Rolo Tomassi are a band that has grown considerably over time, in ten years they have gone from playing tiny venues to headlining The Dome in London as part of Holy Roar Records’ 10th Anniversary party. Along the way they have played countless shows including opening for Faith No More at a sold out show in London. This month I spoke with James Spence from Rolo Tomassi to talk about the last ten years for the band, their latest album Grievances, working with Lewis Johns, and their upcoming tour of Australia.
Jack: Hi, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you doing?
James Spence (Vocals/Synthesizer): I’m good thanks!
Jack: In May you headlined Holy Roar’s Festival’s 10th Anniversary Party in London, how it did feel to be headlining this event?
James: It was a real privilege to top that bill and to be surrounded by our friends and peers.
Jack: For your set, you played songs from across your discography. Has it been fun to revisit the old material?
James: It was fairly nerve wracking. We wanted to do something different which is why we played a set like that and more than anything, it felt like that show drew a line under certain material. We’re looking to the future, always.
Jack: One of the biggest reactions to your set was from when you played ‘Party Wounds.’ Do you have fond memories of the ‘Party Wounds’ video shoot?
James: I haven’t really thought about it for a while but yeah, that was a cool day! We just got a load of our friends together and tried to have as much fun as we could.
Jack: Last year’s album Grievances was released on Holy Roar Records. How did it feel to be reunited with Holy Roar for the album?
James: It felt great. From the initial discussions I had with Alex about it up until now, it all [has] been amazing. With both the label and the band celebrating 10th anniversaries recently there was some nice symmetry to it.
Jack: Grievances has been out for a year now, are you happy with the response?
James: Yeah absolutely. For me its the most complete body of work we’ve put out and I was pleased to see a lot of people agreed with me.
Jack: What was recording the album was like?
James: Again, my favourite recording experience. Very focused. The addition of the string section made it really exciting in the studio as that was new for us.
Jack: What was it like working with Lewis Johns again?
James: He’s the best guy in the UK for what he’s doing at the moment and there are a lot of others who’d agree with me. The environment that he’s been able to create at The Ranch alongside his patience and expertise in his field made it wonderful.
Jack: Grievances is a darker album than Astraea, was it a conscience decision to make the album more emotionally engaging or did it just naturally occur when writing the album?
James: It was very much a conscious decision. At the time when we started writing I was listening to a lot of music that elicited a sort of emotional response that I wasn’t sure our music had ever made people feel. I wanted to make music that made me feel the way my influences did.
Jack: You did four shows in London to promote the album, what inspired you to do this idea and how did the shows go?
James: We hadn’t done any UK shows in quite a while and it had a long time since our last London headline date so we figured it would be fun to get back to playing the sort of tiny rooms we cut our teeth in. The shows were great. We tried our best to mix up the set each night to keep it interesting.
Jack: You also supported Faith No More last year, how did that go?
James: Great! It was quite funny as the previous show we’d done was a 100 cap basement in Peckham so to jump from that to a sold out 3,000 capacity Roundhouse was quite surreal. I remember saying at the time that the stage was genuinely bigger than that last room we’d played.
Jack: Grievances was released on Patton’s label Ipecac Recordings in the US and Japan, what is it like working with Mike?
James: It’s a real honour having them put their name to our release. Ipecac has been a real taste maker and put out records for a lot of bands I love. We haven’t dealt so much with Mike directly but we met him at the Faith No More show and he said a lot of complimentary things which was very cool.
Jack: You and Holy Roar started out around the same time, is it strange to think you’ve been around for this long?
James: Absolutely. For us, when we started there was never any longevity or much of a future in mind so to have hit 10 years has gone far beyond anything I could have dreamed of.
Jack: What was initially the biggest challenge for the band when starting?
James: Probably getting people to take us seriously. We were really really young and it’s only in the last few years as I’ve seen bands who are around the same age we were when we started that I’ve realised how odd we must have looked!
Jack: In August you’re returning to ArcTanGent this year. What makes this festival so special?
James: The curation of it to start with. It’s very special that a festival is able to pull together such consistently good line-ups and present it to such passionate crowds. As a fan and as a member of a band it’s always a total pleasure to be there.
Jack: After ArcTanGent you’re touring Australia with Belle Haven, have you ever played Australia before?
James: This will be our third time in Australia. Outside of the UK, Australia seemed like the first country to properly get our band so we’ve always jumped at the chance to go back! It’s one of, if not, my favourite country to tour.
Jack: Your name is taken from LA Confidential. What do you love about the film?
James: Everything! The storyline, the dialogue, strong performances from individual actors. Guy Pearce particularly.
Jack: Finally, because you have covered ‘Digital Bath’ by Deftones. What is the best Deftones album?
James: White Pony.