The Mancunion

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Interview: The Subways

Ben Sutton quizzes the rock ‘n’ roll masters about their new album


It’s almost been 10 years since the release of The Subway’s first album Young For Eternity but a decade further on the band still seems to have the same youthful exuberance and energy that made them so appealing in the first place. The band have come a long way since winning Glastonbury’s unsigned bands competition and making their breakthrough but they have kept their signature sound that made them popular in the first place. Their self-titled fourth effort has been released with some classic rock riffs mixed in with poppy choruses which has given the album a certain kick. And although it has a hard hitting rock sound, the pop influences can be heard: “Songs like ‘Black Letter’ and ‘Twisted Game’—I think they really play with phrasing. We love pop songs and we’re always trying to sneak in a poppy melody here and there in each of our songs but I think, as we were in total control on this album, we allowed the frantic and the crazy to come through,” says Billy.

The album was self-produced which is always a bold step, but it seems to have paid off for the band. “I think we really just wanted to make an album in a situation where we felt comfortable and completely in control. After making three albums with three amazing producers we learned a lot and decided that we wanted to take the reins. It does mean that the album has a rawer quality to it and I think that reflects who we are when we’re onstage,” reflects Billy. The album does seek to reflect on their experiences and ultimately it’s who they are: “The album has a sense of ‘we’re doing this on our own, this is us 100 per cent, loud and proud’ about it. There’s a song called ‘We Get Around’ that talks about how alienated we feel in the music industry, about how we feel separated from all the cliques and fads—I guess that’s an overriding message.”

The album certainly reflects their stage presence. You won’t witness a Subways show that doesn’t feature front man Billy and bassist Charlotte jumping around like lunatics with a real sense of joy in what they’re doing. “Whenever we write our songs in the rehearsal studio, we’re always imagining how they will sound live onstage. We really wanted to get that live feel represented on the album, so hopefully that’ll translate to the stage—it seems to be working so far!”

It’s easy to see how their songs can be converted so well to a stage show since it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to want to bang your head and sing along with songs like ‘I’m In Love And It’s Burning Through My Soul’ and the up-beat ‘Good Times’.

Despite the up-beat tempo and melodies, there is still emotion coming through probably most noticeably in ‘Taking All The Blame’. It’s a song about Billy and Charlotte’s old relationship in which the contrast between Billy’s rough voice and Charlotte’s more lullaby-like vocals makes for a wonderful, pain-riddled pop song. Having the contrast between male and female vocals used sparingly but very effectively is one of the many things that give The Subways uniqueness. “Considering the fact that most bands consist of four or five guys, all clad in leather jackets with slick hairstyles, we are different from the norm. I bet you can name ten bands straight away that consist of all men. There is a horrible overarching patriarchy in the music industry, particularly in rock—sometimes we play festivals and Charlotte is the only female to appear on the stage all weekend—and I think we offer a voice for females, which all-male bands don’t. I really hope girls are seeing Charlotte rock out onstage so that they go home and ask their parents for a musical instrument for their next birthday present. Not enough is made of the fact that rock is dominated by men, who also tend to write songs about lording it over women. Charlotte and I like to play on that with our vocal-sharing.”

With now four albums to their name and an array of big songs, The Subways are about to tour the UK and they will bring their roaring sound to Manchester Academy 3 on the 24th of March.