Following their memorable recent show at Rewire Festival, Glamcult sat down with long-time Slowdive members Neil Halstead and Simon Scott. Discussing the effects of their soothing songs, as well as old and new generations listening to their new tracks, we caught a glimpse of the band’s excitement for the release of their first album in 22 (!) years.
The chemistry at your show in The Hague was amazing. You played some tracks from the new record—how does it feel to be in front of your audience again?
Neil: We had a couple of new songs on the set, three if added up. We always enjoy the interactions with the audiences, we really do enjoy it. For us it’s really important that the audience experiences that little bit of exhilaration in it as well, like sound has to always be really immersive you know.
It got quite personal, right?
Neil: It’s personal, yeah. I feel like the best gift for us is when we connect with them. I suppose it’s obvious if you’re a performer, but you end up having audiences that haven’t heard the music before. When we came back to play old songs in 2014, they didn’t ever expect to see the band play live and so we’ve got these really joyful moments with them really.
It seems that for our new generation it has worked as a reminiscence of the old. It’s really interesting to hear a new sound from you again.
Simon: Yes! When we had spoken to one another and decided to kind of start the band up again, there was always the plan to do a new record. If we were really going to connect and rehearse and play really powerful live shows and do Slowdive again, there had to be a fresh new batch of songs.
Exactly, it’s not like a reunion.
Simon: No, it’s not like a reunion, even though we reformed, we didn’t want it to be like a nostalgic trip in which we would have played the old songs again—and that’s it. It’s really nice that we can go on stage now and look up and see people who are appreciative, and get into the new stuff like the three new songs that we played at Rewire. Having brought that freshness in, it adds to us wanting to think about doing a new record as well. So my point being that we’ll just be doing two years of this and go back to our solo work or whatever comes by then.
Can you tell us about Star Roving and the writing process that came along with it?
Neil: I think that Star Roving was one of those that started off as a really Krautrock-y kind of jam. So originally it had a drum machine, like a really upfront drum. I first did a demo for everyone and we ended up having the crowd-rock side of it mellow out and it became more of a Slowdive vibe.
Simon: Yeah, I remember trying it in the studio; trying lots of different idea go through and through until something fell into place. We harnessed it and then quickly put it into the mix again, and then Neil would take that down to the studio to play with it and bring it back.
Neil: It was the track that we sent out once we had gotten to a certain point with the record and the mixing. We sent it out to quite a few different people just to see how they would mix it themselves. So it was our test track, I think we thought that if they could make this sound okay, that they would be able to deal with the rest of the record. So it’s quite an important track for us in the scheme of making it happen. Once that one came together it gave us a confidence to finish the rest of it.
What were the moments like, right before releasing Star Roving?
Neil: I think we were genuinely excited and genuinely slightly scared… You’re just hoping that people like it. I was on a holiday and I remember getting a text from a friend saying ‘300.000 views in three days dude!”. And I was like, ‘what?!’ We had a very select audience in the 90s, so it’s also different having social media around. You’re getting a very instant reaction. You put music up and it’s there and people will like it or not. Which is scary, because people do have an opinion, but that’s very cool for the same reason.
Your new lyrics talk about love, desire and maybe a prompt feeling of escapism. How close has that been to you as a band?
Neil: Well, sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what the songs are about, and sometimes it takes up years. I mean, especially with Slowdive, the lyrics tend to get quite impressionistic so the way I tend to write is that they react to the music, and then the music reacts to the lyrics so things come together, while together. I think a lot of the songs are about relationships, and they can be about escapism, I suppose. There has to be a sort of strong emotional core for me. I connect with the melody and the lyrics at the same time. It isn’t necessarily all about the lyrical, all about the melody or the music; everything has to be embodied by it. Like when you listen to songs and you connect to them in an environment.
There’s many things you can escape into, there’s many things you can perceive it as.
Simon: Right, there’s a window open in Slowdive music. I think, genuinely as a sort of sound road, Slowdive has an open window for the listener, so that you can listen to a song or an album and kind of go through that window, and have that song resonate with your impersonal life. That’s something on how you should hear whether it’s a good thing, or a bad thing, a desire or an escapade, something darker maybe, or something really joyous. There’s an open space for people to just want to know there’s a real connection, because there’s this thing going on in people’s heads when they hear our music, that it triggers off memories of something that might remind them of their grandfather, or where they lived when they were seven years old and I think that that is something really important in Slowdive.
Are there any wishes coming from you which should be kept in mind?
Simon: Well, it’d be nice for people to listen to the album all the way through… Rather than just pick out a couple of songs and just listen to two songs.
Neil: You should also listen to Christian’s album with Monster Movie. It’s a really good record.
Well, let’s finish this with a good one. Is there a perfect setting to be listening to your new album?
Simon: I think either in a room with your friends getting comfortably stoned, or outside, somewhere nice.