INTERVIEW: DRIFTS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As two thirds of Rivals, Ross Millard and Dan Shannon, alongside Tom Skilbeck, were making primal rock music that was stripped back and focused on the live arena. After Tom moved to London, Ross and Dan lost a key part of their raw trio. After admiring the skills of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind drummer Graham Thompson for some time and recruiting guitarist Simon Hubbard, a new quartet was born: Drifts. “It’s pretty boring really,” Dan quips.

There’s nothing boring about Drifts’ music though. Forming a new band has given Dan and Ross a way of developing a more melodic sound. “I think that after having done Rivals, doing something that is more musical and less heavy was important to us,” Ross says.

Dan admits that the sound was inspired by “a lot of British post-punk and American indie rock”, while Ross notes that it’s “a mixture of that 90s indie/emo/punk crossover with the guitars playing in harmony and making dissonant noise. Lots of rhythm. Slight dreaminess.” Thus, on debut EP Blue, XR3i may have a smattering of heavy riffs and a clattering drum intro but the vocals swoon and glide across its grittier underbelly. Meanwhile, the guitars on the title track steal the show thanks to some quick-draw chord changes and an intricately constructed melody.

Blue has elements that fans of Rivals and even The Futureheads will appreciate, particularly when it comes to the tight harmonies. “I think the familiarity of the sound is something that’s hard to avoid, because I guess all musicians have their own style and that seems to be ours,” Ross says. Don’t be too fooled though, this isn’t a mere continuation of Rivals, something Ross is quick to point out. “I think the tone of the songs and what I’m singing about is quite different for me, to be honest.”

The group travelled to Leeds to record the EP with Hookworms’ MJ. It’s the second time Ross has worked with MJ in recent times (he helped to bring Frankie & The Heartstrings’ latest record Decency to life). “He’s sympathetic to our kind of sound,” Ross says. “We didn’t have much time to spend in the studio and I knew Matt would be able to deal with that. He gets the drums sounding really good.”

The final result is a collection that sounds even better as a coherent whole than as separate tracks. “You know, when an artist has an exhibition it gets considered to be a ‘show,’ a body of work all coming from the same place, evoking the same kind of feeling,” Ross muses. “I wanted Drifts to be like that with this first EP, where the songs are more than the sum of their parts, that all go towards explaining that mess of blue paint on the cover of the record.”

Drifts release Blue on Friday 6th November, with the launch show taking place at the Mining Institute, Newcastle on the same day.

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