The key ingredients of Rowsie’s Koolaid, you may wonder? The answer is simple: a combination of gritty guitar strings, triumphant melodies and raw velvety vocals. If you are unsure what that may sound like, their latest EP “Danish Queen” provides the ultimate soundboard. On its titular track, an unwavering drum beat takes over the chorus — lending full attention to the band’s ear for addictively commanding instrumentals and quick-witted lyricism.
Elsewhere, the second track of the EP “We Live On” adopts a slower tempo, exposing the soul-baring sentiments that underpin Rosie’s compelling sounds. When speaking of the creative process that led to the creation if the effort, the Rowsie frontman explains, “It was kind of chills down the spine magical for us to all play together. I have always said, I write music for the band… if anyone else likes it, that’s great… but the band is our true audience!”
In light of the release of the EP, we spoke with Rowsie about the creation of the band, the creative process that brought them to the two tracks and what they see themselves doing next.
So to stream both tracks of “Danish Queen” and for the full interview, head below…
First of all, let’s discuss your beginnings as a band! How did you all decide to work together musically?
I started Rowsie in the first lockdown but got stalled, obviously. I did write about 13 songs and created Ivy RecRods as well during this time. The studio was also built, and we started working with the producer John Porter. But the process got bogged down with having to email files back and forth. Then in the summer of 2021, I met Alan through Freddie Cowan of the Vaccines. We immediately discovered that we had the same musical vocabulary and grew up on a lot of the same bands. We had that American experience of hearing music in cars, whilst stuck in traffic on some highway! So we sat down and reworked the songs and gave them a whole new sound and perspective. I knew Jess from her playing at the guitar store I am involved with, Sixty Sixty Sounds on Denmark Street. She was jamming with two other young girls and everything about her style and attitude was so compelling! I knew she was a jazz drummer, and that really interested me as I wanted our band to have a strong improvisational approach to playing. She was all for it! Then Freddie and Alan kept telling me about Holly Henderson. Honestly, I wasn’t so sure about her but agreed to go see her band play. It was a baroque-pop folk band, and she was finger picking the strangest chords I’d ever seen; not really from this planet! I was afraid it wouldn’t fit but the guys were adamant that we try playing with her! Thank the good lord for that!
You all come from very different backgrounds, including filmmaking and composure, jazz and songwriting! Do you think your diverse range of backgrounds has influenced your artistry?
Most definitely. I had heard Thurston Moore interviewed and he said he was now playing Improvisational Rock…not a Jam Band but something else really. I wanted to explore that, and for that we needed people of different style, sound and background. Each member needed to have their own viewpoint; not to be homogenous was the idea. You don’t make a sauce with the same ingredients! I don’t want to sound pretentious, but this was our idea. Everyone writes their own parts with very little interference from the others. Nobody says…play this or that in this way. But of course, we have those discussions when we arrange or if I come up with a guitar line that I could never play! Holly usually handles those without an effort! In the end it is down to the sound… is it a Rowsie song or not. That’s what comes out of the oven!
Your roots span across New York and London, do you think the cities and their rich cultures also inform the way you create music?
Certainly, they are the main influences in terms of the attitude and grit of the band. Growing up the New York bands were my main influence as far as storytelling nature and the grit and crunch of the cities. I spent hours in my room listening to Lou Reed Live … both albums … and Lou Reed Berlin. Then the CBGB scene, I saw the Ramones and felt that pure raw power. The Talking Heads too, ahh to be free to nerd out! These took me to the underworld of Manhattan, but Berlin was a dark and foreboding world of Europe that I dreamt of. London is the place I always longed to go to… but it took me years to get there. My love of Reed led me of course to Bowie and glam rock melodies and haunting decadent styles.
Tell me your favourite parts about working in a band!
Well, I am a rehearsal junky! I actually love it! We have an amazing studio on the floor below where I live, I built it in lockdown, and it is growing like rabbits in heat! On rehearsal days we all meet around 10-11… I just have to go downstairs. We go to Gail’s and get some ridiculous cakes and breakfast, stuff our faces and then sit down to work. We always have that beginning “noodle” where anything at all can happen, in any style… complete freeform. It is all recorded, and everything we do in the studio is captured; it is where the most beautiful things happen. It’s really one of those “I can’t believe this is my job” moments! A lot of our newer stuff emerges from this, and I’ll just freeform lyrics to it as we play. That’s going to be a lot of how we write going forward, and it’s easy because the 3 others are incredibly talented as well as skilled!
Let’s talk about your new EP, “Danish Queen” and the single “We Live On”. How are you feeling about the release of this new project? Are you excited for the world to hear it?
These are two new ones that this version of Rowsie came up with. I am so interested in how it goes; they are more our new sound. Very different songs as well, obviously one is slow but beautifully haunting. I love the sounds of both, and we really captured the feel I wanted. It is also a real chance to have a duet with Holly vocally, and that was special. They are very personal songs, I wrote Danish Queen for my partner; she was tired of me singing songs about other women, which were most of my old songs! It’s never easy to put them out though, while I love them…I always seem to think we can make them better! Never satisfied, I guess. But that’s what playing live is about for me…the development and maturing of our songs. I love the way that happened for the Grateful Dead, they just played every night like it was the first time.
Talk to us about the differences and similarities between the two tracks that feature on the project! Are they linked in any way?
Well, we thought that it would be good to put these two together because they are so different. “We Live On” I wrote on the piano one Sunday winter morning in my bathrobe. It was very personal, someone had died, and I was thinking about how we leave this world. So a party song! Seriously, it was a dirge, but when I played it for the band, I thought they’d hate it… they did not. I ended up taking out an amazing guitar I have and rarely use. It’s a 1958 Gibson Super 400, one of the most incredible instruments I have ever heard. The guitar just had that haunting echo to it, and I use flat wound strings, so the sound is special. Holly just started harmonising with me, and it all fell into a beautiful place. We recorded it 3 days later at RAK in just 3 takes!
Do you each have a favourite track from the EP and if so, why?
Nah, not really. But I am very partial to the way Danish Queen came out. When we got the final version back it just surprised me…the sound is what I dreamt for Rowsie! That crunch and Holly’s guitars, well it does it for me.
I know you have also been in Mexico playing with the Vaccines’ Freddie Cowan! How do you all feel when you are playing live to a crowd?
That’s really what we are about, we go a little crazy live! I can’t help it…the spirit just comes out and we just let it rip. Playing with Freddie was just beautiful! The Scenarios are beyond what I expected when I first heard his new songs last summer…way beyond. They have found something so fresh and moving! His songs have found a blend of Mexican brass, a jazz rhythm section and his otherworldly guitar playing. It is really something to see. Also, his generosity as a guide and collaborator has been an enormous help to Rowsie, we would not be here without him.
Aside from all the exciting things discussed, what else are you looking forward to in 2022?
Well, so much really. I am in Texas now and getting some venues sorted for next year. We will play some in the US, come back to Mexico as well in the fall to play some festivals there. And we want to write new material, we have a lot of ideas; we need to settle down somewhere for a couple weeks and just write them…maybe back to Frome! But I am just so excited to see the response we’ve been getting, it’s quite nice.