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Interview: Matt Hayward from Band Of Skulls


English group Band Of Skulls have been steadily wow-ing the socks off rock lovers around the world for the last couple of years in support of their trilogy of albums. After a well-deserved break from touring the band approached their latest album ‘By Default’ in…shall we say, a very unique way (it involves a freakin’ church!). We asked the band’s drummer Matt Hayward about the unorthodox creative process behind the album, what they’re looking forward to on their fast-approaching Aussie tour, and what they’d do with Black Magic powers!

You’re just a few weeks out from your Australian tour for your fourth studio album ‘By Default’, so what are you most looking forward to about your Australian shows?

We are always excited to come back to Australia, it still blows our mind to travel so far and have people turn up to see us play! We’ve been coming to Australia since 2010 and have always had a really warm reception. We’re also visiting places we’ve never been before, which always adds new excitement.

The new album was written originally in a Southhampton Baptist church, where you “found the new songs in hours of woodshedding on ratty old practice amps”. Firstly why did the band decide to write in a church, and has the unorthodox way of writing the new album change the way Band Of Skulls now plays live?

Well, we were looking for a place to write. In the past we’ve used rehearsal spaces, which can be great for tour rehearsing but not always the most inspiring of places. The church is in the middle of our hometown, I’ve walked past it all my life. We stuck our heads round the door and spoke to the reverend about what was possible. The church runs on charity donations so it seemed it would work for both parties.

I believe they needed money for the roof to be fixed. So we spent our days playing in church. We stripped all our equipment back to the bare minimum and got cracking. The drum kit immediately sounded huge, I guess these buildings are designed to carry sound, and so we started to look at the church as an instrument/effect…learning how to play it. As a 3-piece we’ve always looked at ways to sound bigger than the sum of our parts. We do it by creating space around what we are playing. The church sound allowed to create so much space to play with!

The album artwork for ‘By Default’ is your set up in the Southhampton Baptist church, which is quite different to the kaleidoscopes on your first three albums. ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’, ‘Sweet Sour’, and ‘Himalayan’ were part of a trilogy, so what’s the plan for the next few albums?

The idea was to show where the music comes from and how the process begins, we’ve never really shown that side before! The church image still maintains a certain mirror image as the building is relatively symmetrical. We have no idea what the next themes will be as yet but I’m sure there will be correlations hinting at records previous.


You guys toured for nearly five years non-stop for the first three albums, what were the biggest lessons your learnt during those tours?

Pace yourself! When we began it was all so new and exciting, we went from one month working bar jobs to suddenly darting all over the place. You learn to control what was going on otherwise something would eventually give. We’ve had a fair few breakdown moments, but that’s often the signal to get off the road and start working on new material.

You said in a Q & A with The Independent “singing a capella sounded really powerful”, so can Australia audiences expect the three of you to bust out some wicked three-way harmonies in the middle of your sets?

(Laughs) Certainly not three-part as I cannot sing…well, I can but the only gigs I do are in the shower. Emma and Russell have always used the blend of their voices to create a strong vocal presence, or to sing separately to give two angles. People often get confused as to who’s singing and more often than not it’s because it’s both of them!

The blend turns into one unique voice. Again being a 3-piece the two vocals give a deeper range into what we can achieve sonically and that’s something we use a lot. It’s a shame it’s not three, but there you go (laughs). It’s important to know where your strengths lie and when to step away. There are plenty of two-part a capella coming your way…

There’s also whispers over 100 songs were written during the process behind ‘By Default’, so how did you as a band decide on the top dozen tracks that made the album?

We make lists! Every idea that is brought to the table that shows some value gets put on the board. As the ideas come in they evolve into somewhat of a league table. The most finished ideas edges it’s way to the top and when we hit a wall we look at something lower down and see if it can be bumped up the charts. Then the top 20 make the final cut, and then it really gets interesting when it whittles down to the final 12.

Often a producer is involved by that point which can really help to get some objectivity ’cause we’ve been living in a church for nine months and we’ve lost our minds by then! We thank the church for being the inspiration behind so many ideas. There’s 88 left that haven’t been heard yet…

Lastly, if Band of Skulls had some seriously strong “black magic” powers what would you do?

Easy, time travel! If we could click our fingers and go from one place to another that would be great. It would allow time to see a bit more of the places we visit ’cause right now we’re drive-by tourists.

Band Of Skulls 2016 Australian Tour

Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
UOW Uni Bar, Wollongong
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
The Triffid, Brisbane
Disconnect Festival, WA

Get Tickets HERE