In the age of social media there is an unnerving amount of pressure on musicians to maintain a high and constant online presence. Bands, in particular, are expected to scream their names from the rooftops whilst appearing fashionably indifferent to success. This has led to, amongst others things, two strange phenomena: an un-navigable swamp of choice and a distinct lack of mystique. However, the release of RONGORONGO’s first EP, Shiver, in 2014 seemed to slip out from under the digital radar, and has gained much positive attention based solely on its own merits rather than by way of any chest-beating from the band themselves.
Despite the refreshing narrative this provides, it is also nice to have a chance to lift the shroud of secrecy somewhat and delve deeper into the workings of the enigma, and so over several pints on a bleak April evening, Rongorongo co-founders Mick Chrysalid and Jonny Davis Le Brun helped fill me in. Having recently been added to the roster of War Room Records, the band are currently in the midst of recording their second EP, Automatic Hypnotist, another three-track release that promises to build on their previous output. “We will not shy away from pop music,” Mick declares, quoting from Bernie Connor. “When we eventually record an album, we want it to be made up mostly of pop songs with some really long, drawn-out grooves mixed in as well.”
This relatively dichotomous approach seems to encapsulate Rongorongo’s vision for their music, an industrially-inflected version of pop that pairs familiarity with unease. This aesthetic is set to transpose itself onto the new recordings as well. “There is a slight abrasiveness to the sound. It’s something in the air. There’s a bit of it knocking it around. Post-industrial, I suppose. You can hear it on CBeebies,” Mick informs me. “The new stuff will be basically more of the same while we set our stall out. Just to nearly get it right would be a weight off.”
Despite these often dismissive and tongue-in-cheek musings, it is clear that the project has been well thought-out, and that they are determined to pursue it on their own terms. However, in the current climate of musical consumption a lack of exposure on Facebook and similar websites can sometimes amount to a blackout; and, though it is obvious, and correct, that Mick and Jonny don’t view success as a number of likes, it can be hard to fathom why a band would potentially limit themselves in this way. Jonny sees it in a whole other light, however.
“The internet is a force to be reckoned with. You can come off like a grubby, needy child waving unwanted lollies into people’s living rooms or Wi-Fi cafés. The last thing we ever wanted was to interrupt someone’s coffee or soup and a sandwich. It’s about trickles, not shouting at a wall. A lot of bands spend ages hyping themselves up but then don’t have the material to back it up. That just highlights the transitory nature of the internet. People get excited about something for a short amount of time and then move on to the next thing.”
Regardless of how the band choose to promote themselves, it is their commitment to making the music they want to make that is their most striking feature. The upcoming EP has been recorded, produced and mixed by the members themselves and they choose not to view their tracks as finished artefacts but as constantly evolving entities that are liable to grow and take on new meaning as time goes on. The entirety of the vocal takes from Shiver, for instance, were re-recorded at the last moment because the group felt the melodies were not fitting to the sound of the record. This would be a risky manoeuvre in most bands’ books, but one that seems in keeping with the quietly confident nature of Rongorongo; in no way cocky, but assured that they are going about things in a way that is true to themselves. This mindset comes not from brazenness but from an appreciation of popular music as an ever-changing being, and the potential it is imbued with as a result.
Slice Of Heart, the final track from Shiver, stands out as a monument to this. It’s a dark, seven-minute journey that encompasses memorable, scale-descending basslines and brooding synths that could have emanated from any of the previous four decades. Like the other two tracks, it is satisfying without leaving the listener truly fulfilled. A void is created and a tangent established that should lead perfectly into the new material, which, judging by the number of listens amassed on their SoundCloud page, is being anticipated by a sizeable amount of people.
In terms of the release, there are no plans for a specific launch: as Mick and Jonny put it, “There are always plans for a party and everyone is invited, but it’s nothing to do with the release.” Future live performances will see the band expand into a six-piece, as opposed to their usual five, so that Mick can give up his drumming responsibilities to focus on vocal duties, and, he assures me, to provide some “fucking crazy dance moves”. Considering he only learned to play the drums about eighteen months ago, it is commendable he has been able to juggle both duties thus far, and the scope that an extra member could provide in a live setting will be an interesting prospect for a band so heavily built on nuance.
Anyone who caught them supporting Strange Collective at their EP launch in Kitchen Street will testify to this but, when it comes to Rongorongo, expecting the expected from such an amorphous project is probably a bad idea. But maybe such descriptions prompt severe visions of a group who consciously avoid taking themselves too seriously. The best synopsis comes in the form of the band’s own words. “As long as it fends off death, destruction and navel-gazing mortality for a bit, our jobs will be half done. And that’s just for us. If we help other people out along the way, that will be precious. Love is an underrated commodity in such a post-industrial England. Love isn’t all you need, mind: bread and water and basic vitamin intake is a must. We have enough love to go around.”
RongoRongo headline the Bido Lito! Social Liverpool Music Week Special on Thursday 19th October with SPQR and Cartwheels On Glass. Sign up for a Bido Lito! Membership to get free admission to this and all our Special Events.