The Hollow Of The Humdrum Interview With Fran Doran (Red Rum Club)

2019 was a big year for Red Rum Club, which included playing at Glastonbury. In October their follow up to Matador, The Hollow Of The Humdrum will be released. With this album, Red Rum Club are widening the spectrum of their sonic, this record varies from acoustic ballads to disco themed festival anthems. Theatrical brass and pop choruses are infused with rumbling bass lines, western guitars and Latin percussion and it reflects upon the vices and virtues people use to escape the mundanities of everyday life.

The identity of Red Rum Club is still very apparent but The Hollow Of Humdrum marks the band’s natural evolution from their debut album. I had the pleasure of talking to Fran Doran, the bands charismatic frontman, again, and asked about their phenomenal year and the new album.

(Paul Lyme)

Last time we met you told me that you did three festivals in 24 hours, Y Not Festival, Kendal Calling and Truck Festival. I was at Truck and you blew the top of the tent off, so how frustrating is it, especially at this time of year, not being able go on tour?

It’s horrible especially after the 15 months that we’ve had, with the live shows which are our biggest asset. We make a lot of noise, there is a big trumpet that gets attention. Playing live is what we enjoy the most, it is what we recommend. I think a lot of artists put music out from their bedrooms and putting demos out, that’s them being an artist. For us it was always about jumping in a van, going and playing a few shows, having a few beers with a few people, and that being pulled from us was is scary to be honest. It had never happened before and we thought is that us then, is that it? Have we got 12 months where we are out of the picture of the people’s consciousness?

But we’ve adapted and worked hard behind the scenes and during lockdown we have done Instagram Live and staying active to stay positive and it’s come back in. The feedback and and the attention is still there, which has been amazing. It just took us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and stop sulking and to go on and do music however we can.

The Live At Liverpool LP is a great live album, was the gig as fun for you as it sounded?

Yeah, with home crowds we’ve got a little bit more pressure because you know who’s coming, you know there will be a few family and friends there. It’s a bit daunting at first, you think I just want to get it right because the show was a sell out  five months before it happened. With all that expectation we know we had to try and put on a good show.

But the funny thing was that we forgot it was being recorded. So we’ve been told a few weeks earlier that we’re going to record that by the record label. We thought OK then, yes, sound, and then we didn’t mention it all, you know since then, or even on the the day. But if someone had said to us five minutes beforehand ‘Oh boys remember this gig is being recorded’, I think it would have come up with totally different product.

You know, I certainly would have got my breath for a few of the lines. The lads would have probably had one bottle less before going on. But it came out great like that and I think, probably, it’s a blessing in disguise that we forgot about it because there’s a lot of energy in it, because, you can sort of hear and feel that we are having a good time as well as the fans.

With a live album, you don’t want it to sound like it’s coming out of the studio, do you? You just want it to sound like it would if you were the gig?

Yeah yeah exactly. I mean you want to sound close, Not miles away, but we want it to add something different. Absolutely, definitely. I always say to the lads when we are practicing when maybe when we get sort of hung up on something, you know about a certain way when we are practicing for our live shows, I would say ‘Boys we’ve got two versions of every song. It’s not gonna be exactly the same. You know, live as it is on record. First of all, because I’m singing it and there’s no auto tune on it. So it’s that thing isn’t it? That you have got to take the pressure off, a little bit and see it for something different. It is a record but it’s a live record. Because it’s a live representation.

(Paul Lyme)

So obviously the zombie apocalypse has had a big effect, especially with an album out and everything else but how has it affected your plans, and what have been the positives?

It has effected our plans simply by pushing them back for 12 months. That has been the bad bit, and the bad thing is we sort of panic about it. As I say we’ve always been face to face with fans. We’ve always been in the van and on travels. The biggest fear was that we would just fall out to people’s minds, you know, and we’d be like oh yeah remember them what happened to them? The bigger bands or the bands on bigger labels or bigger budgets will probably be able to bide their time a little bit more and be able to throw a bit of money behind it once they are back on the road. But from our point of view we were very aware that we’ve made a good impact and we’ve got a really good nucleus of fans across the country. We were always growing and we felt like we were stopping and generally standing still.

