Interviews anglais

SLAVES (14/09/18)

Version française

Slaves, Royal Blood’s angry and tattooed cousins, have been shaking England since the release of their first EP, “Sugar Coated Bitter Truth”, in 2012. For 6 years, the boisterous duo has been so loud playing his thunderous tracks that it ended up getting a surprising mainstream success in the UK, and echoing to our shores. For the release of their third album, “Acts Of Fear And Love”, the bass/guitar half of the band, Laurie Vincent, told us about the evolution of the band, its desire to go back to the roots and about being the most mainstream underground band of today.

Congratulations on the new album! “Acts Of Fear And Love” is a very rich and diverse album, but at the same time, it feels very coherent and maybe more focused than your previous ones. Do you feel like you’ve found the right balance between trying new things and staying true to your identity?

Laurie Vincent (bass): Yeah, I agree with you. We’re sort of having different sounds, but also having one single message running throughout the album. I feel like the whole process was more focused. We knew what we wanted to achieve and had a goal in mind, so I think that you can hear that.

On your previous record, you explored different directions, it was 16 songs-long, you worked with Mike D from the Beastie Boys. For this one, you came back with Jolyon Thomas, who produced your first album, there’s almost no guest or featuring, it’s also really short. Did you want to come back to the roots, the essence of the band?

Laurie: Yeah, exactly. We just wanted it to be simple. Exactly, you just summed it up! (laughs)

You released your second album really quickly after the first one. You took a bit more time with this one. What was your state of mind during the recording of “Acts Of Fear And Love”?

Laurie: I feel it was good. We were in a residential studio and we were staying there. We did it over the course of a month rather than two weeks like the rest of the records. So it was a lot more relaxed and we could go in much more depth for the songs. Our state of mind was pretty good, it was hard work though. By the end of it, we were both pretty drained.

“Cut And Run” was the first song that you released. It’s probably your lightest and catchiest song to date, so some of your fans freaked out a bit when you released it. Was that what you wanted?

Laurie: Yeah, we wanted to shock people when we came back and also maybe challenge them. When you come back, it’s an opportunity to gain new fans as well and we knew that we had songs on the record that the old, the original fans would like. That’s why “The Lives They Wish They Had” is track 1, because we wanted to show people as soon as they put on the album not to worry! (laughs) The reactions from our fans has been incredible. Nearly everyone is saying it’s their favourite album by us, which is quite surreal, so it’s been good.

There are big choruses, the whole sound of the album is bigger, maybe more ambitious, almost anthemic. Was that something that you aimed for or did it come naturally?

Laurie: I think it’s a bit of both. We had written the angry, heavy songs so much that when we started writing new ones, it didn’t feel natural to keep doing it. So it was a natural progression, just to see what else we could do. And also maybe the music we were listening to at the time. We both really enjoy big singalong songs and it was something that we don’t have as much of in our live set. It was intentional, but it wasn’t the only focus, it just ended up happening like that. We spent a lot more time thinking about the vocal delivery.

What were you listening to during the recording?

Laurie: I was really obsessed with the Breeders. I was listening to a lot of Oasis and things like that, more sort of anthemic maybe. But at the same time I was listening to hardcore punk, like The Casualties, Crass and I think that came out in the record too. There really is a real diverse mix of influences.

So you’re an Oasis guy? We would have taken you more for a Blur kind of person!

Laurie: I love both equally!

When we see you guys live, it’s hard to not be struck by how intense, loud and explosive, you are. Do you think about the live experience when you’re writing or recording songs?

Laurie: Now we do. We always have an idea of what would be fun to play live but we try to not limit ourselves because otherwise, you end up writing a similar sort of songs. But live, that’s where we thrive. It rhymes! (laughs) We do think about our live shows, it’s good to have these live songs, but that’s why we like having songs like “Photo Opportunity”, because they can add a diversity and a dynamic in our set. Good shows are about bringing your crowd up and down and having a journey.

Yeah, “Photo Opportunity” also stands out in the album. Can you tell us what inspired it, musically and lyrically?

Laurie: Musically, when I started playing the riff, it was just a really nice chord progression that’s in 3/4, so it’s like a waltz and it’s the only song of ours that’s in a different time signature. And then Isaac started singing the lyrics, which are kind of like quiet, self-reflective. It was one of the first songs that I think I heard him write about his own experience and it was quite personal. As soon as I heard him going down that direction, I thought it was really important that we sort of start showing that side to us rather than always looking outwards. It was one of those songs that happened, there wasn’t much discussion. It just formed really easily and quickly.

For the first time, you wrote personal songs and there are songs about social topics, but we feel this album is more about human behaviour, there’s probably less songs that are outright about politics, or about the system, than in your previous records. At a time when all the bands and artists are writing songs and albums about Brexit and Trump, did you want to take the opposite direction?

