There’s nothing more exciting than the sound of unstoppable momentum. Since 2011, we’ve watched the Crawley alt-rock trio Press To MECO blossom from best-kept secrets to headline news. We’ve moshed to 2015’s thrilling debut album, Good Intent, and toasted their 2017 signing to the Marshall Records label, set up by the amp giant to nurture the new wave of British rock. But we’ve prayed, too, that they could roll onward from the departure of bassist/vocalist Adam Roffey following 2018’s Here’s To The Fatigue, not to mention a pandemic that posed an existential threat to every band on earth.
As confirmed by the starburst of acclaim that greeted third album Transmute in August, this latest release is a classic snatched from hard times, perfecting the angular edges, thunderous grooves and club-igniting hooks that Press To MECO have made their own. But to truly appreciate these songs, perhaps it’s best to hear how they began. And as we learn in the video interview below, Transmute was a tale of invention, rebel spirit and courage under fire, starting with the band’s choice of writing retreat. “At the end of 2019, me and Luke [Caley, guitars/vocals] wanted to get away,” explains drummer and backing vocalist Lewis Williams. “Our manager’s friend owns a 16th century Grand Designs-style converted turret in the Cotswolds, so that’s where we went to start writing. Not even knowing what might happen.”
Scan back through rock history and you’ll find many classic albums – from Led Zeppelin’s IV to Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light – that were born in offbeat environments. And as Caley remembers, the castle had a unique mojo that had already embedded itself into the writing process. “As we were searching for somewhere to do this record, it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to go to the States to do it. As we started looking into getting studios over here, me and Lewis just made a flippant comment: ‘Well, we might as well do it at the castle’. It was one of those lightbulb moments. It was like, ‘Well, let’s do it…’”
By that point, in early 2020, the lineup had welcomed aboard bassist/vocalist Jake Crawford: a musical powerhouse whose input pushed the new songs in bold new directions. “When they sent me the demos,” he recalls, “before I was even officially in the band, I was like, ‘Oh, this is the best thing you’ve ever written’. It was cool to come in and be a part of it.”
And when the restored trio loaded their Marshall stacks into the castle for sessions with the esteemed US producer Gene Freeman [aka Machine, the sonic architect behind Lamb Of God and Clutch], the chemistry fizzed and bright ideas pinged. “Basically, we went back to the castle, made our own studio,” says Caley. “A lot of it was super-DIY. Like, Jake made some iso cabs out of sofa cushions. We had a vocal booth in the garage, with sleeping bags hanging down from the rafters.”
Today, Crawford grins at the memory of their leaps of faith (“I think we’re still shocked at how little went wrong”). But when the trio unleashed Transmute in August, the results were undeniable. With top-scoring reviews that spanned from Kerrang! (“A courageous step forward”) to Rock Sound (“An absolute beauty”), and fans packing their shows as the live scene reopens, this is the third album that confirms Press To MECO’s as pack-leaders of rock’s new breed. “The guitars, in my opinion, are the best they’ve ever sounded,” says Caley. “The vocals are the best the vocals have ever sounded. Everything is better on this record – and it was done in the strangest of circumstances…”