Reno and Rome chat with Tony Bell

The interview began on a high, all the technology worked first time without any faffing about!  We began with the introductions.  Reno and Rome’s current incarnation consists of Ash on drums, Alex on bass, Gryphen on vocals and guitar and Nic, who apparently does ‘other stuff’.

Curious, I asked about the name, Remo & Rome:

Nic: Our favourite question, which I’ve yet to work our a comprehensible explanation for! The original idea for name was intended to be something about… when in Rome, the idea of a city like Reno in Rome became Reno and Rome because Rome as a city is just rubble, beautiful ancient ruins essentially. Reno is this glorious, electric, synthesised place.  It was like the rock band versus the studio – Reno and Rome.

Gryphen – the juxtaposition of the two.

TB: The current line-up dates back to 2022 but Reno & Rome have been making music before that, haven’t they?

Nic: Alright, you got us, I knew it would come up!  We’ve been knocking around for just shy of ten years in various forms but always under the name Reno and Rome, but it has travelled through different personalities and identities.  But we have hit the ground running with what it is now – it feels really strong, with the right team of people.

TB: You are based in Suffolk, not perhaps the centre of the musical universe. Has that presented any challenges?

dr feelgood

Nic: Yep, you are right, we’ve got no chance! When you say to someone that you are from Suffolk, you get the classic “ you know Ed Sheeran?”

Ash: …or The Darkness!

Nic: But its quite nice, you have this field based, farmer’s county and here we are making dancy, pop-rock music.  Is it influenced by that? No, not at all.

Gryphen: No not really, again it’s the juxtaposition – nice to have that electronic, dance like pop stuf that comes from a rural area.

TB: I’ve heard your music described as indie pop rock – I hate the term genre myself, but where would you place your musical style?

Gryphen: That is a really difficult question. I don’t think that we like the word genre either.

Nic: It is so pretentious!

Gryphen: We are just outside the box completely.

Ash: When you set out to make something, already you are saying what it is before it is even done, sometimes it just goes in that direction, without you wanting it to necessarily.  It’s just a subconscious thing.  That’s why I like, especially the last few months, we’ve definitely just done what we want to do and not thought we want to do a song like this.  The sound has come out organically, I think that is the best way.  I think you kinda want to keep people guessing about what genre you are. I love it when people can’t describe something because you have to find out for yourself.

Nic: We are writing what we are listening to as well. How we want to feel on stage is a really important thing as well.  Whatever comes out is what we want to be, it is what we are expressing essentially. That’s why you can’t put it inro a genre, it is a bit of everything, because we like everything so we are going to do everything.

TB: There is a distinct 80s feel to your music, but none of you are old enough to have been influenced directly by the eighties.

Nic: Its weird you say that because we’ve been going for a fifties vibe but no one is picking up on it at all. I think we are getting it wrong!  Seriously though, I think with the eighties stuff, playing guitar when you are in bands when you are younger you just want to play rock music, you want to play loud, you want to play fast.  When you get a bit older, in my experience, to be honest, I can’t play that fast anymore.  Now I want to chill it out and do things a bit more classy – less work, more outcome essentially.  And all of our parents grew up on eighties music so subconsciously we were listening to it anyway.

TB: Four of you in a band, one of you comes up with an idea, months later it becomes a single.  The process must be more difficult than that – what is the process that you go through as a band to create the final product?

Gryphen: That is a tricky one as well, I think.  A lot of the time you have something like a voice note on your phone or something, one of us will have a little melody, you’ll chuck it to someone else then Nic will get a guitar bit down to it.  It is quite organic in that sense that we do just throw it between each other and kind of make it happen.  When you say it must be a difficult process, it isn’t.  Its fairly easy.

