may be our biggest aim to keep it going and be like the bands that we saw when we were young, the bands that we aspired to be.

Are the American audiences different from the crowds in England?

When we play America, the crowd knows you are from a different place and there is an intrigue there. When we see American bands in England, it makes a difference. It is a different cultural experience. When you go to a foreign-speaking country, that's when you really feel the difference. You can't speak a different language in between songs. For us, coming to America is second nature. We've spent so much time here, we don't feel like it is a different country. It is a pleasure really. We're playing places that we played before and we are seeing friends when we get there. It is a home from home.

Band of Skulls performs with Sacco tonight, May 14, at the Granada Theater.


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