Red Rum Club interview: “We’ve still got that Tarantino edge”

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Red Rum Club

Red Rum Club set to play a massive Liverpool show and release a new single Getintothis’ Rick Leach chats with them about playing America, 70’s disco music and the joys of working flat out.

When you listen to a lot of music and see a lot of artists, you get a certain feeling, an instinct if you will, for when something special is on hand.

It doesn’t happen that often to be honest, but when it does, you just know.

So it was for this writer, way back in March 2016 when Red Rum Club played the Black Lodge Brewery.

There was a passion, an exuberance and a determination about their performance. There was that sense of communicating, of needing to communicate which you get with the very best bands and artists.

There was a staggering amount of confidence which belied their years. But on top of all of that, if that wasn’t enough, there was something else. Something more. Something that I only recently realised. There was an urgency about it all. A sense of time and just how much that time is precious.

Now maybe you might get this in live performances every now and again; say, Springsteen or Prince for example or from a record, you pick your own, you know what I’m talking about. But it’s that indefinable feeling of when things are just right.

So it is with Red Rum Club.

There was always a risk that performance in 2016 was a one-off. That they’d peaked too early and, to use a football analogy, were like a talented young player you’d seen on a YouTube video and thought they’d be the next Messi only for them to be profoundly disappointing the moment they’d signed for your side.

Yet something told us they wouldn’t go that way. That there was more to then than that. And when they did the equivalent of signing to a top Premiership side early this year by releasing their debut album, Matador on Modern Sky, our early faith in them was proved right.

Matador won plaudits and five-star reviews across the board and rightly so. It’s a record which never lets up for a moment, crammed with ecstatic widescreen and classic songs, heartfelt lyrics and topped off with Mariachi brass stylings throughout. It’s an album that more than justifies that early promise and more importantly, makes you want to hear more, to hear what lies ahead.

Since the release of Matador, they’ve played festivals up and down the land, wowing audiences with their live performances including Y-Not, Truck Fest, Isle of Wight and most memorably, Glastonbury.

Red Rum Club

With a new single recently hot off the press and a spate of headline shows lined up this Autumn (including a long-sold out show at the O2 Academy in Liverpool), we caught up with them recently while they were recording at Parr Street Studios. Even though it was the end of a long day for them, we managed to drag them away from the music and have a wide-ranging and very open chat about, well a whole lot.

What’s fascinating is that despite talking with five of the six band members; Fran Doran (vocals), Michael McDermott and Tom Williams (guitars and backings vocals), Simon Hepworth (bass), Joe Corby (trumpet) but with Neil Lawson (drums) absent, they speak with a remarkable unanimity about Red Rum Club.

They’re individuals of course, with different views and perspectives, but when they talk about the band there’s a joined-up vision, a clarity of purpose and a collective spirit which they all follow. It’s quite astonishing and infectious. They make you want to be part of this gang, this club.

We have to start at the beginning I suppose, a logical place by asking exactly what they’re up to at the moment. What’s happening at this point in time?

Mike is the first to chip in. “It’s been a hundred miles per hour since the album came out on January with festivals and gigs and now we’ve just heard that we’re doing a BBC session at Maida Vale that’s going out hopefully in December.

And we’re doing the session in the morning and playing a festival in the evening in Blackburn, but that’s what it’s been like all year-“right lads, you’re in London to record for the Beeb for nine in the morning and then back up to Blackburn for the evening for the festival”

It’s great! And in between all that we’ve got our personal lives. It’s all kicking off!” 

When I ask if they’re got any time off, if there are any plans for a holiday or simply time to relax there’s a collective shaking of heads, yet not in that “fuck, we really need a holiday” sort of way.

Fran answers for them all. “We’ve got a bit of time off at the end of October, right but only a little bit ‘cos we all feel and we all know that we need to strike while the iron is hot. We’re not going to be taking any last-minute trips to Spain or anything like that.”

Is there a North v South divide in music?

It’s time to scroll back a bit. This year seems the point where it really kicked up a gear for Red Rum Club.

The album came out in the depths of winter and since then they’ve been powering down the highway, with festivals and gigs galore. It’s all been hectic and frenetic, yet with a traction and trajectory that has a definitive purpose.

As with anything in life there are ups and downs of course. I feel a bit mean-spirited asking such an upbeat bunch about the latter, but in the spirit of hard-hitting writing at Getintothis I plough on regardless.

It’s a measure of how open they are that they don’t take umbrage at my clumsy questioning and if anything, they see the positive where maybe others would wallow in self-pitying rock star clichés. It’s hard to stop them talking.

They’re falling over each other to recount the tales of the last few months and it’s good to hear. And they do concentrate on the positive.

Mike comments: “The highpoints? The album coming out in January, the way it was received by everyone and the chart position and the festivals, especially Glastonbury.

For most us, all of us except Fran, it was the first time that we’d ever been to Glastonbury, let alone performed there so that was definitely one of the high points.

Fran adds, “But every festival really, every live show and we’re playing and it’s like “wow, every one knows all the songs!.””

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Tom says that when they played in March on the back of the album it was great across the country, yet now they’re at a stage when they’re paying larger and larger venues, ones that they never thought they’d fill but the tickets for the October shows are “flying out.”

There’s a certain amount incredulity all around but obvious pride in that they’re doing something right.

Joe chips in with the fact that you may have been sitting in a van for six or seven hours but that single hour in front of fans and friends and family makes it all worthwhile. This is as low as a low point gets for Red Rum Club.

