Band of Skulls: Matt Hayward (drums), Russell Marsden (guitar, vocals) and Emma Richardson (bass, vocals).
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Having the word Skulls in your name requires that your band rocks to some moderate degree, which British trio Band of Skulls manages to do.
The group, working in the heavy blues/garage vein, followed its second album, "Sweet Sour," by touring with Queens of the Stone Age and Muse and went home thinking big, thus the name of the new album, "Himalayan."
Band of Skulls
Where: Mr. Smalls, Millvale.
When: 8 tonight.
Tickets: $20; www.mrsmalls.com.
"We started writing in London and we kind of set out with the intention to write the songs we felt were missing in our live set," says bassist/singer Emma Richardson. "We wanted it to be a faster-paced, more danceable record."
Working with producer Nick Launay of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the trio fashioned a record that strikes with the arena-style riffs of its tour mates.
"Yeah, there's a few heavy riffs in there, some of the heavier songs we've written," she says. "There's also some soulful, beautiful moments in there as well, and some kind of dancey pop songs, too. So it's a mixture like the last two."
Band of Skulls formed in the mid-'00s with art student Richardson meeting singer-guitarist Russell Mardsen at the Winchester School of Art and joining him and his longtime friend, drummer Matt Hayward.
A big part of the band's influences, she says, came from "what our moms, dads listened to around the house. My dad played drums in a blues band and Russ' dad, he liked more of the punk side of things, like Magazine, Television, Sex Pistols. We had a lot of different influences from early on."
She joined with little experience on bass, when the band was still called Fleeing New York. "They invited me to a rehearsal," she says. "I listened to them play for a day and it felt easy and natural. They had an unspoken connection."
Their break came early with a single, "I Know What I Am," that drew comparisons to The Kills and Duke Spirit.
"We were recording our first record and we got a call that iTunes wanted to use one of our tracks for their single of the week and we finished the record and before we knew it, it was available worldwide, which was a massive deal for us."
Since then, Band of Skulls has had a lot of success with soundtrack and video game licensing, the biggest of which was placement on the chart-topping "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" album.
"I suppose it gave us recognition with the people who may not have heard us before," she says. "We didn't really know what it was all about, the 'Twilight' phenomenon. Strange thing, isn't it?"
The tour brings Band of Skulls back to Mr. Smalls, where it first joined Metric in 2009 and returned to headline in 2012.
"It's just great to play that venue," she says. "Such a great space. Great sound and the crowd is always cool there. We've always had a good experience there."
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