5 minutes with… Roman Remains

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Roman Remains consists of two members of The Duke Spirit – Toby Butler and Liela Moss. With The Duke Spirit taking some time off after 9 years of touring, Toby and Liela cast their attention elsewhere. Out of the rubble came Roman Remains – a post-punk, electronic project. After touring with Gary Numan and a successful slot at James Lavelle’s Meltdown festival 2014, their debut album Zeal is out now. We recently caught up with Toby to dive into all things Roman Remains.

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?

Doing well thanks. I’m in my new studio in Somerset. I’ve recently relocated down here, and I’m loving it. 

What are the 5 albums and artists that have influenced you the most?

Depeche Mode – Violator
Bjork – Homogenic
David Bowie – Low, or Scary Monsters
Portishead – Third
Iggy Pop – The Idiot

What other artists do you really like at the moment and why?

I love the Atoms For Peace record Amok that came out last year. The production and arrangements is very inspiring.
I love The Knife. Shaking The Habitual is a great great record.
New band The Wytches are really good. Love their energy and don’t give a fuck-ness.
Mark Lanegan’s output is always impressive, and I love his voice.
I loved SUUNS record Images Du Futur.

What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks?

I use Logic for writing and recording. I use a sampler within Logic that contains all my drum custom samples I’ve collected over the years. I have a few go to synths that I love, such as the Korg MS20, Yamaha SH101, and Arturia MiniBrute. Plus lots of guitar pedals, such as Electro Harmonix POG, Roland Space Echo, Zvex Wooly Mammoth, that everything goes through! Plus a bunch of plugins to make everything sound spicy. 

What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?

I’ve been fortunate to play some amazing places with my other band (The Duke Spirit). We played the Hollywood Bowl, which was very special and a huge one to tick off the dream list. We also played Sparta Prague Stadium with REM once, which was ridiculous. Stupidly huge and scary. The best was probably headlining the Astoria in London for the first time, as it was a venue I’d been to too many times and wished I could play one day. So to headline there was amazing. 

What’s the worst gig you have ever done and why?

Gigs where equipment breaks, or no-one turns up is also a bummer. Especially if you’ve travelled a long way to get there. I did manage to break my elbow in Las Vegas trying to moonwalk down a hotel corridor, then had to play Coachella festival the next day. That was a cool gig, but I kinda ruined it for myself. I did manage to play though!

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

Roman Remains is myself and Liela Moss (singer). We’re a misty electronic band with live elements. Dark, dirty, glitchy, sub bass goodness.

I read that Roman Remains began with what was essentially a beat-off. Is this true?

Well, kind of. Simon Byrt, (who co-wrote/co-produced the record) and I would get together in time off between Duke Spirit tours and just muck around writing beats and bass lines. We’d try and out do each other to do the weirdest or most stupid loop or sample. However, it kept turning out that we’d both really like what each other was doing. So they started to become songs. We then got Liela in to sing on them and it grew from there.

When you first started Roman Remains, did you expect it to be as successful as it has been?

It wasn’t even supposed to be a band in the first place, or become a record, so everything has been a good surprise. I was glad we were able to turn it into a live thing, and tour it well.

Has The Duke Spirit been put on hold whilst you pursue Roman Remains?

After 9 years of solid touring we decided to take a little time off. We haven’t split up, and hopefully we’ll do something again soon.

How did you find Meltdown festival? 

Meltdown was great. Southbank is a great place to play and generally be a part of. Liela was singing with UNKLE during that week too, so we were hanging out there a lot. Mark Lanegan played, Josh Homme, Petit Noir. Lots of cool stuff, so it was fun.

Zeal is full of energy, how do you translate that to your live shows?

We really wanted to be able to translate lots of the stuff that was programmed into live parts, and that took quite a while to figure out. Because there’s a lot of stuff happening electronically it has to be tied down to a large degree. Having a live drummer meant we could loosen it up slightly, and add extra energy. Live guitar and triggering samples and loops was also kept it fun for me! Then it’s up to Liela to do her thing!

You’ve been associated with a multitude of genres, e.g. electronic, post-punk, industrial. If you were to place yourselves within a genre, what would it be?

There’s lots of different influences in the record, but I’d just call it electronic music. I don’t thing we can really fit snuggly into just one category.

What can we expect from you in the upcoming months?

We’re right in the middle of making another album right now, which I hope will see the light of day soon. There’s a few remixes and other things just being finished too which we can’t mention but are exciting. Keep ‘em peeled.

Make sure you grab a copy of Zeal, and check out the new video for Tachycardia below.

Interviewed by Hannah Beeching.