****Since finding one another at art school in the mid ’00s, Matt Hayward, Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson have oh so quietly become one of rock’s most exciting bands. Quiet because there’s nothing at all sensational about Band of Skulls: no Twitter beefs, no onstage meltdowns, no controversial interviews dissing rival musicians. The power trio from Southampton, England, simply goes about their business, releasing one excellent album after another featuring their impeccably crafted take on alternative blues-rock. Their latest, *By Default*, is no exception. It’s their most sonically diverse to date, bursting with all manner of novel sounds and arty cool. To learn more about their new album, as well as the band’s backstory, then stop wasting time and dive into these 10 reasons why Band of Skulls totally rock.
**1. Making bluesy hard rock cool again****. **For far too many years blues-rock was for dads whose idea of a good time was two-for-one pitchers at the House of Blues. Then along came [The Black Keys](http://rhapsody.com/artist/the-black-keys) and [White Stripes](http://rhapsody.com/artist/white-stripes) who breathed new life into the genre. Blues-rock now boasts a wide array of artists dragging the genre into uncharted territory. Band of Skulls don’t just belong to this lineage; they’re one of its most creative proponents. Bursting with novel touches (fuzzy alt-rock crunch, post-punk beats, moody folk-rock), *By Default* pushes the envelope in so many killer ways.
**2. Gil Norton twiddling the knobs.** He’s the iconic producer behind the Pixies’ [*Trompe le Monde*](http://rhapsody.com/artist/pixies/album/trompe-le-monde), the Foo Fighters’ [*Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace*](http://rhapsody.com/artist/foo-fighters/album/echoes-silence-patience-and-grace), Catherine Wheel’s[*Chrome*](http://rhapsody.com/artist/catherine-wheel/album/chrome) and many more. If there’s one thing he’s known for, it’s his *massive* sound, and that’s certainly the case with *By Default*.
**3. All hail the power trio. **The duo, quartet and quintet each has its place in the annals of rock, but there’s something elemental about the trio. After all, its geometric manifestation is the triangle, which in many spiritual practices around the globe signifies the unification of mind, body and intellect. Cream, Nirvana, Motörhead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hüsker Dü and now Band of Skulls — need we say more?
**4. They ain’t no boys club. **In addition to anchoring Band of Skulls with her titanic bass, mesmerizing vocals and songwriting chops, Emma Richardson is a painter and illustrator with a growing list of [exhibitions](http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/emma-richardson-my-paintings-are-like-a-rorschach-ink-test-6297987.html) to her name. Though she focuses on traditional canvas work, she also [designed](https://youtu.be/eQYTcer0ODc) the strikingly psychedelic covers gracing most of the group’s albums.
**5. All Hendrix, all the time.** There exists a short list of essentials all great rockers share. One is growing up and spinning Jimi at deafening volumes. Case in point: “When we were 12 and 13 years old, we were obsessed with Hendrix and hearing those drawn out, massive blues jams for hours,” drummer Matt Hayward [told](http://www.dallasobserver.com/music/matt-hayward-of-band-of-skulls-talks-about-the-white-stripes-hendrix-7063662) the *Dallas Observer*.
**6. They’ll rip your face off in concert. **Band of Skulls totally *bring it*. They pummel with volume and precision yet also love stretching out. [*Live at Brixton*](http://rhapsody.com/artist/band-of-skulls), released in 2012, spotlights four cuts that break the six-minute mark. Particularly mind-blowing is “Impossible,” which erupts into a turbocharged, psych-noise groovefest.
**7. Their jams unite the masses. **At a time when political strife is splitting society into confrontational factions, Band of Skulls unleash jams that bring people together. As “Black Magic,” “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Little Mama” all demonstrate, they nail the sweet spot between classic rock, heavy metal and *Pitchfork*-approved indie. “You look out, and there’s a lot of different people, and they’re all just into the music,” singer and guitarist Russell Marsden [told](https://youtu.be/gs2yEDheaDE) Radio.com. “If there’s one we can do, it’s to bring the metallers and the hipsters together.”
**8. Apt pupils.** If rock is a tradition passed from teacher to student, then Band of Skulls have learned from the best. Over the last several years, they’ve shared stages with the likes of The Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age, The Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
**9. They covered Bob Dylan. **It’s true. The trio recorded “It Ain’t Me Babe” (featuring some awfully haunted harmonies from Marsden and Richardson) for the 2012 compilation [*Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International*](http://app.rhapsody.com/artist/various-artists/album/chimes-of-freedom-the-songs-of-bob-dylan-honoring-50-years-o-amnesty-international?redirect=1).
**10. Their music is perfect for both booty shaking and stage diving.** Band of Skulls are one of the very few modern bands that are equally skilled at busting funked-out club grooves (“So Good”) and amps-to-11 pummelling riffs (“The Devil Takes Care of His Own”).