I discovered this band by pure chance at a Soundwave some years ago and I’ve dug them ever since. A consistently weird and generally wonderful band that exist on the outside of every genre they blend into their music – and that’s just fine by them. I’ve met the Spence siblings from the band several times, including at their Australian tour last year. They’re incredibly polite and charming folk. That’s all I have to say on the matter, really.
– DJY, October 2014
There was plenty to see and do at this year’s Soundwave festival, but for those who managed to sneak in early, one new band was the talk of the early hours of the festivities. That band was arty British post-hardcore kids Rolo Tomassi, with a deceptively attractive frontwoman in Eva Spence who went on to screech and howl like some kind of rabid dog; as well as having at least half of the members leaping off the stage to crowdsurf at one point or another. Love them or hate them, they certainly generated a reputation, turning many perfect strangers into huge fans.
“For us, it’s the most important thing in the world to do good live shows,” says Eva’s brother James Spence, the band’s keyboardist and co-lead vocalist. “We started the band to play shows more than anything, and we strive to be as good as we can be – tight, as energetic and as aggressive and imposing as we can be without wanting to alienate anyone. We just want to be fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”
Working up from D.I.Y. shows and home-made cassette demos, the band evolved from a project between the Spence siblings to expand into the quintet that it is today. The band have two albums under their belt – the latest of which, Cosmology, was released in May of this year, produced by former M.I.A. and Santigold collaborator Diplo. In spite of Cosmology arguably being the band’s most technical and intrinsic work to date, the band were fully confident in their abilities to translate this to the live environment.
“It’s easier for it to be difficult to play than to worry it won’t sound good live,” Spence says. “Essentially, if something’s difficult, we can always practice it for ourselves. I think that’s the main difference between the first and the second record – there were some songs on the first record that we had to modify to play live, and none of us were really happy with that. We wanted to take what we’d done on the record and play that live and make a bigger energy, rather than change the songs. I think the difficult songs on the new album, we’ve mastered and can be realised in their full potential when we play them now.”
Ahead of its release, fans in Australia were amongst the first to hear cuts from Cosmology road tested properly. Despite only being here for just over a week, Spence still has incredibly fond memories of what was the band’s first ever Australian tour – even going so far as to describe it as a “headfuck.” His voice picks up and the tone of excitement is too outstanding to ignore.
“Flying that far from home across the world to play gigs with our band is just a very, very strange feeling,” he says. “I don’t think any of us ever expected or assumed that we would ever get the opportunity to do something like that, so a lot of the time we were just walking around wide-eyed – we weren’t really sure how to behave or what to do. After getting over the jetlag, we really made the most of the trip, and really explored the place. We could have really been taken aback, but we decided to make the most of it while we were there.”
The tour also saw the band paired up in some Sidewave action with what FasterLouder deemed one of the strangest support acts of all time – Rolo were the opening act for Jane’s Addiction’s headlining shows. “You’re kidding!” says Spence with a laugh when informed of the band making the list. “That’s amazing. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t identify a Jane’s Addiction song if you played it to me. But the name is just one that sticks out – I mean, I knew what Dave Navarro looked like, and I knew who Perry Farrell was – but I wasn’t really familiar with their music; though I knew it was an odd pairing. I consider them the last of the real rock-stars, and we’re a very humble band with really strong D.I.Y. roots – so to see the complete opposite end of the spectrum was something else. They were great shows, though – the crowds were really responsive and cool.”
After working through a tonne of festival dates, as well as coming off tour with a much more fitting support slot – opening for the band’s heroes, The Dillinger Escape Plan – the time is nigh for Rolo Tomassi to make their return to Australian shores as a part of a quadruple bill with other acts from this year’s Soundwave – This Is Hell, Comeback Kid and headliners Architects. The enthusiasm kicks up a notch once more as Spence gears up for his band’s imminent return to our “fair country,” as he puts it.
“Us, Architects and Comeback Kid were all on the same stage,” he recalls. “The drummer from This Is Hell is from England, too, so we got to meet those guys. I’m a fan of that band, so I ended up watching them anyway. It’s gonna be great to catch up with everyone – we all hung out a fair bit on that tour, and we all played some of the same festival dates in Europe, as well. It’s gonna be really nice – there’s gonna be that sense of friendship amongst all the bands, so it won’t be awkward the first few days.”