Front man and chief songwriter Tom Jordan, along with Dan Cobley, Lew Melia, Jake Bate and Ben Roberts make up Conquer Rio, a self-professed ‘anthemic’ five piece that has been making all the right noises since the release of their early 2013 EP Why We Fall. Having performed slots at majestic venues such as the Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford, as well as a variety of indie clubs in and around their native Warrington, things are looking promising for the group that started just three years ago as high school friends. We sat down with the Cheshire lads to ask more about the EP, and what’s next for Jordan and co.
You have quite a unique sound. Could you briefly summarise it?
Tom Jordan: I guess a lot of people would call it ‘pop-rock’, but that’s pretty vague. We like to focus on harmonies and catchy melodies.
Dan Cobley: It’s a big word to use, but I think we’re going for an anthemic kind of approach.
Are there any influences of yours that may surprise people, musical or otherwise?
DC: I grew up listening to blues-style guitarists like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfer of Dire Straits, which probably doesn’t come across too obviously in what I play, but it’s definitely there.
Ben Roberts: I’ve always listened to Britpop bands like Pulp and Oasis. But then in terms of my drumming I take influence from anything from Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers to Joey Jordison from Slipknot.
TJ: The heavy shit!
How has the response to the new EP been?
TJ: We made the EP about a year ago, and I think because our sound has changed so much since then it was a process that was better for the band more than anything.
DC: I think it’s hard to judge people’s responses. People have commented and tweeted us about our live performances a lot but it’s hard to judge the response to the CD. I think it went down quite well but we’re more proud of what we’re doing at the moment.
Jake Bate: It was a brilliant experience and it taught us a lot. We had great songs but they were all so far apart, I think now we’re much better at writing towards a more collective sound.
You guys are known for having a formidable live presence. How do you try to convey that in the studio?
DC: We tend to write songs that we can play live. We’d never for example write a song with three guitars in it, so it’s quite easy to communicate that sound by not making any of our songs too complicated in the first place.
TJ: A lot of bands write massive songs and have about eight session musicians playing in the background, whereas we want to write songs we can still play well live.
Lew Melia: Because there’s five of us the sound is quite big already, so to transfer it to the studio was fairly easy.
Do you prefer writing and recording or performing live?
JB: For me it’s the writing. When TJ comes with an idea and we mould it to sound like… ‘us’, that’s the best bit for me. In your head you just feel different parts clicking into place.
TJ: I think it’s just as cool going and playing that new stuff to different people though. There isn’t anything like a good gig.
BR: I have to agree with Jake, it’s great creating a song and trying to find the right sound. And then you’re all split on an idea, playing it one way and then playing it another and having a full on debate.
JB: It’s usually me and Ben against them three.
Ben joined the band last year, replacing former drummer Zach Scott. How has the band dynamic changed since his arrival?
DC: We’re all fed up.
JB: This is the last time I will be appearing as a member of Conquer Rio.
BR: There’s a new song with a chorus that goes “Get Zack back”.
[The sarcastic answers continue]
JB: No, but with Ben it’s more complete. I think we’re all on the same wavelength.
DC: Ben is a friend of ours and we could have done auditions for weeks but we wouldn’t have found someone like him that fits into our style. I don’t know how he’s done that because we didn’t think we really had a style but it’s somehow moulded around Ben into something we wanted.
Are there any new or up and coming acts that excite you at the moment?
JB: I know they’re not exactly ‘up and coming’, but in terms of new stuff out there London Grammar really excite me.
DC: A lot of people don’t like them but I appreciate what The 1975 are doing at the minute. I think it’s cool that there are pop songs that you can listen to from a perspective that’s not necessarily musical, more lyrical.
TJ: We played a gig two weeks ago at the O2 Academy in Liverpool and played with a band called Portalights. We’ve played at a couple of venues with them, their sound is really good at the moment.
DC: We’ve also played with a band called Brother and Bones who are doing really well for themselves. Their live show was really cool and at the time we were writing decent stuff and settling into performing, so when we saw them we instantly thought ‘we need to do something like that’. I think we realised how good we could have been by watching them.
Finally, what’s in store for Conquer Rio over the next year?
LM: We’ve got more gigs in and around the North West planned, and we’re going to be recordingsome stuff ourselves from the middle of May stretching into June.
DC: We’re also looking to get a few things on YouTube; I’m kind of relearning film editing and want to get into making really regular videos to try and expand our audience that way.
JB: Then there’s obviously the Glastonbury headline set. Shit, are we allowed to mention that yet?