Laurie: If you write about these things… They are like a snapshot of time and you don’t want your music to become dated. I guess we wanted to make timeless music than can apply to everyone. There’s always going to be corrupt politicians and there is always going to be fucked-up shit happening, but by name-checking current people like Trump or May, it almost feels like you’re giving them credit that they don’t deserve in your songs. We wanted to get to the essence of human behaviour rather than what’s happening because every era has something fucked up going on, and we care about what’s going on. I don’t want to let it direct our creativity. It’s a very hard line though. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on, but don’t let it like change what you’re doing. And we’ve done political stuff in the past as well, it just feels like, you got to get back to the humans. Everyone’s confused at the moment and we’ve been trying to get that across.

So in a way, you choose a different perspective to talk about the current mood?

Laurie: Yeah, it’s also getting to a point where people feel like you can’t write music not about politics and that’s wrong. Music should just be whatever you want it to be. The thing I like about the new album is that there are politics in it if you choose to see it, you can interpret it. My favourite music is always open to interpretation. Songs like “Bugs” and “Cut And Run” are about politics but they’re not just telling you what you should think. We’re not preaching to you, we’re just making music.

One of the topics that you address on the album is the infinite hunt for social media validation, on “The Lives They Wish They Had”. We guess we can say Slaves’ message has always been to fight against apathy and indifference. Do you think there is a link between the social media addiction that we kind of all suffer from, and passivity?

Laurie: Yeah, I’m an example of it as well, sort of constantly checking my phone. It’s quite crippling as well, because everyone is just on their phone, it’s your go-to when there’s an awkward moment, you pull out your phone and it’s ruining, well it’s not ruining, but it’s changing social interactions. Social interactions are becoming less and less because we’re glued to our phones. So it’s like an observation about how we’re all acting, and it’s quite daunting. So the record is a lot about the progression of humanity almost. When you think about “Artificial Intelligence”, it sounds quite like a tongue-in-cheek song, but it’s something that’s actually happening, machines will take over. It’s quite a stoner album in that sense. We’re not stoners, but it’s got that quite hippie feel! (laughs) We’re doomed, man! (laughs)

Coming back to the obsession with fame, you also covered “Everybody Wants To Be Famous” by Superorganism a few days ago in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. Why did you choose that song?

Laurie: You get a very limited list, they were on it and we just love that band. They sort of came out of nowhere and that’s a really great example of pop music with a serious message that doesn’t sound too… it’s not preaching to you. I felt like we could really carry off that message too. The sentiment is true, with social media, everyone does want to be famous, including me. But then, do you actually really know what that means? It just felt right, it felt like we could pull it off.

We think you really did, it sounds just like a Slaves’ song.

Laurie: Perfect! (laughs)

Is there a specific lyric from the album that you particularly like?

Laurie: (think) I really like “Acts Of Fear And Love”. I always say my favourite lyric is, in the second verse of “Photo Opportunity” where Isaac says: “My pockets are full but the forecast is grey / What shall we do today?”, but the bit where Isaac in “Acts O Fear And Love” start singing like: “I was looking out the window /I was watching colours change / I was waving at the children / In passenger aeroplanes” and then it says: “It’s funny how you forget things / So important at the time / It’s funny how you forget things”, just that simple everyday observation is what I really get off on. I love just noticing everyday interactions or having a really good chat with the person that works in the local post office or corner shop. When I heard that, it just sort of made me smile. It’s just that simplicity of coffee in the morning, beautiful moments in life. When Isaac hits the nail on the head with that, that’s my favourite.

Your faces are on the artwork, there’s some pretty personal lyrics on the records, Isaac really sings on some songs, can we say that you try to show a more vulnerable side of Slaves, but also more self-confident?

Laurie: It felt like the time had come. We had never been on the cover and so some people might not know who we are. We were so proud of this body of work that it was time to be like: “this is us”. In a way, it feels like our first album again. It’s different, the second album went kind of over there, we ran down a bit in a rabbit hole and now we’re back and confident and happy, so it was time to just put a face to the name.

And take a new start?

Laurie: Yeah, and show that sensitive side to us because that’s sort of who we are. There’s a lot of sides to our band, whether it’s the funny videos or it’s the aggressive music, the intense live shows, there’s all these different things and maybe in that, you miss the sort of sensitivity of us as men, because we look quite the opposite of how we are maybe. We were just trying to capture every sides of us as humans, as efficiently as possible.

Are there any specific experiences that you haven’t written about yet, but would like to write about in the future?

Laurie: I would like to start writing more introverted songs, talking about my own identity and stuff, but that’s something that will come in the future. At the moment, I just let it happen, whatever we write about. I’ve got an idea about a phone salesman I want to write, but I can’t give away too much! (laughs)

You’re also an artist, a painter. Do you think there is a link between your music and your art or are they entirely different aspects of your personality?

Laurie: If you are a creative, that can come out in loads of different forms, whether it’s the clothes you wear, or the music you make, the words you write… For me, painting has been a way to be able to put my thoughts down. Words don’t allow you to portray human emotions accurately, words are limited. By painting, I think I can get across my ideas that I can’t say. Painting is very freeing because you’re just doing whatever you want, there’s no limitations. It’s my escape, my alter-ego.

