After splits and acrimony, De Rosa have rediscovered their togetherness and issued new album
Six-and-a-half years ago, De Rosa appeared to have reached the end of the road. Formed by a group of friends from the Lanarkshire towns of Bellshill and Uddingston in 2001, the band showed plenty of early promise, releasing two well-received albums on Glasgow’s Chemikal Underground label, 2006’s Mend and 2009’s Prevention. But then they split up, and not in an amicable, “let’s take a break for a few months and then see how we feel” way.
“Sometimes when a band’s working very intensely the individuals can lose sight of what’s really important,” reflects De Rosa’s singer Martin John Henry. “We’d been working very hard and very closely for about three or four years and we just fell apart at the end of our 2009 tour. We were tired and we fell out with each other. But we had a huge amount of outtakes and unfinished demos when we split up, so I think there was a feeling of unfinished business there.”
The band announced their intention to reform in 2012, but they didn’t start gigging again until 2013, when they appeared at Edinburgh band Kid Canaveral’s annual Xmas Baubles event. Their return to recording took even longer – their third album Weem is only now being released, supported by live shows in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
De Rosa were originally formed by school friends Henry and guitarist Chris Connick, later adding bassist James Woodside, drummer Neil Woodside and pianist Andrew Bush. Henry became interested in music when his dad gave him a cassette of Nirvana’s Nevermind at the age of 12, and subsequently became a devotee of Pixies, Neil Young and Sonic Youth. The group’s music reflects all of these influences, even on Weem – it’s a mature, wintery wash of emotion founded on Henry’s delicate vocal, an undulating, pop-informed kind of post-rock, and a stark folk influence.
Henry had released a solo album called The Other Half of Everything in 2011, and Woodside played on the following tour. “Gradually I saw the others and I think we were all relieved that we had gotten over what happened,” says Henry now. “With a couple of years’ perspective we could all see that splitting up had been a mistake. Personally, I was so happy to be able to sit down with some of my closest friends again, and the feeling that we had more to do with De Rosa was very strong.” All five are on the album, although only Henry and the Woodsides can commit to playing live.
The new album was recorded during two trips to rural Highland cottages in 2013 and 2014, a deliberate attempt to create a relaxed atmosphere and take control of the process. “Weem is about exploring and having fun on our own terms,” says Henry, “although I like how people are finding threads emerging throughout the songs. There’s definitely an interest in community, and as usual for me there’s some further exploration of the wounded Scot. In previous lyrics I’d deliberately mentioned places in Lanarkshire that as far as I knew hadn’t been represented creatively before, but I’ve since discovered the work of Peter Nardini, whose songs do the same thing a lot better. Anyway, post-industrial Lanarkshire sounds a lot like traffic these days.”
To a certain extent De Rosa were underappreciated in their first life, but perhaps they just stifled themselves too soon. Their albums were spoken of warmly in music magazines, appearing on end of year best-of lists, while their CV received the singular boost of working with Under the Skin author Michael Faber on a track for Chemikal Underground’s Ballads of the Book record.
When they started, all they really wanted to do was record an album. Now into their second incarnation, this time on Mogwai’s Rock Action label, what’s the plan? “I hope that we continue to make new music in new contexts until the end,” says Henry.
• Weem is released on Rock Action on 22 January. The band play Summerhall, Edinburgh, 30 January and Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 31 January, www.derosaband.com