The new millennium has seen many British guitar based bands rise to fame, like Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian and, to an extent, Coldplay (if you've ever been to a Coldplay show you know how much of the band's sound come from Jonny Buckland's six-strings). Two other bands that have seen great success in the past five years are The Ting Tings and Band of Skulls. Musically, the two groups couldn't be further apart, but they both represent great ways to create new and exiting music in a world where so much emphasis is put on creating a hit song rather than solid albums, and building a following through live shows.
Band of Skulls are interesting in the fact that they might be more popular Stateside than in their home country. The trio from Southampton essentially got their start when the song “I Know What I Am” from their first album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey was chosen as Single Of The Week on iTunes in 2009, generating much attention from rock radio stations. The band has since been busy touring the U.S. and the U.K, building up quite a following in the process. When they released their second album Sweet Sour earlier this year, Band of Skulls proved that they were more than just a fluke. I got a chance to finally see the band when they visited Sweden a few months back, and it left me with three observations: They're extremely loud, musically they're completely in sync with one another, and they know how to put on a great rock show.
Band of Skulls is a trio featuring drummer Matt Hayward, with guitarist Russel Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson sharing vocal duties. It is clearly Marsden who shapes the band's sound the most, with his blues inspired guitar licks, drawing inspiration from some of rocks finest musicians, as he told Guitar World “I think I get a bit of my guitar style from a lot of American acts. I like guitarists who are daring, who take chances and play ‘outside the box,’ as it were. When you listen to Hendrix or those early Smashing Pumpkins records, you can’t not be influenced.”
Marsden appears to be quite obsessed with gear, with pedal board that keeps expanding, as he told Music Radar “My pedalboard has grown a bit. I'm playing around with more delays.”
On his board he has everything from such classics such as a ProCo Rat and a Big Muff to newer models like a Dan Electro Reel Echo, and Electro Harmonix Memory Man with Hazarai pedal. Both Russel and Richardson use Electro Harmonix POG pedals, as Emma told Music Radar “I use the POG to fill in the sound when Russell does a solo.” With Russell adding, “Although we both use a POG pedal. Emma got one first, and I stole it. [laughs] So we had to get another one for her.”
The Ting Tings is a great example of how to use modern technology to your advantage in a live setting. The duo from Salford consists of singer Katie White, and Jules de Martino on drums, with the two of them playing whatever other instrument the situation calls for. Although there are only two of them on stage, they are able to make quite a bit of noise, using samples and drum loops that both White and de Martino trigger throughout the songs.
With the help of bands like The Ting Tings and Band of Skulls it is clear that British rock is alive and well, it's just packaged a little differently these days, where new technology makes its way in to the music world. Is it a good thing that stuff like samples and drum loops enable a band like The Ting Tings to put on a big show with only two members on stage, or is it only allowed to be called rock music if every instrument is performed live, as in the case of Band of Skulls? You be the judge - share your thoughts in the comments below!