Slaves: "Nice is one of the worst words"
The pair are back with a new album but they're still not playing nice.
Published: 10:00 am, September 07, 2016
“You don’t like what we do,” pointed Slaves back in 2015, “because we say what we are thinking and that shocks and frightens you.” It’s a fair observation. The duo of Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman have been divisive figures since the word go.
“We’ve got some fucking haters,” grins Isaac. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon and the pair have only been back in the country for a matter of hours. Yesterday they played Rock En Seine, later today the pair will take to the mainstage of Reading Festival and make their scrappy punk look right at home. As controversial and hated as they are, they draw a massive crowd. “Nice is one of the worst words,” continues Laurie. “And liked. Loved and hated is way better.”
“You’re quite liked? Fuck that,” says Isaac before Laurie offers, “More people talk about marmite than jam, don’t they?”
“We do our thing but we enjoy the fact people think we play up to it. We’re both very happy with what we do and who we are. Some people overthink it. We don’t overthink how we act.” 2015’s ‘Are You Satisfied?’ was a confrontational, upfront record. It got to the point, and it got there fast. ‘Take Control’ is smarter and in less of a hurry.
“Because there was a shorter space of time (writing ‘Are You Satisfied?’) the lyrics were a lot, not simpler but they were very direct. With this album there’s more wordplay,” ventures Laurie. “I feel like there was a newfound confidence in the vocals. Last album, we both really love it but we were still finding our feet with where we worked in the world. I guess this album, lyrically, there’s more hidden messages and people can definitely find stuff from it. I’m very proud of this album and I hope people see how much work we put into it.”
With the title ‘Take Control’ coming as the band were sat on a plane shortly after the release of ‘Are You Satisfied?’, the record was written with that in mind. “It follows on from the first album but we wanted to be a bit more direct with it. There was a lot more thought put into it. The first album we just wrote songs and hoped it would work, this album we had expectations of ourselves.” As did the rest of the world.
“Working with Mike D from The Beasties Boys, he expected something from us so we didn’t get away with hiding from it. I think some producers might try and shelter you and tell you that you’re fucking great. He wasn’t like that. ‘We’ve got some good songs but we’ll see’. He pushed us very hard. ‘cos he’s a fan of our first album, we had someone in the studio we were trying to impress and I think that really helped us,” continues Laurie.“I feel like we’re the biggest Beastie Boys fans but we’re the generation that grew up on Eminem, we grew up on the people he influenced. I’ve accessed them a lot later in life so I found myself asking questions about other people he met. I didn’t fully understand The Beastie Boys influence on everything. Then you go and work with one and you realise, pretty much every rapper, every rock band has been influenced by them. We were definitely start struck but with nice people, they’re just nice people. He doesn’t play on being a Beastie Boy at all and some people do play on being famous.”
“Everyone’s just a person,” adds Isaac. “He’s very modest and somber and lovely.”
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Despite a number one album, sold out shows at Brixton Academy and a whole lot of love, Slaves still feel out of place today. “Sitting backstage, we still feel like we don’t belong there. But it’s good to feel like that,” starts Isaac with Laurie adding, “You play the introducing stage and you feel like you don’t belong. You get bigger and bigger and then you think, when you get to mainstage, you’d feel comfortable but you still don’t. It feels like we’ve snuck in. We feel like the new boys.”
“We’ve come a long way,” smiles Isaac. “I’m very proud of Laurie and proud of myself but I think my feelings are in the post to be honest.”
“Don’t congratulate yourself too much. That’s what they say, init,” asks Laurie. “Hopefully we can just watch the Youtube video in twenty years and go ‘Yeah, that was good.’”
“Even being a scrappy two-piece punk band, we like hooks and we like catchy melodies. And fun. That’s one thing we like about our sets. Punk music is great but not everyone wants to be shouted at for half an hour, wheras there’s something in our set that can translate for everyone.”
Slaves are a band who are much more than the all or nothing response they inspire. As with-us-or-against-us as they are, they’re furiously accessible. From a political standpoint that does away with the doublespeak to working with GirlsAgainst, Slaves don’t want anyone to feel excluded. That said, their wish for ‘Take Control’ is simple and to the point. “I just hope people don’t call it average,” offers Isaac. “Either fucking hate it or fucking love it please.”