Let's do a quick poll. Are you allowed to call a song ‘Gary'? Or is it too weird, like naming your dog ‘David'? It's a big issue, but never fear: on his self-titled solo record under the moniker The S.L.P., our mate Serge Pizzorno has answered this age-old question. It turns out you can. After a friend told him about the viral satirical news story claiming there had been no babies named Gary born in Britain after 1992, Serge was inspired. The resulting track ‘Youngest Gary' is a buzzing, darkly comic weirdo anthem, drawn from the same musical well that Serge pulled ‘Vlad the Impaler'.
"It was obviously a nonsense story, but if it's not a love song, and I don't write many of those, then comedy is the thread," Serge says. "There's always an element of dark comedy, or a twist that makes me laugh. To call a song 'Vlad the Impaler' to me is funny. When I read that people take it seriously, then that's even funnier to me, but if you delve in you start to see these sort of Andy Kaufman-esque moves that we made."
The pop-culture element is crucial. When Serge filtered the plight of the Garys with his film fandom and some David Bowie glam, a narrative began to form.
"I love the film 'Children of Men' where the youngest person in the world is like 17, and there are no more babies being born," he explains, "and I liked the idea that Gary is 27, there's no more Garys, and he's this Ziggy Stardust sort of character who's just wandering about Camden. He's the youngest Gary, and he's trying to make it in a band."
Camden Town of the Damned can be bad enough without being the very last of your kind, but ‘Youngest Gary' doesn't stray too far into bleak territory. Serge is a benevolent god. Before all of this band malarkey, did he ever think about going into comedy writing?
"Oh, god, no!" He laughs, horrified. "No, fucking never."
There is, at the very least, a filmic element to The S.L.P. though. The album is framed by three tracks named in the style of TV or comic book title cards - ‘Meanwhile… in Geneva', ‘Meanwhile… at the Welcome Break', and ‘Meanwhile… in the Silent Nowhere'. Serge had originally written them for a film that was in development but which never came to fruition, and dug them out again when Kasabian decided to take their first ever summer off.
"I thought, it's sort of now or never really. I had this music that I just thought would stay on the hard drive for years if I didn't do something with," he says. "I had this kind of 'Meanwhile...' concept, this comic book thing of 'Meanwhile, in the Bat Cave...', 'Meanwhile in the lab...', and I thought that would be interesting. I felt like I could make that record."
Those three provided the impetus for the album as a whole, a series of James Bond-style cinematic theme tunes that set Serge off on a natural path to fill in the blanks around them.
"It was just pure experimentation, following the art and seeing where that would take me. Down the rabbit hole. Like, what's down here and what can I bring up back to the surface?" He laughs.
The ‘Meanwhile…' tracks tie the album together in a natural way, cycling in and out with a repeated orchestral refrain.
"I like the idea of this being an album, not an algorithm," he says. "The melody comes back, and as a listener, you close your eyes, and you're directing your own movie in your head. That's how I sort of see music, visually. So I wanted that melody to repeat, and give the sense that this is on a soundtrack from the early 70s and what film that would be. But everyone's got their own take on it, and I love that."
The drifting, dreamlike ‘Meanwhile… at the Welcome Break' also features Slowthai in one of the album's two heavy-hitting collaborations. Serge says it was important to him to have artists who he believes are ‘at the forefront' of the next wave of British music. ‘... the Welcome Break' is, Serge says, "a kind of Scott Walker, Morricone, huge cinematic piece. But then having [Slowthai] is like psychedelic poetry, there's a real twist."
The other big collaboration on ‘The S.L.P.' comes on lead single ‘Favourites', perhaps the most traditionally Kasabian-esque track on the album and which alternates between the perspectives of both parties in a failed relationship. It features a - to put it mildly - absolutely cracking sharp-tongued verse from Little Simz. She and Slowthai were, Serge says, "the number one choices" for the album. The very top-tier.
"I was so lucky to get both number ones, you know?" he says. "It could only have been them as well, by hook or by crook I'd have made it happen. Because I just think that they're the hope for the future."
For Serge, managing to swing his two dream feature artists on his first solo album opened up a world of possibility. Having originally planned for the record to have a more Jazz-directed sound, he found that bringing MCs onboard pushed ‘The S.L.P.' as both an album and a project to another level.
"I think now this world exists I can [continue building collaborations]. That's really exciting for me. I just needed to make it happen, I needed to start it somewhere," he says.
Speaking of the future, if all of this was meant to be Serge's downtime, a summer off from working with Kasabian before they kicked back into gear, then where does that leave him? Thankfully, becoming The S.L.P. has cleared his head just as well as a month on the beach - if not more so.
"Having stepped away from the band I can now see it so clearly, I now can hear what the next chapter is," Serge explains. "Whereas before, I had no idea and I needed to do something else to figure that out. But I now know, I can place pieces of music where they belong. I think that's amazing to have that."
Even now that he's got it all figured out, it doesn't sound like he's about to take that time off. After all, with the album done and dusted there's the small matter of the live show to consider.
"It's this need to create. And then at the end of it, you've got to answer for it," he laughs. "When I'm with the band there's a gang, you know, but now it's just me going 'yeah I've got an idea for the live show... I've got no idea if it's gonna work, but I've definitely got an idea'."
The heart of it, it seems, is trying to make people feel that sense of wonder that guides so much of the record.
"I think I just want people to come and see the show and kind of feel like 'I wasn't expecting this to happen'," he says. "Like the record, there'll be twists and turns, and there'll be an edge to it. I want people to feel on edge but in a really exciting way, like 'what is going to happen next?'"
It's about community, he says.
"When we started all those years ago, we just wanted to connect with as many people [as possible]. Everyone is welcome, and everyone can hear each other's stories and figure out how we're going to move forward.
Taken from the September issue of Dork. The S.L.P.'s self-titled debut album is out 30th August.
Featuring Muna, The Murder Capital, Shura, Ezra Furman, Spector and loads more.