By Oliver Mawhinney
Fresh from their first post-festival season gig supporting Wolf Alice in Bristol, Eoin Loveless’ – guitarist and vocalist of the post-grunge brother duo Drenge – reflective tone is clear: “It’s been a kind of crazy three years for us.
“It’s weird it’s our third year of doing festivals – third time doing Reading & Leeds, third time at Glastonbury, second time at Latitude.”
With shows this summer including a main stage performance at Reading & Leeds, Drenge have certified their transgression from impressive young prospects to a hallmark of the British indie-rock scene.
Eoin savours in the seminal nature of that late August show: “It was difficult not to feel emotional stepping up on a big stage.
“Looking at the line up on that particular day it looked particularly weak and embarrassing to be alongside bands like Mumford & Sons and Panic! at the Disco – bands that I wouldn’t like to see our band put alongside.
“But I feel like we did what we needed to do that day. Compared to what it was five or ten summers ago… They might as well get Clean Bandit to headline, they will sell the same amount of tickets.”
The melancholy Eoin directs towards the diversity of the Reading & Leeds line up is testament to the pride and energy Drenge invest in their live shows: “When you see us live you get the pure essence of anger and adrenaline.
“The recorded side of the music is quite polished, I feel like all the music we’ve done in the studio is a much cleaner representation of what we’re like so when you see us live it’s just a different show.”
Much of this anger and aggressive tone that underpin Drenge’s live sound is rooted upon the associations of growing up in the current British political climate: “I can’t say we’re speaking on behalf of unemployment but that’s where the band definitely stemmed from.
“I just lost six months of my life with nothing going on and the only thing that I had that I could focus on or contribute to was booking this band that I was in with my brother for their next show in two week’s time at a different venue in Sheffield, and trying to have a creative purpose when I felt like had no purpose.
“Being unemployed sucks but it’s not your fault that you’re not employed. You can’t point a finger at someone and say ‘go screw you’ – it’s not the government’s fault that you’re unemployed, the government don’t make jobs – it’s more the economy’s fault.
“People are so quick to go ‘oh we need to write songs about politicians’ but no one’s writing songs about bankers or the real people who are ruining this country.”
With songs such as The Woods originating from Castleton, where the brothers hail from, a serene rural idyll deep into the Derbyshire Peaks, their music is an ode to the countryside and its influences: “All our music is dedicated to the countryside.
“I remember when we started touring and I’d say we were from Sheffield but we weren’t and someone just went ‘you need to stop saying that because you’re not’ so I did but now I actually live in Sheffield but I like pushing the Derbyshire side of my band.”
Thus the resentment Eoin rages at the controversial process of fracking, which threatens many of the nation’s rural heartlands in the pursuit of gas, is unsurprising: “Recently the whole fracking thing has really sent me over, I’m so furious that people can feel that’s a perfectly fine thing to do to the countryside. I find it a real invasion.”
Now embedded into a touring schedule with the addition of bassist and former frontman of blues-rock duo Wet Nuns Rob Graham for live shows, an addition that Eoin describes as: “Fantastic. It changes the dynamic from just being on the road with my brother.”
Drenge are preparing for their fourth tour of America, however shows in America offer a contrasting environment and atmosphere, Eoin considers: “In the States we’ve always played plus-21 shows and it just changes the vibe in a really weird way.
“The kids that our going crazy at the front at our shows aren’t there because music is lumped in with the alcohol industry and kids can’t go to see live music unless it’s arena shows. America has got a real problem.”
With Undertow marking a transition to a more sinister, darker sound, aficionados are already excited for the future of Drenge’s sound. However, Eoin concludes quietly upon the brothers’ future sound: “If you find a sound that you don’t think you’ve wasted then make another record but I feel that on both records we’ve done what we could. We try to write sporadic genreless rock music – people go ‘you sound like Nirvana or The Smiths or The Arctic Monkeys’. Someone recently said we sounded like Talking Heads… awesome because of the rhythm in that song.”
Urging the band to pursue a Talking Heads-inspired album, Eoin humours: “Maybe, that would be exciting.” While one can only dream of Eoin replicating David Byrne, it is startlingly clear that Drenge’s riffs are here to astound for years to come. Eoin and Rory Loveless are one of Britain’s most promising duos.
Photograph: Infectious Records