Every now and again, just when things are starting to get a bit drab on the UK music scene, a band arrives out of nowhere and not so much adds a splash of colour but gobs on the canvas, tears it from its fittings and scribbles a huge phallus over what was a pretty but wholly inoffensive picture.
This year that band has been Slaves. The garage-punk duo made up by Laurie Vincent (guitar/vocals) and Isaac Holman (drums/vocals) have achieved huge acclaim through answering what was a very simple request from music fans in a post-recession, pro-austerity Britain: ‘Just give us something raw, angry and, most of all, fun.’
They delivered; and in doing so provided a slap to the face for many who were busy staring googly-eyed at Ed Sheeran, or offered a stern suggestion of ‘MTFU’ to those weeping in locked bedrooms over the latest Sam Smith record. In fact, it’s fair to say that the two-piece have collared more Radio 1 listeners than any recent punk act, largely due to their prowess at creating loud and unruly music which is both engaging and downright enjoyable enough to make it palatable to a wider audience. After the release of debut album Are You Satisfied? back in June, the band are hitting the festival scene hard this summer and take to the Tramlines Main Stage on the Friday. We spoke to Isaac, one half of the racket, to see what the lads have in store for us.
Hi Isaac! So you’ve got loads going on over the summer, but we’ll start with your album Are You Satisfied?, which was out last month. What can you tell us about it?
Well, it was all done very quickly. It took us a couple of months to write it and then it was recorded in just a couple of weeks, so it was bashed out and completed in a pretty short amount of time.
Your EP Sugar Coated Bitter Truth was really well received. Did this create any pressure when penning the album?
We never really thought of Sugar Coated Bitter Truth as a proper album, it was just a collection of the songs we’d released. This one is more official and more of a statement. Once everything was finished we were like, ‘this is our sound.’
Your music is a modern take on proper British punk. Who were your musical influences growing up?
There’s such a vast amount! My dad was really into music and collected vinyl records – and it was mostly Motown which might come as a surprise. Punk was a small part of the music I listened to growing up. With Slaves, we take influences from topics that are hard-hitting and everyday happenings, as opposed to other bands.
Are you looking forward to being back on the road this summer?
Definitely! We’ve just come back from the NME tour, but it feels like we haven’t been on the road for ages, so it’s good to be back. It’s hectic, but nice to be back in that touring routine.
What’s the best and worst thing about touring?
The worst thing is definitely Travelodges. And the best, although it sounds obvious, is getting to play our music every night.
You’re also heading back to Yorkshire for Leeds Festival in August. Are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, definitely! Reading was the first festival I ever went to, and it just has a really good vibe with it being over August. It’s always lots of fun. We’re gonna be on a slightly bigger stage this year as well – that’s always a bonus.
Yeah, you’re opening the NME/Radio 1 stage – but is it difficult being stage openers?
Well, we played the toilet circuit for so long we’re sort of used to it and opening a stage really doesn’t faze us. With the buzz we’ve had over the last few months hopefully the crowd will be ready to go and enjoy it.
Who on the line-up will you be heading over to watch?
I’m hoping to catch Revel Sound, but I’ll have to see how the timing works out. It can be quite difficult trying to catch bands you want to see, as you’re kind of swapping between Reading and Leeds. I’m a bit of a punter; I end up sitting in camp all day. But I’ll catch who I can.
Three essential festival items?
A bum bag, or ‘fanny pack’ if you like, wet wipes, and I know it’s boring but contact lenses are a must.
Be honest, who’s a better crowd – northerners at Leeds or southerners at Reading?
Well last time we played Reading it was amazing… and at Leeds there were less people but they were proper going for it. Ah, I’m going to have to say Reading – sorry!
We’ll have to try and change your mind this year! You’re also joining us at Tramlines. Are you looking forward to coming back to Sheffield?
Yeah, we can’t wait for that one. Sheffield has its own little music scene which is really cool. We’ve played The Great Gatsby a few times and always really enjoyed it. It sounds cheesy, but Sheffield has sort of become our home away from home, and we’ve got friends over here so it’s always great to come back.
You played Tramlines a couple of years ago in 2013. What made you want to come back?
Simply because we really enjoyed being a part of it that year. As much as we enjoy the big festivals, the smaller festivals are just as – if not more – important to us and the music scene in general.
You’re playing the main stage this year, so why should Tramliners stop by and watch your set?
Erm, it might be fun! Come and have a boogie and enjoy some ridiculous stories.
And what can we do to be a good audience?
I don’t mind! In a weird way, I sometimes quite enjoy a crowd who don’t like us and just stand there not moving, but I also enjoy a crowd going crazy. So come along and do what you want!
Who else on the line-up will you be watching?
Definitely Wu-Tang Clan! That’s massive.
You’re certainly a band who have grafted to get where you are, so what advice would you give to young bands starting out?
Just gig constantly. Play all the gigs you can, and email everyone. Do it the old school way and work your way up. It really grounds you and gives you plenty of experience.
Catch Slaves on the main stage at Tramlines Festival at 7.30pm on Friday July 24.