Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Drenge: 'Who says our politicians shouldn't like rock music?'

The English duo's career may have had a leg up from an MP but, they tell Edwin Gilson, there's no reason why even the likes of Ed Miliband shouldn't enjoy their work.

Drenge play at Limelight 2 in Belfast tonight.
Drenge play at Limelight 2 in Belfast tonight.

When departing West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson recommended Drenge to Labour leader Ed Miliband in his resignation letter earlier this year, it was part of an altogether reasonable argument: why shouldn't powerful political personalities be able to listen to contemporary rock bands?

Eoin Loveless, singer and guitarist of the raucous English duo in question (that also contains his younger brother Rory on drums) acknowledges the rise in profile that Watson has brought his band; since the MP's words, Drenge have released an enthrallingly raw debut album to widespread acclaim and embarked on numerous extensive tours of the UK, including a show at Belfast's Limelight 2 tonight.

Doesn't Eoin (22) wish their springboard moment had come courtesy of a cooler figure than a middle-aged politician, though?

"Well, it's fine for anyone to like our band, of course," he laughs, before turning contemplative. "What I do find weird about the incident is that people seem to have missed the point of what he (Watson) was getting at. He was talking about the fact that Ed Miliband and high-up politicians don't go to festivals, gigs and the cinema and are therefore out of touch with the majority of the UK. I mean why shouldn't a politician be able to go to Glastonbury Festival, for example, when for one weekend Glastonbury becomes a huge city in its own right? How can these people claim to represent the UK?"

That Eoin has clearly given the issue some consideration is unsurprising. The blonde singer is a down-to-earth presence, part of the new, earnest breed of alternative UK musicians who realise egotism and self-obsession in music eventually come back to haunt you.

Drenge are a multi-dimensional band too; they mix playfulness and youthful innocence (witness Eoin's boisterous stage presence and song titles like Let's Pretend and People in Love Make Me Feel Yuck) with Gothic lyrical themes; indeed the very first line of their debut album reads: 'I found a bird on the floor, it was covered in blood.' More gruesome imagery is to be found elsewhere.

Eoin asserts the tedium of teenage suburban life has had a large influence on his writing, but surely there must be more to it than that. Where does the darkness come from?

"Well I think a lot of it's humourous, kind of tongue-in-cheek horror," he says. "I can't write about anything boring because it would come across as boring. There needs to be a visceral, visual aspect to the words in order to form a connection with the crowd, so that's where the aggression comes from."

If rural England inspired the lyrics on Drenge's debut record, then American grunge and blues informed the instrumentation -- as Eoin points out, for he, Rory and anyone else raised in the Nineties: "US culture was pretty much everywhere, you couldn't escape it." He adds: "We got a really positive image of that country from the music and TV we used to watch as kids, but then the Iraq war happened and it totally destroyed our notions of the great USA. It was disorienting."

The brothers are just about getting over the "shock of being recognised in public," says the singer. "It is annoying that everyone presumes musicians automatically desire fame too," he muses. "For us it's just about going about things as we normally would, whether that is on stage or at the shop buying a pint of milk."

For Drenge, keeping it real means playing as many gigs as humanly possible; Eoin believes that bands are put off Belfast because it's "well off the beaten track".

"That's why we're really looking forward to it, though," he adds. "It's always cool to go to a place you've never been before."

MLAs take notice then -- why not take Tom Watson's advice tonight and catch one of the UK's most exciting rock bands up close?

* Drenge play at Limelight 2 in Belfast tonight. For details, visit www.limelightbelfast.com

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