Ash: Especially as you say, as we’ve been doing with the voice notes, but we’ve been doin’ it when we are rehearsing – ideas that are jammin’ at the same time. Then we’ll come back to it, say in a couple of weeks, and we’ll refine it and turn it into a song and before we know it, we are sending it off to be mastered!  And it’s a quick turnaround because we are self-contained, you don’t have to wait on anyone.  That was the main issue from bands we’ve been in previously we’ve learned that if you want something done you just have to do it yourself.

TB: Where do you record?

Nic: We have a rehearsal space we use in Bentwaters, we record all the drums there and all the stuff comes back to my laptop, we refine it and send it over to a friend of ours, Bob Cooper, who then sends it to Grant who masters it and bang, its up on line.

Reno and Rome
Listen to LVR, Reno & Rome’s latest single

Doing it this way, it is efficient, it is quick.  We do go through songs quite quickly and we move though phases and progressions of sets, we want to keep it fresh. My worst nightmare is releasing one song a year – what’s the point? I’d just do something else, why waste your time.  If you keep it going, keep it moving, then you don’t get bored.  And I think that is the most important thing, as a fan of any music you have to wait two or three years between albums, or maybe even longer.  Whereas we are consistently releasing and that keeps me satisfied and it keeps these guys satisfied. People who follow us will jump on the journey when they want to.  And this comes back to the genre thing, if we change genre for a song, that’s fine, you might lose a few fans but they’ll get back on the train later.  You have these different versions of Reno and Rome.

TB: Bearing in mind what you are saying, I’m still going to ask if there are any thoughts of a Reno and Rome album?

Nic: Funny you should say that!

Ash: Most of the bands we grew up with loving have always had that standard of going into a studio, with an album that is essentially pre-written before you go in there. The whole experience is about being in the studio.  It has its pros and cons when it comes to a big project, you have more time to dwell on it. The way we do things gives us the opportunity to do something and then move on. Working on a project like an album is something that we have always have wanted to do and something we have talked about.

Alex: Yeah, we’ve spoken of it a few times now.

Nic: It has come up a lot recently, but the way we release tracks, we have something like fifteen tracks online. We consider that an album and a bit.  Over a year we released twelve tracks or so, that’s out album it just happens to have come out song by song.

At the start of this year, this song and this song sound like they are from a different era or phase of tracks therefore we could essentially consider 2023 to be a new album of songs. By the time we actually get around to potentially making an album in full we’d do in the in the way of single, single and bang – there is an album and spend more time with it rather than picking it up and throwing it out there.  We would create new detail to this band via an album – but that only comes with time.

Ash: I think also we are ready for it.  Doing it single by single allows us to test the waters and find our feet a little bit.  We always wanted to do an album that we were all proud of and wanted to establish some sort of basis before we did that.  I feel that for me personally, one of the worst things that could come from doing a project as big as an album, for a DIY funded band like us, not enough people hear it which is one of the reasons we did the single-by-single thing.  And it has given us the confidence to work on a big project and we are guilty of not releasing a body of work at a time, but I think we are ready for it, we know what we are doing.

TB: On stage you are quite an energetic bunch, how do you keep that energy going on stage?

Gryphen: I think we just love it so much. That feels like a real cliché answer, but we love it so much, love being on stage and putting our music out there that we can’t help it almost – it’s like our default position.  I don’t think we’ve ever been on stage – even if we perform to six people (which has happened!), you have those gigs but we still.. We just do it.

Ash: And it’s what we want to see want we go to gigs, when we go to see upbeat bands, if there is no energy on stage for me that changes how I view that band or even how I listen to them.  Keeping that energy is essential to live music.

TB: So, tell us about the gig at The Baths.

Reno and Rome

Nic: Mama Mia, wow wow wow!  The Baths, Ipswich 30th September – we are headlining this show, it’s a three hundred capacity venue, so I’d like to see you there Tony.   It is going to be a right laugh. We have loads of new songs, loads of new things to do on stage.  We want it to be less of a show and more of an encompassing experience.

Gryphen: I think this is the first time we’ve been back to Ipswich in over two years.

