It’s the eve of Halloween, and I’m on the phone with Liela Moss, whose name you might recognize from the band The Duke Spirit. She’s in London, walking home, and out of the blue, I ask: Does Halloween mean anything in London?
“It’s more apparent than ever, and it’s a bit competitive — every pub in town is trying to hang up cob webs,” she says with a laugh. “I’m trying to decide if I want to take part. It’s a bit unruly”
Unruly is a good word to describe Moss and Toby Butler’s new side project called Roman Remains, which confidently blends industrial beats with grungy vibrations. It’s dark, flirty chaos you can dance to. Let’s have a listen to “This Stone is Starting To Bleed” from their debut EP, Energy You, which is available now.
Moss and I recently talked about the recording of Energy You.
How are you?
Well, I’ve realized I’ve just crossed a road — I looked up and I’m on Benwell Road, which is where John Lydon of the Sex Pistols was born, in one of these houses. Johnny Rotten, you know? It makes you think everything is alright. It feels like a really fertile time, and it’s good, and I get to talk to you about music.
Well, that’s great. Sometimes it’s good to slow down and realize that everything is going okay.
Well, it’s about priorities, and when I’m walking home and realize that a Sex Pistol was born here, it’s alright somehow. I think about John Lydon, I think about him today and his work with PiL (Public Image Limited), and how it’s so radical, yet so simple and minimal. That’s a really good model, you know? He did his thing when he was young when he was violent, but he didn’t stop, and he transformed his image into something else.
Maybe as I get older I wonder about some of the shit he talks, but really, he’s just someone who I admire who did something visceral, and then he wanted to be more of a studio band, and make weird, metallic music. Although I’m not using that as a direct example of this Roman Remains thing, I think about it now and go, “fuck, it’s really great when someone you admire does something really different.” That’s what I feel, you know? You’re just kind of messing about, like you’re a kid again.
And you mentioned the ability to be simple. Do you think musicians these days lose sight of that at all?
Well…I don’t know. I don’t know if I can comment on strategies, and whether or not it’s okay to get complicated. I actually think that everything is so simple, that we can’t actually compare. Some of the best things I’m listening to are so simple. It’s not really about a complicated articulation of a composition, I just think it’s about naivety versus slick commercial news. And I think it’s obvious every time when something is manufactured and it isn’t somebody experimenting. And experimenting is the most fun.
Well, the Roman Remains stuff I’ve heard sounds very much in the moment. Would you agree with that?
I actually couldn’t. It’s not that I disagree, I actually don’t know. I’m so in my own bubble. I really don’t know! I’m really in my neighborhood just messing about. It’s so based on spontaneity that I couldn’t even tell you what is super cool and current.
How do you find the electricity in these songs? Does it just come?
Yes, I reckon it does. I sort of scare myself into finding it. I’m a very lazy person; I don’t do much for a while, and then…there is this very spasmodic music that has happened recently (with Roman Remains) — it’s very jerky and fun. It’s made me feel like I’m up against the wall a little bit. It makes you react with a certain unedited pleasure. Like, it makes you go, “fuck it, let’s do this,” you know? This is real visceral, like rollercoaster shit like, “fuck, I don’t know what I’m going to sing, but I gotta do it now!” (laughing)
How’s it like to record that way?
You sort of stew around, you know? You sit around and hear instrumentals for a while, and you do other things — you clean the windows, you feed the cat, you make dinner, and you talk shit. And these instrumentals are playing and finally someone says, “you really need to lay down some vocals.” So you stop looking at it as some kind of object, and go in it — you step right into it and talk to it.
This has a lot of energy, and I think that’s what you were going for. It’s hitting the listener all at once.
Yeah, I think more than ever, it was physical and it was supposed to…if there was an agenda, it was to be playful and to take some unedited stupidity to an end to where you felt it was really true, but also kind of funny.
Stream Energy You – EP here.