Ahead of the release of their new double album, we sat down with The Rifles to discuss the future of touring, growing up and helicopters… 

So let’s start with the album, or rather ‘double album’, Big Life… Was that purely a case of too many songs?

JOEL: Yeah we just sort of ended up recording more than we usually do. Usually it’s like the bare minimum but we ended up finishing some more so we had a bit of choice. But then it turned out we didn’t really wanna leave any of them off. And if we didn’t put them on we’d probably never do nothing with them or they’d just end up on the internet anyway.
LUCAS: Once we pieced it together it just sort of worked as two CDs as well.

And Big Life is your fifth studio album, you’ve been a band for twelve years, but obviously there’s not lack of creative flow if you can still make a double album. How do you make sure that doesn’t stop?

J: Once an album’s out we always have a little break and for me I think that’s the trick. You just need to stop doing it for a while and then I’m in the mood to do it again. Straight after that break is when most of the writing gets done.

Moving from albums to live shows, as proved by the Roundhouse show earlier this year you’re able to sell out shows despite having no new music in the market. There’s obviously something that draws people in to your live shows. Is that something you intentionally set out to focus on more than the recordings?

J: Nah not at all, I think the albums get people to know the songs and then we’ve got a really good fanbase that are always just up for a good night.
L: It’s always like a sing-a-long as well.

And do you get that feel wherever or do you find that your fanbase is quite concentrated?

J: Yeah it’s definitely quite concentrated. It feels a lot more intimate though ‘cause everyone’s only really found out about us through word of mouth or through friends. We were never really on the radio or in NME. It’s just grown through people bringing friends to see us.
L: I think fans feel like it means something more and it’s more personal for them as well.

Are you happy its worked out that way? Do you feel like you’ve missed out on something?

J: It’s hard to say. Now I’m completely happy with how it’s worked out. At the time obviously you think ‘what are we doing wrong?’

I know it’s not the nicest question to answer but do you think there was something you did wrong?

J: We got tarred with that mod brush quite early on and I don’t know if that’s now uncool to the masses, but it certainly made us a bit more niche. I don’t think we are.
L: But that’s how it went I suppose.

And it seems to work for you regardless! It seems a shame to still be bringing it up, but with regards to touring and Brexit, I know a lot of bands are worried that leaving the EU will affect being able to tour. Are you guys worried?

J: I literally have not thought about that one bit… Why would it even affect me?

Well you may have to get visas etc…

J: OH, getting over there? Yeah haven’t even thought about it. I thought we could just drive to Germany and we’d be cool, obviously with our passports.
L: We’re optimistic for the future!
J: Well it’s not gonna be any different going to America, is it?

And do you have a fanbase in America? I suppose the ‘mod’ sound – if you’re going to be associated with it – is quite a British one so does it go down as well over there?

L: We’ve done a few gigs in America and it was a good response but it’s really difficult to maintain going there and back because you’ve gotta pay for your visas and everything like that.
J: The cost to travel means we’d end up losing money by going there. The audience would be small because no one really knows about us so to build it would be really difficult. It’d probably put us bankrupt.
L: At the beginning bands usually have tour support from a label or something and then you can build it. It’s hard when you get to our stage to try and break new territories. And people think you don’t wanna go there and you can’t just jump on a plane.

Yeah, if they’re funding it it’s a different story… Is that not where you can utilise the internet and get fans that way?

L: I guess the internet is definitely important, but it seems like it’s all getting a bit saturated. There’s so much stuff it’s hard to click onto something.

And your bass player’s living in Germany at the moment, how does that work with recording? Do you have to plan albums in advance?

J: Yeah we’ll have like a four-day window in the studio and he’ll come over for a long weekend and then two weeks later we’ll do the same again.
L: It’s made how different being in a band is after a while compared to when you first started. When you first start you’re all in a room and it’s such a buzz and you’re so motivated and then it becomes more chilled, and it becomes a job. Not in a bad way but you’re older and things change.

But 12 years on are you still enjoying it the same as you were?

L: Yeah it’s different though. I went with my daughter and my girlfriend. You enjoy it as a family, rather than getting drunk etc.

And is getting your kids into music something that you’d like to do?

L: Nah it’s not massively important, to be honest. They’ll find it.

When did you guys get into music then?

J: I was about 13 when I started playing guitar… But that was just learning guitar. There was a kid in my school who was really good at guitar. I saw him playing once and just got into it. He Judas Priest’s guitarist now. He was definitely the best naturally gifted guitarist I’ve met.
L: What are you saying?!
J: Apart from Luke…

When did the band become a prospect then?

J: When Luke and I met. We both went to music college. I was doing sound engineering.
L: But I heard him singing and was like ‘ah you’ve got a good voice!’ He sung a Bob Marley song!
J: We never saw the college thing through… but we had to start a band as part of the college.
L: You could be in really odd bands so we found each other quite quickly.

And after your October tour are you straight back to another album?

J: Yeah you can’t leave it that long. Although we have got a double album this time…

I mean, your albums in the past have come out quite consistently.

J: Consistently slowly maybe?

Other bands take a lot longer!

L: Yeah I suppose. Mind you it might be a matter of you just smashing it so much you don’t need to come back to it for five years. They get down to their last mil and it’s like ‘pffft should probably get back…’

Is it a case of it being a job and you need money from an album or a case of having ideas?

J: I suppose it’s money driven but not in a greedy, ‘I want a new helicopter’ way, but more in a we need X amount to be able carry on.
L: Keeps us grounded…

The double album might just be the one that lands you the helicopter.

J: Let’s hope so!

Melissa Svensen

Melissa Svensen

Melissa, 22. Editor. Student, music journalist, probably talking about Blur or Bowie