10 songs that shaped Band Of Skulls’ musical education

Band of Skulls, whose new album By Default is out now

Following three acclaimed independently-released albums – 2009’s Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey, 2012’s Sweet Sour and 2014’s Himalayan – Southampton rock band Band Of Skulls are set to take a step up with their excellent Gil Norton-produced major label debut By Default. By turns swaggering, sleazy, sultry and soulful, it’s an album that finds the trio pushing the boundaries of their sound and carving out their own distinctive voice.

“It’s definitely a new era,” says vocalist/guitarist Russell Marsden. “The first three records were like a trilogy, a piece of work in themselves. We wanted to do those things, and we did them all. We took a breath, took a look at what we’d done, and started from scratch again.”

Here are 10 records that helped inform the trio’s eclectic, electrifying sound.

DONNA SUMMER – I Feel Love (from I Remember Yesterday, 1977)
Emma: “We all listen to a lot of different music and for this album it felt some of those influences came through a little more. Giorgio Moroder was a pioneer and inventor and had a huge influence on the disco scene of the 70s. This track is a great example. The sounds he brings in and out and the constant pulse and the rise and fall of Donna Summer’s vocal sweeping across the track is really affecting and most importantly make you wanna move.”

IGGY POP – Nightclubbing (from The Idiot, 1977)
Russell: “Just as Iggy returns with his newest incarnation alongside our old mate Mr Homme, it seems apt to play this track from The Idiot. It was the first album of his that I discovered after wanting to dig deeper than his well-known songs. There’s a song on By Default that was influenced by this song: on that I asked Gil Norton to put this track on the monitors at Rockfield and said ‘Let’s feed off of this vibe.’ Iggy always draws you into a song and has an amazing ability to be believable. I think they should put his voice on the tube. ‘Mind the gap’?”

ESG – Dance (from Come Away with ESG, 1983)
Emma: “A friend introduced me to their album Come Away… a while back and I really fell for the rhythm section. They’ve got their own unique attitude and style which they lock into. Heavy solid bass lines with understated drum fills with a really cool rhythmical vocal delivery. An all-female band playing real instruments influenced by dance music and owning it. Big fan.”

BEASTIE BOYS – So What’cha Want (from Check Your Head, 1992)
Russell: “The Beastie Boys are the most underrated rock band ever. We all know the rapping style but it’s the musical ideas that we really dig. Always rowdy and full of musical eccentricities. Check out the performance of Sabotage on the David Letterman show… just awesome live energy and swagger.”

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – Block Rockin’ Beats (from Dig Your Own Hole, 1997)
Emma: “Their album Dig Your Own Hole was such an influential soundtrack to 1997-98. They opened the doors to a lot of breakbeat and electronic music and seeing them perform live at volume with the light show was an experience I’ll remember forever. I like how experimental and creative they are with sounds and samples and how they build and build a track and tease you with the drop. Bad ass.”

DAFT PUNK – Aerodynamic (from Discovery, 2001)
Russell: “It’s hard to believe this record is 15 years old, at the time it was just the next move by the French electro movement and it really crossed over to us. But now I hear it in almost all modern electronic music. A monster influential album. This track stands out for the guitar arpeggios, it’s almost Van Halen but with a Euro twist. We love the ‘Punk.”

DJ SHADOW – The Number Song (from Endtroducing… 1996)
Emma:Entroducing has some of the greatest uses of breakbeats and this song is one of my favourites. Packed with groove and soul and awesome samples. A master of his art, he broke the mould with this album and it taught me a lot about what I like when it comes to drums and rhythm and the feel of a track. It’s sinister and playful and unexpected.”

LCD SOUND SYSTEM – Too Much Love (from LCD Soundsystem, 2005)
Emma: “I first discovered James Murphy when I heard Out Of The Races On The Tracks by The Rapture, which he produced. And the DFA label have always released really interesting records and remixes. We used to run a club night in our home town and DJ with all the new tracks we liked at the time and this was always on the playlist. Cracking album.”

BECK – Diskobox (from Odelay, 1996)
Russell:Odelay and the album before, Mellow Gold, were staples of our mix tapes back in the day. The thing we still love about Beck is the way he doesn’t stick to one style or genre. It’s a feature of a lot of our work and particularly our new album. So thanks Beck. This song is fun, dirty and rocks.”

MASSIVE ATTACK – Angel (from Mezzanine, 1998)
Emma: “This is such a dark heavy brooding album. I remember it having a big effect on me the first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back there into its world and listen again but it’s addictive. It lures you back. This track is loaded with menace and is so hypnotic with the powerful bass line throughout.”

Band of Skulls’ new album By Default is out now on BMG.

Band Of Skulls – By Default album review

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.