Doo-wop’ing into the ’20s: An Interview with Oliver from Trudy and the Romance

In present times, it feels like we’ve come full circle in terms of genre. Within the cluster of new music influenced by sounds of the past, ‘50s mutant pop band Trudy and the Romance is doo-wop’ing into the ‘20s.

The band started up back in 2014, released their debut album Sandman in 2019, and has been working on live sessions ever since, as well as discovering their next sound throughout the 2020 pandemic. I had the pleasure of conversing with TATR frontman Oliver over Zoom and came to learn more about music being made across the globe.

Brian: First of all, Oliver thank you for coming on. I’d love to know more about the band and what you’ve been working on.

Oliver: Yeah well we put an album out last year or the year before during summer, and it was a concept, fairytale sort of album that we’ve been working on for pretty much since we first got together as a band. Since then I’ve kind of just been trying to write new stuff and find a new direction for the next thing, and that’s obviously this year. There has been a lot of writing, not much touring. We’re actually re-issuing the album with a live session that we managed to do in between lockdown this year. Because we recorded the album mono, we did the session in stereo so there’s a chance to polish it up a little bit and then hopefully show you what sort of power we could have for our next sound, because that’s stereo you know, we’re going into stereo. It’s happening.

I’ve read in some past articles and interviews that your songwriting style is sort of like a story, I think you called it like a Disney’s tale or something like that. I think it’s cool because after I read that I re-listened to the album and your discography and I thought to myself, yeah wait a minute there’s a whole story element to this.

Yeah, I really wanted to do a concept album. I don’t know why it just latched into my mind, and then from there I started listening to loads of concept albums and kind of going through a big list. It was more of I guess a ‘70s thing maybe, or even something that’s done in different genres. I had other songs we’ve been doing for years and because it’s the first record, crowd them in and they’re all about love and heartbreaks anyway. I had Baby’s Gone Away and Sandman, there was this kind of story and I always felt they were part of that. To get the drama in it, it’d be cool to have it in a bigger context, getting the strings in there and all the emotional stuff, I thought it might mean more.

So .WAVzine is based in San Luis Obispo but you guys are based in Liverpool at the moment. I’m curious to know how the general vibe of the Liverpool music scene is.

We first moved to Liverpool like four years ago or something like that and then we kind of jumped onto the scene. We were a part of a bit of a scene which was really great and, you know, we got to do that with a band called Her’s and a band called Pink Kink, that was really cool. I thought there was something similar going on even though the three bands were really different. Since then, I don’t know, I’ve kind of just been a bit more antisocial. *Laughs* Which is no good. There’s loads of recurring things from the scene, like people you keep on bumping into and you keep on seeing their work. Obviously, Liverpool has got a lot of heritage, you know, had the Mersey Beat in the ‘60s, then in the ‘80s you had Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Lightning Seeds in the ’90s. In the 2000s you had The Coral and The Zutons and all that, and so maybe it’s waiting for another scene, I don’t know it’s tough. What sort of bands do you have where you’re at mate?

In San Luis Obispo, a big sort of trend or vibe that I’ve noticed during my time in college there, is that it tends to be very encompassing of DIY, but in every way. Think like indie, psychedelic, funk, surf rock. It’s a really laid back culture.

That sounds really cool… We’re influenced by a lot of American bands. When we first came out, I think we saw Mac Demarco’s second record when he kind of popped out. I think that was a big thing, and I guess in terms of scenes in Liverpool, it’s hard when you’re doing something that is a bit more American. I wish I could have been there in those college venues and all that. It is interesting because I wonder if there was more of a scene like that if I would have been more rooted in keeping it really rock and roll and going down a certain path. Well because it’s a bit more each to their own, at least for me, you know it kind of opens me up a little bit because I can go crazy. But yeah that sounds really cool. San Luis Obispo, where about is that?

It’s about right in the center of California in the Central Coast. It was even named by Oprah Winfrey some years ago as the happiest city in America. Although I gotta say, the whole vibe here is strange at times, but hey it’s fun.

*We both start laughing*

Yeah definitely.

Going to your sound, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone really like you guys. Especially with the whole doo-wop ‘50s style, I think people are sleeping on it. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you guys are such a unique sound compared to what’s out there right now?

I don’t know, I guess the ‘50s was never as versatile as the ‘60s or the ‘70s. When you think about the doo-wop thing, it was always the same chords and kind of similar lyrics. You know there’s only like two different types of doo-wop, the shuffle one and the six-eight one but I really like that. I like to kind of take that and almost in like a Paul Simon sort of way, feel like I’m going to rage with it and then hopefully go do what they might’ve done in the ‘80s or whatever. I think I just needed something to sort of set boundaries to and that seems to be the sort of songs I’m writing, so let’s just go forward with it.

