Having spent the last thirteen years developing their pioneering mathcore with splatters of post-metal, post-hardcore, and progressive rock, dying the sounds in shades of synth-laced electronica, Rolo Tomassi have built a reputation for experimentation. They found their footing critically with 2015’s disturbingly dark ‘Grievance”s, but how does a band at the peak of their creative powers move forward?
“We were all so happy with ‘Grievances’ that we wanted to continue working in that vein,” says the band’s James Spence. “I was so proud of that album, and it’s one of the only records we’ve done where there’s absolutely nothing I would change about it. At the time I think we wrote absolutely the best album we could do, but we didn’t want to repeat that. We wanted to build upon it and do something a little different.”
Rather than completely reinvent themselves, they looked towards taking ‘Grievance”s structure and bending it around their new-found musical needs. “There were quite a few songs on ‘Grievances’ that we weren’t actually playing live,” vocalist – and James’s sister – Eva Spence explains. “So we wanted to write an album with songs that we could all play live every night if we wanted to rather than having interludes that wouldn’t translate as well.”
Taking ‘Grievance”s deliverance of the dark and dotting it with glimmers of hope and moments of light through their ever-progressive relationship with synthesisers and their determination to experiment with structure, the band’s new record ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ finds beauty in the brutality of their music.
“The aim was to write a record that was as beautiful as it was heavy,” says James. “‘Grievances’ was super dark and super aggressive, and that’s fine when you’re feeling like that, but we wrote that album to get over those feelings. When you tour that, and you come out of it the other side and feel better, it would just be conceited to try and replicate those feelings when you’re not having them as much.
“We took the title, which couldn’t be further removed from a title like ‘Grievances’, and we wanted to write something that was bigger and bolder and more beautiful, that had more colour to it. That’s not to say there aren’t darker moments on the record, but there is way more of a duality to it. The balance between the darkness and the light is something I think we’ve managed to absolutely nail.”
‘Time Will Die…’ is an album that leaves you on the edge of your seat; one that positions you in a false sense of security. Even in its opening moments, it takes you from the safety of the mellow and melodic tones of the clean vocal-helmed ‘Aftermath’, to the danger of the monolithic and monstrous mathcore of ‘Rituals’.
“We didn’t want ‘Rituals’ to be employed as a shock tactic, but that and ‘Aftermath’ showcase the two sides of the record immediately,” James explains. “We wanted to show that we can do both sides to this band and make it work on the same album. As the record develops, you have those two contrasting parts, in the same song almost.
“With ‘The Hollow Hours’ that follows, it has the really, really dark intense heavy bits that ‘Rituals’ has and then it breaks into the sort of mellower, melodic, and more minimal parts that are within ‘Aftermath’ as well. There are some real big pop moments across the record, and we’ve been trying to write songs like that for so long, and we’ve never just got it right. With ‘Aftermath’, we’ve nailed it, and we’ve made it work within one our own records, and it didn’t have to be a standalone thing that stuck out.”
Piecing together the puzzle that is ‘Time Will Die…’ wasn’t always an easy task. “With ‘Grievances’, we wrote that intentionally from start to finish,” James continues, “and certain songs were put together in a way that they would flow into the next track. We wrote the interludes to give the album breaks in certain places and considered it as a whole piece.
“We’d tried doing that with a few albums, especially [2012’s] ‘Astraea’, but it didn’t work how we intended it. Because we felt we’d achieved that with ‘Grievances’, we approached this album in a completely different way by being focused on developing each song to its full potential. The only songs we knew had exact places were the intro that goes into ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Risen’ at the end, but the rest of the album, we had no idea where to put everything; it was a nightmare and there were so many drafts for it.
“It wasn’t supposed to be something where the sequence was crucial, but for us, it was getting that flow within a song rather than a full album. There are three songs well over seven minutes, and we wanted to get that flow within the songs right first, and then as an album that’d come later.”
‘Time Will Die…’ is Rolo Tomassi’s fifth album, arriving ten years on from their debut ‘Hysterics’. The progression, evolution, and maturity of the band’s songwriting is stark, and they know it.
“We released ‘Hysterics’ on my twentieth birthday and everything was so fresh and new,” James recalls. “We were so caught up in the moment; we didn’t think about ten years down the line. We were just excited about being a band and going on tours. We never stopped to think if we’d [still] be doing this, and it’s the same now. If you cast your eyes too far ahead, it’ll only be a detriment to the present experience.”
“I can’t believe that we’re at this point,” says Eva. “It doesn’t feel like we’re five albums in, but it’s incredibly exciting. I still think we have quite a lot to give, so for us to be five albums in and for it to be still feeling like we’re reaching the potential of what I would personally want the band to achieve, is amazing.”
Reflecting on their evolution from youthful experiments to maturing masters, Rolo Tomassi find themselves once more at the beginning, only this time it’s an entirely new journey.
“It feels like a separate life and that everything we’ve done before has just been practice for the stage we’re at now,” Eva continues. “I feel like everything got reset with ‘Grievances’. The reaction that album got was almost like the reaction a band’s debut would get, and it seemed to win over some people who were still on the fence about us.
“It proves to people who might’ve doubted us that we’re still pushing ourselves and are capable of writing different material. The anticipation for this album is almost as if we’re a band releasing a second record, not a fifth. With that and the enthusiasm we’ve always had for this, it’s pushing us more and more to step up.”
Rolo Tomassi’s album ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ is out 2nd March. Taken from the March issue of Upset – order your copy below.