Some seem more susceptible to fame and success changing them than others. But this was never going to be the case with Sheffield duo Slow Club, was it? They’re the type of band who may headline the biggest venues in Camden and still come across like they could cameo in a Bisto advert. With their second full-length seeing the two at the top of their game and the tightest the group have ever been, but there’s no cockiness in sight.
This isn’t, however, to say that Slow Club don’t have a boisterous side. Singer and occasional percussionist Rebecca Taylor is definitely someone whose Guardian Soulmates ad would feature the word ‘bubbly’ somewhere along the handful of lines, with interests sure to be listed as Beyonce, Eastenders and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club . Taylor even recently wore a Wednesday shirt-come-dress on stage at the band’s headline Shepherd’s Bush Empire show and in doing so undoubtedly became the Owls’ most eligible bachelorette, with an appearance on Saturday morning footy show Soccer AM almost certainly waiting in the wings.
Charles Watson, co-singer and the guitarist of the pair, on the other hand we know much less about than his female counterpart. Quieter and of fewer words, as we start the interview I find him back at his Northern home having just been catching up with some post-tour washing. When compared to Rebecca’s mile-a-minute natterings, you may assume that Charles wouldn’t necessarily be a journalist’s dream package but what you do get is a someone thoughtful, collected and infinitely humble. Together they embody what Slow Club is all about: reaching high but keeping your feet firmly on the ground. When asked that Sunday supplement, journalistic conversation-filler of what he’d likely to be doing if not in a band, Charles exhales languidly and pauses for more than a second. “I don’t know really”, he stretches these words in his thick Yorkshire accent. “I was going to study History, so I’d probably be in loads of debt.” Seeing as he has perfectly described this writer’s current situation, it’s for the better that he went and pursued the band.
The band’s new album, entitled Paradise, came out in September to favourable responses across the board. The record, the follow-up to 2009 debut Yeah, So, was recorded in London during December of last year and finished off in May with producer Luke Smith, formerly of the band Clor. “Our idea of success is constantly changing from day to day”, Charles says. Indeed, the record has been well received from here to the BBC and even almighty Pitchfork – not that the band read the reviews all that much. “Just seeing people at gigs is the most reinforcing thing, that all this is actually real and that the fans like the new record” Watson argues. “It’s easy to read so many articles and pieces but the only thing that’s actually real and matters is seeing people there at your concerts. It is something physical and that exists, not just writing on a page, it makes you think – you know what, people do actually like you.”
The album certainly reflects a progression and a subtle growth and maturity blossoming in the band. Even the title itself suggests this, the word ‘paradise’ seeming worlds different and entirely more settled than the brash ‘Yeah So’ of their debut. So why did you they choose this title? “Well, we both knew we were after a one-word title – something short and to the point. Then the way the song ‘Paradise’ turned out meant that it made loads of sense to name it that”, Charles explains. Our conversation takes a detour and I ask him what records he’d take for company on a paradise-like desert island. He rummages around for his laptop, worried that whatever he says he’ll probably regret the answer as soon as he thinks about it again later. He lists Bob Dylan’s ‘To Ramona’ as his first, as well as Nico and Jackson Browne’s ‘The Fairest of Seasons’, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ classic ‘The Night’, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor track ‘Gathering Storm’ – Charles’ “favourite piece of music ever written”. Upon realising that these choices only total to four, he then racks his brain painstakingly for a fifth. I tell him he could always just play the others on a continuous loop, but he finally comes up with “just anything by Leonard Cohen”. To me listening to Songs of Love and Hate all alone for eternity would certainly cause you to make a hell out of any heaven – and I like really Leonard Cohen – but each to their own.
Despite all of the album’s critical and commercial success, a strange and darkly comic thing happened on the day of the Paradise release. Just imagine you’re in Charles or Rebecca’s shoes (dependant on your gender and/or shoe size) and it’s the date you finally release your second album – a record that by the mere default of clichéd sayings will always be touted as your “most difficult” and “most important”. Well, what’s the worst thing you think could happen? Perhaps a shock release from another group? Maybe a comeback from one of the world’s biggest bands? How about putting these two things together and adding the exact same name to the sleeve of the release, as this is exactly what happened: with Coldplay snap-releasing their new returning single, also called ‘Paradise’, on the very same Monday.
“I didn’t actually know until the day. I think it was Rebecca who told me”, Charles says. The word ‘paradise’ quickly shot to trending status and news feeds were filled with people nattering on about Chris Martin’s new vocal style, interspersed every so often by Slow Club fanatics complaining that everybody was talking about the “wrong Paradise”. The unflappable Charles remained calm amongst this seemingly disastrous PR event: “I wasn’t too worried, to be completely honest, as I don’t think that our fans who would buy the record anyway would necessarily get us confused with Coldplay all that easily. I’ve not even heard their song and I don’t think they would have ours, so there’s no beef!” He pauses with a thought and continues: “I think there was also someone else who released a track called something-Paradise that day too, I saw it on Pitchfork . We probably should have just thrown a joint-release party if we had known.” Slow Club, Coldplay and Drake: now that billing would have been truly something else – and quite literally something for everyone.
Paradise is out now on Moshi Moshi and Slow Club play London’s Union Chapel on the 19 December, tickets are available here.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two of The Line of Best Fit’s interview with Slow Club.