Three albums in and Band Of Skulls are ready to let the world know they’re aiming high. After bursting out of the blocks with 2009’s Baby Darling Doll Face Honey and avoiding the second album slump with the excellent Sweet Sour, the Southampton three-piece will release a new record this week. Himalayan builds on their well-established hallmark of pounding drums, catchy hooks and vocal harmonies, and according to drummer Matt Hayward, the album is a reflection of the good space the band is in at the moment.
“It’s a funny thing, because you make your first record and it’s a very exciting time, your life completely changes and you start travelling and gigging every night, and then there’s all this pressure that seems to come on the second record,” says Hayward.
“We finished touring the first one and went straight in and made the second one, so there was a lot of nervousness and a tenseness to that record. And this time round we feel much more comfortable in what we do, and can be a bit more objective in looking at what we’ve done previously and taking the things we feel are the best parts of those two records to make this third one.”
Alongside this newfound comfort, the trio has been able to take stock of its increasing popularity and develop its sound accordingly. Band Of Skulls’ aims are right there in the album title, and although the term ‘Himalayan’ is an in-joke for the group, Hayward also admits: “Perhaps it is a metaphor for bigger things to come.”
Singles ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ and ‘Nightmares’ might be at opposite ends of the band’s musical spectrum, but in between them Himalayan is jam-packed with certain crowd-pleasers, from the monster riffs of ‘I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead And One Dying’ to the playful quiet/loud dynamics of ‘I Guess I Know You Fairly Well’.
According to Hayward, the biggest development in their sound has been a growing confidence as each of the trio improves musically, and the vocal harmonies of guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson get better as they adapt to a growing audience.
“I think Russell and Emma singing every night and learning what works on a bigger stage and how that translates to a bigger audience, that translates to your writing because you visualise where you might be playing these songs in the future,” says Hayward. “There’s no smoke or mirrors, it’s just drums, bass and guitar and two vocals. It’s about how we can convert that sound into a bigger stage as our shows start to get bigger.”
Band Of Skulls’ shows are indeed growing quickly, and after supporting some of the world’s biggest bands in Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hayward believes they’ve had the best possible preparation for their upcoming headline shows.
“Every support tour we do, it’s a massive learning curve for us to see how a band further down the line go about their business,” he says. In particular, a recent support spot for Queens of the Stone Age gave Band Of Skulls the template they want to emulate. “They were the sweetest people, and so kind to us… there’s no bullshit to them, they just play the greatest rock show every night.”
Just about to start a massive world tour in support of Himalayan that will take them across three continents in as many months, the English rockers will soon get to test out the lessons they’ve learnt. Their schedule is so hectic that they barely have a day off from now until after their Australian shows in June, an endeavour that Hayward describes as “daunting”.
“We haven’t been touring heavily for quite some time, so to look at it in front of you is a bit unnerving. But then [you get] one day in and it’s like you live in this weird bubble and just take it as it is. I don’t want to think about it,” he laughs. “Everyone’s in very high spirits right now, but you never know, give it a few weeks.”
But even if the band’s Australian dates will come at the end of the long schedule, Hayward and the rest of the group can’t wait to return to our shores. Having visited in 2010 and again in 2012 to play Splendour in the Grass and a handful of sideshows, this will be their first visit without the support of a festival slot.
“Going to Australia is one of the greatest experiences we’ve had as a band. To be pretty much as far away from your hometown as you can possibly be – even since we went out there the first time for the first record, there’s been the nicest response, like no other place really, and it’s only got better since we’ve been back again.
“I can’t speak more highly of our experiences in Australia, we’ve just had a great time out there. The nice thing is people are so loyal to bands they believe in out there. A lot of the bullshit doesn’t really exist. If they like a band they stick with them, they’re very supportive of what you do.”
Himalayan out Friday March 28 through Electric Blues Recordings/[PIAS].