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They are making a ferocious and thrilling racket that is still somehow a pop music.
Just like punk music at its very best Slaves understand the thrill of noise is equal to the thrill of pop music.
They are like a symphony of ideas and the cranked fuzz of garage thrills.
And yet there are only two of them.
One makes a diverse and exciting racket out of his guitar that ranges from fuzzbox punk rock to blues stained slashes to Graham Coxon inventiveness and the other pounds his stand up drum kit and remarkably also manages to sing songs that are like snippets and shards of fractured modern life turned into huge boisterous anthems.
Slaves are one of the best young bands out there at the moment. First written about on Louder Than War (which they kindly remember in this interview) they are at the frontline of a thrilling and diverse British band scene that is at one of those periodical high water marks of unrelated groups all combining to make a great noise.
We are currently living through one of those mini waves of excitement in the UK when a diverse selection of not particularly related bands is making the right kind of noise to give a real kick up the ears. From the Fat White Family’s surreal 24 hour party people scuzz to Slaves incendiary pop noise there is a whole host of thrilling serrated noise action out there.
Like two of the nicest wise guys to combust out of Tunbridge Wells, the pair of Laurie Vincent (Guitar/Vocals) and Issac Holman (Drums/Vocals) met in 5 years ago and created a band that fused their love of old time punk rock, blues wonk, cranky end of Blur-indie and hip hop delivery into their own mess of blues. They dress smart like the tearaways from the classic French film, La Haine or even further back De Niro when he was cool as fuck in Mean Streets and they sing songs of their own lives – the small detail magnified to technicolour 3D enormity by the high voltage of rock n roll.
The sharp looking two piece formed in 2012 and released their first EP Sugar Coated Bitter Truth on Girl Fight Records. It created a mini ripple and it was enough for them to hit the road where they honed down the vicious delivery and their natural connection with an audience looking for a band to call its own.
Their first single proper, Where’s Your Car Debbie? was released by Fonthill Records in early 2014 and they were then signed by Virgin EMI where they released their first major label single Hey last November followed by third single The Hunter in the same month.
They toured like fuck and famously appeared on Jools Holland where they brilliantly didn’t recognise Bono and their debut album, Are You Satisfied? will be released on this June.
This is the new generation proving that explosive and thrilling music is not dead like the nay sayers and the long toothed old timers keep rumbling on about. The future is now. The party continues whether you want to go or not.
Slaves could well be the trump card of this fizzing now.
There’s a lot of two piece action out there at the moment but these bands have little to do with each other. It’s more of an economic thing than art thing with bands forced down to mini units by the decreasing rock n roll dollar. This, conversely amps up the creative level with the tight knit duos having to really think about the noise and the space and arrangements of what they are doing with Slaves arguably the apex of this two piece shuffle.
Their music is now a thrilling ride between punk rock noise and a perfect pop mess.
Slaves know how to entwine a melodic nous into their sound and combine it with an avalanche of perfect sound. Live they are a perfect riot and their released stuff is already twitching with imagination and musical twists and the potential to go pretty massive.
Interestingly whilst the indie kids were in thrall to the Black Keys or White Stripes Laurie was a punk kid in his home town in Kent. In the most micro of micro scenes he was a teenage nth generation punk rocker listening to the Sex Pistols and Rancid whilst his class mates were, at the best, indie kids.
LTW : Ostensibly your music is minimalistic noise rock, which is a damn fine thing to be but I can hear so much more going on in there and the album is the perfect opportunity to expand on the thrilling garage brawl of noise that has made the band’s name.
Laurie: ’I definitely would hope so. I grew up with punk rock but it’s not a prison. A lot of people more than ever are so fixed on liking certain things only. Like a taste regime. In some ways we are more punk but we are always looking further afield and you can hear that on the upcoming album. And if narrow minded people say it’s shit then that’s their problem. It’s not a calculated thing.
I also think there is this feeling that the band has blown up from nowhere and that we were on the BBC playlist a week after our first demo. A feeling of ‘how did they do that?’ but we did two years on the road before we got signed building up a fan base. We did the work and that made the band.
LTW : The two piece thing works very well in your favour. You somehow take advantage of the minimalism and create a real raw power out of the dynamics.
Laurie : ’I definitely think it’s very natural. We work very well together and we have progressed on purpose. We have developed, taking everything in all the time, learning how to distract people with screaming feedback or how to become numb to the heckles. We have no fear of them and we developed an interaction with the crowd that has developed if things go wrong and all that touring was crucial for us to develop our style of playing and our style of music.’
LTW : You came from punk rock but found your own voice.
