Monday 27 February 2023

The Slow Readers Club - Interview

The Slow Readers Club released their sixth studio album Knowledge Freedom Power on Friday. An album full of the sort of uplifting anthems that we've come to know and love from one of Manchester's finest bands, it looks set to follow its predecessors into the charts. We caught up with Aaron and Kurt for a chat about the making of the record and the inspirations behind it.

The new album has a striking title - Knowledge Freedom Power.  Where did the title come from?

Aaron : I got into a habit of sloganeering I suppose. Tell No Lies (the single between 91 Days In Isolation and Knowledge Freedom Power) felt like a slogan too, there's been a few over the years. People had asked us if there was a vision for this album. Sonically there probably wasn't as we worked on it on a tune by tune basis and it ended up leaning towards more synths.  

Lyrically I had a path in mind because I was conscious, partly through doing shows and partly through looking at our back catalogue, that we'd been downbeat, dystopian and existential in my lyrics most of the time. I wanted it to be a bit more positive messaging partly because the world had gone to shit and it felt a bit indulgent to be downbeat. Speaking to myself, speaking to my children with all the bleakness going on in the world, it's saying it's possible to have optimism and there's plenty of opportunity out there still and that's where it comes from. 

That's sort of where The Slow Readers Club comes from. Me and my brother grew up in Wythenshawe in Manchester as you know, the largest council estate in Europe I believe. Growing up in places like that you feel you've got limited horizons, the rest of the world has low expectations of you coming from there, that's how it felt to me at least, rightly or wrongly. You grow up with a bit of a chip on your shoulder and something to prove so The Slow Readers Club is an expression of that. Knowledge Freedom Power is an expression of that as well, a call to arms. 

Did you have the title before the song?

Aaron : No, no, no. It was a riff for a while, you know, so I knew that was my melody and it lent itself to that I suppose, to a statement of some kind.

Did you have any other versions of it?

Aaron : There probably was. I can't remember them. There was probably one that was sticking around, I can't remember what it was.  I'm sure there'll be people who come up with the wrong words.

The album's first line is it's time to modernize. Did that feel like a statement for the record, given you've changed your producer and you've changed where you've recorded?

Aaron : Yeah, a little bit. I suppose that was  a conscious thing although you don't know going into it. The lyrics came before being in with the producer. It was probably a statement of intent too, to a degree on my part. And it's turned out that way, certainly a step into the future for us kind of thing. 

It's about sort of a techno affair song, a song about needing to keep up with changes in the world of work or the pressures of society and conforming to the nine to five ritual and keeping up payments on a mortgage and all that kind kind of stuff. There's a track on the, our first album called Learn To Love The System. It comes from a similar place to that, but I ended up repeating myself, but hopefully nobody will notice (laughs)

When did you write the lyrics? What period of time were they written in? Were they written in lockdown or was it sort of post that?

Aaron : It was coming out of lockdown actually. So it would've been partly the inspiration. When we were in lockdown, we did our 91 Days album, and we had a Patreon page where people were very kindly supporting the band with a monthly subscription and we'd give them exclusive content. 

We felt like that needed to come to a natural conclusion. So we closed that, and then we were like, right, well, we need to get jobs. So it was written around that time really. So being up against the real world again. I don't work in an office, but I do sit at a desk most of my time, so yeah, I was coming partly inspired by that.

And the recording process. So can you walk me through like when, where and how you demoed and then when you went into the studio?

Aaron : We did a fair amount of home demoing and recording stuff in practice as we did with 91 Days. So it was a bit of a hybrid approach to writing where 91 Days forced us to write remotely and finesse our parts and then bring that together and layer things on top in with me working in Logic mostly. But then Kurt sending me a guitar over email, that kind of thing. So we still did a little bit of that, we'd write bits at home and then bring them in together.

We demoed once we had a bunch of tunes together, we demoed them at Hope Mill Studios in Manchester, and they were a bit more organic sounding than they ended up being on the final record. A lot of them were quite different in terms of the treatment.

We worked around the arrangements and things like the pre-production period with Joe. Once we'd got those demos, we shot it around different producers and then chose Joe Cross. We went in with him, did a week of preproduction and he sort of chopped and changed things and suggested changes to arrangements. 

He gave us a bit of a sort of sonic palette for the record. He suggested synthy sounds and things like. So we had a real sense of what the finished product was going sound like before we'd even recorded it properly which was pretty cool. He works super fast as well. It's frightening being over his shoulder and just sort of seeing him put stuff together. It's really, really cool.

With the synths and the layers, do you see a challenge in going out and playing that live?

