Words by Yvonne Villasenor
Rolo Tomassi have spent their career forging their own path as genre bending geniuses with an ode to authenticity. In their upcoming album that is their most expansive release to date, Where Myth Becomes Memory, the UK-based band assemble a phenomenal sound that coalesces tranquility and brutality.
The progressive heavy quintet formed in 2005 and have found their truest identity — and confidence — in their highly anticipated record set to release on Friday, Feb. 4. With nearly two decades of experience, the band’s early mathcore material has evolved into a style that is colossal and ethereal.
The two siblings Eva Korman (vocals) and James Spence (vocals / keyboards), Chris Cayford (guitar), Nathan Fairweather (bass) and Al Pott (drums) have positioned themselves as musical visionaries completely unbound by labels — and always striving to take their prowess to the next level.
Where Myth Becomes Memory is a goosebump-inducing collection of brilliance that binds explosive energy and epic elegance — one that encapsulates Rolo Tomassi’s inevitable evolution as a band. The upcoming album demonstrates their ability to transcend genre with a combination of harsh and clean vocals, heavy metallic elements and shoegaze sensibilities.
It is the final part in the band’s unintended trilogy that began with Grievances (2015) and followed with Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It (2018). Moreover, it is the first album the band has written since Korman moved to the United States.
The powerfully evocative record is centered around themes such as patience, discovery and journey. Making Where Myth Becomes Memory was “like a spiritual journey” in itself, according to Korman.
Unsurprisingly, Rolo Tomassi were successful in pulling different parts together to make every element come together as one cohesive piece of music from start to finish — taking listeners on a journey with each song.
Korman shares that the writing process for Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It was emotionally exhausting and took a lot out of her. She compares her experiences in methods and outlooks with Where Myth Becomes Memory.
“Going into this one, I wanted to have a more positive experience because it was quite challenging, and I felt that going into it,” Korman confides. “Previously, I had always been a very reflective writer. So, I wanted to go into this one branching out a bit more — looking forward to being more present and kind of exploring, rather than reflecting.”
After the last few years, Korman says the band “definitely needed a little bit of optimism.” This time around, she wanted to come across with a brighter approach to writing.
“The themes — lyrically — are rebirth, renewal, discovery and exploration. That’s what I wanted to shine through with it,” she says. “Though there is some darkness, it is very balanced out with lightness, both in the music and the lyrics.”
Spence explains that the band felt more comfortable taking risks musically in the previous record. With Where Myth Becomes Memory, they wanted to push the contrasting sides of their sound even further than they had pushed them before.
“On this record, there’s more of the clean and delicate moments and the kind of gentleness there that helps to balance out those heavier moments,” Spence says. “I think they both play into each other so well and allow us to have these sort of really intense dynamics that make it feel more like a journey.”
This, Spence says, was the direction they wanted to take after the previous record. Though at the time, it felt like much more of a gamble to have more pop sensibilities — like Eva singing — to it. However, he mentions it was “definitely” a side of the band they had always wanted to push.
“Ultimately, our aim with writing music is to write something that is just honest and a true reflection of what we're into,” Spence says.
He continues, “For me, it Where Myth Becomes Memory> pulls together everything that I love in music just as a real broad spectrum and kind of distilled into us. To me, this record is the truest reflection of the identity that we have. I think with the last record, we really found our identity. This is just an even more confident version of that.”
Many bands have spent the last two years in isolation and making albums as a result. This was not the case for Rolo Tomassi, as they had already started writing Where Myth Becomes Memory after Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It was released. By 2019, they had songs ready to record.
With Korman moving to the United States and the rest of the band in the UK, the band was already mentally prepared to work in a different way. But in regards to the writing process, the band, who had already been scattered across different cities, had always done it separately.
Spence explains this allowed the band to have more of an opportunity to develop and refine what they had all been working on. “By the time they brought it to the rest of the group, these ideas were more fully formed,” he says. “There’s a bit more vision, and you can see the bigger picture a little more.”
He adds, “We knew this time around that we had a bit more time. There was no external pressure. We could really allow the record to take shape and present itself to us, really.”
The creative process has always been that each band member will write songs, demo them and then pass them to Korman.
“I’ll sit with it and get the feel of it. I usually start making notes for lyrics before I've heard anything anyway, which is what I did on this one,” Korman says. “But once they start sending things through, that's when I really get into the groove of what I'm doing and everything starts coming together once I've started hearing the music.”
The brother-and-sister bandmates say there was a lot of back and forth with Where Myth Becomes Memory. This helped the band become extremely organized and efficient when it came time to record in the studio, Korman says.
“Everybody knew what was happening even though I was 4,000 miles away. Everybody knew what the songs were going to sound like in the absence of being able to practice them together,” she says.
This undoubtedly exemplifies the level of chemistry and talent among the band. Together, their efforts resulted in a beautifully chaotic album. One that is the most expansive of anything they’ve done…and one the band is extremely proud of, Spence says.
“All I want from the music that we write is for it to resonate and make people feel the way that the music that I love makes me feel,” Spence says. “We wanted it to be expansive, to be grand and cinematic and kind of go through a variety of emotions.”
Each album, he says, is a snapshot of a particular period of time — a time when that album could only ever have been written during that period of time. With Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It being so well received, the band felt like that was the “absolute peak” of what they could do at the time. So, they wanted to take that energy and put it back into what they were doing.
“For me, it just feels right. It feels good,” Spence says.
Rolo Tomassi finished Where Myth Becomes Memory last March and have been eagerly awaiting its release. Spence shares he’s satisfied with every creative choice they made and is looking forward to fans being able to hear it.
“Whenever I’ve listened back to it and played along to it, I'm just really positive and am amped on everything about it. It just makes me even more excited to go out and play it to people. I’ve used the word already a few times during this interview, but just: ‘confident.’ I feel so confident in what we’ve put together. That’s not really something that I’ve ever had going into releasing an album before,” he admits.
For the two siblings, Rolo Tomassi has been a constant in their lives since they were young teenagers. With nearly two decades of experience playing music together, they still get a rush off being able to tour internationally and the fact there are people in other countries who are interested in what they do.
“That’s something that I still struggle to kind of wrap my head around,” Korman says. Spence agrees.
When they started the band as teenagers, they never anticipated what they’d accomplish together and the kind of response the band would get. It’s something, Spence says, that makes him emotional and feel heavily rewarded.
“This is all I've wanted to do since I was about 14, and I've got to do all of it. I feel so fortunate. Some people spend their lives just figuring out what they want to do — not, like, figuring it out and doing it,” Spence says. “I was just very lucky that really early on that I knew what it was that I wanted and just put everything into making it happen. Now, it's just making it sustainable and making it last as long as it can.”
Korman says, “I never really had expectations of what we might do. It just felt like a very present time of being there and then just doing it. There was never a question in my mind. I feel like it was having that kind of teenage confidence and nothing to lose kind of attitude.”
Fast forward to now, and Where Myth Becomes Memory came at a time and place where Spence believes the band hit their stride with music. “I feel very excited to see what comes next. I’m really excited to get this one out,” he says.
Rolo Tomassi put an immense amount of love and hard work into Where Myth Becomes Memory. So much so that Spence believes it's the best album they’ve ever made.
“Spend the time with it. I think it's an album that definitely has a lot to offer on repeated listens,” he says. “We spent a lot of time really finessing the details on this one, and we had a lot of time to do that, which was a real treat and something that kind of sets it aside from different records.”
Rolo Tomassi will kick off their UK dates with special guests Pupil Slicer and Heriot on February 16.
Where Myth Becomes Memory arrives February 4th via MNRK Heavy.