Some say rock’n’roll decadence (or daftness…) is dead. Rival State suggest otherwise. “We were romping around Auckland City off our fucking heads, we ended up back in the hotel we’d paid for to get up on the 20th storey and I’m hanging over the balcony going ‘WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS ALL?!’” drawls Luke Van Hoof, wiry, grinning frontman with Rival State. Liberal yet cheerful with his expletives and stories of excess, the 26-year-old has that hint of friendly arrogance that makes him engagingly confident, not obnoxious.
As a unit, their guts are admirable. Armed with new EP Youth Tax, a brazen face full of tight, all-guns-blazing rock’n’roll, in 2014 Rival State made the 11,682-mile flight to London, seeking opportunities. “I think a lot of people get scared by the idea of ‘what if I go and it doesn’t work?’” says guitarist Joe Einarsson, a long-haired Maori Jesus of a guy, and the “dad” of the group – sitting next to twin brother (and RS bassist) Stefan Einarsson. “With our isolation and DIY attitude you don’t have the bullshit of the rest of the world, so you don’t worry about fitting into a ‘scene’.”
Still, they weren’t exactly raised under a rock either. The band’s collective inspirations range from the Rolling Stones and BRMC, to Deftones and hip-hop – all of which they’ve steadily streamlined into a punchy, vibrant whole. Music ingested, they met as 13-year-olds in school. They played their first proper show at (Kiwi new band competition) Rock Quest, and passed their formative years in a blur of guitars, gig stages and after-show debauchery. And not much school, which they all quit at 16.
Gradually they, and friends’ bands, forged a local “underage” scene, where rock and metal sat alongside pop and jazz. “There was an open-minded community vibe,” says Joe. “You have an industry there but not a big one, so you end up doing a lot yourself.” And so they drove round the country pleading with school principals to let them play lunchtime concerts, which led to bars, “proper” venues and festivals. Then, at Killer Fest in 2007, they announced they were splitting. “Everyone was young and confused,” Van Hoof muses. “We’d only ever played music together,” Joe adds. “We needed to see what else we could do.”
For the Einarssons, this involved travelling the world with a Southern rock’n’roll band, while Van Hoof stayed home and played in hardcore and pop-rock bands. By 2011, musical experience broadened, they’d sprung back together. Clearly the break was rejuvenating; in 2012 their debut LP, Apollo Me, was a No.1 hit in New Zealand. Radio and TV appearances followed, but the sense that more could be achieved abroad remained. And, as they prepare for the release of their next EP (due in spring, with an album to follow) their return to underdog status, as newly arrived Londoners, isn’t worrying them.
“It feels like we’re able to do it right this time,” Stefan says.
**FOR FANS OF: Royal Blood **
“Royal Blood are incredible,” Joe says. “That formula those dudes have is amazing.”
“And Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,” adds Luke. “If you like them you’ll like us, just ‘coz they’re a bit fucked. They’re one of those bands with a distinct sound, but you can tell they’re good musicians. And we like to keep the same variety they do.”
Youth Tax is out now via Four Leaf.