It’s been an incredible couple of months for post-hardcore pioneers Rolo Tomassi. Their fifth album, Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It, was released to universally glowing reviews and they embarked on their first ever fully sold out UK tour. We caught up with keyboardist/vocalist James Spence before their Birmingham show to chat about what life is like for Rolo Tomassi right now.
Mosh: It’s been about a month since your new album Time Will Die… came out. What has the response been like so far?
James Spence: It’s been utterly overwhelming. We couldn’t have hoped for it to have been received any better. Obviously there were a lot of very positive reviews, but everything really started with this tour and seeing the engagement that people have with the tracks live, and there being a more tangible, physical response to it. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to most actually. Just getting out and playing the songs to people and seeing how it’s resonated with them and being able to connect with people. But we’re all absolutely delighted.
Mosh: Has it felt different from the response to previous albums?
JS: The feeling is definitely unlike anything we’ve experienced before. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly. I just feel that everything with this record has been a lot more instantaneous. Whereas in the past it’s taken people a little bit longer to get into the records we were doing, this just seems to have hit the mark immediately. That’s probably in part down to the fact that there was a really long lead-up time to the record coming out and we just had a bit more opportunity to plan everything out properly. And I think it’s been successful in that regard. Everything does feel different, it feels like we’ve made a step up and we’re super pleased with that.
Mosh: Do you think the new songs have been resonating more with people than the older songs in the set?
JS: Not necessarily, but when we’ve toured records in the past it can take people a little while to digest what we do because of the style of music. It’s not like 4/4 pop tracks where there’s a hook that you immediately remember, it can take a little bit of time to properly get into. But certainly in terms of even the little details, like seeing people singing along and knowing where the changes are, it’s been a lot more immediate and instant and some of the new songs are getting reactions that are considerably better than some of the older songs. The way people consume music and what it means to them is always going to be different from show to show. But everything’s sitting really nicely alongside older material. We picked a set with that in mind. Nothing feels out of place and we really like how the new material works with the old stuff we’ve chosen to play.
Mosh: The new album has a really good flow to it, it starts out light and poppy before descending into darkness and then eventually emerging into light at the end. Was this something you had in mind from the start of making the album?
JS: Not particularly, but the hardest thing about the album was the sequencing of the tracks. In the past we’ve always written records with a sequence in mind or an overall view of how it should be presented, whereas with this we focused really intently on the individual tracks and exploring them to their fullest. The only thing we knew with this record was how it was going to start and finish. Just because the first track, the only place it could go was at the start. It would have felt quite unnatural putting it anywhere else. We wanted the record to have this cinematic, almost grandiose beginning, which that song gives it. And then with the final track, the only place it could really go was there. It would’ve felt a little bit unsettled if it had gone in the middle. I like how the way it starts and ends quite harmoniously gives you the feeling that you’re at the end of a journey. It’s quite cyclical, the way you can go back to the beginning, or if the record started again you maybe wouldn’t even notice. And that in itself was a conscious decision. It was just the way everything went in between that, there was a lot of experimentation to get the right track listing that maintained a level of energy that we wanted, that allowed all the individual elements of tracks to be really showcased.
Mosh: One of the standout songs on the record is ‘A Flood of Light’. How did you feel about how that song turned out?
JS: It’s my favourite song on the record. If I wanted to show someone what I think our band sounds like at the moment, that would be the first track I would direct them to. It’s the perfect showpiece for the album as a whole. It combines really dark, intense, heavy music that’s quite technical with bigger poppy, dreamy moments. In terms of dynamics, it encapsulates everything our band can do. The really cool thing about that track is that it came together literally in an afternoon of practises. There was one section at the start that had been written but the rest of it we just fleshed it out and jammed it out together, and that’s not necessarily something that happens all the time with our music. It just came together very naturally. It’s been absolutely my favourite track to play live as well.
Mosh: Your entire UK tour sold out before it had even started, how does that feel?
JS: It’s absolutely wild, we’ve never done that before. It’s quite overwhelming and it feels like there’s a really good amount of pressure on us to be good. I think the way we’ve all approached this has been different to previous tours. Everyone’s really taken care of themselves and made sure that we’re on the absolute form of our lives. It feels like we’re kind of on the crest of this wave and we just want to stay on top of it and show people that we deserve to be selling out tours and reaching the amount of people we’re reaching at the moment. It’s been an absolute dream so far.
Mosh: You’re returning to ArcTanGent Festival this summer. How do you feel about your relationship with that festival?
JS: We played the first ArcTanGent and we’ve probably played more than half of the festivals that they’ve had. I feel like that festival is the perfect home for a band like ours and we love going back. It’s always excellently curated, the people that run it do a phenomenal job. We’re very pleased they keep re-booking us for it because it’s always a highlight of the summer when we get to do it. So we’re just really chuffed to have the opportunity to go back and play there again.
Mosh: You’re playing as part of the Holy Roar (Records) stage…
JS: That was my idea! Holy Roar vs BSM (Big Scary Monsters). [pretending to be angry] And no one’s f***ing given me any credit for it! I’m just kidding. It was my idea though.
Mosh: Well it’s an awesome idea. What’s your relationship like with Holy Roar?
JS: I’ve known Alex (Fitzpatrick, label founder) since I was 16. He’s joked that the longest relationship he’s ever been in is with our band. So yeah, I know Alex really well, and the label continues to do great things. I’m less and less surprised with the quality of bands he gets on it because I think they’ve built such a name for themselves that they’re an absolute magnet for really great artists. And we’re still very pleased to be representatives of the label and to be involved with them.
Mosh: Do you have any particular plans for the future yet, or are you just living in the moment?
JS: We’re super focused on touring and I really want to just enjoy playing these songs live for the moment. We spent two years writing and recording this record and I just want to enjoy things day by day right now. Especially while we’re on this sold out tour, I want to just be fully immersed in what’s happening right now. Maybe six months down the line we’ll start talking about what we’re going to do post-this, but we’ve got a really busy schedule for the next year. We’ve got a lot of touring plans in the pipeline so we’re very much wanting to get out and reach as many people as we can with this selection of songs.
Mosh: Is that how you usually do things?
JS: This is the most organised we’ve ever been in terms of our schedule. I’ve never been able to have a decent idea of what I’d be doing in a year’s time. But we have lots of stuff either pencilled in or confirmed, and we have a very good idea of where we’ll be, and when. Usually a little later down the line when you get yourself back into wanting to write music again you can start to block out spaces in your diary to try and make things happen. But there’s never been a usual way of doing things and I think that’s what leads to the results that we get musically. And that’s how we’ll continue to do it.