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3rd February 2015

Interview: Slaves

Elizabeth Rushton talks to Slaves about the mainstream, the NME tour and the rise of bedroom producers

Picture the scene: it’s 2015, and it doesn’t take any degree of expertise to take a look at the charts and come to a few basic, depressing conclusions. It’s dominated by pop and dance entries, with a few artists (namely Sheeran and Swift) cropping up several times, and is scant in records that actually have something to say about, well, anything. All this at a time of political upheaval around the world and indeed within the UK, with what looks to be a closely fought general election rapidly approaching, and class war being waged across all strata of British life – this interview takes place the same week that James Blunt and Labour MP Chris Bryant have been exchanging a war of words
over the matter of privilege and success in the music industry.

Times like these just make you all the more thankful when a band like Slaves comes along. A duo comprised of drummer-vocalist Isaac Holman and guitarist-vocalist Laurie Vincent, over the past year they’ve taken new ownership of an abrasive, grungy punk, reminiscent of Nirvana, but you only need to listen to tracks like ‘Girl Fight’ to hear the sense of fun they also bring to their music.

I find Laurie having just wrapped work on their debut album. “We finished it yesterday; we decided the track listing and we finished mixing it. It’s getting mastered today and we’re finishing the artwork, so it’s going to be ready for pre order quite soon.” It’s even got a name – but they’re not allowed to announce anything just yet. The sound from their EP ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ has been bulked out with the help of producer Jolyon Thomas, who Laurie says “really made us step outside our comfort zone. We didn’t just stick to playing the same instruments; there are some songs where I play bass, and there are some songs where we use guitars plugged through synths, and drum machines. I think the biggest influence on us was just trying everything out.”

The last few months have seen the rise and rise of Slaves – they performed their song ‘Hey’ on Jools Holland, their upcoming album is one of NME’S 50 Records You Need to Hear This Year, and they were included in the BBC Sound of 2015 shortlist. It would be easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment; however Laurie views the whole thing with a healthy degree of scepticism. “I think it’s quite crazy that we’re in the mainstream. Radio 1 is such a fickle thing, so for us to be on the radio, I just feel like the planets are aligned, and maybe if we did this five years ago it wouldn’t have happened, because as far as I’m concerned, if we’re on the radio so should The Cribs, and all the bands like that. So I don’t know, it’s the powers that be that want to bring it back and have endorsed us, so we’re just really lucky.” Nevertheless, he’s keen to emphasise what being nominated meant to the band. “It was a real motivational, inspirational step for us. Because of this there’ll be more people at our gigs who never would have been there before, and you can’t turn your nose at something like that, it’s just something that’s good for us.”

In terms of Slaves’ aims for their music, Laurie wants to shake the youth of today out of their cyber-induced stupor. “There’s not many people creating compared to what there used to be, with the whole mobile phone generation. I just hope that we might inspire people to maybe do something different. I think it’s good that music is accessing everyone but I would love to see a band come out and then sort of just take it back and give it some mystery again.” Maybe everyone just needs to take a nostalgia trip back to the heady days of Britpop. “I do think that in the 90s you had Oasis and Blur, and Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine, all these bands that were saying something. Even Oasis, it was like lad rock but it was inspiring the working classes, inspiring everyone just to unite and enjoy themselves, whereas now I don’t feel that we’ve got that.” So perhaps in 2015 we need more Liam Gallagher figures and fewer bedroom producers as our rock’n’roll stars: “I love what house music has done where it came back with Disclosure,” Laurie laughs, “but we’ve just got a load of sixteen year olds chewing their faces off in fields, it’s not exactly something you’ll want to tell your kids about!”

So what’s next for Slaves? After a sold out homecoming show in Tunbridge Wells in February they’ll be off on the NME Awards tour, where they feature on the bill alongside Palma Violets, The Amazing Snakehead and Fat White Family. Not that they’re fazed by the presence of bands whose live performances have all been hyped to high heaven by the music press at one point or another; “That’s the best bit about going on tour with good bands, it makes you think more about what you’re doing.”, Laurie remarks. Beyond that, the band have plenty of goals for the future. “I love the idea of trying to get into the charts, maybe one day play the main stage at a festival. I don’t want to just be the band that says, “Oh, we want to play dingy clubs forever”, because I don’t think that’s true for anyone. You want to take your music to as many people as possible.” With a canon of hard hitting songs, and a savvy approach to the situation of the music industry in 2015, hopefully Slaves will be able to achieve this sooner than they think.

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