A Chat with Dean McGrath - Rolls Bayce
James Bullock | On 06, Apr 2015
Like a kitchen experiment on ketamine, Rolls Bayce are the concoction of R&B chords, barbecue sauce, transient psychedelic influence with a chopped onion’s worth of laid back rock beat to lodge a live set in a series of flavours that shouldn’t traditionally work, but definitely do.
A trio from numerous musical backgrounds including Hungry Kids of Hungary and Millions, numerous festival appearances and a national tour have secured the band as an act to grab a drink and av’ a sway to, their modulation heavy on-stage jams drawing the ‘woah’s,Â and their recent EP drawing the praise from around Australia’s musical community.
Frontman Dean McGrath took some time away from working on the band’s newest album to have a chat to Creative Issue.
CI: In the songwriting process, do you find yourself using influences of the trio’s past bands- Millions or HKH, or is it a completely separate experience?
Dean: Man, it’s totally new. The approach to everything is totally different to how I’ve worked before and I’m pretty sure to how the other guys have as well. It’s sort of great in that way; fresh for us in that we’re doing this completely new thing.
CI: Is there anyone in particular that you draw inspiration from, or pay a bot of homage to in your writing?
Dean: Well, when we all stated talking about making music together and started mucking around with stuff we found we had really similar tastes, the three of us. Obviously the old R&B records, the psych bands- guitar psych is playing a pretty key role in what we’re doing. There’s a lot of old stuff that we’re sort of recreating, but also bands like Unknown Mortal Orchestra that we’re really really into now. It’s a mix, but there are definitely points at where all this stuff is coming through.
CI: When you began Rolls Bayce, was there a sole aim you wanted to work towards?
Dean: The idea of it started with just talking about music, this is actually a few years ago. We were just hanging out one night, I was still in my old band and James was still doing his old thing, we sat there- had some beers, talked about what we were into, and sort of bonded over our shared interest in music. That sparked the idea for writing some music together, and putting together a band. The entire project was formed around what we were interested in, and we looked around and saw that not many people were doing the same kind of thing and we thought we could do something good.
CI: You guys play a pretty unique brand of music, syncopation and varied influences that fits really well with Brisbane’s scene, and you’re of course touring nationally. Is there anyone you can see in particular that you measure yourselves up against, or can see touring together?
Dean: I don’t know, I guess we play all sorts of different stuff and we’re not really trying to find a spot where we fit in, and not necessarily trying to stand out either. We’re just following what we like, and you sort of go into that selfish mode and don’t try and look outwards at what other people are doing, I don’t think that’s helpful to making interesting music. When we get together it’s kind of just us trying to satisfy ourselves…We’re very tunnel-vision in that we don’t think about what’s going to work on radio and what’s going to have broad appeal, it’s just like: ‘We want to do this, we want to go down this path. Let’s make some good songs.’
CI: Reading back on an interview in 2013, the question asked where Rolls Bayce wanted to be in five years and you mentioned a bigger picture that would come together as you released more material and went on tours. How’s that picture going?
Dean: Yeah! I think it’s coming into focus for us. Through our shared tastes we had a pretty clear idea of the kind of stuff we were going to be writing, and that question I think was relating to our first song. ‘Is this going to be what the band sounds like?’ Well, one song’s never going to be. You’re gonna hear more and we’ll write more for people to get the full scope of it, and it is coming into focus the more we write; what the band’s reach is, how far we think we can push in different directions whilst still sounding like the same band.
CI: Is there a genre you want to push into slightly more?
Dean: Well, the stuff I’m writing now is more focused on the soul and the R&B, and the hip-hop aspects of stuff we listen to. It’s still guitar music, we’re working with influences within the strict parameters of a three piece band, bass guitar and drums, which is good because I think it’s necessary at times to really impose restrictions on yourself through the lineup of the band. You sya ‘Ok, these are the elements that we have to work with, now how do we reflect what we want to using the sounds that we’ve got?’
So that pushes me to get creative writing guitar stuff, and shapes my whole approach to writing stuff for the band. If I don’t just want to be strumming power chords and just doing something middle of the road and obvious, then I find a different approach.
CI: So it’s important to keep things raw?
Dean: I’m open to experimenting with the formula and stuff, but at the end of the day we’ve got to get up and play shows, just the three of us. And to an extent you’ve got to recreate what you’re doing on record in a live setting and so I’m a firm believer in the fact that it’s really easy to over indulge yourself when you’re recording. In a studio environment you’ve got the luxury of being able to add layers on layers on top of a song. But I think that can get tricky, I think that the base element it comes down to is ‘are the core elements of the song really great?’ Do you need to add anything- studio effects, do you need a million overdubs? I don’t take that approach.
CI: So with songs that maybe haven’t worked out, you’ve never thought of combining the misfits into a giant Bohemian Rhapsody operetta?Â
Dean: There’s certain things that you write that stick with you even if you don’t use them, some of these start with guitar parts that I’ve had left over that I haven’t really known what to do with. I’d sit down and play them and say ‘I’ve got to write a song around that little guitar part,’ because I really like it. That’s how a couple of the first Rolls Bayce songs really evolved; nothing’s thrown out unless it’s really terrible.
CI: And 2015’s looking to be a good year, apart from maybe structural issues before your Brisbane leg of a national tour?
Dean:Â Well, we haven’t had many major incidents! We’ve actually been pretty quite so far this year, everything’s leaning into this tour and then we’re over in the UK in May to play the Great Escape Festival and Liverpool Festival, but so far we’ve kind of intentionally not played too many shows. You want to keep it special, we’ve done the two festival appearances, and a pre-tour show in Brisbane, but our approach at the moment is to not play so much that people get sick of us or take us for granted. ‘I don’t need to see them this time because I can see them in two weeks.’
It’s a pitfall that bands can fall into.
CI: Ever thought of trashing a stage?
Dean:Â Nah, we’re not the trash the stage kind of guys. We’re pretty polite dudes.
I’ve never really understood the appeal of it, never thought ‘Let’s smash stuff,’ over ‘Yeah, let’s play a good show, and then go to the bar and have a beer.’ We don’t have a visceral aggressive side to us, kind of laid back dudes.
Rolls Bayce remaining Tour Dates:
GOODGOD SMALL CLUB (SYD): Â SAT APRIL 4TH
THE CURTIN (MEL): THURS APRIL 16TH
ROCKET BAR (ADL): FRI APRIL 17TH
– No details on the replacement Brisbane show as of yet, but purchased tickets will get you through the door at the rescheduled gig, and refunds are available.