Eastbourne quintet ROAM have slowly but surely proven to be one of the UK’s most intriguing pop-punk outfits. Combining the genre’s classic, early-2000s sound (see: Blink-182 & Sum 41) with a heavier edge that circles the edges of hardcore punk, ROAM recently released their full-length debut Backbone to critical acclaim. We sat down with bassist Matt Roskilly and drummer Charlie Pearson ahead of their hectic show at Amsterdam’s Winston Kingdom.
As we sit down in the band’s hotel room, everything seems to be running along rather chaotically. Warnings of naked managers and people walking in and out of the room make the evening’s already-rushed atmosphere kick up a notch, with 175 ROAM fans slowly starting to queue up outside next door’s venue. The current tour, which the band had just embarked upon a week prior, is in support of debut album Backbone. The record was recorded at Sheffield’s Steel City Studios together with Drew Lawson and Phil Gornell, before Grant Berry ended up in control of Backbone’s mastering process. “We’d been sitting on the album for quite a while” explains bassist Roskilly, adding that it feels great to finally be done and “release something we’re really proud of”. Backbone is definitely a record which the quintet can be proud of, too. Encompassing a heavy sense of nostalgia, something down to the heavy influence of early day’s pop punk, the album’s 12 songs flitter between in-your-face hardcore pop punk (see: Deadweight) and serene acoustic balladry (see: Tell Me). According to Pearson, the band’s tastes are both different and the same, claiming that vocalist Alex Costello and guitarist Sam Veness both prefer heavier music (ROAM are further completed by second guitarist Alex Adam). Roskilly adds that, as a whole band, they’re mainly influenced by the bands which they listened to as they grew up, namechecking Sum 41, Blink 182 and Green Day in the process. All three bands are pop-punk forefathers, with their imprints definitely audible across ROAM’s output. Lyrically, the band draw influence from things as simple as just “being in a band” or travelling. There isn’t much more to it other than that, although there are two noteworthy songs with Pearson and Roskilly shed some light on – Deadweight and Bloodline. The former was the result of the band wanting to make a change from their output constantly “being too happy”. “With the album, we were able to cater more for everyone and change things around” explains Roskilly, adding that the whole band really wanted to give the song “a heavier, although not necessarily darker, feel” which was influenced predominantly by Sum 41’s “minor key-sounding tracks”. On the subject of Bloodine, Pearson claims that he personally can’t remember too much about the track. According to Roskilly, the whole writing process “was a bit of a blur and quite a mess”. Pearson adds that changes were being made to Bloodline right up until the final days of recording. The band had quite a short amount of time to get recording done, although Roskilly claims that “this didn’t have an effect on the way in which the record ended up sounding, because we really took our time with every aspect of it”.
The band don’t just place a heavy emphasis on their music though. Throughout their short-lived career thus far, creative music videos have always been a strong part of ROAM’s image. One of their biggest and most memorable videos is the one for aforementioned track Deadweight. It features the band, clad in camouflage military gear, retaliating against negative online comments. The video is quite tongue-in-cheek, but this seems to be a deliberate decision. Pearson explains that the band love the idea of music videos. “We love everything about it, from being in them to thinking up the concepts. The idea of a performance video doesn’t appeal to us; we much rather prefer doing things differently” continues the drummer. Ahead of the band’s Deadweight video, many people had pointed out the fact that “there were no girls in any of our music videos”. Fans who bemoaned the lack of girls were met with a video which Pearson claims was “very manly and laddish”. “We chose Deadweight because it was the heaviest, manliest song on the record” continues Pearson, before Roskilly added that the band “got quite badly carried away” thanks to a whole spate of in-jokes they have. “We spent so many weeks getting carried away with it that, by the time it was shot, we knew exactly what we wanted” concludes Pearson. Talking about music videos in general, Roskilly states that the whole band “want to make silly music videos” as it was exactly the same when they were growing up and listening to pop-punk. “Nowadays you get a lot of standard performance videos, but we want to make sure that every video we make is as silly and tongue-in-cheek as possible”. There is a more serious video on the way, although Roskilly does feel as though this won’t happen often as it may become “too boring”. “We just like messing around, really” jokes the bassist.
