It very much felt as if Slow Club came of age on their third full-length, ‘Complete Surrender’. On release two years ago, its finely-balanced mixture of big, bombastic pop stompers and straight-to-the-bone balladry showed they were well on their way to mastering both sides of the songwriting coin. When they took it out on the road - exhaustively, as ever - they cemented the impression that the acoustic folk duo of old had been replaced by a bolshy pop outfit, taking a full band with them and eschewing their older material.
Earlier this year, though, came the first indications that change was afoot; the Sheffielders went on a tour of some of England’s lesser-visited towns, but just the two of them, playing a slew of new material that reports suggested were a significant departure from ‘Complete Surrender’s pop sheen. They decamped in February to Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, Virginia to cut the new tracks in eight days flat and, sure enough, the resulting record - ‘One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More’ - is a long way from being ’Complete Surrender’, part two.
This is a woozy comedown of a record, mellower and more introspective than anything Slow Club have done before; with a title that, depending on perspective, either suits the subdued atmosphere that these songs are imbued with, or rails against it. “I actually think it’s pretty upbeat!” says the band’s Rebecca Taylor. “It’s something I get comfort from; whether I’m feeling very high or very low, it makes me feel better to know that ultimately, it doesn’t really matter - as long as you live well, be kind and get on with things.”
“We wanted to try to make a sleepy record. That’s been an ambition of ours for years.”
Part of what drove Taylor and bandmate Charles Watson to cross the pond to record with White were difficulties with the writing process. “We’re usually a bit further along in terms of vision than we were this time,” says Taylor. There was no specific aim for the record from the get go, beyond the idea that it should be a little bit of a slow burner. “We’re both big fans of the sort of records you put on before you go to bed,” explains Watson, “and we’ve got very personal attachments to certain albums like that. I’m not the biggest Nick Cave fan in the world, but we both really love ‘The Boatman’s Call’ - that’s the kind of record I’m talking about. You get a sense of the man when it’s him at a piano, not doing a load of leg gestures on stage. Obviously, that meant the songs we were writing were never going to be a load of bangers.”
“There are pop songs on it, though!” laughs Taylor. “Apparently, we still have to do that. So annoying! So I still don’t feel like we’ve made that sleepy album Charles is talking about. But those influences - ‘The Bowman’s Call,’ or stuff like Perfume Genius, just really beautiful honest songwriting - those are the things we can still agree on, even though our tastes are diverging more and more pretty much by the year.”
It’s true, too, that those pop sensibilities of old have found their way onto ‘One Day…’; the bolshy soul of ‘Give Me Some Peace’ is a case in point, as is ‘Rebecca Casanova’, where the guitars are imbued with a cautious chirpiness. On either end of the spectrum, the band’s most potent weapon - the spine that’s always run through their songs - is their sharp ear for harmonies, which they’ve employed in subtler fashion than ever this time round.
“We were going through the usual rollercoaster of emotions in a much shorter period of time.”
Key to that progression was having White sitting behind the desk, as well as his own band on hand to help record; there’s a warmth and richness to the sound of ‘One Day …’that was missing in the sheen of ‘Complete Surrender’. “We’d listened to [Matthew E. White’s] first record quite a bit,” explains Watson, “and quite a few people had mentioned he’d be a good fit for us. He’s a very nice dude, very easy going. That said, the actual process was intense, because we were going through the usual rollercoaster of emotions in a much shorter period of time, and we were working with other musicians who don’t have the same shorthand that we have between the two of us. That was a weird situation to be in, but it really worked.”
“Charles kept jokingly calling the record ‘Ten Songs, Two Years Later,’” recalls Taylor. “That’s actually a pretty great description. I think a few years ago, we would’ve been a bit more spiritual about it, but this time it was just a case of getting it in the diary and getting it done when we needed to, even if I didn’t feel incredibly ready to make an album. It’s our eleventh year of being in a band, and we’re both in different places in our lives. We wanted things to be easier and less stressful than last time, and we managed to make it that way. That made it feel like a growing-up album.”
It’s a record, too, that has them looking forwards at a crucial juncture in their career. “I still want to be a Hollywood movie star,” deadpans Taylor. “What you don’t see is that I’m constantly trying to do that, too. It’s just good to have an outlet where, if you have an idea, you can realise it, and hopefully people will like it. When we started the band, I remember going to see Tilly and the Wall in a couple of cities, because I really loved them, and thinking “I’d love that, to sell places like this out and have people singing our songs back at us.” And we can do that, we have been doing that, and it’s totally fine to keep on doing it. We’re simple souls really; we just like sleeping and eating. That’s an alright way to live.”
‘One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More’ is out via Moshi Moshi on August 19th.
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