BACK in 2013, post-grunge duo Drenge breathed new life into the UK rock scene with their gnarly, infectious self-titled debut – an album that pulsed and raged with palpable disgust and adolescent sincerity, placing them at the top of many ‘bands to watch’ lists and gaining them a cult-like following all over the country. Since those early days, Drenge have continued to broaden their horizons with each release – expanding to a three-piece while probing richer textures and bleaker depths on 2015’s ‘Undertow’ before re-emerging this year with a fourth member and the more experimental ‘Strange Creatures’.
After taking a few years away from the spotlight, it’s fair to say that Drenge have returned in invigorating fashion, reminding everyone what made them such a formidable force in the front place. Appropriate then that 2019 should be the year that they finally make their Tenement Trail debut. Set to play Barras Art and Design this coming Saturday as part of very strong line-up of punk and rock acts from all over the UK, we caught up with Eoin Loveless to hear about their live show, ‘Strange Creatures’ and what’s coming next.
“We’ve always loved Glasgow… I remember playing Cathouse and going to a noodle bar down the road. It’s really chill and friendly…the kind of place people will come up in the street and talk to you about the gig”
Drenge’s live reputation has always preceded them. Known to incite mass chaos at their shows, it’s no secret that their pummelling anthems are best enjoyed in the live arena and with three albums to their name, they have a lot of material to pull from. Eoin says : “We started of being a two piece band and then we added our mates and they’ve been playing with us for a while now. I always think it’s important to keep it exciting…we’re always trying to find new ways to play old songs and keep it exciting. We like to give them proper energy”
As for Tenement Trail, they’ll be doing exactly what they do best. He says: “It’s gonna be a big rock show. Like a back to basics kind of thing and we’ll just have fun with it. I think that’s what we’re in the mood for!”
It comes as no surprise that playing live was the thing the Loveless brothers missed the most when they retreated to the confines of the studio to work on ‘Strange Creatures’.
“We worked on the album for three years pretty straight. We just love playing shows and that’s one of the sad things about working on an album…. that we weren’t able to go out… I think our band are best experienced live. We get to make albums and document it but we got so stifled by it that we ended up putting on our own shows in Sheffield to try out new songs and see what we could do. The need to play live was there.”
An album that was three years in the making, ‘Strange Creatures’ is undoubtedly Drenge’s most experimental record to date. After the more robust and refined ‘Undertow’ which was as driving as it was dramatic, ‘Strange Creatures’ reflects the climate in which it was made. Carefree abandonment is replaced by menacing tales of fear and confusion as they delve into the dark and the surreal even further. At the same time though, it’s an album brimming with musical ideas that all come together to create a sound they have previously described as “a psychological horror movie on wax”.
Eoin explains: “I went in with the producer Ross and we did a track with no limits and continued adding instruments on top on top and on top and it got a bit crazy. I wasn’t sure if it sounded like a Drenge song or not but he said to go with it. We continued with that on the record, we weren’t limiting ourselves with what to use.”
However, the live show is always at the back of their minds when in the studio. “We’re a bit stupid” he jokes. “We only want to do stuff we know we can do live… part of the album and the experiment of it was trying to separate those two worlds. The album is the album and the live thing is the live thing… I have to go on this journey but I think I’m getting there”
The eerie sense of unease and surrealism that sets the tone of the album derives as much from the current climate as it does Eoin’s fascination with fiction and storytelling. It’s something that has always been present, whether in their lyrics or artwork and particularly in their latest album which is full of distinctive characters, familiar emotions and recognisable places. Their songwriting may have evolved over the years but the foundations remain the same; the songs are still very much rooted in strong visuals and vivid stories.
“Yeah, I think using language to create strong imagery in people’s heads is a very easy way for me to write .. I don’t have a great memory so I try and write them in a way that’s easy for me to remember. I love films, if I could make films or write films I would love to do that. At the moment though I make music and music is a great way to write music and tell stories, make these amazing worlds. It’s a lot more limiting as you’re not using images but the power of music is still there to have a lot of fun with”
And there’s a great sense of humour that runs through it all too. It may not be the driving force behind their sonic experimentation but from the angst-driven energy of their debut through the scenic sprawl of Undertow and ‘Stange Creatures’, the band’s enthusiasm for their craft has inspired a great connection with their most avid fans.
“It seems to have really paid off chatting to fans after shows and stuff. They seem to really dig it and like the new style of it. We would struggle to stay as one thing and apologies to everyone who thought the two-piece thing was a long term goer! It’s great to make music, we try and tell our truth and our stories through it”
Keen to take their creativity into exciting new directions, Eoin discusses how he would love to be able to take his love of storytelling into the world of film. But just what would a Drenge film look like?
“It changes every day. I think at the moment it would be a film about Dominic Cummings. I saw a clip of him on twitter earlier today and it just said a lot about him,… it would be really interesting to explore” he laughs.
For now though, he’s in a real purple patch of creativity and is already looking forward to album number four. “Yeah, ive been working on stuff all summer. Drenge album 4 is become a real reality so I got come up with more crazy lyrics and crazy artwork”
Catch Drenge at Tenement Trail in Barras Art and Design at 8.45pm.
Get tickets here.