Brothers Eoin Loveless and Rory Loveless, otherwise known as Drenge, return to Seattle on Thursday evening, June 4th. The English northerners (they’re now based in Sheffield), Eoin (singer/guitarist, and that name is pronounced as Owen) and Rory (drummer) tour with bassist Rob Graham. Technically Drenge is a duo. Sort of. What is certain about Drenge is that its music revels in aggressive guitars and drums – and vocals – making real noise, as in making actual room around you. Maybe like a cocoon of sound, rather than some big bad wall.
The name Drenge comes from the Danish word for “boys”. Obscure? Kind of. Although they pronounce it differently – say drenj, as in drench but with a j at the end instead of the Danish way, which would be something like dray-ya. Because Danish is really brutal with the letter g, dropping it entirely when placed mid word and oh man, you’ve probably lost all interest in this article so let’s get back to the music and a bit of Drenge’s history and such.
A short time ago I talked with rad drummer Rory, whose style makes drumming brutally elegant. Along with Eoin, who writes the stab-you-in-the-heart lyrics, Rory expands musical genres from rhythm and blues to grunge to goth. Two albums strong into their career, Drenge (2013) and The Undertow (2015), the brothers have made some dark – and completely refreshing – music. Even their cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” flipped to “I Don’t Want to Make Love to You,” explodes. With lyrics such as the only faces that I pull are the faces of a skull in “Face Like a Skull,” or I’m the snake that puts you down in “The Snake,” or peel off my skin/the flesh from my bone /I’ll be for you, forever alone in “Nothing,” does Rory get a bit worried about his brother? “The first album is drenched in sarcasm and a really dark sense of humor. The second album’s deeper and it’s a bit more serious. There’s never anything I’ve been uncomfortable with. There are some things I feel that maybe you should focus a bit more or whatever. But he’s a huge fan of people like Nick Cave, and songwriters with deep imagery in their lyrics. That’s where a lot of that comes from.” Rory added, “I don’t get a say in the lyrics. Listening to first vocal takes it’s like, wow, how’d he come up with that? It will take five minutes to get my head around it. He’s changing and maturing in his lyrics.”
Working styles were very different between Drenge and The Undertow. Rory detailed: “The first album, we were writing songs inspired by Jay Reatard and Thee Oh Sees. We put a load of really raw stuff into it. It was written for playing live. The second one is a bit more studio-based,” adding, “We didn’t know how they’d sound live.” For production, they called on Sheffield producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, the Fall) for both albums. “Sheffield’s kind of a small city, so everyone seems to know everyone. You’re never more than a couple of handshakes from anyone else. We first met him and did some demos, which ended up on the album, in 2012. The first album was raw, and we thought we could get a lot more out of Ross. We’re really happy with it. He’s a great producer.” The Undertow turned out to be quite influenced by the Cure: “I don’t really listen to them too much, but they definitely influenced the record a lot. Disintegration was the key influence for the album. We listened to it really loud to get the desired effect on it.”
As I am always interested in how bands decide on their album covers I asked what led to covers with cars on them? “The first one was just one found. We were going through old pictures of us because we wanted baby pictures of us in there. It was taken by a friend of our mum’s, ages ago at a cemetery in Sheffield. The second one was kind of a vision of a getaway car.” Another visual of interest for me was the video for “Fuckabout,” which Rory said “was filmed in this house just outside London. They hire (it) out for filming and photo shoots. It was really whacky, all the stuff in there. The Culkin brothers had a photo shoot there for Vanity Fair ages ago. They took this photo, and we recreated it. Nothing had changed. It was really bizarre.”
Rory, who studied graphic design in school, used to make Drenge zines, which I would love to see. Does he think about making more? “Not really. . . (after) We put out the second album, we didn’t have time to make zones anymore. . . We could do more. If we did it the old school way, which is probably the best way, it would take forever. There’s a grim process to it, where you have to stress out making it, and then you stress out in the photocopying center, and everyone’s staring at you. . . you’re printing out hundreds of copies of these ridiculous drawings.” Then he mentioned something I was glad to hear: “We should bring some to America. No one in America’s got one, I don’t think.” Yes, bring them to America!
The Drenge approach to drumming, naturally, comes from Rory, who explained: “I was taught drums from a keyboard player (but) it got to the point where I wasn’t really learning anything off of anyone, and I couldn’t really teach myself anything. Ross, the producer, is a drummer, and he’s drummed for Jarvis Cocker. He taught me a lot about style. Looking back, I wouldn’t say what I was doing was particularly graceful, but I tried to be as imaginative as possible. You hear a load of bands and the drummers are doing the same thing. The style will be the same over 7 out of 10 bands. It kind of bores me, so I try to do something a little different if I can.” I’d read he studied jazz drumming? “Not really studying it, I was just playing in jazz bands. I was the only drummer in school. I played in high school jazz band and had to pick up loads of stuff, but it wasn’t anything like that Whiplash film.” Well, that’s good!
Drenge made an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman just in January. How scary was that? “I was kind of nervous. Our friend, Katie Harkin (touring with Sleater-Kinney), played on David Letterman and told us it wasn’t that bad, it’s like a theater rather than a TV studio, with an audience you can focus on and not focus on the cameras. We did Jools Holland in the UK. The audience are behind you, so you’re looking into a camera. It’s a bit daunting.” And a few more details on Rory and Drenge:
Rory’s dog, Panda (bear), a lurcher, makes an appearance in Drenge’s video for “I Wanna Break You in Half.”
His favorite brother duo would be “Fred and George (Weasley) from Harry Potter. I bet they could play some mean guitar as well.”
Rory does not like the cocktail White Russians, as Eoin has said. “I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know if he knows me that well (like) when it comes to Christmas or my birthday. He’ll just make up stuff.”