- September 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH SLOW CLUB
Since forming in Sheffield in 2006, Slow Club have released two EPs and two albums, each showcasing different and distinct facets of their musical DNA. While most bands seem happy to rest on their laurels, afraid to push their sound forward, multi-instrumentalists Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson get a bit bored of recreating the same things over and over. So while their 2009 debut album Yeah So was a beautifully ramshackle collection of country and folk-tinged strumalongs, 2011's more experimental Paradise – produced by Luke Smith (Foals, Everything Everything, Fryars) – pushed and pulled the band into myriad new musical directions. But nothing can quite prepare you for the quantum leap that takes place on their beautifully epic forthcoming third album, Complete Surrender.
The Show: Slow Club with Nick Mulvey at Schubas
Drinks of Choice: Charles Watson, guitar, vocals and piano (frozen margaritas); Rebecca Taylor, drums, vocals and guitar (frozen margaritas)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: So, you’re both frozen margarita drinkers. What are your other vices?
Rebecca from Slow Club: I have a pretty severe Diet Coke addiction that I'm aware is really wrong. I try to keep it to one a day, but sometimes it’s more. And here, the cans are so big! In the UK there are only the little cans. But yes, in terms of alcohol, about one-and-a-half margaritas will put us in the right place before a show.
Kristen: I have to be careful with tequila. It’ll hit you before you know it.
Rebecca: More than one-and-a-half and you're done. You fall off the stage before the first chorus; that's what I’d do.
Kristen: Let’s talk a little bit about your record, Complete Surrender, which dropped in July. I noticed that it’s different sonically from your older records. It has more of a Motown, soul-centric vibe. Was that shift in sound decidedly different?
Charles from Slow Club: I think it just seeped into our songwriting really. It wasn't like we sat down and said, “We’re gonna make a record that sounds like this.” Because a lot of songs on the record don't sound like that as well.
Kristen: Yeah. There are a lot of slower songs.
Charles: Yeah, I think the ones that kind of perk your ears up tend to be the ones that are more towards that side of songwriting. Rebecca and I are both on the same page. We both wanted to make something that had that kind of feel without it being superficial. It became a way of presenting the songs more than anything.
Kristen: How do you collaborate? What's your process like?
Rebecca: Both of us usually write about a half of a song, and then we'll bring it to each other to finish it. Or sometimes it's finished and we help each other with the arrangement. Other times we’ll sit from the start and go through the process completely together. There's an example of every type of process on every album really. I write songs because I want Charles to weigh in on them, and hopefully vice versa. That’s generally how it works for us.
Kristen: Was there a particular song on this record that was hard to write, or maybe one that you struggled with?
Rebecca: Yeah, sometimes there are just particular songs that are hard. There has been one on every album. I was thinking about this today, actually. There was one song we wrote for Complete Surrender that we were so excited about and it never made it onto the album because we just couldn't get it to work. There's usually one of those per album, and I think one day when we've done about 10 albums, we should do a record of the ones that never made it.
Kristen: I was going to ask: do you think you’ll ever revisit those?
Rebecca: Yeah, I think so. They're all very similar. They tend to be really dramatic, and I really love them – but we’ve never managed to make them work. “Bullets” is an example of that. It probably comes from me. I’m really impatient and get bored really quickly, so my instinct is to say, “No, no, fuck it. Let’s not do it.” But songs like that let us know then when things are right. We know the ones that come really easily will end up making it onto the albums.
Kristen: Yeah, it’s a nice indicator. You’re originally from Sheffield in the UK. What’s your favorite thing about home?
Rebecca: It's heaven. It's the best city ever.
Charles: It has all the benefits of a big city, but it's not as hectic. People are slightly more laid-back. I really love New York, but the pace of New York's quite fast for me.
Rebecca: I’d maybe compare Sheffield to Toronto. It’s a smaller version of a big city. It’s amazing because it's so cheap. It’s got a sense of humor, doesn’t take itself too seriously and nothing is pretentious really.
Kristen: You know there's a street here named Sheffield. We could steal the sign.
Rebecca: We could just stay up ‘til 7, drink margaritas and steal the Sheffield sign.
Kristen: Do you ever do that on tour – stay up all night and then drive the next day? I imagine it’s hard to keep yourself on a schedule when you’re on the road.
Rebecca: In the past, we would be a bit like kids without their parents, like "Aaahh!" The older we get, the harder it is to do that without it showing.
