Slow Club (Interview)
Slow Club are very much in the ascendency. Their second album, Paradise, is getting rave reviews across the board and they’ve just embarked upon a headline tour of the UK. But before hitting the road singer and drummer Rebecca Taylor found time for a quick phone call with Joe Rivers.
In interviews, you’ve given the impressions that you’re relieved the album is finished and ready to go, did you find it a particularly difficult album to make?
It didn’t start out that way but then it took a while. We were in this intense studio situation, which was quite exhausting; you can’t do that for too long really. When we got to the end we just felt drained by it, so it’s kind of a relief that it’s on a CD and we can’t change anything. When you’ve been on tour for a year, you think, “I can’t wait to go in the studio,” but now we’ve got this new record that we’re really happy with and we just want to release it, get it out there and give birth to the difficult second baby!
Would you say that’s different from how the recording of the first album went?
With the first album [Yeah So], we’d played all those songs hundreds of times on tour and they just needed recording, whereas this one was ten or twelve abstract bits and bobs that were sort of songs but we didn’t know how we wanted them to sound. The first one didn’t take half as long; we didn’t have a producer so we’d just do a take and, because I’m really lazy, I’d just say, “Is that alright?” and everyone would say, “Yeah!” Whereas this time, I’d sit behind the kit and Luke [Smith, formerly of Clor], who produced it, would say, “No, again,” and I’d think, “ARGH!” I’d get really mardy because I’d be in there for hours but I think the outcome is all the better and I’m really proud of it. The second album felt like doing it properly whereas the first album was just us doing it because we needed to do an album at that point.
Didn’t you scrap quite a lot of the recording you did before Christmas?
Charles likes to say that in a dramatic fashion but I don’t think we actually scrapped it, as such. There were things that we re-did with the skeleton and the structure. We had a lot of time and you have that luxury to play with things; it was a lot of twiddling knobs, basically, and trying out different things. Then we got back after Christmas and thought, “Shit, we’d better get on with this now.” But I don’t think any of the time was wasted; it’s a steep learning curve. It took a while to learn how we all communicate, so soon Luke knew what, “Fuck off! No, I’m not doing it again!” meant. But we got there and by the end of it, we were a pretty well-oiled machine.
Now you’re established as a band, do you feel under any more pressure with this album?
I don’t know really. The album’s got some really nice reviews already and if that carries on and it means we get more people down at gigs and more people buying it, then it can just naturally progress. It’s weird for us because we started being a band about five years ago now and, at that time, we were watching our mates get big record deals and tour loads. It was amazing to see that and want that but in a way, I’m kind of glad we didn’t because we’ve been able to really slowly get better as a band and then get better numbers at gigs. I don’t know, there’s a part of me that would have liked as to go [makes exploding noise] and be, “Yes, we’re massive,” but we’re not. I’d have been mortified if our first album had done really, really well and defined us as one sound because that’s definitely not what we want to do any more. I think we’re lucky to be in the position we are in, and it’d be amazing to get a bit bigger but I want us to just carry on so I don’t have to get a job!
I found an article from a few years ago which made Slow Club out to be quite a twee, cute band. There were elements of that on your first record but the new one has a more mature sound – is that a description you’d agree with?
Yeah, totally. We’ve answered this question over and over, the label just pisses me off because it was one article in 2007. The thing was, by the end of us recording that album, we were so loud live, I’ve lost hearing – we’re not a twee band if I’m going deaf! Also, people say we write sweet songs but I’m such a raincloud! Everything I’ve written has come from some sort of mardy sadness and that’s not twee. With the second record, for me more than Charles, I was thinking, “I really want to fucking shut everyone up,” and I don’t think you can give us that label any more. It’s nice we’re getting asked this question all the time because it means we can say, “There you go.”
Do you think it’s lazy journalists looking at the fact you’re a duo – one man, one woman – in a pop group?
Definitely, yeah. I suppose I look like a…jolly baker. I mean, we look like friendly people, but the thing is, I’m not, I’m horrible [laughs]. But, it is what it is. I’ve been listening to a lot of different things, as has Charles, and what excites me in the studio is emulating what you love, so there are wildly different reference points which have made a whole different sound.
Perhaps, to break away, you should make a solo, gangsta rap album?
Yeah, I’m going to – don’t you worry. Well, not gangsta rap, but we’ve both got our own things that we want to explore.
Are you thinking that when the touring for this album’s done, you can go and work on other stuff?
No, I reckon we’ll do another album to keep it ticking over. With Slow Club, we’re compromising all the time and that makes us what we end up being. Quite a lot of songs I’ve written and quite a lot of songs Charles has written aren’t Slow Club songs because they’re too far towards one person’s tastes. We’ve both got ideas to do things. I suppose mine’s a little more tangible because I definitely want to do that kind of music but it’s not like I’m plotting to go off, it’ll just be a really satisfying thing to do to get it out of my system. It might be a few years until it happens though.
You listen to quite a lot of R&B so what sort of project would that be?
Well, have you heard of Jhené Aiko? I only heard her a few weeks ago but she’s doing exactly what it is that I want to do. It’s R&B based, but obviously I’m a chubby girl from Sheffield so I’m not going to be Beyoncé. I want it to be dark and still weird-sounding, but be really sylph-y and odd. People laugh at me about it but I will do it one day.
Who else would you like it to sound like?
I don’t want to answer the question because you’ll do this thing where you claim I’m going solo! I’m learning from these interviews [laughs]. But, there are elements of it in the new record. I’ve just not been excited by a guitar band for a while now. I mean, for me, Destiny’s Child are scientifically amazing. Actually, it’s been a relief to say, “You know what? This is what I listen to.” You spend time when you’re 13 or 14 conforming to what you should like or what’s cool but there’s so much in pop and R&B that’s instant, and that’s what you sometimes don’t get in indie music.
In the early days of Slow Club, you had a couple of tracks licensed to adverts. Did that help your career along?
Maybe a bit in America, but it’s really the only way to make money these days. With illegal downloads and stuff like that, you’re just screwed. We won’t make any money off this album so you have to find another way to do it. If somebody wants to give you some money for your songs and it means you can carry on paying rent, then you do it. I’m not ashamed of it though, everybody does it now.
Are you looking forward to going out on tour?
We’re really, really excited about it. We’ve not toured for a year, which is our longest time off since starting the band so I can’t wait to get going, turn my phone off, not exist anymore to anyone, get out of London. It’s just great, I can’t wait to see who’s out there because we’ve been away for so long.
Other than this tour, what does the next twelve months hold for you and for Slow Club?
After the tour, we’re going to America. We’ll be in Australia and Japan early next year, and then back to America. We’re going to try and do an EP over Christmas – not a Christmas EP though – which we’re going to record in Sheffield. We want to get that out because there are a few songs that we recorded in the run-up to the album that should have been on it but would have made it a bit too long. We’d like to get writing and recording next summer if we can. We’ll see what happens.13 September, 2011 - 19:33 — Joe Rivers