So I think we all had that worry, management and us six lads we’ve we’ve all talked about it. And that’s probably why we just went ahead and put the album on hold for two months, but then we were like right let’s just go for it, you know what I mean? We have to keep active in some way and if  we have to release an album, without playing a show before, then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll just put all our efforts into the online stuff, and hopefully, hopefully, the songs are big enough on the nuclease of fans, they’ll respond to it and spread the word. So it’s been really strange for us.

Also, then the positives are that this is the first time we’ve had off since Matador, before that we were gigging a good 12 months.  This is the first time we’ve been able to stop and find things, because we haven’t been having to worry about the live things.

We’ve been able to be like, let’s get some good press shots, let’s really think about the artwork for this album. Let’s really think about the approach as well as being able to think about the songs you know put on the album, like thinking about where to put the slowies. Maybe we wouldn’t have written them songs if we were all of us in a room thrashing about. It might have changed that a little bit, changed our focus a little bit, but I think it’s been for the good. You know, I think has been a positive thing in the end because we’ve been able to plan.

And you need to find positives don’t you from a situation like this?

Yeah, yeah, exactly and there’s been plenty. We were worried, as I say, about slowing down and things are quietening down on our socials and stuff like. But then we took the risk got a good plan behind us for the next 12 months, and then put for Eleanor out, and that has just been amazing.

(Paul Lyme)

I can see what you mean with the momentum. Obviously,  you released Matador and then you hit lots of gigs, then the festivals culminating in the sold out show in Liverpool. It was like it was like a boulder rolling downhill.

That’s what I felt like from the inside as well. We would see our progress through the crowds of people getting bigger, and getting a bit noisier, more people knowing the words, seeing the whites of their eyes, enjoying it. But now we have had to change and adapt, but we have been getting great feedback on social media and multiplying numbers of radio plays, you know we just take the feedback in a different way. We’re also positive now, we’re actually more positive now than ever because Eleanor has done so well.

That’s that’s quite reassuring isn’t it because at live gigs and especially festivals people to go into tents because they hear Joe blow his trumpet and come in. The fact that you’re not you’re not out there and you’re still maintaining that you must take some comfort out of that.

Yeah, massively, massively, you know we didn’t want to be a one trick pony like people see us live and then it’s like oh yeah that’s okay and then that’s all we can sell. We feel that we can sort of have an online presence, as well as a radio presence, as well as a streaming presence. We’ve never really thought before we’ve never really took that much notice of it because we’ve been busy doing other things. But it’s gratifying.

And last year you played Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing Stage which must have been a buzz. What was that like and did it work wonders for your confidence because, t I know you’re all shy and retiring types, you six guys?

Do you know what, It did. I would say that it did because same as the Liverpool home town show, there are certain shows that stand out In the year. You could look forward and say that’s going to be a good one. That hometown show, Glastonbury and an abroad show or something. You think I’m gonna make the most of that, that one’s going to be great. We had played festivals on stages of that size where we got really good feedback, you saw it  yourself at Truck.

We watched Glastonbury approach and encroach on us and we think, oh my God it’s two weeks only, and in the last week oh my God we’re going this weekend, and it was just such a big thing in our head. I think all of us was on stage, we knew it was getting recorded for the BBC which is such a big thing. It may have just been in our heads that it’s a little bit different, and we came off stage and we thought we have done that before haven’t we? If that’s what Glastonbury is then put us on a bigger stage, we have just proved it to ourselves.

You proved your mettle to yourself with that.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You can always say, we have played Glastonbury and just being able to say that, people take you seriously and we have the video evidence to prove it and then it’s sort of, it’s a big rubber stamp isn’t it? A big green tick.

Your first album Matador was a great album and when we last talked you hinted at another album being a work in progress. Did playing Matador live, at those live shows and festivals influence how you approached the second album?

