It’s been a wild ride for the beloved Welsh rock band Trampolene. Growing through genres (and band names) from the head-bangable, mosh pit madness of popular singles like ‘Alcohol Kiss’ on their debut album, through to frontman Jack’s experimental spoken word poetry and into more melodic love songs like ‘Lighter than Paper’, they’ve come a long way.
Defying and refusing to stay within the confines of rock, their latest musical step was announced last week, in the shape of their fourth studio album Rules of Love and War. It’ll follow the album’s lead single, ‘Thinking Again’.
When I called Jack Jones and Wayne Thomas on Monday, they were on their tour bus bunk beds, in a car park behind The Zenith in Paris, the second stop on their tour with The Libertines this week. Kyle, or Mr Williams, as he has been lovingly nicknamed since his return to the band, could be heard drumming softly in the background during soundcheck.
When I ask Jack how supporting The Libertines across Europe had been so far, I was met with a characteristically poetic list of, “enthralling, exciting, nerve wracking, manic and fun”, and had the olfactory surroundings of the tour bus recreated for me as “stinking of feet”, naturally.
The boys have been documenting their morning “tour runs” via Instagram (which they are still keeping up, “kind of”), as well as Mr Williams’ ‘cartwheels of the day’ throughout the rehearsals and tour so far, but Jack said they’d spent most of their time in Paris “eating Croque Madame’s and walking”. As well as playing some prestigious venues like the Cirque Royal in Brussels and closing the tour at Union Scene in Norway’s Drammen this Sunday, Jack says they’ve “had more time on the bus to try some new songs out” and test run the audience’s reaction to the new album every night.
Jack, Wayne and Kyle have been friends since they were teenagers, forming the band when they were still in school together. Both Jack and Wayne agree their forthcoming album feels like a “full circle moment for them”. Now Kyle can “share in the good times” he missed as Trampolene grew in popularity supported by different drummers, headlining London venues like The Scala and Kentish Town’s O2 Forum, supporting Liam Gallagher and writing with Pete Doherty, to name a few of their accomplishments.
Reflecting on the band’s journey and how this tour really feels like being with “family”, jack says: “To be honest, the band only works with the three of us in it, and it’s taken the absence of Kyle to figure that out. But it’s lovely having him back. We’re school friends, and that means so much to me now because as you get older and older you realise that friendships are harder and harder to keep, or make new ones.”
“The fact that we’ve been together since school, and we’re still together now blows my mind completely. It almost means more to me than the music, it means more to me than the tours – just us staying friends means the most to me in the world now.”
Jack and Wayne joked that while the dynamic was mostly the same between them after all this time, “the dynamic’s perhaps even better”, with Wayne agreeing that “maybe as individuals we’ve found our feet and that’s helped us be around each other and work together better –because we understand each other, we’re quite open with who we are, and we can push each other without pushing too far.”
When reflecting on the changes in the band, with the return now to its original line up after Jay Bone left the band this year and Kyle returned as their drummer, Jack added that “maybe it had to happen that way for us to end up where we are now, if you know what I mean. I think there’s some kind of serendipity about it, it’s beautiful.” After Kyle’s first gig back with the band in the Great Hall in Cardiff, the band were the first act to headline the newly created Swansea Arena, which is “just down the road” from the school where they met.
“You could throw a stone from our old rehearsal room to the arena”, Jack adds. “So, all those songs we were writing in that little rehearsal room in the centre of town, ended up being played in that arena maybe ten years later.”
When I asked Jack about what making this record with Kyle was like compared to their previous albums, he joked that “Kyle’s musical knowledge is so deep that he can answer a lot of our ridiculous questions with something quite possible or not possible”, with Wayne adding that he can “decode their ideas” to realise their hopes for a track in reality.
The title for their new album was taken from Orwell’s 1933 memoir on poverty Down and Out in Paris and London, and ironically from a real-life character called Boris: “It was a saying of his that the rules of chess are the same as the rules of love and war, and that if you can win at one you can win at the others”, a twist on the well-known proverb attributed to John Lyly’s 1578 romance Euphues: “All is fair in love and war”.
‘Thinking Again’ was the first song written for the new album, released with a music video created by Ricky Allen, a comically original take on the strain placed on our relationships during Lockdown which only serves to amplify Jack’s lyrics about climate change: ‘Red mud, black flood, warming us up in cold blood’.
Ricky used to be in the mosh pits at Trampolene’s early gigs, and when he became a director, he approached the band with a concept for the ‘Thinking Again’ video. Jack told me he was listening to a CNN report with Pete Doherty during lockdown and just began playing with some lyrics which started the song; like many of us did, he had the news as a constant backing-track to his life at that time.
Rules of Love and War has a different feel, which we tried to pin down, with Jack getting close to describing it with “grandiose” and “melodic.” ‘Thinking Again’, and an unreleased track ‘Alexandra Palace’ have almost a Romantic, expansive feel – especially with the use of a fuller band.
The album was “a bit of an amalgamation”, according to Jack; while some tracks were written in lockdown, others were much earlier with Wayne adding that the period “gave us the time to stop and sculpt them, and to develop them”.
The start of Track 11 ‘Die and Live’ was taken from something the boys wrote together 10 years ago, with ideas from early on in the band’s writing coming back around. ‘Money’, meanwhile, was written in lockdown when Jack had just become self-employed so was unable to access the government grant, “and all of a sudden that poem has become more relevant to these times”. The inclusion of Jack’s spoken word poetry – both as part of their tracks and as standalone singles – is refreshing, with Jack saying that the spoken word is often created collaboratively and as part of the music: “I’ll often write the spoken word over a piece of music that the boys have written, or sometimes I just gave them a poem and didn’t have anything to do with the music, that was mostly the boys.”
Jack agreed that there was an “instinct” in knowing which poems could be worked into songs, and which should stand alone as spoken word like his infamous ‘Poundland’ poem, which he performed as The Libertine’s Tour Poet. Wayne reflected that the progression of the band’s sound can be heard through this journey of bringing the band’s poetry and songs closer together, as poetry is “incorporated more and more”, with Jack adding that “on this album, it’s finally arrived.”
The band’s fourth studio album will be released on the 17th of March 2023 and is available now to pre-order, their new single ‘Thinking Again’ is out now on all streaming platforms.
Trampolene have just announced their own European Tour in April 2023, opening at The Garage in Glasgow and closing in The 100 Club in London on April 20th.