Ash: And it is mainly to do with The Baths, the reason why we want to do this gig.  This is a venue that Ipswich needed for so long, especially after so many closures. The Baths is so iconic, for ages it has had so much potential and we have always wanted to get in there and play.  We always said if we were to do an Ipswich show it needs to be big, needs to be bold, needs to be at The Baths.

Nic: You get bands as iconic as Led Zeppelin who have played there in the early 70s, its just great, a great feeling to be on the same stage, how can you not embody that energy?  When we headline Wembly stadium, someone else will have a picture of Reno and Rome at The Baths!

TB: Certainly what the team behind The Baths, The Smokehouse and St Stephens are doing to bring live music back to Ipswich is to be lauded.

Ash: Definitely, we need it.  Up until recently music in Ipswich has been slowing diminishing, now it is growing again.

Nic: All the guys that are running all of this, they just love it. It is nuts to see that they are putting as much effort into it so why would you not want to give back.  It is great because it helps bands like us.  And this is what we do this for to do shows and gig and live out these fantasies and dreams and we are going to do that for fifty minutes when we play The Baths.

TB: Have you got a favourite venue in the East of England?

Nic: The Apex in Bury, we’ve had some good shows there. I think because it’s a big stage and we write songs for big stages.  Without being arrogant we imagine our songs being played in an arena and big stadiums. That is how they sound better in a bigger room.

Gryphen: I was going to say that too. My other would probably be Cambridge Junction – similar sort of stage size I guess with a real venue feel to it.

TB: Who are the bands that you guys go and see?

Nic: Its funny this, bands like Japanese House, 1975, Rosevelt, Some Dark Karma… before Gryph joined the band, every time I’d go to a gig I’d see him there. Honestly, nine out of ten gigs Gryph would be in the room somewhere, so it made perfect sense, this guy needs to be in this band, how can he not be?

We go to see Indie, Synth Pop, we like a lot of heavier stuff as well, that comes from our teens, now we rework that and turn it into something more listenable.

TB: Let’s assume you have been booked to play a stadium gig – not as the headliners but as the support act, who would you like to be supporting in front of fifty-thousand people?

Nic: Alex has been very quiet – why don’t you take this one?

Alex: Prince comes to mind; Brno Mars would be cool.

Ash: If the question was slightly different, like what band we think we would be good with then we’d be great support for a band like The Killers. Especially because of the direction we have been going in recently, our recent songs are very much in that realm. We’d match their energy.

TB: What do you think is the biggest challenge to a new band coming up?

Nic: It’s the exposure.

Gryphen: Yes, just getting noticed. It is so easy to do music now, in your room, get it out there, anyone can do it. But getting noticed in that pool of people is the challenge.

Nic: The catch twenty-two is that you need the exposure, and everyone will offer to pay you in ‘exposure’ but you need to set your boundaries and know your worth – when you are charging, charge the right amount and be aware of yourself. Find out where you fit – you’ve seen us in Bury and Cambridge and you find pockets of fans, don’t be afraid to explore.

Ash: It’s all part of the business. It is more than just being a good band or a good musician, you need to be a good person on social media, you need to be a good photographer, you need to be good at marketing – good at everything!

Nic: With DIY everything is resourceful – Gryph does all the graphics, we make the videos with a friend of ours, we’ve done a few that have had a zero pound budget – we made our last video on an iPhone!  We just did it in a room, got a white curtain and shot a great video. You can do it, don’t be afraid to get your camera out, post something on social media, put a song out. Because you’ve got to learn, it doesn’t have to be the best, perfect thing first off.

TB: Nic, Gryphen, Alex, Ash – thank you for taking the time to talk to Grapevine Magazine, see you at The Baths.

Reno and Rome

Reno & Rome play The Baths, Ipswich alongside Afterdrive, Amethysts and special guests – click for tickets.

Live Music at The Baths, Ipswich