Slow Club: “We didn’t know if we were going to do another album”
From hanging out with jazz guys to keeping a dream journal-of-sorts, Slow Club’s new album sees them experimenting with previously untested methods.
Published: 4:31 pm, August 22, 2016
It’s 2016, which means Slow Club are celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band. Time flies when you’ve given up on love, completely surrendered and cried tears of joy (eh, eh?). In all seriousness though, Slow Club are a fantastic band with fantastic albums to show for it. Their fourth, ‘One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Any More’, was produced by country crooner and all-round great guy Matthew E. White and sees them push in a different direction, all over again. That’s what Slow Club do best; a sort of unintentional reinvention that brings something completely new to the table. “We didn’t know if we were going to do another album,” Charles Watson explains. “We didn’t really know what was going to happen, and we did a little tour, and then on the last night of the tour we said, shall we just make another album?”
He says that they didn’t really feel too much pressure with their fourth outing and that essentially, it’s not completely up to them. “If you release a shit record, it’s a shit record,” Charles laughs. “I think there’s a lot of people who expect something from being a musician, that somehow your life is going to change in ways you can’t imagine. But really, they’re just songs, and it’s just a band. A lot of people get really tied up in the mystique of it, and that’s the way it’s set up when you’re a teenager, to view the music world like that. I think really, sometimes when the magic’s been dispelled a little bit, you’re free to do the really exciting stuff, where you’re not nervous of breaking anything.”
The band live apart these days – Charles in London and Rebecca Taylor in Rotherham – which means a lot of the writing happens individually. Charles spends roughly around six hours at the piano a day – “I see it as a craft, like someone making a table” – with a lot of the early production on ‘One Day...’ happening at his own place. “When I make stuff at home, my tendency is to make things slow, and every producer we’ve worked with has decided to speed our songs up,” he continues. “But with Matthew, every song he recorded was slower than the demo. It felt like quite a bold move.” At the beginning, most of the track demos were “more Mercury Rev-y, space-y, shoegaze-y stuff”, but with the help of Matthew and the core musicians of Spacebomb Studio, the album came out like a, err, delicious curry.
“You never try and make a curry from some onion and some salt, which is what we’ve got,” Charles explains. “But they have all these amazing beautiful textured sounds, and a wealth of knowledge, and it’s all so unpredictable in the studio – the things we arrive at – and you can’t even dream of making that at home.” Charles also points out that a lot of Spacebomb musicians are “jazz guys”, which also made a huge impression on the album. “When I knew we were going to play with Alan, who’s the guitar player, I started learning to play lap steel because I knew that he was really good and I wanted to talk to him on a level that wasn’t totally ridiculous.”
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Charles often finds his song subjects immersed in his short story or open narrative writing. Attending St Martins back in 2014, he began working with writer Joanna Pocock after he suffered a rut in terms of lyric writing. “She recommended doing this thing where you wake up every morning and just write for 30 minutes. You don’t think about what you’re writing, and you don’t read it afterwards, you just write,” he says. “It’s an exercise to get the first words out, and it doesn’t matter what they are. Most of it is dream sequence.” He’s currently writing a “long, short story” with a lot of lyrical output on the record stemming from the story’s subjects. “It’s a bit of a daunting task, because I don’t actually know what I’m doing,” he admits.
While novels are a huge inspiration to the writing aspect of Slow Club, there’s also a distinct humour to their outputs, especially in terms of visuals. In the video for lead single ‘Ancient Rolling Sea’, you’ll see a band absolutely poking fun at themselves. “You can take your music seriously, but taking yourself seriously is a totally different thing,” Charles continues. “Piers [Dennis] and I are really good mates, we’ve got a really similar sense of humour. When he directed that video we thought ‘are people gonna get the joke?’ We were really worried that it was just going to look like a shit video rather than a funny one.”
The song itself was recorded in just one take. “That was it,” Charles says. “We just started recording straight away, played it once, and thought ‘shit, that sounds pretty good’. There’s only one recording of that song that exists. I like the idea of being really definite with decisions, and not doing loads of stuff just because you can. It’s so easy to pile loads of instruments on, when really, it’s nice to have it super bare and see where it goes.”
With ‘One Day...’, the band have arrived at a point in their career where their successes should be duly noted. “We’re in a position that is so privileged, and not a common thing,” Charles continues. “I know so many incredible musicians – so much better than us – that aren’t able to do the stuff that we do. So in a way, the fact that we do do these amazing things makes you realise how lucky you are. We’re really fucking lucky.” So, after ten years, what’s their secret? “It’s like a marriage, really. You’ve got to both be pulling in the same direction, or it’s going to fall apart.”
Slow Club’s album ‘One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Any More’ is out 19th August.