Even when I press them on the low points they concede that the travelling is a pain when they’re on the road but they don’t sit on a bus being miserable, because it’s all part of it- except when they’ve got a “fucking hangover… and then it can be a bit grim!” But even that is said to laughs all round. They take the rough with the smooth. That’s part of being a club.

Red Rum Club

With such a sound that which they come up with, something quite unique, there’s always the question of inspiration. I wonder what or who influences them and the answer surprises me somewhat.

“It’s a bit old fashioned, but The Beatles. Not just the music but everything. I’ve just watched that Eight Days a Week and it baffles me. It must have been amazing. And I know there’s never going to be anything like that again…but just a slice of that…” says Mike. He leaves the sentence hanging in the air.

And mention of the loveable mop-tops leads neatly onto the L question. Are they a band from Liverpool or a Liverpool band? A subtle distinction, but a distinction nevertheless. This is not a question of mere semantics, of wordplay either, because there is a difference.

Sometimes it’s difficult to break out of our postcode and geographical boundaries but there’s something about Red Rum Club which tells me these are limits they can easily break, and have breaking for a while.

There are a few seconds silence while the question is mulled over. The response is polite and courteous and couched in terms not to give offence. There’s no false bravado or bragging- I’m not chatting to Liam or Noel Gallagher here- but this is where their determination shines through.

Mike is the one who speaks first. “We don’t want to be categorized, but we’re a band from Liverpool. ‘cos we use Liverpool as our base.

We love Liverpool and we don’t play here that often but it’s our HQ,” He pauses for a minute and couches his words carefully, ”You get taken more seriously outside of Liverpool and there’s…pros and cons…if people like you in Liverpool, they really like you and if they don’t, then they really, really don’t like you. It can be quite opinionated and that’s not a bad thing”

Fran muses on the same point. “We wondered in the early days if we were in the right clique because we felt so out of it, then things started to revolve around the band a bit more and it makes us wonder if there was ever a clique in the first place. And then you realise there wasn’t a clique after all, it was just people working hard.”

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Tom states that although they are going well everywhere and cites London as an example, then they’d never move down there, they’re always a band from Liverpool and they’d hate the idea of being thought as just another “English” band. He goes onto to explain that because they’ve been seen as grafting hard outside of Liverpool it’s earned them a certain amount of respect and makes coming home much more special.

This is a group that’s not looking backwards. There’s something about Red Rum Club that shines through. Their eyes are focused not on the rear-view mirror; like all serious artists (and they are serious about what they’re doing even while they’re clearly enjoying it all and having a whole bunch of fun along the way) they’re looking forward.

And not on what lies around the next corner and or just around the bend, or even the next few bends.

“We know that the next five years,“ says MikeWe’re going to work really hard. Five albums. An album a year, every year. And tour and festivals. And we want to do it. We want to. Because we love it.”

“We’re a bit more self-assured with the new album,” he continues, “We’re not so scared. We’ll go,“go on, let’s throw that choir on there and see what it sounds like.”  There’s more of a 70’s disco edge, Kool and the Gang or Hot Chocolate,” (this provokes laughter all round) “but still with that Tarantino edge, y’know?”

Tom comments that it’s still going to be Red Rum Club. We know it will be. As they say, it might not be a radical departure at this stage. It’s still their second album and they’re working on it

Red Rum Club at Parr Street Studios

They don’t know how it will exactly turn out. And that’s what makes it exciting for both us and them. The promise of what lies ahead.

There’s a distant horizon. Distant for us; but not for them.

They know that horizon and what lies beyond it is not some unattainable goal, but somewhere they’ll get to.

And it fits. A widescreen vision. Cinemascope. It fits with the whole mariachi thing.

Red Rum Club soundtracking a John Ford western. Imagine. Monument Valley, New Mexico or South Texas. America.

“Oh, absolutely!” Fran says with a grin that lights up the whole room. I notice they’re all smiling. “We love to play America. Six Scousers in leather jackets? What a dream! We don’t know how we’d do it but it’s a vision we all share. We all want to do it.”

They will. If I’ve ever been convinced of anything and if  I’ve ever sure of anything that this is it. Red Rum Club conquer America. It’s going to happen.

But before Red Rum Club take the New World by storm we’ve got a tour and sold out Liverpool show ahead of us. It’s something they’re excited about; a homecoming of sorts. What should we expect?

“It’s going to be a big special show,“ says Fran ”We’re doing a lot out of our own pockets for this, because we want to make it… we don’t want to do it under par. We want to remember the big Liverpool shows. It’s a big special date on our calendar.”

And ours as well. A special date.

Listen to Red Rum Club’s new single Kids Addicted on Modern Sky here:

All Red Rum Club images by Getintothis’ Warren Millar

Red Rum Club play:

  • September 26: O2, Sheffield
  • September 27: The Ferret, Preston
  • September 28:  O2 Academy, Liverpool
  • September 29: O2 Academy, Birmingham
  • October 1: Clwb ifor Bach, Cardiff
  • October 2: The Lexington, London
  • October 3:  Beta, Rock City. Nottingham
  • October 4: The Black Prince, Northampton
  • October 6: O2 Academy 2, Oxford
  • October 7: Waterfront, Norwich
  • October 8: Adelphi, Hull
  • October 9: Cafe Drummonds, Aberdeen
  • October 10: The 13th Note, Glasgow
  • October 12: Twisterella Festival, Middlesborough (2.00pm)
  • October 12: Neighbourhood Festival, Manchester (evening)

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