Nine Songs: Slaves
The songs that inspire Slaves take in tales of the unexpected.
The Kent duo of Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman tip their hat to punk and garage rock in their choices, but also take in storytelling, poetry set to music and an ‘80s pop classic.
Both became obsessed with music as children, with their parents playing a vital role in their formative music tastes. Their dads helped them to discover what they wanted to do as Slaves - Holman’s played them his records and Vincent’s would buy him CDs on their trips to HMV - and Holman’s mum still provides him with sources of new music.
The songs that inspire them reflect a love of authenticity, regardless of genre. Vincent quips he could have picked “cooler tracks, but it’s about owning what you like and analysing why they’re pivotal to you.” A Britpop anthem made him want to pick up the guitar and master a song and Slaves were born.
“Ever since I was aware of the guitar I wanted to play guitar in a band, that’s all I ever wanted to do. My childhood was a bit frustrating because I just wanted to do that and I hated school. It’s been tough at some points, but I never doubted I was going to be in a band. It’s quite strange, I feel like I was born to do it.”
Isaac: “My old man got me into The Streets. I was quite young when they first came out and I remember him having them on in the car constantly. Original Pirate Material was a complete game-changer for me, I can recite that whole album word for word. ‘Blinded by the Lights’ was on the second album, A Grand Don't Come for Free, and I could probably recite that whole album as well, I think it’s one of the greatest concept albums ever written.
“With ‘Blinded by the Lights’ I just love the tune, it really catches a theme and I can really relate to how he’s feeling in it. It’s that feeling of being pilled-up in a club, of losing control and not really knowing what’s going on, it’s a big tune.
“I really like the storytelling element of it and that was an inspiration to me. Storytelling in a song is a complete art and I definitely don’t feel like I’ve managed to do it as good as this does, I don’t know if anyone ever will.”
Isaac: “Thee Headcoats had a really big and important part in mine and Laurie’s sound when we first started. We really loved that rough, dirty, garagey sound and the singer Billy Childish was a massive inspiration to us, he’s a Kent boy as well.
“When me and Laurie were starting the band my Dad sat us down and played us a load of records, I remember him getting a stack of records out and this was one of them. This song really shaped our sound early on, we were a two-piece and we’d found this weird set-up, kind of by mistake, where I was going to stand up and drum and Laurie was going to play guitar. My Dad went through his records and picked out two-piece bands and garage punk bands. Quite a lot of it was this sort of stuff, Billy Childish has had quite a few other bands and there was a band called The Husbands as well, there was a lot of them.
“It was everything about “I’m Hurting”, the whole sound of it and the vocals. I love that his voice is so British but it’s not a London voice, it’s got a real Kent twang to it and we wanted to sound like that a bit. I really like it when people sing in their own accent, a lot of the time these days’ people are singing in American accents, so it’s really refreshing to hear someone shouting in a Kent, geezer voice.
“’I’m Hurting’ was one of the ones that clicked and we just thought ‘this is amazing.’ That was six years ago and I’m very fortunate my old man was obsessively into music his whole life and I had a lot of that put into me. Without him I wouldn’t know a lot of this music that I know about now.”
Isaac: “Baxter Dury was a big inspiration for me and Laurie. Back in the day when we were first touring we’d do loads of shows and I remember that on pretty much every journey we’d have the album Happy Soup on, not talking to each other, we’d just have that on full blast. ‘Claire’ was the one that struck a chord with me, I love the honesty and sincerity of it and the softness in his voice. The instrumentation is everything that I love about a tune, it’s quite melancholic and nice and sad.
“I love Baxter Dury. I love Ian Dury as well, but I think they’re in completely different ballparks, they get compared quite a lot but I don’t think they should. I actually discovered Baxter Dury through my Mum, I feel like I’m dropping my parents into this whole thing! My Mum’s very much into new and current music, she’s got her finger on the pulse and she’s always introducing me to new stuff. When this came out she was the first person who showed it to me. She said ‘This is Ian Dury’s son’ and I was ‘Woah, this is fucking sick.’
“Weirdly, Baxter was doing something on 6 Music and he played one of our tunes. He ended up talking to Laurie about the tune, a song of ours called ‘Where's Your Car Debbie?’ and I think he wanted to know more about it. Much to our excitement, we got in contact with him and ended up doing a tune with him and becoming friends with him, it was wicked.”
Isaac: “This is my favourite tune ever. I can’t really describe what it is about it, it just gives me a feeling. It’s been my favourite tune for years and years and I guess that now, because I’ve loved it for so long, it’s a nostalgic feeling but I still find myself listening to it a lot. It’s still very, very current in my life - me and Laurie actually tried to learn it so that we could cover it recently, but it’s quite hard with two people!
“I’d always heard it but I never really acknowledged it. We were playing a gig at The Black Heart in Camden, at this tiny little venue upstairs, and a DJ was playing it and I was ‘Oh fuck, I love this tune.’ I’d never realised how much I loved it, so I Shazamed it and I’ve just loved it ever since.
“It’s so straight-up, ‘She drives me crazy’ is such a great, straight-up lyric. I love the video, I love the tune, the instrumentation is so cool and his voice is so cool. It’s just a good bit of pop and no other song has beaten it for me.”
Laurie: “This was the first song that I learnt to play on the guitar and that’s why it’s important to me. I actually told Noel Gallagher that recently, we were recording our album in Brussels and our friends Blossoms were supporting Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. We went to the show and I got a bit drunk and slipped backstage; I walked into his dressing room and ended up talking too much. He did say he was very honoured and gave me a lot of time.
