BIMM Manchester Professional Musicianship graduate John Hulse has been writing and performing with progressive post rock electronica duo ‘Room 1985’ since a chance meeting with guitarist and vocalist Chris Crysand in the city’s famous Northern Quarter back in 2016. With a sound that is at once retro and futuristic, the band quickly started racking up notoriety on the gigging scene. They soon came to the attention of Analogue Trash, who released their eponymous debut album. Now, the band have returned with a new full-time band member and their second full-length release, ‘The Bliss’.
Hi John, what can we expect from the new LP?
Our second LP is mainly focusing on the effects social media and technology have on today’s society. It’s our second concept album and is a bit of a step away from the first which was more of a merging of discussions between religion, society, love and life. This time around we’ve put that aside and looked at something totally relevant to life today and how it has an effect on our psyche.
What is also distinct from our first album is the frequent use of vocals throughout. Before we would focus on instrumentals but we’ve had a lot of fun collaborating with artists such as Vickie Harley, Emily Oldfield, MOI SAINT and Sam Stone, who funnily enough we invited to join the band as our third member during the process.
The band is known for some fantastic production flourishes. Can you explain a little about how this album was produced? Any hints/tips on you achieve your sound?
We take a lot of influence from other current and past artists, so naturally we gather one or two ideas we find would work and sort of manifest them into something of our own. A standard method in completing a track would be to make sure we have the melodies and ambiance down first and THEN do the drums, as opposed to a usual method of having the rhythm section completed first. We’d have a barebones sort of drum track down provisionally to tweak the tune around and then properly track the drums – then on to the next one.
As for secret hints/tips for achieving our sound? Well that would be giving it away wouldn’t it?
Tell us about your history with the group.
I met Chris – our guitarist and all-round creative mind – at a bar in the Northern Quarter in my third and final year at BIMM. He’d been in Manchester after moving over from the United States for a while and was soaking up the culture. It’s all very cliché but we got chatting about music and our influences and it all just clicked together really. He had a huge backlog of tracks and was in need of a live drummer so I quickly obliged, then became part of the creative process in writing further tracks. We began rehearsing in BIMM facilities and around the city and started gigging after one or two. It happened so quickly.
A shared interest in the same artists – such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Public Service Broadcasting – made writing and performing incredibly simple. We knew what sounds we were looking for, but not to pinch so much as to become unoriginal. The concept of Room 1985 was already there in Chris’ mind but we just needed the second piece of the puzzle to properly get going – fortunately I was around to grasp that opportunity!
Tell us about how Room 1985’s relationship with Analogue Trash came about.
Adrian and Mark – the heads of Analogue Trash – had seen the band gig various times before getting in touch with us. I think they first saw us play at Night and Day in Manchester before a second time in Chester, supporting Bone Cult. It’s a label based around Electronic music and I guess we just fit like a glove really, and there aren’t too many bands around like that with a live drummer.
As a band, I can safely say we are incredibly grateful for what the label does for us. They are in the middle of releasing our second album, ‘The Bliss’, and have been around for us just before the release of our first – also released on Analogue Trash. We’re kept in the loop with every other act on the label and subsequently put on gigs around the UK with them – and other acts from around the world, most recently a show supporting Das Ich – if the label feels we would fit. These gigs draw large crowds as every band has their own unique fan-base and it allows us to meet so many great people.
We are also provided with our own band merchandise – created by contacts and friends of the label – which adds personality to the band and gives us ideas we would never have thought of ourselves. I really can’t big the label up enough as they have made the behind the scenes work so much simpler, efficient and altogether convenient for us. It’s not as much of a headache as it could be if we were all on our own!
How would you say BIMM has helped you?
Before becoming a BIMM student, I had never, ever performed music in public. I had played drums for years in my shed at home but never in front of an audience and never in a band. I had other plans for work after school and university but I decided to change it up and go for a path in music instead. Had BIMM not been there, then I don’t think I would be around to answer these questions really.
I spent three years at BIMM just getting out of my shell on-stage, starting in my first very nervous and rigid, but being somewhat confident and having fun on-stage by my third. I’ve honed my skills in performing and entertaining whilst behind the kit, and whilst I’m not 100% perfect just yet – then again who is? – I’m definitely able to put on a good show now. Weekly lectures on these little things helped me greatly with that.
What advice would you offer a new student at BIMM?
Again, as cliché as it sounds, just have fun. I’ve met some of the best and funniest people in my life and am still in contact with a handful of them everyday. The time absolutely flies by and before you know it you’re out there and on your own. I would hear it whilst at BIMM day in day out, that it won’t last forever and it’ll all be done before you know it. Believe me, it really is.
If you’re like I was and you’re nervous about performing live, then pinch a few traits or little touches from your favorite musicians. Whether they play your instrument or not. Personally, I used to watch back a lot of my favorite drummers like Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes), Christoph Schneider (Rammstein) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and see how they cope with concentration and nerves.
I’d also just get out there and perform. Perform as much as you can. Get to know like-minded people and start a band, if that one falls through then start another. Just keep trying until you find the right group of people you just click with because then – and only then – is when things start to get really interesting.
Any exciting news, gig dates, etc, which you’d like to add?
Room 1985 will be going on a string of shows around the UK starting in August, in London. We’ll then be moving up to Manchester on the 10th August for our release party for ‘The Bliss’ at The Peer’s Hat. We’d love to see a bunches of faces new or old. Come along and join us!
Room 1985’s new album ‘The Bliss’ is released on August 10, 2018 and is available for pre-order from the band’s social media channels.