Tag Archives: england

Feature interview: Sleaford Mods’ Deep Discontent

Sleaford Mods Paul McBride interview 2020

At first glance, Sleaford Mods might seem easy to pigeonhole, but scratch just below the surface and there’s a seething mass of contradictions and complexities ripe for discovery.

The English duo of vocalist Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearn has been aggressively yet cleverly ripping apart the ruling classes, societal norms and austerity-era politics across 13 years and 11 albums, but not everything is as simple as it seems, Williamson says.

“I’m wary of the fact that I don’t have to struggle any more, so sometimes I feel that I’m not the person to ask about frontline politics,” he says. “I personally don’t want to repeat myself on each album by saying how shit everything is, do you know what I mean? At the same time, I want to talk about how shit it is, but you can’t just talk about things in a clichéd manner, because that’s just fucking rude. These things are serious; they affect people. You have to talk about things like that in ways that people will feel. I’m not talking about some fucking bolshy, middle-class audience that just wants to hear you say ‘fuck whoever’, but real fucking connection with misery. It’s a bit of a tightrope; you’ve really got to think about it.”

Embittered rants about unemployment, working life, human rights, pop culture and capitalism layered over punk/hip hop sounds are the duo’s bread and butter. Williamson is hyper-aware of the power of words and forthright about his process of getting his lyrics to the right place.

“I just make sure I’m checking myself because it’s easy to fall down the cliché trap,” he says. “It’s easy to be lazy. If you’re talking about a situation you’ve experienced or a feeling or somebody you don’t like, it’s important to dress that with something that is as potent as how you feel about that subject. [Writing is] cathartic to a certain degree, but I can be a very resentful person, a very bitter person, or full of self-doubt. I’m never fucking happy really [laughs]. You could see me as a successful singer in a successful band, but I’m never content about it. I feel good about myself a lot of the time, but, at the same time, I get pissed off and take things personally when things don’t change. It’s swings and roundabouts, innit?”

Williamson, who has been teetotal for over three years, and Fearn are making their first visit to Australia to play WOMADelaide and a run of shows starting 29 February in Wollongong.

“It was always something we wanted to do but just weren’t in a position before,” Williamson says. “I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, but, in the past, we would have been literally paying to come over and we’d have no money to take back. We were a grassroots band and we came up together. We were doing it on our own and didn’t really connect with the proper industry until later. It feels like the time spent in Australia will be put to good use, although I can’t fucking be doing with wankers on drugs in my face, talking shit [laughs].”

Wankers aside, Williamson is keen to connect with audiences here, and isn’t worried about his often bleak, UK-centric subject matter resonating with fans in the southern hemisphere.

“People get the gist, do you know what I mean?,” he says. “The music speaks for itself. It’s kind of a universal feeling you get from listening to it. Yeah, the lyrics are a bit alienating, I guess, but, generally speaking, it’s a sound that’s familiar with people. It carries a lot of aspects of sounds that have gone before, but it’s also got a modern, new approach to it as well. Nobody really sounds or operates like us. We’re kind of on our own.”

For Mixdown Magazine

Record review: Wolf Alice – Creature Songs (2014, EP)

wolf alice creature songs

Questions young bands have to ask themselves number 1186: do we save up all our good songs for a debut album, risking losing momentum and fans, or strike when the iron is hot, put out an EP and potentially lessen the quality of said long-player? English indie-rock quartet Wolf Alice are a band leaning heavily towards the latter approach, this being their second EP of top quality indie-rock in the space of less than twelve months. As their moniker suggests, Wolf Alice’s music is half rough and half gentle, with elements of grunge, rock and shoegaze at the pointy end and subtle indie at the other. This four track effort starts off strongly with the colossal ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’; a mesh of heavily fuzzed guitars and big vocals, before kicking it up another gear with ‘Storms’, a song which isn’t unlike something fellow English rockers Band of Skulls might write. In frontwoman Ellie Rowsell, indie-rock kids might have a new Goddess to worship; her commitment and command of every song being particularly impressive. Third track ‘Heavenly Creatures’ comes as a surprise after two alt-rock numbers; Rowsell’s whispered vocals and ringing harmonies over a simple guitar and bass line provide a cosy cushion for your ears to sink into, and closer ‘We’re Not The Same’ begins in misery before exploding with angst and feedback. It remains to be seen whether Wolf Alice can move past being labelled a ‘hype’ band to something more substantial, but if they keep tunes of this standard coming, the world of rock is theirs for the taking. (Dirty Hit)

Record review: Eagulls – Eagulls (2014, LP)

eagulls album cover

Holy Ian Curtis: this ain’t no sunny pop record. English post-punk up-and-comers Eagulls have already gained a metaphoric mountain of music press attention since their 2009 formation; a situation that can be potentially favourable or fatal to a band yet to release their debut album. Thankfully the quintet seems to have dealt with the pressure of expectation well, as this self-titled ten-track collection is a solid and confident effort. All angry, bleak disillusionment and despair carried off with stark vocal arrangements, chugging bass-lines and apocalyptic guitars, this is an absorbing album that grabs you by the lapels and doesn’t let you go until it’s battered your eardrums to within an inch of their life and left your spirit just a little bit crushed. The blistering ‘Yellow Eyes’ and ‘Amber Veins’ are highlights, as is closer ‘Soulless Youth’, which could explain the basis of most of the lyrical content throughout. Singer George Mitchell rants and caterwauls with the best of them as his band recalls the sounds of Savages, Joy Division and Iceage, and it’s all topped off with flawless production. While there’s not much variety and the album is a little exhausting to listen to from start to finish, this is an important and promising addition to the post-punk genre. (Popfrenzy)

Record review: Band of Skulls – Himalayan (2014, LP)

Band of Skulls Himalayan

The argument over whether rock ‘n’ roll is or isn’t dead or dying is one that is regurgitated every couple of years, but thankfully groups like Band of Skulls prove it isn’t at all necessary to be desperately searching for the next saviour of the form. The English trio has been making straight-up rock with garage and blues hints since 2008, and shown a pleasing progression over the course of their three albums; from the fresh but scattered Baby Darling Doll Face Honey to the the harder, more polished Sweet Sour and now this third effort, which is also the first to be produced by Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds). Radio-friendly singles ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ and ‘Nightmares’ stay rooted in familiar territory, while others tiptoe down unfamiliar alleyways, like the rockabilly-tinged ‘I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead And One Dying’, darkly Gothic ‘Toreador’ and lighters-in-the-air anthem ‘You Are All That I Am Not’. Bassist Emma Richardson’s vocals on ‘Cold Sweat’ are grand and graceful enough to make the song come off like a Bond film theme, and she ultimately steals the show over the course of twelve songs. While there’s no stand-out killer of a track, it’s satisfying to know there are still bands like Band of Skulls making rock music and winning fans the old-fashioned way; by putting in the hard yards on tour and getting a little bit better with each release.