Friday 22 June
Ahead of their single launch – taking place in Cardiff next week – we had the chance to trade questions and answers with frontman of one of the capital’s best up and coming talents, Tom Mason. The go-to-guy for all things Denuo, Tom leads the four piece whose music takes you on a reflective journey that wonderfully picks up charm and melancholy on the way. We spoke about how the band came about, their recent experiences at the Big Gig and Tom’s thoughts on Wales’ musical landscape. Also, they’ve kindly given us – and you – a free download of one half of their latest single Heavy Eyes here.
The MMP: Lets dive straight in to this… Correct me if I’m wrong, but you started out on your own to then grow into the band that is Denuo. What made you make the switch from solo to become a frontman?
Tom: Yeah, that’s right. I started this project when I was writing and recording songs at home in north Wales. I had always intended for it to evolve so rather than be singer-songwriter Tom Mason, I wanted a name that could work as a band, solo artist or whatever else.
How long have you all been together?
As we are now, the four of us have been together since around November last year when Dan joined the band. Harry, Sam and I grew up playing in high school bands and stuff so we’ve been playing music of some form or another for a while.
You’re currently in the studio recording new material and have a single launch at the end of the month. Is that single to be part of a wider release; a new EP or album?
We’ve been in the studio a few times over the past six months or so and the material has been building up nicely. We have enough to release an EP, but we’re going to spend some more time in the studio to work towards a full- length album.
And on the topic of the single launch, what can we expect? You’ve got a couple of nice supports on the bill…
Yeah, June 29th at the Moon Club – it’s going to be great! Firstly, there’s Clockwork Radio (originally from Wales, I believe) and Cardiff’s own Kutosis – both awesome bands. Also, our friend Greta Isaac will be joining us on stage for a few songs. We love all the artists on the bill so it’s going to be a really exciting night for us.
What do you make of the musical landscape in Cardiff – and Wales in general – at the moment?
I love it! I’ve lived here in Cardiff for 4 years and I’ve noticed a community within the music scene that you wouldn’t always find in larger cities. Everyone is so friendly and supportive and we’re all connected by places like Spillers and Musicbox studios. There’s so much great music being made in Wales that is yet to be discovered, and the success of bands like The Joy Formidable have given us north Walians some hope!
What’s the meaning of ‘denuo’ and what made you settle on that as a name?
Denuo is Latin for “anew” or “a second time”. It was actually meant for a band I used to play drums for, who were looking for a new band name. I liked how the word looked visually and the meaning was quite apt. They didn’t like it, so I just used it myself!
A lot of your latest work sounds very complete, and by that I mean the vocals tie in very well with the instrumentals. What’s your songwriting process?
The lyrics are usually the very last piece of the puzzle, so I have a lot of time to develop the vocal melody. Every song seems to start with an acoustic guitar or piano idea, but it only starts to make sense when the other instruments are brought in. Sometimes the inspiration for lyrics doesn’t appear until I’m in the studio. I think Russ Hayes (producer) was horrified the first time I was in the studio writing words to the song we were recording that day.
Where do you draw inspiration from? The tones on Tomorrow, You’ll Understand and Wolf River are somewhat melancholy, in an engaging way…
New places and new people tend to spark inspiration for songs. Pretty much every song on Tomorrow, You’ll Understand was written when I had been spending a lot of time in Boston, Massachusetts. I was 19-years old when I first went over and I guess traveling alone was weird and exciting to me. I met a girl and a lot of great friends and it felt like a different life, so I’d always have song ideas ready to work on when I’d fly back home. The Wolf River EP was inspired mainly by films and daydreams but I think the melancholy tones are always there. I blame Jeff Buckley.
I’ve got to ask about the Big Gig competition. You didn’t make it through to the final for the chance to play what would no doubt be your biggest show to date. Does missing something like that spur you on to perhaps prove people wrong?
That gig was a real eye-opener for us all, I think. It was very much about showmanship, excitement, and crowd involvement. All the other acts were great with this stuff, but we were so used to letting the music do the talking. We didn’t feel too comfortable with the idea of competing with other bands but we received some great advice from the judges that was equally as valuable to us.
You’ve already got an EP and album under your belt, which is an accomplishment in its own and something other bands in your situation can’t boast about. Do you feel it’s important to bulk up your discography in the early stages?
I think it’s important to keep writing, recording, and releasing material regardless to your status in the music industry. Records are like timestamps. A lot of bands seem to hold on to songs for years before recording them, but the best recording sessions happen when the song is still new and fresh in your mind.
Finally, like Martin Luther King, we’ve all got dreams. What do you hope for Denuo?
Ha! Well, I just hope that we can keep playing and sharing our music with as many people as possible. I would still be writing songs even if no one cared but it’s such a great feeling when people discover the music and get something from it.
Denuo’s single launch takes place on Friday 29 June at The Moon Club, Cardiff. For more information, head here.
Interview by: Morgan Applegarth