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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Drug Store Romeos

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Drug Store Romeos

In conversation via email, the members of three-piece UK band Drug Store Romeos are thoughtful, extremely self-aware, but also, earnestly in touch with the universe. And the trio's music reflects the same surrealist whimsy.

Although they only have two officially released songs to their name thus far, you'll only need to listen to the portentous 'Frame Of Reference' once to join us in being thoroughly excited for their promised forthcoming EP.

MUST-LISTEN: 'Frame Of Reference'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Atlas Sound, Purity Ring, London Grammar, Chvrches, MS MR, Metric, Warpaint… and spending your hours making a hat at least six feet wide to wear on your daily walk.

COUP DE MAIN: After having been a band together for three years now, why did October of last year feel like the right time to release your debut single 'Now You’re Moving'?
During the first two years we got so close to releasing singles three times. The first was 'Eddie', then a double; 'Throwing Shapes' and 'Mayday', and finally there was 'Adult Glamour'. The process of recording, mixing, mastering, making artwork etc. took so long for all three, and our lives were moving so fast (especially our media tastes) that by the time we would get to a place where it was all completed we usually didn't feel they represented us anymore. For 'Now You're Moving' we finished the process and felt it represented an element of us well - we were also lucky enough to have industry people who were like, "This is good, release this."
CDM: What was running through your mind while writing 'Frame Of Reference'?
Although as a band the thing we value most is the recorded experience, I felt our live set was lacking something. 'Now You're Moving' has those fuller, driving break beat sections, but I remember being on the Tube and articulating to Sarah that I wanted to make an encompassing song that someone could get locked into a groove with live. The keyboard progression that shapes the whole song was written at about 10pm whilst a soft golden light illuminated my bedroom. I was feeling a sense of relaxation and escapism. My thoughts zooming out of the needle view. I was listening to the songs 'Big City' by Spacemen 3 and 'Before We Begin' by Broadcast a lot at the time also. The phrase "frame of reference" came about because I found this ASMR-inducing 1960s American video by some professors explaining the concept. I then experienced the Baader–Meinhof Phenomenon with the phrase so I wrote it down.

CDM: What were your first impressions of each of your bandmates upon meeting for the first time?
I was being driven to college and there's this big long road from the station to college that everyone walks down. I remember looking at the pavement and my eyes caught on Sarah and I thought, 'I wanna be your friend.' A week later I was at our college's closest train station in the evening and I happened to be wearing my cooolest denim jacket so I purposefully walked past her.
DRUG STORE ROMEOS - SARAH: I recall my sixteen-year-old self seeing Charlie at the train station and thinking, 'That’s a denim jacket, cool.' Please bear in mind this was five years ago, as well as in Farnborough. I remember when I met Jonny and Charlie together for the first time it was an odd one. They threw around a lot of 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' quotes. I’d never seen it before. But throughout the day as they walked me to their rehearsal room in Jonny’s house from Fleet train station, I remember everything, however strange, mundane and a little awkward, having such a strong significance. It all felt very important and we kept hanging out. I also remember being very scared at how loud they played when I got up there. I’ve always been very sensitive to loud noises and so it made me pretty anxious. I could hardly play the bass - I told them I could and had just bought it the following week. Though Charlie, catching on very quick, started to teach me. There was a mic standing there from when he used to sing, they weren’t looking for a singer, but I started singing as well, though mostly inaudible for the first month as they were still playing with the energy and volume of a punk band.

CDM: "I attempt to instil a bunch of bobby-soxers and drug-store Romeos with reverence for Hawthorne and Whitman and Poe!", says Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. What was it about that phrase or the play that stuck out to you and made you want to name the band after it?
An old friend of mine knew I was starting a band and was reading that play for his First-year English and the phrase seemed to stick out to him. I’d read it before in school but hadn’t noticed it for whatever reason. He was from London and at the susceptible age of sixteen and living in suburbia, the idea of having a friend in London was to me and my friends the coolest thing ever. Which meant everything he did and said was so cool and exotic. I know how ridiculous that sounds. He really could of said anything and I probably would of tried to convince Jonny and Charlie to take it. But thankfully it was good and thankfully people seem to really like it.

