The green room at Leeds’ Lending Room, where I’ve found myself early this evening, filled to the brim with a variety of retro equipment, must be somewhere the members of Trudy & the Romance feel very at home in. Having experience recording music videos on old Super 8 cameras and recording demos on lead singer Oliver Taylor’s dad’s old Tascam tape player, the four-piece know exactly how to visually express their classic doo-wop vibe.
Taking influence from eras anywhere from the 1950’s to the present, naming anyone from Jonathan Richman to Richard Hawley to Happyness as inspiration, Trudy & the Romance don’t sound like many people in the music industry in recent times. They don’t stick to conventional tactics in or out of the studio, either; as Oliver says, they tend to “add on a lot of weird stuff, like overdubs, and try to make it sound like a big orchestra when it’s just with our mouths. We always do mouth trumpets and strange little things on the guitar.”
It comes out beautifully in their live performance as well; with sometimes-funky sometimes-sultry bass lines delivered by Lewis Rollinson, pulsating drum beats by Brad Mullins, a dynamic slew of groovy sounds off the keys by “new cat” Alex, and Oliver’s own unique soulful crooning vocals. Their rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You’, with Brad’s sensually baritone voice and gentle “shoo-wops” from the rest of the band cascading over the room, has the crowd swaying hypnotically.
Their latest single ‘Sandman’ is an upbeat psychedelic rockabilly beat from start to finish, with lyrics that are shouted back at the band enthusiastically from the crowd toe-tapping to the rapid-fire bass and backbeat. It’s not just a greatly enjoyable song, however, but gives an insight to the main antagonist of their upcoming 2018 album. It’s planned to follow a storyline and concept and Oliver outlines as “a 1950’s fairy tale heartbreak/break-up album. It’s basically all about dreams and fighting with this big baddie called the Sandman that gets at you every time you close your eyes or daydream. It’s about trying to move on, so it’s interesting to talk about the hometown and moving to a new place, because it’s about that old place stays with you.”
The band has more than enough experience to put into those kinds of ideas. Having started in Chesterfield, then bounced around to various cities before settling down in Liverpool, the members have experienced big changes that inspire their songs greatly. Still calling Chesterfield home, Oliver explains, “I guess there’s that small-town mentality you get in a lot of films. There’s a film called The Last Picture Show where it’s based in this 1950’s American dustbowl town, and sometimes I like to romanticise that Chesterfield’s a bit like that, but it’s not, really. It’s just this small town where everyone knows everyone. If you go home and you go out on a certain night, you’ll see everyone from the past ten years, and it’s a bit creepy. That influences our songs.”
Trudy & the Romance, alongside older material, played some more absolute “slashers” from their new EP Junkyard Jazz. Recorded with producer David Pye, notably having worked with Wild Beasts with engineering credits on Mercury Music Nominated Two Dancers, Oliver thinks “he’s taken it to the next level.” Listening to “Sandman” and the sultry “My Baby’s Gone Away,” the band’s first work with Pye, it’s no wonder they decided to stick with him for the swingingly good EP. “I think everything clicked there,” Oliver muses. “All the influences we wanted to put into our music, you could hear for the first time. Working with Dave is great, and hopefully we’ll be recording the album with him as well.” With movement from the breezy and gooey ‘Seashore Overture’ to a melancholic-yet-danceable Beach Boys-esque jam featuring synthesized accordion lines that is ‘Junkyard Cat’ to Lewis’ more indie take on ‘Ruff Ryder’ the EP is a great peek into the band’s future.
Not everyone takes these unconventional sounds to heart, though. “Our first show in London, we were not so sure of ourselves,” Oliver explains. They were given a bad review because, as Oliver puts it, “I did this thing where I sang and wobbled my throat with my hand, and he was like, ‘at one point, he started singing like a fucking turkey.’”
The boys aren’t discouraged, however. Public critique arrives to them with open arms: “We kind of love it. It’s rare that we get a bad review, just because people are polite. When we get one, I love it. It’s like we’re going to war,” Oliver admits. “Once where we got a review saying that the backing vocals sounded like drunk football fans at a football game,” Brad continues. “But I always thought that was the vibe, really messy. It’s meant to be not very beautiful. That’s why it was funny, because that’s what we’re trying to do. I don’t think you can take on critique from other people. You’ve got to think, if no one else is ever going to hear it anyway, you can still do it.” Oliver agrees: “Play to your own little world.”
What’s in the works for the boys of Trudy & the Romance, anyway? “To be fair, we’ve actually got targets this year,” Oliver says, “we never normally do.” They tell me they’re planning on spending New Year’s together, and then working on banging out the album. Other than that, “We’ve never really hit summer too hard, and we’ve never really done the summer festivals, so that would be great if we could get on all the good ones. And get some proper good music videos as well, with directors. It’d be good to get on a support tour with… Pixies?”
Supporting the wonderful Trudy & the Romance at the Lending Room on 15/11/17 were two amazing local bands. Leeds’ dynamic duo Jellyskin, formed of guitarist Will Ainsley and synth player Zia Larty-Healy, delivered graceful and dreamy shoegaze with a sometimes-heavier rock vibe. Check out our previous interview with them here. Bradford’s Don Gonzo moved seamlessly between fast and hard to slow and groovy, and right back again, with an especially beautiful guitar solo on their most recent release ‘Why Not Float’.
Words and photos by Francesca Tirpak