So [continuing] with your sound, in the development of it all, before it was more loud, more energy and whatnot, but I read that you guys are trying to smooth it out, make it more mellow, and more with the romance theme. What sort of sounds are you planning on experimenting with? 

It’s like Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys, record influence, it made me think it would be great to make the tracks mature a little bit and be a lot softer. That meant having pianos and choirs, strings and all that stuff, but also playing with a different attitude, and treating the studio like more of an instrument. Before that we would just be in a practice room and then get into the studio, and because we were younger, we would be like the louder we can do it, the more angsty it is, the better. So going forward I would like to be able to put the song first. When trying to get a really strong song, it’s more singer-songwriter, so the lyrics are very important as they’re going to be carrying the thing a bit more but then are still going to have all the same taste and instruments. That’s going to be fun putting that on top as well. I think ‘country’ is the keyword, country has always been there, you know, it rides the sort of rock and pop thing really well. The Beatles are basically a country band, there’s loads of stuff where you can hear country.

When you say country, are you referring to American country?

Yeah, American country. I guess folk, in the Paul Simon sort of way. From Johnny Cash to Steve Earle, the Johnny Cash sort of outlaw country and then up to like the ‘90s maybe more pop country. You know we might even get to the 2010s country.

I’m curious if there’s some very contrasting band that you’re really into.

That’s hard to say, most of the stuff I listen to on Spotify is old music. There are things that pop up but I can always kind of tell why it’s not popular. I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Ocean and Kanye West, more popular things like that and I kind of get more with the times, it’s interesting. It’s the year for it, it’s good to get on board since I used to be so one lane.

It’s funny that you mention Kanye West because he’s such a controversial and interesting figure here in the states. Especially since you don’t have to deal firsthand with his run for president or whatever it is he’s doing here, what are your thoughts on him?

Well that’s a tough one isn’t it, I don’t know if you guys really feel quite stressed about it. I don’t love a troublemaker or anything, and it’s like I love his second album, that’s where my head is at; I love Late Registration. It’s not for the controversial things, I don’t mind that so much over here.

At least with Kanye, some people choose not to like him at all because of all he’s done in his personal life, but in terms of music he’s pretty solid. He’s done a good amount in changing the music scene back here and with the whole contract fiasco.

I think he’s got a good heart but maybe I’ll be proved wrong one day. I believe in him but I don’t know if I’d vote for him.

*We both laugh*

With pop music, what I’ve noticed has been very emergent is the rise of Latin music and K-Pop. Artists like J Balvin even made a McDonalds meal.

Didn’t they make a Travis Scott meal as well?

Yeah exactly, that’s what started it off. But did you try the Travis Scott meal, was it available in England?

I don’t think it was, a shame isn’t it.

*More laughter*

Especially with quarantine and 2020, we’re just looking for something new.

What’s a song you would recommend?

Can I say three songs?

Yeah go for it.

I’d say, because I’ve been trying to get better as a songwriter, you know Glenn Campbell? He’s a session musician that played in like Pet Sounds and other classics; he covered three songs by Jimmy Web, a songwriter. By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, and Galveston. Those songs are like, the fact that they’re written by one songwriter I think is really cool, they’re kind of like standards and they’re great.

Lastly, what’s your message to the kids?

Try and have fun with everything and love the people that love you.

That’s great, although simple it holds true. It’s all love.

Yes, it’s all love but you’ve got to work on it as well.

*There is a pause to appreciate the love*

You know, I was out jogging earlier and I got stopped by this guy, he asked for directions and then just started chatting for ages about his life. He was sweet, his name was John, he’s a dancer and was telling me about parties at Elton John’s.

Shoutout John. I hope John reads this.

But yes, best of luck to you. One last thing, we really wanna tour the states.

When can we expect Trudy and the Romance in the states?

Well we were planning on it. There’s a festival in New York called New York Colossus and then we would’ve come and done LA as well. I hope to do something that goes down well in America, because that’s the dream really.

We’re all here to support you. Best be sure I’ll be at the LA show.

I look forward to seeing you.

Have a great quarantine holiday season and hope to see you and the band very soon!

Can’t get enough Trudy and the Romance? Check out their performances of Doghouse live from Parr Street Studios.

Brian Mendez is .WAV’s Interview Coordinator, he wrote the article. Jena Nelson is a .WAV staff member, she created the graphic