“I remember it was an amazing feeling being able to play it on the guitar and it opened everything up for me. I was still in primary school and I was maybe ten years old, I’d gotten a guitar when I was six or seven, but it had taken me years to learn it. I was obsessed with it but I went through about five different teachers, but then I found a guy called Chris, who ended up teaching me to play songs rather than scales or anything and it was the best way to learn. By the end of the very first lesson, I could play ‘Wonderwall.’
“At the time it was just one of those songs that everyone knew, but I’ve got a whole new appreciation for Oasis now. When we were kids we went through the whole ‘Blur v Oasis’ thing and then I got older and realised that all that stuff is pointless and you can just like what you like.
“It’s quite inspiring because what the fuck is a wonderwall, but you can keep coming back to ‘Wonderwall’, it’s a perfectly written song. When Isaac and I discuss our lyrics and if something makes sense or not, I always think about ‘Wonderwall.’”
Laurie: “This was a song I remember seeing on what was MTV2 at the time and I remember John Frusciante playing this classic blue Fender Jaguar guitar and it was such a heavy influence for me. It was the one song that I really wanted to learn how to play and it took me years, but my guitar teacher taught me how to play it and it’s still my go to guitar jam to this day.
“It was that age where you had the most famous CDs of all the big bands, so I was listening to Nevermind by Nirvana, A Grand Don’t Come For Free by The Streets and Guns N’ Roses a lot. I was never that cool, I would just listen to what was in the house and my Dad and I would go to HMV and buy the ‘3 CDs for £10’ deal and I’d get to pick the third one. There’s been a lot of self-discovery in my music taste, but my Dad has very eclectic music taste, from James Blunt to Dixie Chicks and an undying love of Sheryl Crow!
“It was that time where you’d sit waiting for music videos to come on MTV or you’d flick through the channels to make sure you didn’t miss any videos. ‘Under The Bridge’ is one of the biggest Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and when I think about it I picture being in the living room watching it, that must be where I first heard it.”
Laurie: “I was living in a village in Kent called Brasted and I used to skateboard. I would put The Clash CD on my Walkman and I had those really baggy jeans that could fit my Walkman in the pocket. I’d be trying to look cool, but I kept falling off my skateboard and the CD would keep skipping!
“’Lost in the Supermarket’ is a song that’s stuck with me and it’s definitely one of my favourite Clash songs of all time. I love how they’re singing about something that’s so mundane and finding out that it was written by Mick Jones really interested me. All of my favourite Clash songs are the more strung-out melodic ones, like ‘Straight To Hell’ and ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ and later songs like that, rather than the heavier ones.
“I’d only heard the really heavy side of punk and I had this vision that it was always super heavy and intense, but when I heard The Clash I realised it was possible for punk to be different things.”
Laurie: “I like a band with a fully formed image, a strong logo and a punchy name and Crass have that. It’s the same with other bands with names like Rancid and The Clash. There was a lot of controversy with our band name, but Slaves came from a want of a strong, abrasive sounding word to fulfil an image.
“I was listening to this song a lot when we first formed the band. I’d listen to their first two albums when I was sixteen or seventeen on my way to practice and I’d think, “I want to be in a band like this.” The way Crass play drums and the instrumentation isn’t traditional and I could see how Isaac and I could make something similar; it’s so heavy and I love the Britishness of it. All of the instruments are doing something different and interesting - the rolling drums, the walking bass and the guitar that sounds like a washing-up board.
“There are a few great songs from Crass but this one just sticks out. I love the intro and the song is all about what punk is, I like the bold statement of it when he sings “Punk was once an answer to years of crap / A way of saying no where we'd always said yep.” They slag off The Clash at the beginning of the song as well, which I find quite funny: “They said that we were trash / Well the name is Crass, not Clash.” There’s a rolling feel to the song and I remember I’d be shouting along to it in the car, it has such a collective nature.
“I remember playing it to Isaac and saying, “let’s make something like this”. It felt like discovering something that no one else knew about and it felt special. Discovering those first two Crass records, to hear something promoting anarchism and listening to it was huge for me.”
Laurie: “I put this song last because this is where I want to be, I want to end here and I want to write a song like this. It’s a perfect balance, it’s so short and it makes you want to repeat it forever.
“I’ve only become aware of it more recently, in the last two or three years. It was the first time I ever used the ‘discover weekly’ feature by Spotify and after I heard it I bought the John Cooper Clarke anthology. He was on BBC 6music recently and they asked what he was listening to at the moment. He said his wife bought him our debut album Are You Satisfied? and he said he liked it, so I was pretty chuffed about that.
“I wasn’t aware that he made such nice music, I thought he was just a poet. His style is something I always wanted, it was the dream. I was a chubby little kid, so I could never pull of the skinny jeans, but I could try the hair. I just remember loving the way he looked and his image.
“It inspires me to put my thoughts down and have the confidence to say them and the nice melodic backing track is the more mature style I want to be able to compose. I’m really into people with strong identities who stand out and I like the power he has, you can’t just have him on in the background, you need to be in the mood and focus on it.
“The Britishness of the lyrics are just incredible, including all these British objects. All the statements are about a pure love of something and that’s what I want to be able to write. Recently I’ve been reading a lot about how people have a natural inclination to find out where they come from, so I noticed that I’ve chosen white British men and females are underrepresented on the songs that I listened to growing up. I’ve realised that it’s because you naturally focus on something that feels like you belong to it, a lot of people are unwilling to admit that and they deny their privilege. I know I’m privileged so I face it and admit it, saying privilege doesn’t exist doesn’t work. These are the songs I grew up with and related to and now I listen to all sorts of music.”