Laurie : ’Punk rock was more part of my youth than for Isaac. I was a punk kid into the Clash, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Damned, Rancid – Tim Armstrong was, for me, the person who referenced my youth. I really loved their later albums and acoustic songs as well – amazing, it was punk stripped down . People say they sold out after Out Come The Wolves, which is rubbish.
And then I found Crass and post punk stuff like Gang of Four and then also Joy Division and Hooky’s bass lines. There was also stuff I always associated with at art college like Black Flag and Minor Threat and stuff like that. There was something about the music that was shocking and exciting. I wanted to be in a punk band but no one I knew growing up was into that kind of music until eventually I found Isaac. We bonded over Blur and the punkier side of indie.
Isaac is from from Maidstone and I grew up on the Medway and found out about the surrounding garage scene built around Billy Childish. He would walk past me every day when I was at Rochester university and he would be terrifying! Had a reputation for turning on people so I never spoke to him.’
LTW : The key to Slaves is musical diversity. The pair of you are working within the guitar idiom but there are twitches of all styles in there and that is what gives you the edge – as well as your sense of dynamics and ferocious playing and great tunes…
Laurie : ’I think a lot of bands try and sound like old bands and are looking back to copy what those records sounded like. We love all music from LCD Soundsystem to Kraftwerk to punk rock. We started out by playing straight up garage rock and playing live for a few years has made us broaden out our sound. It’s like what Blur did, for example, which was experimental and took indie into a new age and made it something exciting and different.
LTW : With all this extra music bursting out of their seams can Slaves remain a two piece? Like Black Keys before them will they have to expand their line up to incorporate all these extra textures into what they are doing?
Laurie : ’We have sort of been discussing that recently. The album is not out yet and we have already developed the sound beyond the live version and into studio versions. The live, high energy punk noise is still there but if you listen to the album it is more refined which is a good thing. We have thought utilising more instruments on stage. Maybe we could be like Kraftwerk so you don’t know who is playing what!’
LTW: Why are Slaves a two piece? economics or art?
Laurie : ’Economics was one reason but mainly also there was literally was no one else I wanted to play music with! When we started we were the only people with the enthusiasm for this kind of music. It’s not just about the music either, we are really about the style and the art of the band as well. If the drummer was into hippie stuff and smoked a load of weed it wouldn’t work! We were very picky with who we work with and added to that we are like minded people and there was only two people who were like that and that was us.
There was, initially, a third guy who played drums but he was not committed fully so he left. We continued as a two piece and it worked so why change it. We had not listened to White Stripes and Royal Blood didn’t exist when we started. We were not influenced by those bands even when we did cross their paths later on. That’s the frustrating thing about when people mix us up with those groups.
When we write songs we sort of extend our line up by swopping instruments and it works that way. Isaac is a natural at most instruments and uses the floor tom and snare to keep time with songs whilst he’s singing in a way that looks and sounds great. We had been in bands before but this is the first band to make the music we wanted to make and we didn’t even think we would break it big we just liked making this music.
When we write we play around in the room with the guitar pedals making a ridiculous noise. We try lots of different approaches as well. One of the songs on the album started on Garageband on the iPad with the weird echoing track and I started to write a bass line and then played it on the bass. We are never strict about the set up. It changes all the time.
One song was built around a guitar going backwards. We wanted to programme the guitar noise into a computer and do what you want with it. I think the whole of society likes everything they are comfortable with whether it’s music or having to vote for a party they always vote for. When we play the new record the crowd will think ‘what the fuck!’ then people lose their shit and realise it’s meant to be different…’
LTW: You say you are not political and, in a sense, why should bands be expected to be political all the time, but you do what a lot of great bands do – you detail existence and make the mundane magical or underline the oddities and quirks of our times.
Laurie : ’I have got a way of getting a simple message across without sounding cheesy. Track by track songs come from real life experience for us. It’s like we are documenting our lives by music. The titles tie together on this album. When people early on asked if we were political we would say it’s personal politics. It’s about getting up, getting on. Punk music was not about making people right or left wing. I find that music can be boring sometimes but personal political tracks on the album do something…it can be about how people stare at their phones all the time.’
LTW : This year’s NME tour which you were part of really felt like something seismic was happening. Not just another indie package tour but something quite important. A new broom to clean the room…
Laurie : ’It felt good. We have done two big support tours prior to that. We were not announced on the Jamie T tour and that was great. Me and him share a really big love for Rancid and he knows Tim Armstrong so we bonded over that and we also did the Biffy Clyro tour. The NME tour earlier this year was when people saw us for the first time in a while and it felt like something was really happening. Fat White Family were great, it was a great bill. I was excited to be playing a high intensity show every night…’