If there’s one band who can deliver the ultimate pick me up in these unparalleled and trying times, it’s Liverpool’s Red Rum Club.
The rising six-piece, led by frontman Fran Doran, have been riding the crest of a charging wave thanks to their triumphant brand of brass-fuelled indie pop that sets them apart from their guitar-driven contemporaries.
Take their luscious latest single Eleanor. Building on the hook-laden quality from their debut album Matador, it’s a sun-soaked banger awash with mariachi trumpets and an anthemic chorus perfect for those festival sing-alongs as the sun begins to set.
And there’s an important, vital message behind it, too. It’s a love song about guitarist Tom Williams’ partner, written to help overcome a battle with mental health, Fran tells Daily Star Online.
Eleanor, which features on their Chris Taylor-produced forthcoming new album The Hollow Of Humdrum, is currently enjoying playlist status on BBC Radio 2 – something Fran says “doesn’t feel real”.
It’s another landmark for a band firmly destined for the top.
Their live shows are now widely regarded as some of the best on the circuit, perfectly showcased during their massive, head turning appearance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2019.
They’ve fast risen from playing at beer soaked pubs and clubs to major venues – including selling out Liverpool’s O2 Academy – and have played everywhere from Bucharest to Seoul.
Red Rum Club’s relentless and passionate touring schedule promoting Matador led them to a nomination at the AIM Independent Music Awards 2020 for Best Live Act.
Blessed with impassioned lyrics and rousing melodies, Red Rum Club melt away our fears and worries, setting us on a course to pop enlightenment.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Fran to talk about Red Rum Club’s rise so far, their new single Eleanor, its production, and their love of the live show.
Hi Fran, how has lockdown been for the band? Have you had the chance to work on anything?
“It’s been very strange but fruitful. We were always an old fashioned band in a sense that being in a band meant gigging. We were always on the road and seeing people face to face.
“When lockdown came around, we had to adapt, doing live streams. We’ve seen a massive rise in social media streaming numbers because we’ve got inventive. The general public and our fans have appreciated the extra bit of work you do and the ingenuity. We’ve stayed connected with our fanbase.
“We thought we’d be playing to the converted but we haven’t. People have been more responsive and discovering new music.”
How and when did you get together?
“It was me and Tom, the guitarist. He’s usually the nucleus of the creative ideas. We’re cousins. We were out playing in bands in our late teens. We just got together because we’d seen each other play.
“Mike invited us round. He’d just watched Nowhere Boy, the John Lennon film. I said ‘let’s be a skiffle band’. It went on from there.
“We spent four years messing around, playing gigs for ale, and trying to impress girls.
“Carl Hunter out of The Farm, a big Liverpool band, had seen us, as well as our manager now, George. Once we started thinking ‘this could be something’, we changed our name to Red Rum Club and started to try and make a career out of it. It all went from there.
“We went from doing two or three tours a year to five, playing festivals, got signed two years ago, and released our debut album Matador last January.
“In the Spotify and Instagram age, that’s helped us but it’s literally been jumping in a van, going up to 30 people, and the next time it’s 50, and then we go back to 200 people. It’s been great.”
You return with your new single Eleanor, a upbeat, summery song with a message behind it. Can you tell me a bit more about it? What’s it about?
“Eleanor was about in a different form. I remember being in Bath and me and Mike tinkered with it for about 20 minutes, and then it just seemed to happen.
“We were very aware of how sentimental it could have been to Tom. We never really touched it. We edited a few things musically but it was a case of Tom driving the ship on it and going ‘this is what it is’.
“It was a pick-me-up. It’s very personal to even me. I don’t know how much it’s helped her or if she’s into it.
“When Tom came up with the idea, we were like ‘will she be OK with us telling people about that?’ She’s been very open.”
It’s good to talk about these things.
“We took it a bit further and sang about it rather than talked about it.”
It’s also been playlisted on BBC Radio 2 – how over the moon are you guys?
“It doesn’t feel real. We don’t really know how massive it is. It’s never happened to us before. I suppose we’ll see over the next three weeks!”
Did you ever think it was possible?
“No. You’re taking it that one step at a time, climbing a ladder. That seemed a good two steps away yet, being one of those bands where you turn on the radio and say ‘I like this song’.
“I’m literally going to drive around in my car waiting for it to come on!”
You teamed up with Chris Taylor at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios. What was that like and what did you take from the sessions?
“It brings you back down to earth to be honest.
“You can be having all the success in the world and you go on there and see all the plaques on the walls, The Coral, Blossoms, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, all the things that have gone on in there. You think ‘we’re not exactly that yet’. You work harder when you’re in there.”
You released debut album Matador in 2019. What did you learn from writing that for your new material?
“With Matador it was a case of we were writing and someone would have an idea, a chorus, a melody and it would become a song.
“This second time round it we were a little bit more experienced playing live and seeing how well people have responded to the songs. We know a bit more about what we need as far singles are concerned.
“Now let’s have a happy big poppy song with a nice chorus melody and good message behind it, but we’ve also become artists, proper recording artists, because we’re like ‘ok, we’ve got three or four happy poppy singles – what makes a good album now? What will people want to listen to?’.
“It’s the topics we talk about too. When we were writing Matador, some of those songs are five or six years old. When we were that age, it was all about impressing girls, not getting girls, going out and drinking.
“The message behind Eleanor, there’s a slightly more serious underlying theme. It made us more aware of what we’re putting out because people are going to listen to it.
“There are fans out there that will listen to this song and critique it. It’s made us a lot more self conscious.”