Yes, yes it did, and it was strange because this album was written a lot of the time while we were on tour, or while we were home for a few days waiting for the next show. It was forced upon us, we have to just write the album, slightly differently this time, which I don’t think is a bad thing. It could have been a bad thing, but songs were able to come out. Tom especially, he never had a day off. If we weren’t playing live he was thinking about the second album, a lot more than we were a lot of the time.

And, yeah, as you say the Matador gigs were great and unbelievable, but we needed just a little breather. It was that successful that when we felt when we found ourselves having to fill an hour and a half we all realised we weren’t fighting fit. We would all come off sweating and we’d love it for a moment. I think the crowds were the same, we saw that maybe only once or twice, where we could have done with a good two or three minute break or breather or something like that.

Because of that we we wrote two or three slower songs and I don’t think it’s massively different. I think it’s a bit bigger, like you said, when we came off stage, and festivals especially, we look onto the next big stage and think that’s the next one.

So we thought let’s go away and write an album with songs that are big enough. So we are not just six lads in a band now, we are artists with a big live show, we need to go out there now and write songs and produce songs in a way that could stand up on a main stage. So include a few synths, here and there or few backing vocals, or orchestral sounds a little bit that we weren’t afraid to do it. Matador was always very much of us six getting a room playing songs and that’s it.

With Matador, I assume that you had quite a while to write quite a lot of material to choose from, whereas, since the release of Matador, constantly being on the road and doing the second album, I would imagine that you had less time to create create the songs for The Hollow Of Humdrum?

Yes we did. And like you said, when writing Matador we weren’t  aware, a lot of the time, that we were writing an album. We were just writing songs, and some of them songs, are like, five years old. Yeah, so we just wrote a song and and that was there and then we wrote another song and another song and we had a collection of songs. And it works pretty well,  we managed to get to a point where they all sound very similarly have the same sort of thing about them, and they complement each other pretty well.

This time around we like we’re making an album, so, it’s just a case of, what do we need? So we have like five or six quick high tempo live songs that would be great, people moshing.  Then, we would need a slow one, a bit of a ballad, and then we would need a bit of funk in there. I think we just matured a little bit and have more of a vision for this one.

And the title The Hollow Of Humdrum, is one of the lyrics, and is a great title. Where did that come from?

Well it was sort of, The Hollow Of The Humdrum, a lot of the songs have got a theme about being online or being on your phone. So we found that when we were live when we were on tour, when we were sitting on the bus the the next day, whether we were hungover or not, you wouldn’t speak to the lads, because you were sick of them. So you would sit on your phones or maybe put your headphones on and have that ‘me time’.

So we made an observation as we were sitting around, I think we all got it, the fact that everyone consumes every bit of information every bit of music now just simply through the phone. And it was like, that was a different world. So like, we’ve got this thing in your hand and you’ve got access to everything in the world, but then you are still stuck in humdrum. You are sat in your Mum’s house having the same tea as you had the week before. You have still got to get up and go to work, but it doesn’t quite feel like that because you listen to different music on this piece of equipment, this phone. So we basically started bouncing around a few ideas of associative escapism, and then Tom just came up with The Hollow Of Humdrum.

Because it’s always the phone, it isn’t always about followers, but it’s that sort of thing. When we just give it to the label we only halfway just mentioned it in passing the head of the record label said ‘Yeah I like it’, because you don’t quite know what it is you talk about it. Also it’s not a well known saying, so it is interesting.

I’ve noticed, you’re tackling some grittier messages within the album, things like social media, etc. Do you think that being an established band gives you a great opportunity to explore those things?

Yeah. You’ve got to represent something, you know, have a say on certain things and connect with people who listen. I think it’s a little bit of a cheat if all you do is write singles about your ex or you sing about your girlfriends. I mean it’s a little bit of an easy way. You sit down with a guitar or a piano, however you write,  it’s very easy to write things that are personal to you, where you know your feelings, it’s a little bit easier. Whereas this one, with some of the topics, sometimes you don’t have the platform to say it and you think you are the only one feeling it.