CDM: How does your music-making process work?
We haven’t made stuff by jamming together for a while, however that’s not to say when we do do it, we don’t at times hit on sound combinations that we really like. But normally, one person will have the vision and outline of the song. They will then come into our rehearsal space / someone's bedroom and we’ll help shape it and fill in the blanks. As for me: the vision normally comes from being pretty obsessed with a few artists and then noodling away at a keyboard / guitar while singing and simultaneously using a phone voice recorder and just going with the flow until I strike gold! The vision (sonically and visually) will also be influenced by the books / movies etc. that I am imprinting on my mind around the point of a song's inception. Then comes the lyrics. Recently I've been running with this process: I get up a notes page on my laptop and just start frantically typing a mix of stream of consciousness and lines that I like from a couple of books to hand. I then get a big art pad and pencil and start trying to shape the sentences into lines (normally combining elements from a variety of sentences into a new one)  that fit the syllable count of the section of the song I'm working on.
SARAH: As with Charlie and Jonny, I tend to write the majority of my stuff at home. I find it's really important to me to have this intimate time with a song before it’s brought to the table. That bound needs to be formed to maintain its integrity. The way I’ve been writing for a long time now is I pick up words from print publications, documentaries, radio, encyclopaedias, walking conversations from my street window - many different mediums, the more variety the better. I end up having a whole lot of words written down, at times contradicting themselves in very pleasing and fun ways. I lay them out in-front of me, get my autoharp or my Casio, maybe press play on an auto-accompaniment that I’m finding fun at the time, or just play, and I’ll let my eyes jolt from one word to the next. The words shaping my melodies, my melodies shaping the words. I feel so boundless with my words in from of me. I don’t have to use them all the time, maybe just to get me somewhere. Using them is a great source of play and fuel when I write. Play is ever so important. I mostly always write my lyrics simultaneously to writing a song, for the time being anyway. Having the words in front of me is also a great technique I use for getting out of my head when I write. I find the highest level of songwriting is when you become completely unaware of what your hands and your mouth are doing for a moment, everything submerged in the feeling and images in your imagination that they suddenly start translating themselves through you with no filter at all. Almost as if the gap between your imagination and reality is bridged; it’s truly beautiful. The words can help me get there, but I’ve got myself there without them too. When I had a phase of only using 80s Girl Talk magazines and 60s electronic magazines I once made a communal cut-out lyric writing game in which we cut out words from an array of magazines, put them in a pot, sat in a circle, picked one each at a time and then read them out in a decided upon order. It puts things together you would otherwise probably not have connected. It’s fun too. I was pretty obsessed with the concept of gods of luck and chance at the time, I would try and play with my intention when I would pick up a word. Seeing how they would respond, I discovered some strangities.
CHARLIE: The song starts really coming into reality when we record it into Logic Pro X. For 'Frame Of Reference' I had made the synth / drums / bass in the verse in Logic and I got Sarah to vocally improvise over it. There was no prior planning and we used the vocal melody from her third take! Upon close re-listening she didn't actually sing "new summer raining down" but that's what we thought she said and so that's what it became. For the chorus I went to my stream of consciousness notes page and started making noises until my eyes locked on the words "frame of reference" and the melody materialised.

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?

For me the main components of a song are:
Feeling it creates.
Strength of vocal hook.
I suppose a good song might have a catchy vocal hook and pleasant melodies but the sounds that they use and the lyrics sung might not be interesting / beautiful enough.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
We want them to take away a sense of escapism, the emotion that we are trying to create in that song, and hopefully the hook of the song going round 'n round in their mind
SARAH: I really couldn’t tell you.
CDM: Are you still planning to release an EP this year?
Definitely. We were meant to be recording it right now and that's not happening, so it’s going to be delayed for sure, but provided everything starts returning to normality in the next couple of months we will 100 percent be releasing an EP this year.
CDM: When are you going to release 'Quotations For Locations'?
We just finished the mix so we’re aiming for about five to six weeks time.

CDM: If D.R.U.G. S.T.O.R.E. R.O.M.E.O.S. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?

Umbrellas (under)

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
To one day own the biggest seed in the world, the coco de mer.
1.To head to the Amazon rainforest to explore the cities reclaimed by nature.
2. I also produce music and have made a sort of bucket-list plan to record an album with my good friend Joe in West Africa. We would set all of our equipment up in a house that we rent through Airbnb. We will go somewhere that is located close to a jungle. He’s an ecologist in training so half our time will be spent collecting research in the jungle for questions regarding humans and plants’ symbiotic relationship throughout the last few thousand years. The other half will be recording sweet melancholy dreamy music and drinking cold fruit based drinks

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
The biggest seed in the world, the coco de mer.
CHARLIE: A dinosaur bone from the Natural History Museum.

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
: It would be this The Moldy Peaches inspired joke hip hop song that Jonny and Sarah made a few months ago.
CDM: What are your top five necessities for isolation/quarantine/lockdown?
My laptop. My audio interface / instruments. Honey candle reading. Graham Hancock podcasts and marijuana. Dungeons & Dragons.
CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020… who are yours?
Aw thanks so much. If we’re talking newer upcoming acts: Vanity Fairy. Jay Gee Harper. Ike Goldman. Katy J Pearson. Paradise Dose. Great Dad. They are not very new as amazingly they've been releasing albums since they were sixteen(!) but our dear friends The Goon Sax have a new album on the way and it’s going to be so, so good. This is their biggest change in sound yet.

Watch the music video for 'Now You're Moving' below...

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