A Red Rum Club live show looks like a real experience. How much do enjoy the live aspect? Do you try and get elements of your shows in to your recordings?
“Yeah, I think that’s probably the hardest thing to do. Having the energy and the adrenaline, the dopamine fix while playing the songs and singing is something I’ve had to learn being a singer. To be able to stand in a booth and portray a love song or a song full of angst.
“You still need to be able to hit the drums just as well. You can express yourself the way you play your drums. It probably doesn’t fall on our shoulders as much as our producer Chris. That’s his job, that’s why he gets the big bucks.”
What do you learn from Chris and his way of working?
“Not to rush anything. He’s professional, he’s done it before. He could be recording the drums at half 10 in the morning, and we’re doing vocal melodies. We’ll say ‘what do you think, Chris?’, and he’ll say ‘I don’t know, we’ll do that at half four when we’re ready’.
“He’s very methodical about things. He’s worked with The Coral, The Courteeners and Blossoms.”
Were they bands you were into as a band?
“Definitely. The Coral, being from Liverpool with songs like Dreaming of You and In the Morning.
“There was a moment in Parr Street and Chris’ phone rang. Simon was on the bass playing the Dreaming of You bassline. It was James Skelly on the phone! It’s inspiring.
“There are people out there to go and catch. We want to play to the same amount of people as Blossoms and get two number one albums like Blossoms and have a big hit like In The Morning by The Coral. Healthy competition!”
You played on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury last year. What kind of a moment was that?
“We didn’t really take it in. At that point we’d played festivals the year before.
“We’ve played big stages to big crowds, we were confident in what we were doing. But this was Glastonbury. We went there panicking a little bit. It’s for the BBC, we’d built it up in our head to be this big thing. In the moment we were so in our own heads. ‘Get this right, it’s Glastonbury’. When we came off we were like ‘wow that was Glastonbury and we’d done it’. We thought ‘that wasn’t that hard. We could do it again!’.
You don’t seem fazed at all. It really showed with the crowd reaction.
“I’m glad it looked like that because it wasn’t like that inside! I was second guessing my every move. I was thinking ‘why aren’t they dancing over there’. I’ve not watched it on YouTube. I don’t want to yet.”
You also sold out Liverpool’s O2 Academy. Did it feel like a homecoming show?
“Yes, that’s what it felt like. It sold out five and a half months before the show.
“There’s a lot more pressure. Because it sold out so far ahead we thought we should do something special. You build it up in your own head. When you get there, you look out there and see people you know. It’s a different type of playing. It shrinks you back down to lads from Liverpool. You are no longer rock stars because everyone knows you there.”
How important is Liverpool to the band?
“It really is. It’s a proper HQ. It’s a place where we can touch base and reassess things.
“If it’s going well, Liverpool will tell us.”
The band has a real Cuban pop, Mexican mariachi style to it. How did that sound form and who are your influences?
“We don’t really know to be honest. It was a conscious effort. It was five lads and a manager who said try something different, in the early days.
“Blossoms were breaking through then. They had a synth player and he said maybe try something like them.
“We bumped into Joe and Mike, who went to school with him, explained he’s in a band. He said ‘I play trumpet, do you fancy it?’
“When that happened we just realised it leant itself to a proper groove. It was just born.
“Straight away, as soon as the trumpet was playing on some of the songs, it was like ‘that sounds like a western, that sounds like this’. That was just on the indie pop songs we’d written.
“We started thinking we’ve got this Spanish thing going on, why don’t we ride it? Then we started making songs to the trumpet. It’s a real smack in the face, especially live.”
You’ve traveled around the world. Do you have any stand out moments from your shows or tours?
“It’s our attitude. You’re very apprehensive when you go there. You jump on a plane, travel that far and think that no one knows you that far away.
“Every time we’ve gone to these places, Korea, Romania and Norway, it’s been full rooms with people who know your songs. They’ve got into you because you’ve been announced at this festival or on this tour or gig. It’s a passion thing. They treat you like they want you to be there.
“I think a lot of the time in the UK because the music industry is so good and we’re so lucky to have so many people touring all the time, it’s very much ‘go on then, impress me’. In Europe it’s more ‘yes, we’re all here! Let’s do it!’ Probably something to do with the EU, being all together!”
There’s a poignant message at the beginning of the video for Would You Rather Be Lonely? where it says In A World Where We’re So Connected, why are we so lonely? Do you think that took on a new meaning during lockdown and how important is it that we talk?
“Definitely. Over the last couple of months we’ve benefitted because that song’s been out there. People can see the relevance in it now.
“When it was written, it was from a domestic that we’d heard. The girl was giving all sorts of s*** to the lad. He was like ‘would you rather be lonely?’ in the sense of ‘put up with it, I know. That’s who I am’.
“That little line from one man. I’d love to find him. From that overheard argument, that line can be put into any pigeonhole or meaning. This one in a worldwide pandemic is so fitting.”
What are your hopes for the years ahead?
“I’d like to get to a point where musically we’re recognised as a good band that works hard, always turns up and always performs, and that writes meaningful songs.
“Everyone talks about chart positions and number one albums, and we’d love having a number one album or a single to do something but we realise the fact that we’ve had none of that before but it’s still going so well.
“We want to headline Glastonbury, that is the aim, but there are so many little targets in the meantime.
“Stuff like going on tours two or three times a year, playing festivals, having good times with my mates on tour. But my proper answer is to headline Glastonbury.”
Red Rum Club’s Eleanor is out now. The Hollow Of Humdrum is out on October 2 via Modern Sky.