When you say , isn’t it mad that you feel like this on your phone, or you talk about mental health, or you talk about toxic masculinity of not being able to dance, which the next single is sort of about a little bit. You realise it’s a universal feeling, a universal thought, so it’s more incessant simply more incessant for the listener, rather than just being about the girl next door or whatever.

It is strange, and, I don’t know whether there’s a responsibility to do it. I don’t feel like we have to say things about things. It’s sometimes it’s nice isn’t it? Maybe find something or think about something that other people have felt and don’t realise that other people feel

I remember when we last talked, You said that you felt that your sound was tested and you know what works and what doesn’t work. And I think you actually said, you asked yourself the question would this have made a Matador and if it doesn’t, we’ll bin it? You said you got a bit of a blueprint together so did that make The Hollow Of The Humdrum easy to produce?

No, I don’t think it did. It made it harder to write. If a song hadn’t made it on Matador, then the old stuff was back catalogue. All the songs on the album were written after Matador. So I think when we went into it, we we saw them as new songs on a new album rather than the hangover, or the leftovers after Matador, so we we see that as a different animal. Obviously you still got your nods to it and you can’t stray too far from us because that’s what we sound like and that’s what our fans play and it seems to be working. We cant go playing seven minute long solos .

(Paul Lyme)

I think it’s a little bit of a statement. I don’t know whether you agree, but I think it’s just a statement that we could have a main stage spot anywhere in the world and our songs would fit there. Our songs are big enough. We are not just 3 guitars and a trumpet, a drum kit and my snarling vocals over it. It’s a little bit a little bit more thought out and thought through.

I never thought you were just an indie band. There are so many bands that look and sound the same, but with  Joe The Blow and his trumpet and everything, there’s something different about you. I had had the pleasure of listening to the new album, and with Ennio Morricone dying recently I am glad that there is still some spaghetti western in there. I think that’s what really sets you apart from other bands you’ve got a distinctive sound that I am glad hasn’t gone.

Yeah. We are not scared of adding something different to it, maybe not as a live thing but as far as listening to it on your headphones. If there is a bit of piano, a bit of organ, a bit of synth there now on the second album, then so be it, we’re not ruling anything out. We are not going to just stick to those six components

I once described you as the love child of Echo And The Bunnymen in Ennio Morricone.

Yeah. I will take that.

Kids Addicted was released, quite a while ago and Eleanor seems like a very personal song, with a latin swagger. Tell us a little about it?

Eleanor was sort of, from my point of view, just like thrown together. Eleanor is Tom’s girlfriend, she is a young girl and they just moved into a house together and she was just feeling down a bit. Tom being the good lad that he is had this song that had, El Ea Nor, he had that bit. We thought that was great then in the back of the van coming back from Bath, I think, he sat down with me and Mike and went ‘Here you are, what about this? The El EA bit was only in the pre chorus it wasn’t in the chorus. We said try and get that in as much as possible. Even start the song with it, try and get it in the pre chorus and the chorus, because that is the hook. That’s really, the most we had to do with it.

Obviously when we went in we changed a few sounds and I delivered it differently when we were in the studio. But as far as the writing process it turned up and it was there. I think we had a little bit of input, but Tom, because it’s so close to his heart, just got it done in his own. We were very aware of touching it. We were very aware that Tom wanted it a certain way.

Tom’s a big boy, and we work a certain way, if I bring an idea and then the lads say that’s shit Fran, then that’s it. It’s all for the greater good. This is the first song we did not want to overly have our say on. If Tom wanted a certain way then we didn’t touch, and like I say, it was written on the road, like many of the songs. A lot of songs start with the chorus, like Sex On Fire, so we thought why not?

It was playlisted by Radio 2, which must have increased the exposure and interest in the band.

Yeah massively, as I say every time we are played on Radio 2, you know, Primetime throughout the day. Today we’ve got played, almost just before midday. And I think it just takes you up in the status of the minds of the industry as well. All those people who book festivals and stuff and people who have got the powers and the keys to success. Now if you say you’re playlisted on Radio 2  it’s another string to our bow.

