In The Middle with No Rome & Beabadoobee

Down in the grungy basement of alternative hotspot The Key Club, past the bleeping arcade machines played by tour crew members, a tiny green room hides two musicians set to perform that evening. The freshest sounds of 2019 were a staple of this year’s Dirty Hit Tour, so it was only right that newly established indie-pop icons No Rome and Beabadoobee were included on the line up. The Gryphon writer Fern McErlane caught up with the pair for an intimate soundcheck chat.

Though both musicians are young, neither seemed nervous about this tour date. “Everyone here is on a similar wavelength – none of us have done many tours so we’re all experiencing this together,” No Rome tells me. “I’m the oldest person on this tour – I’m only 22! But I still feel like I’m 19 experiencing stuff for the first time.” 

Beabadoobee, only 19 herself, admits: “I’ve been on tour for three months straight now so I’m a little tired! It’s made me grow so much as a person – you learn a lot about people once you live with them. And I’m away from my family and boyfriend and such. But every show so far has been good- at Brighton it made me cry because everyone knew the words to ‘Coffee’.

Both artists were discovered by indie label Dirty Hit and quickly signed, transitioning from bedroom-recorded tracks to professional studios after being snapped up. Bea gushes about the experience: “I work with a lot of people at Dirty Hit who are really cool, and helped produce ‘Loveworm‘. And we have the studio with so much equipment and instruments – it influenced me to develop my sound just through playing with things!” How she comes up with her songs hasn’t changed, though: “I write everything in my bedroom, just me and my guitar in front of my mirror. When I get back into my bedroom, all the writing’s gonna come out.”

No Rome jokes that since being signed, he can say he’s a “real musician” now. His current biggest track, ‘Narcissist’, features Matty Healy (of The 1975 )- a connection made through the label. “Making the video for ‘Narcissist’ was cool as me and Matty intentionally wanted it to be pop – the background dancers and the giant ring prop, it’s all very on purpose.”

One thing these two artists disagree on is their own music tastes – No Rome is all about DIY production and lyricism, citing Mike Kinsella from American Football, New Wave vinyls, and his own dad. “He was like the OG bedroom producer! He bought music production stuff just for himself and he would make music just for himself, his friends and my mom to listen to. That was really cool. I think I started to make music at like age eleven or twelve – he taught me!” 

Bea’s music taste is similarly close to her heart. “Kimya Dawson really inspired me to write honest and quite genuine lyrics – her soundtrack for Juno was so stripped back and acoustic, it was super cool. She’s basically everything I want to be! Plus she makes books for kids, and I always wanted to be a nursery teacher, so I’m similar to her in that way too.”

It’s getting close to their final rehearsal, so I leave the artists with a final question: what’s been the wildest moment on tour for them? Both Bea and No Rome tell me stories of nights after gigs, some of which definitely couldn’t be repeated here – but for Bea, it was a garage Christmas night in Birmingham. “All the kids there were wild. We’ve been out in a lot of different places but I think Birmingham was the craziest.” A different memory stands out for No Rome: “We once went to a bar in Glasgow and they started blasting my music – it was so weird. I like going to the club solely for club music – garage, house music. We go out a lot – maybe that’s one of my inspirations!”

Both No Rome and Beabadoobee will be writing albums after the tour, giving fans much more to look forward to. Tonight, however, is all about the kids at The Key Club – a gig that surely won’t disappoint.