Rolo Tomassi: “There are far wider parameters to modern metal”

The band talk to NME about the state of rock and their journey to new album 'Where Myth Becomes Memory'

Rolo Tomassi have spoken to NME about their evolution and journey to new album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’, as well as releasing it at a time where metal music has “far wider parameters”.

Yesterday, (February 4), the Sheffield-founded post-hardcore band released their sixth album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’. Vocalist Eva Korman and keyboardist James Spence have spoken to NME about why it’s deliberately more positive than anything they’ve done before.

Formed in 2005 by siblings Eva Korman and James Spence, the band have proven an acclaimed force in British metal – if one of the most arguably under-sung. From snarling 2008 debut ‘Hysterics’ to the Diplo-produced, Biffy Clyro-esque second album ‘Cosmology’ and the emotional heft of 2015’s ‘Grievances’ through to 2018’s beautifully heavy ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’,  they’ve shown themselves as constantly progressive. However this time, Spence tells NME that “album six is where we’ve hit our stride”.

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The band came up around the same time as metal icons Bring Me The Horizon and Architects. While those two bands have gone on to sell out arenas and headline festivals, Rolo Tomassi take pride in having chosen “a different path,” said Spence.

“Even when those groups were coming up, we could play on the same bill as them but we were a very different type of band,” he said. “I went to see BMTH at the O2 in September and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen – but if we wanted that, our band wouldn’t sound the way it does.”

He admitted “there are different sacrifices that come from both” but as Korman explained, “the balance we have between our personal lives and our professional lives has been a direct contribution to how long we’ve been going.”

Spence continued: “With every record, we want to play to more people and visit more places. With that in mind, we went into this record knowing it has to be the best thing we’ve done because otherwise, why would we put it out?

“We’ve set a standard for ourselves. Six albums in, you just want to maintain then surpass your own standards. At this point, it’s only our own legacy we’re going to tarnish if we release something that’s rushed or substandard.”

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Rolo Tomassi new single Closer album Where Myth Becomes Memory
Rolo Tomassi performing in 2018. Credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns

‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ builds on the success of predecessor ‘Love Will Die…’ but it’s not more of the same. The third chapter in an unintended trilogy that started with ‘Grievances’, the album was initially delayed as the band waited for the pandemic to subside so Korman could fly back from New Jersey to record with the rest of the band. However, come January 2021 they realised there was no light at the end of the tunnel so set about working remotely. “There was no pressure of an imminent touring schedule, so we could spend as much time as we wanted on the record,” said Spence with Korman describing that as “a luxury.”

“On the last couple of records, we’ve really found our identity,” Spence continued, with Korman pointing out the chemistry between the band has never been stronger (guitarist Chris Cayford and bassist Nathan Fairweather both joined in 2012, drummer Al Pott in 2018).

“I can’t believe it’s taken 17 years but we’re a lot more comfortable in our own skin now,” Spence said. “A lot of that was down to the successes we enjoyed on the last record. It got some good reviews, which we definitely noticed but the reaction that it got from the people that were coming to the shows was really special. It was doing something to them that our other material just hadn’t done. It made us feel a lot more at ease taking what would have been considered risks on previous records.”

For example, Rolo Tomassi have always mixed clean vocals with guttural screams and piano interludes with fearsome breakdowns. They take those contrasts even further on ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ to the point where a song like ‘Closer’ sounds more like Coldplay than Glassjaw. “It’s nice to be able to push the dynamics of our sound and it still be cohesive within a Rolo Tomassi album,” said Korman.

Spence went on: “It’s more about mood and tone rather than genre. We never labelled ourselves as a genre band which means we can release a single like ‘Closer’ and one like ‘Drip’ and no one really bats an eyelid. We’ve created this space for ourselves where we can do whatever we like and it never feels contrived.”

Lyrically, ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ is a positive step forward for the group. In 2020, Rolo Tomassi left their label Holy Roar after its founder Alex Fitzpatrick was accused of rape and sexual abuse. Fitzpatrick denied the claims but Tomassi released a statement saying “We have zero tolerance for abusive behaviour and stand in solidarity with those that have come forward.”

By the time work had begun on ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’, the band hadn’t played a show together in nearly two years, and didn’t know when the next opportunity would come. Add in a global pandemic and political turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic and Rolo Tomassi decided they needed to make a more hopeful record for their own mental wellbeing.

“’Grievances’ was a very dark record and then ‘Time Will Die…’ was me reflecting on that, trying to let go,” said Korman. “Writing the lyrics to those records was really challenging for me and I really didn’t want to revisit that headspace again. I didn’t want to get lost in the darkness.

“With this album, I wanted to be more explorative. The themes are renewal, rebirth and new beginnings.”

Korman doesn’t think it’s a COVID record as such, but writing it during isolation “definitely pushed me to think differently about things. There’s definitely still darkness on this record but it was harnessed, rather than overwhelming,” she continued, adding: “The lyrics ended up being more present. It’s a lot more positive than the previous two records, which were definitely more focused on the past.”

Rolo Tomassi
Eva Spence of Rolo Tomassi performs in concert at Razzmatazz 2 during Route Resurrection on January 18, 2018 in Barcelona (Picture: Xavi Torrent/Redferns)

Spence described the act of making the record as “pure escapism”, but admitted that he “didn’t want it to just be a distraction”. “There’s definitely enough in it to have an emotional significance on people and for them to take something from it,” he said, with Korman adding that “People can take whatever they need to take from it – and that’s a really beautiful thing.“

The band are also releasing ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ into a world that’s more accepting of progressive, heavy music thanks to the likes of Oathbreaker, Deafheaven, Spiritbox, Code Orange and Loathe.

“It does feel there are far wider parameters to modern metal,” said Spence. “You had to exist within these really small confines to be a part of the scenes that existed when we were younger but now, the lid’s been blown off. There are so many bands doing amazing things right now, which is only a positive thing for us.”

Still, the band disagree about being underrated. “For me to say we’re underdogs or under-appreciated, it suggests that I feel that we deserve more than we have,” explained Spence. “We can tour the world and people come to the shows. We can release records and people buy them. What an absolute privilege of a position to be in. I think we’re very appreciated by the people that listen to us and we’re so thankful for that.”

‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ by Rolo Tomassi is out now. The band will head out on a previously announced UK and European tour later this month.

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