Not that there’s anything wrong with messing around, though. In fact, this is something which makes ROAM stand out in a genre which is definitely over-saturated. How do you manage to stand out and grow in this scene, though? Pearson believes that it’s quite an interesting area, especially as “everyone seems to be growing together”. It doesn’t feel like everyone is against one another; rather, “we all have a different niche which helps us stand out”, claims Pearson. He further namechecks current contemporaries, such as the “more serious Boston Manor”, the “faster, skate punk-y Trash Boat” and “us, who are just us”. This last part is met by laughs from the other side of the room, where the band’s manager Lee Burgess and tour photographers The ICI Media are sitting, hard at work. “The fact that the scene is growing is great for everyone, as well all benefit from it” starts Pearson, adding that “fans don’t go to just one show per year. They’ll go and see Boston Manor, they’ll go check out ROAM, they’ll watch Trash Boat, and everyone is just stoked about everything”. Although there are plenty of people who feel that pop punk bands “all sound the same”, Roskilly thinks otherwise. “A real pop punk fan hears the difference, whereas an outsider doesn’t”. When it comes to which bands have been catching ROAM’s attention lately, Roskilly namechecks a band which their merchandise seller has just formed – The Holiday. “It sounds raw, a little bit like old-school You Me at Six” states the bassist, with The Holiday’s first EP being given away for free at the show later that evening. Roskilly also refers to Trash Boat, who joined the band on their European tour two days after the Amsterdam show. Said Amsterdam show ended up being ROAM’s second appearance at the Winston Kingdom in the space of four months, with the band having supported State Champs and Knuckle Puck there a few months back. This time round, though, ROAM are at the top of the bill instead of footing it. With no Trash Boat around, it was up to Dutch bands Alive Again and The Overslept to warm up the crowd for ROAM’s fourth show of the tour. Before this, they took to stages in Spain, France and Eastbourne, the latter of which served as Backbone’s “manic” release show. “We love Barcelona and Madrid a lot” claims Roskilly, adding that their shows there last year with All Time Low definitely helped them gain a slowly-growing Spanish fanbase. “A lot of people came back and were grateful to have us” concludes the bassist.
Having toured with the likes of All Time Low, Enter Shikari and State Champs in the past, ROAM are gradually working their way up the touring ladder. Who would they still like to play with, though? Their first answer would’ve been Sum 41, although that dream will come true later this month as they support the returning pop-punk giants across the UK on the annual Kerrang! Tour. “Sum 41 is a dream for everyone” declares Pearson, with Roskilly adding that Blink 182 and Green Day are other obvious choices. Set Your Goals are referenced as a dream touring partner, with Neck Deep also receiving a brief mention. Of course, with touring comes a whole spate of crazy stories. Pearson grins like a naughty child as he starts to recount one of his most memorable touring stories. “How PG do we have to be?” asks Roskilly, as Pearson proceeds to explain himself. “I got really drunk, and we went out in Southampton with a promoter called Ricky. We stayed at his house, and I was absolutely hammered”, before Roskilly adds that the bar “wouldn’t let Charlie buy quadruple Vodka’s. So he would go and order two doubles, pour them into one glass, go up and do the same again”. He was essentially drinking eight shots in one go at one point, explains the bassist. “By the time we got back to this flat, Charlie passed out in the doorway and we left him there” he continues, with Pearson adding that his attempt at walking up the stairs actually broke the bannisters. “I apologized, and of cour-“ explained the drummer, before Roskilly interrupted him to tell the story from his own perspective. “I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of Charlie stumbling around downstairs, so I walk downstairs and find him naked with his hands pressed against the wall while he takes a piss all over the carpet. I try to stop him, but he’s not stopping and then he falls asleep on the carpet in a shirt covered in his own piss.” Pearson doesn’t remember any of this happening, relying on his band for the gory (and slightly toned down) details. Roskilly also mentions that the band crashed into a tram in Amsterdam earlier that day, although the driver seemed “totally not fazed” by it. “We’ve got a dent in the side of our van now”. All these crazy stories are just a small part of the whirlwind adventures which ROAM experience on the road, though. Whether it be the massive reception which new album Backbone has received, or their sold out shows with All Time Low last year, things only seem to get better for ROAM. Nobody knows where they’ll be in five years’ time, although don’t be surprised if it’s an even bigger and better position than what they’re in today. ROAM are one of 2016’s most exciting pop punk prospects, and there are plenty of reasons to see why.
Backbone is out now. Stream it here. You can watch the video for Deadweight below.