Forming from “the best of Crosby” around 2015, Red Rum Club could have fallen by the wayside as just another guitar band had it not been for their signature trumpet and distinct song writing style. Enjoying nationwide recognition with their hit singles ‘Ballerino’ and the summery ‘Eleanor’, Red Rum Club have secured a place as one of the best modern bands in Liverpool and have wasted no time in driving home this well-earned title with the release of their second studio album, The Hollow Of Humdrum (Modern Sky) which has now amassed more than half a million streams on Spotify. A few weeks before its release, I sat down with drummer Neil Lawson and trumpeter Joe Corby outside the Tate Café to catch up on their new record, growing fanbase, touring antics and the madness of lockdown life.
Beginning with asking how they develop songs, they said:
Joe Corby: “We have a creative process and he’s called Tom Williams.”
JC: “I do a bit of writing meself, ya’know over the top like. Mike helps a lot with pre-production but Tom is pretty much the fulcrum of it all so we have to give him his dues there.”
Neil Lawson: “It’s different this time because with the first album we would literally spend a whole day and a whole night in the practice room, just jamming and figuring stuff out. So, when we were out gigging that album, we couldn’t really do that so Tom kinda took it upon himself to come up with the ideas, programme it and then send us it.
JC: “Everyone gets involved and collates things. It’s nice to put your stamp on it.
JC: “I wrote something when I was in a practice room on me own and didn’t know what to do with it for ages, so I showed Tom it and then about a week later he comes back with what’s probably one of the best songs on the album.”
The song mentioned is the album’s opening track ‘The Elevation’, which combines elements of the bands funk and Motown inspirations with their distinct harmonies and excellent lyricism, which is then followed by a popular track from their first album ‘Kids Addicted’. The third tune is a faster-paced song called ‘Vivo’, Joe commented: “It’s one of the heavier ones and has got quite a bit of a political message in there as well.” With lyrics such as “there’s a world outside I can see it through my screen, what a sight to see, what a time to be” there can be no doubt that this is one of the more introspective tunes on the record which explores the age of mass-media consumption and commercialism.
The tone of the record then switches to a slower pace with ‘Favourite Record’, introducing a more delicate side to Red Rum Club’s sound and the anthemic ‘Brando’ reviving their cinematic influences and sounding “almost like a bond theme” as Neil explained: “It is a lot broader in its contrast but it’s also a lot more mature – there’s a lot more to say on this album.”
While on the subject of politics I asked what their thoughts were on the dire state of UK grassroots music venues in the wake of the legendary Zanzibar’s closure.
JC: “Losing the Zanzibar was absolutely gutting because that place meant everything to us because we played our first gigs there when we were like thirteen or fourteen.”
NL: “The entertainment industry brings in a hell of a lot more than football, but yet football’s being supported a lot more than the arts. The types of venues that can’t really adhere to social distancing for a gig because the venue isn’t big enough are the ones that are closing but they’re kinds of places where new bands have got to play to cut their teeth so they can go on to play bigger venues. So, if those venues close, where do these bands start out?”
JC: “It’s not just the bands it’s the sound guys and the stage techies who are losing out as well – I think a lot more goes into putting on a show than people know. We were at a protest the other day and I didn’t realise how bad it was until I watched the videos back and saw how many people there and though ‘shit this is actually really heavy’.”
Sipping their pints of lager, overlooking the Albert Dock, Joe and Neil recall how they had been friends for a while before being in the band together. One fateful evening in the local pub, Neil had mentioned to Joe that following a conversation with their manager, they were looking for a new member and possibly a brass section to give them an edge that would help separate them from all the dreary sludge of sameness that hold back so many aspiring bands. Joe found this as frustrating as it was hilarious because he had been carrying his trumpet to the same school where most of the members of the group had been together for the last 10 years.
Turning the conversation to live performances, Joe and Neil recount how initially they thought nobody would turn up to their knockout Glastonbury set at the BBC Introducing stage last year because the previous act was a hip-hop artist and the audience had seemed to clear out. But in the true Merseyside spirit they were soon proved wrong when they saw “a herd of scousers marching over the horizon”. When asked what they thought their worst performance was they both agreed that it was probably the Isle of Wight festival in 2018 as they had been trapped in their portacabin by the torrential rain and had been drinking since eleven in the morning.
JC: “We were like ‘that was the best gig ever!’ three of us threw up as soon as we got off the stage, we were that drunk.” *laughs*
NL: “We honestly thought it was great but when we got home, we all get a phone call off our manager saying ‘that was fucking dreadful’ because he’d seen the videos.”
JC: “He threatened to leave the band if I ever performed like that again.”
The album wraps up with ‘Holy Horses’, a strong contender for the best song on the album which crashes and swings its way to a close with an energy and vibrance that truly represents the versatility of Red Rum Club in the fullest sense. Showing off that versatility with their sophomore album can’t come quick enough for Red Rum Club though as they gear up for their string of UK shows planned next year, starting with a gig in February in Newcastle-upon-Thyme and spanning all over the UK with festivals including Sound City in Liverpool’s beloved Baltic Triangle and the infamous TRNSMT festival in Glasgow: “It’s like looking forward to Christmas” says Joe, “Last year we ended with a curtain drop so it’s trying to work out how to top that” Neil adds, prompting Joe to respond “Fire!”