Interview The Subways: ‘We Still Think Of Ourselves As Three Geeky Kids From Hertfordshire’

Joanie Eaton catches up with the band to discuss the new record, touring and… The Belgians’ lack of rhythm.

Hoorah, The Subways are back. After the success of their 2008 album, ‘All Or Nothing’, the pop-punk trio are back from a lengthy European festival tour accompanied by the release of their third album, ‘Money and Celebrity’. Joanie Eaton caught up with them to discuss the new record, touring and… The Belgians’ lack of rhythm.

So you guys have just come back from touring, haven’t you? I bet you’re knackered.

Billy: Yep, we’ve just done a sort of European festival tour. A little bit! But it’s good to get the blood pumping again- we’ve been stuck in recording and rehearsal studios for the last year and a bit, so you know being on tour is what we find natural.

How was it all?

B: Yeah, it was brilliant. Really amazing. The new songs went down brilliantly, which is so good to see, after working on something for so long to see the audience really enjoying the new material is great.

How long did the album actually take?

B: Well, we were in a rehearsal studio all of last year pretty much, writing and demoing the album. And we started recording in…January?
Charlotte: Yeah, the recording process itself was pretty quick. I think because we worked so long and hard on the songs we were all really prepared and ready to go. We were in the hands of a really amazing producer.

Speaking of your producer - Stephen Street worked with you for the new record, ‘Money and Celebrity’. He’s worked with some great British bands like The Smiths, Blur, Kaiser Chiefs and you’re carrying on that trait. Was there any particular reason why choose to work with him?
B: About half way through the demoing process I turned to these guys [Charlotte and Josh] and said “Stephen Street would be so good for this record, wouldn’t he?” And once we finished all the tracks, we chucked about 50 away and ended up with 12. We put the 12 demos on CD, gave it to our manager and said “Right, the first person we want you to give this to is Stephen Street.” And then a week later I got a phone call [impersonates fake phone] from Stephen Street saying “Heard the CD. Fantastic! Let’s talk about making this record!” It was just a great feeling.

You’re fresh from touring in Europe - how does a European show compare to a gig in the UK?
B: It’s pretty similar. But obviously when a European crowd sing the lyrics, there’s a hint of an accent in there, which is just the cutest thing. The Belgians can’t clap in time…they have a severe beat/pulse issue (Charlotte and Josh laughing). But everything else they do is exceptional! Apart from that there’s not much difference. They’re all special.

So, obviously festivals are really important to you guys- you got your big break in 2004 by winning a competition to play at Glastonbury and you have a cult following at the Reading/Leeds festivals. But this year in particular, festivals have been under a hell of a lot of scrutiny with tickets either not selling out or selling out slower than usual. Do you think that this could be an ongoing issue?
B: To be honest with you, I think festivals have become more popular; there are so many festivals for everybody to go to now. People are always going to go to festivals, I don’t see there being any real decline it’s just there are more options for people to choose from now. You’ve got specific festivals catering for every kind of music taste…
Josh: I think in this financial climate, people go to their local festivals. There are some big bands headlining local festivals now.

I was actually watching the Reading festival highlights and there was a guy holding up a banner that said “BRING BACK THE SUBWAYS”. I thought that was brilliant.

C: We saw that! He’s awesome, we love him! We’ve been in contact with the guy on Twitter; we’re going to send him a t-shirt.
B: Yeah, apparently he ripped off the top of a Papa John’s pizza box and wrote it!
C: What a dude, he’s so cool.

So, with that in mind do you have any UK festival plans for next year?

B: Yep, definitely.

You’ve got a big UK tour coming up very soon. Looking forward to doing some home gigs?

C: Oh, we can’t wait. The tour we just played took 10 weeks and we went across all of these different European countries, which has been amazing. But like you say, it’s brilliant to get back to the UK and just to play home gigs will be just absolutely amazing. We can’t wait.

So, you’ve got the new album out on September 19th. What made you decide on the title, ‘Money and Celebrity’?

