I spoke to Charles Watson, half of Sheffield duo Slow Club, ahead of the band’s October tour for Epigram.
Slow Club are a difficult band to define. Labelled by some as ‘twee’, ‘rockabilly’ and ‘shout-folk’, they have also been compared to other famous duos such as The White Stripes, Summer Camp and, most bizarrely, Same Difference. It was a conscious decision, then, to go in a different direction for their second album, Paradise. ‘We didn’t want to do the same record twice’, says Charles Watson, one half of the Sheffield duo, who are about to embark on a rescheduled UK tour. ‘We’ve seen so many of our favourite bands do that. I suppose we’ve been lucky in the sense that we’ve never been ‘hyped’ in any way, so it’s not like we’re in anyone’s pockets. I think that can happen if you’re plugged by a magazine or something, like NME, I think a lot of people feel obliged to make indie-rock for that reason’. To avoid being pigeonholed as ‘twee’ for another album, the band worked with producer Luke Smith, former guitarist of electro-punk band Clor, to create music that people could dance to. ‘We spent a lot of time on drums, and making sure that the groove was really fun before we put anything else on it,’ Watson tells me, ‘[Smith]’s just got an amazing sense of rhythm and his history is in dance music so he’s very orientated around the beat, but in a really weird shambolic way, where it’s not regimented or Kraftwerk or anything. He’s just got this really strong understanding of how it relates to how you feel. Totally natural.’
I speak to Watson as he nurses his lacerated thumb days after a freak salsa accident, so he is eager to get out on the road and out of the kitchen. ‘We’ve spent so much time in London compared to the year before when we were hardly here, so we just want to get out and travel.’ Watching Slow Club live, they have certainly achieved their aim of making people want to move. Their jangly, punky guitars on songs such as ‘Where I’m Waking’ have an integral infectious rhythm, while Watson and bandmate Rebecca Taylor’s wailing vocals make audience members want to go home and start a band with their best friend.
Building on the two part harmonies that characterised their debut album Yeah, So?, Watson and Taylor recruited Steve Black and Avvon Chambers of their support act, Sweet Baboo, to join them on stage to bring a fuller sound to their live shows. While it could be said that it is the simplicity of a two-part band that define who they are, the pair have always been on the look out for more members. ‘It just got to the point where we were writing songs together, playing them live and it worked really well and we were like, “fuck it”. Watson believes that the first two years on the road were extremely formative, cementing the pair as a band, and if they had had more members at that time, he doubts the band would still be together. ‘It’s so nice to think that now we have four people in the band, there are so many more things we can do that we’ve always wanted to do, like vocal harmonies.’ However the addition of Black and Chambers won’t change the Slow Club writing process, ‘if we ever get more members it will still just be me and Becky writing, so everyone who plays live will probably just be there for the shows, while we’ll still do everything in the studio.’
Watson and Taylor are both very hands on in all aspects of the band. When I speak to Watson, he is in the middle of designing another T-shirt to sell on tour. ‘I find [art] an escape from music, it just numbs your brain a bit. I’ve got a projector and I like projecting stuff and colouring. I find it quite therapeutic, just colouring in really – crayons and that.’ Taylor and Watson also run their own blogs on the band’s website, Taylor’s featuring a ‘woof of the week’, profiling a new hot man every seven days, while Watson uses his blog to show off some of his ‘colouring in.’
Despite the energetic style of Slow Club’s music, the band are unashamedly un-rock ‘n’ roll. ‘We did Secret Garden Party this summer and it was really druggy, everyone was off their faces on K and stuff. I was driving, so I wasn’t drinking, and then we found out that Amy Winehouse had died – there was a really strange atmosphere there.’ Watson also finds it hard to relax after a gig, ‘it’s like going on a night out with your laptop, and getting really pissed and just leaving it on the side. I fucking hate it. My total worst fear on tour is someone nicking all the gear.’ It’s not just equipment that Slow Club worry about being stolen; just days before the release of Paradise, the album was leaked on the internet, with links circulated through Twitter. ‘I had to try really hard not to send some really horrible abusive messages on Twitter to that guy,’ admits Watson. ‘It’s just a shame that that’s part of releasing albums now, you have to anticipate losing a certain percentage of people to illegal downloading.’ Watson’s no stranger to illegal downloading, admitting that he briefly pirated music as a teenager, ‘but I wasn’t making music for a living then. It’s not until you’re relying on people buying records when it’s like ‘shit’. I realised quite quickly that people’s livelihoods are at stake, but it’s good to support the people that you love, the music, otherwise they probably won’t make another record’.
You can read the rest of Epigram issue 240 here.