UK’s Drenge dials down on ‘Undertow’

Drenge, is, from left, Rob Graham, Eoin Loveless and Rory Loveless. (Courtesy photo)

Britain’s Drenge, a duo of brothers, created a brutal wall-of-sound racket on its self-titled 2013 debut in tracks such as “Dogmeat,” “Face Like a Skull” and “I Want to Break You in Half.” Lyrical references to blood abounded, says guitarist-vocalist Eoin Loveless (his kid brother Rory backs him on drums), as result of his lifelong battle with eczema.

“I scratch it a lot, and the morning after a bad night there’s blood all over the sheets, and it always stains my clothes,” he says. “So it’s an everyday part of things, blood just being my life force.”

The band’s more thoughtful sophomore disc “Undertow,” which it backs in town this week (billed with another UK bright young hope, Wolf Alice), was all about restraint. The brothers followed a list of serious directives during its creation.

Rule No. 1: “No blood,” says Loveless. “There isn’t any blood mentioned on the record. We used that word so much on our first record, I thought I needed to turn it down on this one. And actually, there’s much better stuff to write about.”

The recent single “We Can Do What We Want” gallops at a thunderous punk pace (new bassist Rob Graham fleshes the team into a trio), which initially sounds like an ode to defiance. “But it’s not the same old Drenge song,” says Loveless. “In the middle of it, the narrator of it basically has an absolute mental breakdown, because he realizes that the liberation of doing what he wants actually stops him from doing that. We looked at how we could undermine the track or its message.”

Other edicts? No self-indulgent guitar solos. No sing-song choruses. No hot-dogging of any kind in the studio, and no encores when performing live.

“The other rule I’ve got going on tour is: don’t eat after 6 p.m. I get really bad indigestion and I end up feeling really bloated and sick onstage,” says Loveless. “And we also didn’t want any excessive songwriting on ‘Undertow.’ We wanted to be more clever instead, and to go about our music in a different way.”

Realizing that the Drenge bow was brimming with swearing and violent imagery, Loveless dialed down those elements, as well. Inspired by moving in with his girlfriend in Sheffield, he says, “Rather than making fun of relationships, I started looking at what it’s like being in them.”

Loveless’s final conclusion? “Hey, we all need rules,” he says. “Especially when you’re touring. You have to apply rules to your lifestyle just to make sure that you make it through!”

IF YOU GO
Wolf Alice, with Drenge
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 15
Tickets: $20 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.thechapelsf.com

DrengeEoin LovelessI Want to Break You in HalfRob GrahamRory LovelessUndertow

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