There are some bands whose story is easy to tell. They are the bands for whom it all just falls into place: their sound is easy to describe and pigeonhole, their look is stylized and just so, their philosophy drops into a classic, easily defined rock'n'roll slot, their story adheres to a tried and tested career path. The Rumble Strips are not one of those bands. They're much more interesting. In fact, they're probably the most exciting, singular band in London. But their story doesn't even begin in London.
It begins in Tavistock, near Exeter, on the border of Cornwall and Devon. It's here that the four band members grew up, even if The Rumble Strips didn't actually form here. But it was here that singer, guitarist and principle songwriter Charlie Waller first became enflamed by music and the idea of being in a band - largely because his uncle was in a band and looked good in a leather jacket.
"I thought I could look good in a leather jacket one day too," Charlie remembers with some justification, even vindication.
It was here in Tavistock, too, that Charlie first fell in love with music, listening to his uncle's copy of Lou Reed's Transformer and thinking Lou Reed made writing songs sound really easy. It was here that he got the bug, spending half his dinner money each day at the local second hand record shop, choosing albums on the basis of their covers, and falling quite heavily for the other-worldly art-pop sounds of Adam And The Ants. Charlie started to write his own songs and dreamt of a musical career.
For that to happen, Charlie had to move to London. Marooned in the capitol after a degree at art school and making ends meet as a painter and decorator (the two paths are not related), Charlie's mind started to wander back to songwriting, his true love.
"In the back of my mind, I still wanted to make music," he says, picking up the story. "I wanted to do something really unusual. I wanted to make a kind of rock'n'roll but in the least rock'n'roll way." So that's what he did and he started playing with an old friend from Tavistock, Tom Gorbutt, with Tom on sax and bass, eventually adding two other refugees from Tavistock Matthew Wheeler on drums and Henry Clark on keyboards and trumpet. The Rumble Strips - as they were now known - started gigging. Charlie's dream of making soulful pop music with the purest, most honest sound had begun to take glorious shape.
At which point, the plot thickens. Charlie now living with Mark, aka Vincent Villain, the singer with young London rockers Vincent Vincent And The Villains. Together, they too would write songs and perform down various pubs. After a while, he started playing live with Vincent Vincent And The Villains and before he knew it he was performing with two different acts. And he was missing appointments with both.
"It got complicated," Charlie explains. "It was good because it meant I was playing lots of gigs because I was in two bands. Then it got to the stage it was too serious. It got quite horrible. Both bands are my best friends and it felt like I was fucking everyone over."
Henry concurs. "For about six months it was really traumatic."
So much so that Charlie left both groups and went back to a full-time career of part-time decorating and sleeping on strange floors and in strange beds. It was only then that his colleagues in The Rumble Strips realized what was slipping through their fingers. The lights dim. A cloud of angst fills the chamber. Depression descends...
Then out of the blue, hip indie label Trangressive arrive and offer to put out a single by The Rumble Strips. They'd been watching all the while and couldn't let The Rumble Strips disintegrate. Suddenly, the scales fell from Charlie's eyes.
"It was like, I have nothing to lose - I'm working for my uncle on a building site. What's to lose?"
Emboldened by this fresh chance and new attitude, The Rumble Strips cut their debut single, the yearning, desperately romantic Motorcycle - which came backed with an ingenious, single shot video of Charlie singing on his bicycle whilst the band offer support on foot and wheels.
This was followed by a support tour with The Young Knives ("that really bonded us as a band," says Henry) and another plaintive, richly melodic single in Hate Me. More, bigger supports followed with Dirty Pretty Things and The Zutons, all the while The Rumble Strips honing their philosophy and sound.
"I love acoustic instruments when everyone is playing hard," says Charlie, "really hard. So it hurts just to make a noise but you can hear the playing. You can play an electric guitar and have loads of effects and make a racket, but there's no effort. They're playing so softly. That can be cool, but it's not honest. We blast it out to get half that effect and I like that human aspect because it's closer to getting it very wrong too. And it's in the cracks that you really hear the truth."
More of this sound can be located on their debut EP for Fallout/Island Records, with lead track Oh Creole a rush of exquisite, tuneful longing. Charlie describes the sentiments as being in keeping with much of his writing and revolving, in essence, around this: "Being quite miserable and pathetic, but in a joyous way. We're heroically pathetic."
"We're trying to communicate that you can be ballsy and insecure." He pauses. "Maybe."
Currently, The Rumble Strips are in Los Angeles making a debut album with the legendary Tony Hoffer, famous for his work with Beck, The Kooks, The Fratellis, Air and many others. Now, with major label backing, their future is more secure. But it's far from certain. And that's just how they like it.
"We want to make an inventive, good, unusual album," says Charlie. "But I don't mind failing at that either. So what? I'm prepared to fail. The journey's important, isn't it? You have the license to fail as often as you want.
"We're honest in our sound, it's bare and that way sometimes you fall on your face. That's important because when you get it right, you really get it right."
That's The Rumble Strips, a band aiming for the stars, happy to fall on their face, but most likely to float off into some new, uncharted, strange and blissful orbit. You'll always recognize their sound but you'll never be truly sure where you've heard it before. Oh, but before we go - that name?
"It sounds like a cool, rocking '50s or '60s group, doesn't it," says Charlie. "It's actually the strips at the side of the motorway that stop you from falling asleep at the wheel. I think it's pretty apt for us."
With The Rumble Strips, nothing is as it first appears.