B: Well, money and celebrities are probably the two biggest issues that I wanted to deal with on the record. Our manager phoned me up and said “Right, think of a great, snappy title for the new album” and I was like (sarcastic tone) “Yeah, that’s easy…” I spent the writing process in my flat, just sitting down and watching TV- BBC news and reality TV shows. This is definitely our most British sounding record, which is partly to do with Stephen’s production but also, I wrote the album in my flat just sort of absorbing British culture. So I just said ‘”Money…and Celebrity?” And he said “Perfect! That’s great. We’ll keep it!” We’ve got the tracks ‘Money’ and ‘Celebrity’ on the record- a song called ‘We don’t need money to have a good time’, so yeah. I like naming the album after a track which was the case with ‘Young for Eternity’ and ‘All or Nothing’ as well. It just felt like an OK title, I guess.

The record was funded by Pledge Music- Tell me a bit about that.

B: Whilst we were writing the album and getting ready to record it, we weren’t actually signed to a record label. There were no record labels in a position to sign us and we weren’t in a position to be signed. We just wanted to make the album. So, we found this fantastic new way of funding albums called Pledge Music. Basically, fans can pledge for all sorts of things and as soon as you pledge you get a free record. We had things like playing acoustic sets in front rooms! We went over to Belgium, er where else did we go?
C: Austria. We’re going to Hamburg pretty soon. Hull, Cambridge…
B: So, yeah it’s really good. We got a chance to hang out with the fans- they’d invite their friends and family over for the acoustic set and we’d all have a bite to eat and drink. It was just the best thing. And also, it’s a great way to stimulate interest in the record. The fans were involved immediately and knew about the record from the first day we were in the studio.

Were there any particular artists or bands that influenced you during this record? Were you listening to any new bands during the recording process?

B: The Wombats really influenced me for this record. I love that song, ‘Tokyo’. The Kinks, Blur, Nirvana, Kylie Minogue…
C: Well, it’s not really that new but I really love the Florence & the Machine album, I was listening to that a lot when we were making the new record. The Computers as well- they’re a really cool British punk band.
B: Future of the Left- a really great Welsh rock band. They’re amazing. I actually think they’re the best rock band on the planet.

That’s quite a statement.

B: It is! (laughs) I say that quite a lot though!

The first track on the new album, ‘It’s A Party’ is a really stimulating, energetic track that’s quite typical and recognisable of you guys. Do you think that sets the tone of the entire album?

B: Yeah, I think so. We like to start an album like a punch in the face, I guess. For me, ‘It’s a party’ was always going to start the record. It was written half way through writing the album when I just had my acoustic guitar in my flat, watching TV in my underpants just thinking “I WANT TO BE OUT ON TOUR!” So I just ended up writing this song about wanting to get out of bed, going on tour and creating this party which I think is what we try to do on stage.
C: It’s always good to start with a big track.

Your last album ‘All or Nothing’ was really successful - reaching no. 17 in the UK album charts. Do you feel like there’s been a lot of pressure to do as well with this record?

B: I think the main thing for us is just to write a great record. I know so many bands say that but it’s so true! To be honest with you, chart stuff is a bonus for us- we were so shocked that ‘All or Nothing’ got to no.17. We don’t expect this record to be the same! We still think of ourselves as these three geeky kids from Hertfordshire. Just the fact that people are interested in the album and people want to interview us (points to me) is amazing. So, absolutely no pressure apart from the fact that we want to make music that makes people want to party!

How lovely. You guys have just finished your third album and you’re still only in your early twenties- where do you see the band headed in the future?

B: Hopefully still playing!
J: Definitely still playing.
C: Yeah, I mean it’s been six years since the release of ‘Young for Eternity’, we’d been together for quite a few years before that and we still love playing just as much as we did then. I don’t see it ending anytime soon!

The Subways’ new album ‘Money & Celebrity’ will be released on 19th September via Cooking Vinyl.

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