Aaron : Yeah but I'm gonna be playing some synth stuff live. We've always had a track element to what we do. Songs that we've had before, like Plant the Seed that sort of starts with a synth intro that I don't physically play. Somewhere down the line we might have a live synth player, but at the moment we're keeping it just the four of us.

Kurt's gonna join us. I'll let him on.

So we talked about the recording process and you know, the writing and recording process. How did that go for you?

Kurt : It was around jobs having to fit around each other in the studio and Aaron wasn't available for all of it, so that that didn't help the pre-production a fair few days, but I think we were surprised by the results of it all.

Did it feel different, you know, using a different producer and being in different studios?

Kurt : Yeah it was definitely a very different process. The last thing we did was 91 Days and although it was in bizarre times, we had a lot of free time, if that makes sense. So we were in a very different head space probably. This felt more like we need to get this done in a period of time and it focused our minds. But I suppose all the previous albums were written and recorded like that, just over, you know, long weekends in the studio and things. So you make it work, don't you?

So you're going out on tour. Is it exciting to take these songs out on the road. How do you think they'll go down?

Kurt : Pretty good from the reaction that we've had on the socials so far. You can get a sense of that whether people are embracing what you do, from the comments on social media. Very crudely can't you? There seems to be some positivity around it. And they're sounding good in the practice room. So yeah, it should be pretty cool.

How are you finding the challenge with yet another album of actually whittling that down to a set?

Aaron : It's been hard hasn't it, Kurt? (laughs) Obviously people haven't heard everything yet and have only heard the couple of singles that've been released. And I think in terms of what I expect live, there's some traction in that album that I think would be great. 

And you going out to Europe finally, does that feel like a bit of unfinished business out there?

Kurt : I'm glad. I mean, I don't take it for granted that we can to tour Europe. Covid took our last tour away and then you did wonder at that point where we would ever get the opportunity again. So I'm very pleased that we're able to do it because there's lots of bands that are similar level to us that aren't doing it, certainly around day jobs and stuff. I'm grateful to the people there. We can see that we've show sold tickets and that there's an audience there so that you're not going out to play to nobody. 

And you know, I'm grateful to our families as well for allowing it because we've been working and stuff like that as well recently. It's like our lives are very, very, very busy and it'll be all the busier for our other halves when we're away. So, yeah I'm grateful to them too.

Does it almost feel like you're starting again? You went full-time in 2019 and then Covid sort of stopped that. Does it feel like you've sort of had to step back and now the plan is to build that back up again?

Aaron : Yeah, it does really. We did lose a bit of a momentum because obviously we had the Top 10 album at the beginning of the pandemic. I think we, we were full-time on it for two years more or less and then we've had to sort of pick up day jobs again. I think we'll see. Hopefully if the record's a success and the shows keep selling out we can build back up again then, then we'll go back full-time.

But we'll do what we can. I'm just pleased to have music out in the world and if that's, if that's how it has to be, if we have to do it in a hybrid way in the future, then fair enough. I'm just happy to have to have music out there. Kurt, do anything add to that?

Kurt : No, the same thing really. I mean, to get out to Europe again is like everything is a logistical challenge but also an achievement because we've built a little bit out there already and we played some decent festivals out there. So to not get out at all would be really bad on a new album, I think. We'd like to have done more, but let's see how it goes. Obviously, like Aaron said, if this album's a success then hopefully we can get out even more and go to more places.

Aaron : I think for the minute, obviously our heads in album mode and we're hoping it does alright in the charts and gets shared to new people and we get some new fans out of whatever exposure we might get. And then hopefully later in the year we get some festivals.

There's some, there's some positive stuff on the horizon that we've got, more press and more TV and things like that down down the line, which we haven't had before. So that should be a positive step in the right direction. Hopefully we'll be getting some more radio support and Spotify playlists and all the gatekeepers to the industry open up the gates for us.

The Slow Readers Club's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

They tour in the Spring calling at : Barrow In Furness Library (March 2), Leeds University Stylus (4), Glasgow SWG3 (6), Aberdeen Lemon Tree (7), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (9), Birmingham O2 Academy 2 (10), Bristol Thekla (11), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (13), London Lafayette (14), Manchester Albert Hall (17), Berlin Lido (23), Hamburg Übel & Gefährlich (24), Antwerp Trix Club (25), Paris Supersonic (30), Rotterdam Rotown (31), Amsterdam Paradiso Tolhuistuin (April 1), Belfast Limelight 2 (14), Dublin Academy (15) and Porto M.Ou.Co (29).

photo credit - Trust A Fox


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