Masters of heaviness Rolo Tomassi: ‘I’ve never expected music to offer me a living’ | Metal

In the event you’ve seen the 1997 crime drama LA Confidential, you’re already aware of the cryptic phrases Rolo Tomassi. It’s the identify that the movie’s protagonist – idealistic policeman Ed Exley, performed by Man Pearce – provides to the faceless legal that murdered his father. “Nobody even knew who he was,” the detective divulges to his stoic sergeant. “I simply made the identify up to give him some character.”

An identical thriller hangs like noirish fog across the band of the identical identify. On a musical degree, they’re unclassifiable; arguably essentially the most ingenious heavy band at the moment working within the UK, who’ve made a masterpiece practically 20 years into their profession. New album The place Fable Turns into Reminiscence flits between seemingly incompatible genres: opening observe Nearly At all times commences with shoegaze guitars, framing the silken singing of lead vocalist Eva Korman, then follow-up Cloaked plummets into a twisted metallic riff as Korman snarls and screams. Submit-rock, hardcore punk, piano pop and synth music all ensue earlier than the LP has struck its closing chord.

It seems the band themselves are equally exhausting to pin down. Korman – talking over Zoom from her residence in New Jersey, the place she migrated to from Brighton in 2018 – describes the defining themes of her band’s sixth album as being “rebirth, exploration and discovering your manner”. Nevertheless, that’s essentially the most you’ll get out of her.

“The sweetness of the lyrics and even the title [of the album] itself – they’re issues that you may draw your individual which means from,” she deflects when requested what it’s, particularly, that the five-piece are exploring. Lyrics equivalent to “On the worst days I slip, as deceitful as hope is / Strolling on a knife-edge, I traced the road and I leapt”, heard throughout groove metallic powerhouse Drip, connote an arduous escape from trauma, however the inspiration stays wilfully unclear.


By her personal admission, Korman finds interviews nerve-racking, and her shy, delicate manner juxtaposes the screeching, contorting frontwoman that you simply’d see main Rolo reside. Extra outspoken is large brother and keyboardist James Spence, one yr her elder, who joins the decision from his residence in East Sussex: 4,000 miles and 5 time zones away from his sister.

Whereas, for Korman, Rolo’s lyrics haul a burden that she gained’t share, in Spence’s thoughts, the band’s music is devoid of any function bar sounding good. “The place Fable Turns into Reminiscence is a good album as a result of it’s trustworthy,” he gleams with delight. “I​​t’s a file that was written by individuals who wished to pay attention to music that seemed like that. I feel the purpose, definitely for me, is all the time to be within the band that will be your favorite band.”

Even Rolo’s identify, regardless of being stolen from 90s neo-noir, doesn’t imply something to him; it simply has a good ring to it. “I bear in mind watching the movie once I was youthful and going, ‘That’d be a nice band identify,’ however individuals suppose we’re an Italian singer-songwriter.”

There’s an endearing simplicity to Spence’s worldview, unencumbered by industrial expectations or fears of backlash by followers which have hindered numerous different artists. Preserving that innocence is the truth that, though they performed the band’s first present of their mid-teens, Korman and Spence have never pursued music full-time. To assist pay the payments, she manages a boutique in New Jersey and he freelances for a reserving company. “I’ve never expected the music that I make to offer me a residing,” Spence replies when requested if he’s pleased with or pissed off by Rolo’s part-time standing. “If that was the aim, we’d be a actually different-sounding band.”


A shy, delicate manner juxtaposes the screeching, contorting frontwoman … Eva Korman performs in 2015. {Photograph}: Andrew Benge/Redferns

Rolo have at the very least achieved what Spence wished them to when he began the band: escape the place he grew up in. He and his sister had been raised in Stocksbridge, a small city 25 minutes north-west of Sheffield in rural South Yorkshire. “It was someplace I wished to go away rapidly,” the now-Brighton-based Spence says, “and music appeared like a actually good automobile to get us away. It was the type of place the place, in the event you acquired to 16 and didn’t have a automobile, you couldn’t go wherever.”

In addition to being just one yr aside, Korman and Spence shared the identical social circles in school and had been each multi-instrumentalists at an early age (they’d had piano classes, Spence performed guitar and Korman discovered bass). In hindsight, beginning a band collectively was inevitable.

“In the beginning, it was exhausting to be taken significantly,” Korman recollects. “We fought for a very long time not to be handled like a novelty. There was both a large concentrate on our age or the truth that I used to be a lady.”


Sexism in heavy metallic is, sadly, not stunning. Male-dominated ever since its formulation greater than 50 years in the past, the style is awash with accusations of all the things from informal prejudice in opposition to ladies to long-running abuse, even in 2022 (witness the sexual assault allegations in opposition to Marilyn Manson). Korman doesn’t need to talk about the subject past that transient allusion, although: “I feel the main target is basically selling our new file, fairly than going too deeply into that.” Equally, a query in regards to the band’s headspace after leaving their former label Holy Roar – which ceased exercise in 2020, following allegations of sexual misconduct in opposition to its founder – is met with platitudes from Spence about “a nice working relationship” with their new label.

Rolo Tomassi perform at Audio, Glasgow in 2018.‘We fought for a very long time not to be handled like a novelty’ … Rolo Tomassi carry out at Audio, Glasgow in 2018. {Photograph}: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns

On high of gender prejudice, Rolo’s eclectic but unrefined debut album, 2008’s Hysterics, threatened to sideline them as a gimmick. It integrated all the things from punk to jazz – an exuberant mishmash that, though promising, led to their saddling with ridiculous style tags. “I wasn’t a fan of being labelled ‘Nintendocore’ simply because we’ve acquired keyboards,” Spence remembers.

Fortuitously, it reached the ears of American DJ Diplo, whose collaborations with rapper MIA had made him one of essentially the most eagerly watched producers on the planet. “He talked about us in an interview with Pitchfork,” says Spence. “I didn’t even know who he was! It was an ex-girlfriend of mine that was like, ‘It’s a actually big deal.’”

The Diplo-produced lunacy of Cosmology was adopted by Astraea, then the heartbroken hardcore of Grievances; the trilogy step by step anchored Rolo’s quirks into angular but forlorn heaviness and pushed them greater within the metallic consciousness. Then got here Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It. The progressive hardcore behemoth was a crucial darling and, on streaming companies, is much and away the band’s most-heard outing, amassing a whole lot of hundreds of listeners.

“I feel everybody’s response to Time Will Die caught us abruptly,” recollects Spence. “I didn’t come away from [recording] it pondering, that is gonna be one thing individuals are actually, actually going to like.”

In late 2018, solely months after Time Will Die got here out, Korman settled within the US to be along with her husband Jesse, the lead singer of mathcore outfit The Quantity Twelve Appears to be like Like You. The transfer, mixed with the Covid-19 pandemic, led to The place Fable Turns into Reminiscence being recorded individually; as Korman clocked out in New Jersey, her bandmates had been beginning their day in Southampton.

Questions in regards to the pandemic’s impact on Rolo as a band are answered in pragmatic phrases, and the emotional throes of isolation – the potential battle of Korman being along with her new husband but saved aside by the virus from all people again residence for 2 years – aren’t explored in any depth. “I didn’t know once I was going to see the band once more, once I was going to see my household or associates once more,” Korman remembers, “so it simply didn’t appear useful to me at the moment to actually dig deeply into that feeling.” Whilst they launch essentially the most participating music of their profession, they continue to be as enigmatic as their namesake.

The place Fable Turns into Reminiscence is out on 4 February on MNRK.

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