Is there anything else that you do in your everyday life that feeds your creativity?

Laurie: I’m a dad so being with my son, spending time with my family definitely helps my creativity. It makes me see everything in a different light. Seeing things from the perspective of a toddler definitely opens your mind up and makes you appreciate different experiences in life. And, just living I guess!

Your son is on the artwork, he also was in some promotional videos for the band. Did becoming a dad changed you, as an artist?

Laurie: Seeing his reactions to my own music maybe gave me confidence. I made a decision, when I was going to have a child that I wasn’t going to change my life for him, I was just going to make him part of my life. And that’s been a really amazing journey, opening up my life to a child. Anyone you surround yourself with would influence you, especially me, I’m quite open, so now, he’s influencing me because I’m with him a lot! (laughs)

The artworks of your first two records have really bright colours. This one has a really different aesthetic, that matches the one that we see in your videos. How did you work on that?

Laurie: Like I said before about the different personalities of our band, we feel most confident about portraying the funny side throughout the videos, which people really love and we didn’t want to stop doing that. Because on the last album, we experimented with not doing funny videos and having more serious videos, and it didn’t work as well. It was part of owning our identity again. We left the comedy out the music more, whether in the previous record, with “Feed The Mantaray”, “Where’s Your Car Debbie” and “Fuck The Hi-Hat”, we had these silly songs, but I think that always unsettled us a little bit. Now, we’ve found this balance: SlavesTV and  the video content is funny, the music serious. The balance works really well and I feel happy with that. We write our videos with a director called Phil Poole and I’m really really happy with our videos.

Yeah, you released three really great videos for “Cut And Run”, “Chokehold” and “Magnolia”, that all have the same atmosphere and funny tone. Are you going to keep doing videos like that for the whole records?

Laurie: Just Laurie and Isaac Do Weird Shit? (laughs) But “Magnolia” may be the last one, we run out of money! (laughs)

What’s really interesting about you and that we really like, is that your music is pretty raw, in-your-face rock music, something that you’re not used to hear on the radio. But at the same time, especially in the UK, you received mainstream success throughout your career, you’ve got three top ten records, received a Mercury nomination, are played on Radio 1, we mean, you were even in a Charli XCX video alongside Joe Jonas, Charlie Puth, Diplo. Do you ever feel like an alien in your category?

Laurie: Yeah, yesterday, I was saying to a friend, I feel like we’re insiders to the people who are outside, and outsiders for the people who are inside. Like you said, we’re an alien band. In the UK, the underground don’t want us but the mainstream don’t want us either. But it puts you in a really unique position. I feel like in a lot of ways we’re sort of maybe at the front of a charge of a lot of guitar bands from the UK at the moment that are smashing it, like you got Idles, Shame, Dream Wife, there are all of these punk bands that are doing really great stuff. I feel it’s just going to keep building and building and there’s a really good scene being created in England at the moment.

Was that because you wanted to participate in the life of that scene that you launched your own record label, Girl Fight Records?

Laurie: It’s such a passion project because the band that we signed (ed: Lady Bird) are the only band that felt right. They’ve got such a positive message and we just felt like we needed to help get them out there. Now they’re doing really well. We wanted to give back to music, because music helped us so much.

The last time you guys played a French venue, you were opening for Kasabian. What did you learn, going on tour with them?

Laurie: When you hear how many big songs they have, that sort of back to back hits, the choruses they write, the crowd, these massive rooms go crazy, it definitely makes you aspire to that level. You see the other side and you don’t want to go back. We learned a lot from them. I definitely think we got their crowd warmed-up as well.

Your music is quite heavier than Kasabian’s one. How did it go, playing for an audience that was here for something softer?

Laurie: Serge basically wanted us to give them a run for their money and he said by having us on first, it made them play better. The reaction was great, and we’ve been getting a lot of people come up to us and say: “I found out about you because of the Kasabian tour”, and now they’re new fans, so yeah, it was great!

You also got to play to 60 000 people in London Stadium, with Foo Fighters, how was it to play for that many people?

Laurie: That was wild! It went down really well again, even better than the Kasabian crowd, the Foo Fighters crowd, because they were just more rock based. So yeah, bring on more big gigs! (laughs)

Is selling out stadiums something that you dream about?

Laurie: To be successful in this kind of industry, you have to be ambitious. A lot of people play it down but we are ambitious, we just want to take this as far as we can go.

And did you actually meet Dave Grohl?

Laurie: Yeah I did, nicest man in rock, it’s true, I can confirm it! (laughs)

The legend remains intact! While we were scrolling your Twitter account, we saw that the guys from the band Ho99o9 challenged you to a wrestling steel cage team match. How is that coming along?

Laurie: (laughs) I don’t know, they’re going to lose thought! (laughs) I would love to actually do it, but there’s no official plans. We are friends as well so.

Maybe play some music together?

Laurie: Who knows? Maybe one day!

Alright last question : our website is called “RockUrLife”, so what rocks your life?

Laurie: Music and love.

Website: youareallslaves.com