Charles: You’ve gotta be on. When you’ve gotta do stuff every night for a month, if you do that every night, you essentially put yourself on a downer for a whole week. You don’t really have time to catch up. So, at the time the idea is really fun, but the next three days are just so depressing.
Kristen: Right, and not only that, but you're in a van for an extended period of time the next day.
Rebecca: Exactly. We're doing a good job of it so far. We've all been pretty good on this tour. But sometimes there’s that moment where you're like, "Let's go out dancing!" and it's a Monday. But you know wherever we go we're going to have to get so drunk to make it fun that we're going to all puke.
Rebecca: And now that we’re a bit older, you start to go, "Uh, maybe we should call it a night now. Maybe we leave".
Kristen: I've found that the older I get, the more hungover I am the next day.
Charles: Fucking horrible, isn't it?
Kristen: How old are you guys?
Rebecca: I'm 27.
Kristen: 26. You're 26!
Rebecca: I know; everyone has a hard time believing it.
Charles: That's my stage age. I'm really 40.
Kristen: It must be the beard that makes you look older. Have you always had it?
Charles: I can't remember a time when I didn't have facial hair.
Kristen: If you shaved it off would you feel like a totally different person?
Charles: Well, I've shaved it off maybe like twice in the last five years, and I’ve been completely hammered both times I’ve done it.
Rebecca: He looks nice without a beard. He looks a lot younger.
Charles: I don’t really like having a beard, but the only reason I have one is because I don’t have a chin. If I shave my beard off, I kind of look like a hot dog.
Rebecca: There are pictures out there and you've got no chin.
Kristen: That’s hysterical, but I’m sure it’s not true. Following this tour – which lasts just under a month – what does your schedule look like?
Rebecca: We're going to Europe for a bit, and then we're doing a UK support tour. We'll also doing our own tour, and then hopefully we’ll tour Australia next year. We’re really busy.
Kristen: Is there any time between these tours to make more music? Is that on the horizon?
Rebecca: I think we’re starting thinking about it, but we also just want to milk this album. Charles and I work quite differently, though. When it comes to making new music, I have to just wait, not worry about it and then hopefully it'll hit me. Charles is quite good at working through it and spending time doing it, but he can't always do that when we're on tour. And unless I suddenly get a bolt of inspiration, we don’t think about it much when we’re on the road. We don’t really worry about it, do we?
Charles: No, I mean, we've got time. There’s always a little bit of music happening on tour – aside from playing – it might not be a full song, but it’s something.
Kristen: You’re often times referred to in the press as “multi-instrumentalists.” Let’s say you had to pick one out of all that you play. What would it be?
Charles: Grand piano.
Charles: Yeah. I’d just have one big grand piano and a matching suit. Preferably in white.
Rebecca: Oh, does that mean I get to wear a red dress? After singing, the drums are what I feel most comfortable with. I could have been a really good drummer if I'd really tried. We were a two-piece for a long time, so I would play the drums, sing and play the guitar. But if I had to focus on one it would be the drums.
Kristen: What is the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Rebecca: We're really un-rock-‘n’-roll. We may be up there in the most un-rock-‘n’-roll bands ever. We made our peace with it a while ago.
Charles: I had my cotton trousers taken up an inch.
Charles: The fact that I bought them in the first place is un-rock-‘n’-roll, and then, the fact that I spent more money to have them taken up…
Rebecca: We're really, really not cool. And when you meet people that are cool or they intimidate me…I’m always like, “Wow. It must be difficult to always look that cool.”
Kristen: Yeah, it makes you wonder if people are putting up a front when they don’t show their nerdy side. It must be exhausting.
Rebecca: I think if we were that way, we would've stopped being a band a long time ago. We feel really happy with where we're at. We have a tour manager who's fucking lovely, and we don't expect anything, which is perhaps the most important thing about this band. We started to put champagne on the rider and that's a thrill.
Kristen: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Rebecca: My dad is not hyperemotional, and he has never told me what to do – ever. But I remember not knowing what to do about university. Uni was what everyone did. I remember him pulling the car over and being like, “Don't worry. You just need to do it.” Meaning, you need to do music.
Kristen: That’s pretty incredible coming from someone who rarely voices his opinion.
Rebecca: Yeah, so that was probably the best advice I ever got. What about you, Charles? Was it that time your dad said to cut your hair?
Charles: No, my grandad once said this about mussels: “It pays not to look at them.” He used to eat them with like vinegar in the afternoon. I was totally grossed out by the whole thing.
Rebecca: I can't wait till you start doing that.