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New Moon soundtrack is just one avenue for Band of Skulls' music



There's a lot of buzz going around the Internet these days about the next movie in the Twilight series, New Moon. Along with that is the accompanying soundtrack that's garnering attention due to the presence of a Thom Yorke solo track juxtaposed with numerous talented bands that are familiar or unknown -- Death Cab for Cutie, Muse, The Killers, Bon Iver, St. Vincent and Band of Skulls, to name a few.

The last band on the above list is one you're sure to hear more of as days go by given that it's made it onto the soundtrack roughly one year after forming. Maybe that's not entirely true. England's Band of Skulls formed in 2008, but the trio that comprises the group has been together since earlier this decade when they were known as Fleeing New York.

"In many ways I think we were being more experimental," guitarist/singer Russell Marsden says of the first band. "We had lots of different sounds in that band. We were just doing shows -- mostly where we lived in London. We did our time and found what we'd like to play.

"When we started the Band of Skulls thing, we got back to our real roots of what we first did when we picked up instruments -- a kind of blues-rock thing," he adds. "In many ways, we stripped a lot of the music away down to the purist thing. Because we're a band that's been together a while, we had matured a bit as songwriters and the songs came -- it felt like a nice process to go through. A musical apprenticeship is the best way to describe it."

Marsden says Fleeing New York had simply run its course and it was time to go away and see where the writing process took them, thanks to the suggestion of their new management. When they got back together, they felt like they needed a new name if they were going to play live and continue on.

"It didn't feel right to come back with the old name," Marsden says by phone from Los Angeles. "We had a horrible weekend of sitting at a table and listing ideas and listening to each other's ideas. It was a good way of having a bit of creative freedom -- to not have a name and then have a new name."

While Fleeing New York may have been a bit more eclectic -- Marsden says they sounded like a different band for every song -- Band of Skulls has deeper roots in blues-rock. You can hear a British influence, though they also sound like The White Stripes a good bit of the time.

"I don't like to describe it. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't," he says. "I think our idea was just to use the basic tools -- for us it's guitar, bass, drums and vocals -- and then try and put the sort of newness in the writing and put it all together. We just have lots of ideas so we'd get bored if we did blues-rock all the time. It does become a challenge when we have to play it live, but it's a good challenge to meet. I think it keeps us creatively fresh and keeps us interested. You can always reach a new audience from not having one style."

Marsden feels the band's debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, is a "really good piece of work," and acknowledges that the band has come so far in a year thanks to good choices and "lucky breaks." They often wonder what might have happened had they made different decisions at the crossroads, but tend to focus on the future and where the road might take them.

When the band went into the studio, they weren't even planning to record an entire album. In the past, the trio -- Marsden, bassist/singer Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward -- had just recorded what they could afford -- a single or demo. When they were writing and recording, the pieces fell together that the songs started to flow and the opportunity was there to make a whole record.

"It's not perfect -- we'd give up if it was," Marsden says. "It's a good representation of the band at this time. The biggest difference between making the first record and what we'll do next -- we've been touring constantly and we've learned a lot about ourselves as musicians. Even the way we play this album has evolved. The record to me is a snapshot of this band at that time."

Marsden is aware that they'll feel some pressure during the writing and recording of their follow-up album based on the praise the debut has received, but he knows that if the pressure is channeled in the right way, it can aid the creative environment.

Part of the pressure is also taken away from the individuals due to there being three songwriters in the group, though the lyrical duties usually fall on Marsden and Richardson. If one of them has writer's block, there are two bandmates to pick up the slack. Marsden also notes that none of the members writes an entire song on his or her own.

"We usually write fragments of music that we put in front of the group to get dissected and chopped into pieces," he says with a laugh. "You have to be open as we write together and see where it can go. One rule we have is to never come in with a finished piece of work because then no one can feel like they're a part of that work. It never really works out. Me especially ­-- I stop myself if I have a verse and chorus to let someone else in."

As for the the New Moon Soundtrack, that's why Marsden is in Los Angeles on this early November day -- to help promote the single. He hopes the band's presence on the album opens the band up to new ears.

"It's exposure and I think it's quite hard for bands to breakthrough into a bigger audience," he says. "It's hard to get to another level, so it's a way for people to get introduced to us. It can be a calling card to steer them toward our record, or our shows. It's up to us to prove to them that we're a good enough band. It's not the be-all and end-all, but we're fortunate to get the opportunity and there are good artists on the record, so it's nice to be mentioned in the same sentence."

Band of Skulls will open for Metric at the Neighborhood Theatre on Nov. 27. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 on the day of the show.

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