Cambridgeshire rock band Lonely The Brave are one of the most exciting new bands in the UK. Despite having recorded their debut album, The Day's War - a captivating mixture of post rock, grunge, punk and Britrock - over a year ago, numerous complications, including two record deals, have meant that it's only just been released.
In the interim, a four-track EP has seen LTB catapulted to sharing stages with bona fide legends such as Aerosmith and Neil Young, recruit and replace a guitarist, and sign a major-label deal. We caught up with gear-obsessed guitar mainstay, Mark Trotter...
When you started out, did you have an idea of how you wanted the band to sound?
"Honest to god, we've never had any sort of formula or sat down and talked about it. It's just the sum of its parts really, we're all into such different music, it's why it sounds like us. I don't think I could be like, 'Right, we're gonna write a song like this', or 'We're gonna be a band that sounds a certain way', because it's all so diverse. It's all about soundscapes for me!"
The album starts and finishes with some big, lush guitar soundscapes: was that your idea?
"That was just me jamming around the studio and the producer just hit record. I was amazed because I got to play with a real Roland Space Echo! I was having hours of fun to myself with this little tape box fluttering away and making these bizarre noises and cutting out just when you didn't want it to!
"Live, I use an Empress Super Delay that gets close. It gets a bit too digital at times, but any of those kind of delays do, because it's not got that organic, 'It's gonna fuck up at any time' sound!"
"In the last 18 months we've played with Bruce Springsteen, but we've also opened for Deftones. To be able to hop between those bands is a real honour"
Where do your post-rock influences come from?
"Again, it's one of many things I adore, but the band that started that for me are Mogwai. Certainly over here, anyway. Even though they probably wouldn't call it post-rock, it's what I call them. Bands like This Will Destroy You and Explosions In The Sky, who do that kind of textured/layered guitar thing so well. A lot of it is actually from film scores. I like the idea of trying to play string parts on the guitar, if that makes any sense..."
You have a big appreciation for huge riffs, too, though...
"I really like big rhythm players, and they tend to be guys from bands that only had one guitar player. So, Peter Buck, he's probably not the most technical guitar player in the world, but I like that. Big chords, and you can tell it's him from a mile off.
"James Dean Bradfield, back in the day, did some great stuff. Technically they were a two-guitar band, but they weren't really! He could riff, man, and he still can! The guitar work on Motorcycle Emptiness or something like that, there wasn't a great deal of stuff like that happening at the time.
"At the other end of the spectrum - I was a big fan of Radiohead growing up, and that's probably where a lot of the textural stuff comes from. I love Jonny Greenwood because he's kind of the anti-guitar hero in a lot of respects. It seems that the guitar is just a vehicle to get across what he wants, he's not really that fussed about it even though he's kind of reinvented it in his own way. The Wildhearts - Britrock was kind of my place to be, too."
Mark Trotter of Lonely The Brave © Adam Gasson/Future Publishing
LTB are versatile enough to play at Download, but you wouldn't sound out of place playing with an indie band either. Do you see that as an advantage?
"It's a really weird one, we say the same thing, I think people struggle where to put us, which I see as quite a great thing because we can do such a variety of shows. In the last 18 months we've played with Bruce Springsteen, but we've also opened for Deftones and we're playing with Neil Young. So to be able to hop between those bands is a real honour. It's just rock music, I guess."
The album has been finished, and delayed for quite a long time. Have you started writing new material?
"Yeah, I'm actually at the rehearsal studio now, we're writing at the moment. So we're quite a long way into what will hopefully be album number two. We always kept joking that we wanted to finish the second one before the first one was out, just for fun!"
Did you record the album as a live set-up? It sounds like a band playing together...
"We had so little money when we went to do the record, like literally no money. We scraped together every penny we had and could beg, steal or borrow to go and do it. All we wanted from it was a good, solid version of how we sound when we play live, and I think the producer Mark Williams did a really good job of capturing that.
"It was a little studio in Aylesbury and every night we were sleeping in [drummer Gavin 'Mo' Edgeley] Mo's dad's builder's van outside with the tools still in it. Then when we didn't have that, every so often the guy who owned the studio would let us sleep on the floor in the studio, and we were going down the swimming pool every other day for showers because there were no showers there, but we couldn't afford to go every day so we went every other day!"
"At Ross's first gig, his Les Paul's headstock snapped clean off"
What other gear did you use on the album?
"I had a Klon [Centaur], which I have to say definitely lived up to the hype. It doesn't live up to the price! But it was great, one of the originals and it belonged to Mark. Aside from that, I used a Z.Vex Box Of Rock which is all over the album.
"It's still on my 'board now, but I only really use it as a boost. I've kind of moved on from it and I've got a Love Pedal Amp 11 which kind of takes over those duties now. There was probably a TS-9 at some point, too. Every track on the album was through the Plexi apart from The Blue, The Green, which was an Orange OR50H."
You recently got a new guitar player [Ross Smithwick], too...
"It's working out great. Better than we ever could have hoped. He was in a band called Secondsmile for a long time, and he's just a super-nice dude and so easy to get on with. That's so important because you spend so much time in each other's pockets.
"He's a fantastic guitar player and has great taste in guitars. He's gone on a mad Les Paul Custom quest, he's just bought two. At his first gig, his Silverburst Les Paul Custom, the strap snapped and the guitar went headstock-down and snapped it clean off. I know how that feels, and I felt so sorry for him that I took it off of him and took it to my luthier and got it repaired for him."
Do you think it's changed the way you're playing live at all?
"We told him that we didn't want him to come in and play the guitar parts that I wrote. Obviously, there are parts where he's gonna have to play the right chords or whatever, but I wouldn't expect him to match my rhythm patterns or anything.
"It's gotta be him live, and it's important for us not to be a four piece plus a guy that plays guitar with us. That's not what it's about, is it? So things feel really good in our camp right now, we've had some dark times and now it's all good!"