You’ve got to build your own CV. That is a big plus on our CV  and being able to brag about that to the people in power is going to help us along in our career. The fact that it is played to over a million people a day, is huge. We were Shazamed last week over 2000 times. Which shows the power of it. There were at least 2000 people that had hadn’t heard of us, and thought what is this song? So they are not just passing trade, they are more likely to book a show, or pre-order the album which is amazing.

We have got a bit of a wait for the album, just before my Birthday in October, guess what is going to be top of my list? So how many teasers are you likely to release between now and then?

The plan was four. But as Eleanor has done so well we’ve pushed back the releases So that four has gone down to three, so we think we may be able to get two other songs out. It’s all changed, it’s all fluid, that’s one of the things we said, that it can’t be set in stone, because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I will be gutted if we don’t get two out as the other two are my favourites. Hopefully we will get one out at the end of August and one at the end of September, just before the release of the album. I think these two are better than Eleanor.

I think we’re going to go with the Elevation just before the the album and we have already shot the video for Ballarino, so if that doesn’t come out that’s money down the pan!

How difficult is it shooting videos at the moment? I know there are lots of animated videos out at the moment?

Well funnily enough with Eleanor, we thought we are going to have to get inventive here, and we found a girl on Twitter who had animated a few things. She said will you all send me three videos of yourselves. So we had to personally, sit, set it up, play in our rooms and film ourselves. I have never felt more ridiculous in my life!

Without being able to play the new tracks at the festivals, how have you had to adapt in promoting the album? Does this make single releases even more important?

Yeah, and getting on the playlist was important. Before that we had a few spot plays on radio and Spotify numbers are OK. We’ve got a nice nucleus of fans and the social media interaction is great and you know, they will follow you to the end. With the playlist things seemed to have picked things up massively. Having a good video is even more important because people discover music by sitting on their phones and there’s a big yellow video that pops up on their feed or on YouTube then they’re more likely to buy it.

I think music now is single based, you know people love an album. Music fans love an album, but the average Joe on the street is not a music fan. They like songs, and if they like one song by a band then that is enough. It’s the hooks and the bass that draws them in. Eleanor has done amazingly, so hopefully the next two releases will do well. We cant do anything else but get radio playlists and Spotify playlists and a whole host of people get onto us.

Having good content on social media and being always active on it. Being active on social media rather than active touring is a big way that we have had to adapt it in this climate. But we have taken to it well and we love it, we love trying to engage with our fans. We used to feel a bit cheesy, you know like, tweeting because we didn’t think people want to hear from us, but now they do I think.

(Paul Lyme)

As a final question, just like when we met at Wilkestock, where I asked about Liverpool winning the Champions League. Were all the band happy about Liverpool storming the league this year? I know you said Simon was pleased, not because he is a Liverpool fan, but because he is a top bevvy head, the lockdown must have taken the edge off of that for him?

Yeah, a little bit to be honest, he has put the brakes on a little bit. Do you know what, Neil has took it pretty well, being the only bluenose. So yeah, he has had to swallow his pride a couple of times but in fairness he has said ‘You deserve it, I am made up for you boys’. We’ve got together a few times outside my flat but he has never joined us! He has never let on, if it is killing him on the inside, he seems fine from the outside!

I sat there just before the Chelsea game and thought, here we are all over Radio 2, the biggest radio station in the country and Liverpool are just about to Raise the premier League Trophy. It does not get much better than this!

Ballarino has just been released and The Hollow Of The Humdrum is released on October the 2nd. If you liked Matador, then I think you will love this. Look out for the release of The Elevation at the end of September. Red Rum Club are a great live act and will be hitting the road early next year, so do yourself a favour and see them, even their ‘slowies’ are good.

As Fran told us, Red Rum Club are more active than ever on social Media. Keep up to date with Red Rum Club on Facebook HERE

Interview with Fran Doran out of Red Rum Club by Tony Creek, August 2020.

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