Matt Hayward of Band of Skulls Talks About the White Stripes, Hendrix

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Although Britain's Band of Skulls has been around since 2004, the power trio has managed to release just two full length efforts. And the recently issued Sweet Sour is good enough to make one wish the band were a bit more prolific. Featuring a diverse collection of blues based garage rock, Sweet Sour is already a candidate for album of the year.

Speaking from his home in South Hampton and in anticipation of Saturday night's show at the Granada Theater, drummer Matt Hayward talked with DC9 about the interesting evolution of Band of Skulls.

Seeing that you are about to cross the Atlantic, are you afraid of flying?
Yes I am, but a few gin and tonics help.

Are you excited about coming over and playing SXSW?
Yes, and as a bonus, it's also my birthday. I will be 27.

When the band first started, you used the name Fleeing New York. Why change to Band of Skulls?
Fleeing New York was a band we had years ago that had a lot of different members that came and left. We ended up just three of us and we decided to make it a new project. We didn't want any connotations to that old era. We wanted to start fresh with a set of new songs.

Were you worried that the new name might stereotype you as a metal or punk band?
That didn't cross our minds when we chose the name. It was only afterwards that people started assuming we were a hardcore band. It's not a problem. If anything, it makes people think a little longer about us. They hear us and say that we don't sound like what our name might imply. But it's worked out alright for us up to now.

Have you ever thought about having a fourth member?
Are you offering?

No, but is it easier just to keep the band a trio?
We agreed to keep it as a three-piece since we have been playing that way for a long time. We have a real strong musical relationship. Right now, it feels really good to keep it a simple power trio.

You've known guitarist Russell Marsden since you were both ten years old. Ever look at him and think, oh no, not him again?
All of the time. Actually, when I look at him, I think, wow, what a long way we have come together. From jamming in my parents' front room and keeping the neighbors awake to playing big stages in front of big crowds, it's a great feeling.

The band has been referred to as UK's version of the White Stripes. Does that bother you?
I don't think it's a really fair comment. The White Stripes are a great band, but being like them was something we never looked at or used as a reference point in any particular way. I just think it's the blues/rock thing that has always come very naturally to us. When we were 12 and 13 years old, we were obsessed with Hendrix and hearing those drawn out, massive blues jams for hours. That's where our love for that kind of music came from. People are always going to compare a band to another one.

The reviews have said the new album, Sweet Sour, is much more focused than your debut. Is that the case?
I think with the first record, we had no idea what it was going to do. We were a completely unknown band and we limited in our resources and what we had to work with. This time around, we've been playing and touring for three years and we've become much better players. When it came time to make a second record, we had an audience. There was more of a confidence about us when we made this new record. I think that confidence showed up on the record.

The record was produced by Ian Davenport who has worked with Badly Drawn Boy and Supergrass. Did he add to this confidence?
Ian's great because he gives us the space to do what we want to do. He liked to listen to what we were working on. He supports what you do rather than point out what is wrong. Ian is a great guy and a dear friend. We were very comfortable working with him.

There are a lot of different textures and sounds on the album. Is that because all of the members have diverse music collections?
We do have very diverse tastes with a few artists that we all sort of agree on. We've always been experimental in what we do. We don't want to make a record that has three singles on it the rest of the record being lesser versions of those. We want a whole piece of work. [Singer] Emma [Richardson] might have a beautiful lyric and we will build a song around it. A song of ours can come in any matter of ways. Hopefully, you can listen to it from start to finish and not feel like it goes off the track.

Does having a female bandmate make the two men act more gentlemanly on tour?
No, Emma is a bad ass. She's more rowdy than the rest of us. There's no problem there.

How did you end up with a song ["Friends'] on the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: New Moon?
That was a strange one for us. The song that they used was one that didn't even make it on our first record. It was a demo done in the studio and we never had time to go back and finish it. We didn't realize that they used it. They didn't get in touch with us. We had to read about it somewhere. But when we saw the soundtrack and saw the other artists on it, we saw bands that we really respected. It's not a song in our set. It was just a friend of our first album, nothing more.

What is the biggest stereotype that Americans have about people from Britain?
That we all have bad teeth and we all talk like the Queen.

Band of Skulls perform with We Are Augustines and The Commotion on Saturday, March 17, at the Granada Theater.

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