slow magazine the revolution will be photocopied
     

slow #1/spring 1998

First band interviewed for this fanzine, so I thought itíd be nice to name this mag after half of one of their album titles. You guess which one.
I am the only person I know with all the Fuck albums, so when I was asked if I was up for a trip to the smoke to meet the band it didnít take muck arm twisting. Theyíre quietly renowned for simple songs like a primary school Palace Brothers or Unrest, and you canít say their name on the radio. Two albums on their own label (Pretty...Slow and Baby Loves a Funny Bunny) have now led to the obligatory small-money deal with The Man – in this case Matador – and the next Pardon My French is one of the great secret albums of 1997. We met on the park behind the Highbury Garage and I tried to keep my rabid fandom at bay.

Is this your first trip to Europe?
Ted (Bass. Loves Al Green and Talk Talk): Yeah, we did two festival shows about two weeks ago in the Netherlands and in Holland (eh?). Then we had a week off to see Europe cos weíve never been over here before. We went to Sweden for three wonderful shows; Denmark; and in Amsterdam we had a radio show two days ago.
How come thereís only one show over here?
T: I think itís all they could have gotten for us as itís our first time here. We would love to do more but itís such a huge expense to come over here. Thereís lots of factors first time.

A lot of your songs are about loss/ girlfriends leaving etc. Does it help to play that stuff repeatedly, or does it make you worse?
Geoff (Drums/guitar. Practically inaudible. Loves sleeping. Hates poetry and art): None of my songs are really about girlfriends. I have one about a one-night stand that goes really bad...
T: I think playing the same stuff every night is not like a cathartic experience yíknow, sometimes it is but itís rare. Emotions donít come back that you feel when youíre originally doing the stuff. I hope I donít burst anyoneís bubble.
G: Why bother?

A lot of your songs are written like nursery rhymes or lullabies. Are you childish or child-like?
G: We really try to be child-like rather than childish.
T: We like to appeal to as large a group of people as possible; that is the very young and the very old, so a lot of times those songs will really hit home with those age groups. And Timís just a big baby in many ways.
But surely with a name like yours you cut down the kind of audience youíd attract.
T: Thatís true, we canít really play for nursery schools or anything, but we played a couple of days ago in a radio station and there were a couple of kids there and they really seemed to almost join in on the music, some of the more kiddie songs. Not too many old people come to see us but thatís their fault, not ours.

Are you always so quiet? Thereís the odd noisy ending, but you seem pretty mild-mannered.
G: We get a little louder when we play live but I guess whatís loud to us is probably not loud to most people. I think in general our volume has increased recently – the last album is a little more rocking than the first two.
T: I think that when I go see bands that just play one thing, like all quiet slow music, I get really bored and itís really hard to keep my interest and attention for that long and I think weíre all pretty conscious of that... itís not the reason weíre writing faster songs, but it helps it.

Your CDs have wonderful packaging – do you feel confident about your music, which seems to be found by accident.
G: Yeah I think people get drawn in by the packaging (like a matchbook or a box with sweets and a colouring book in) and the name and all that but people wouldnít be interested just by packaging.
T: I think that we try and look at all aspects of being in a band with the same amount of creativity as the music because with most bands itís already predetermined that the CDs gonna be put out in a jewel box.
G: ...and somebody else does the artwork. Ted went to art school; he does some of the art. We all have different interests and we get to explore those interests through the whole thing.

It seems youíre better known here than in America.
T: That may have something to do with the name. Weíve only been here for two short weeks but from what I can tell most people donít really have a hang-up, except for this club tonight.
G: And the customs agents at the ferry, they had a big problem – ďYou shouldnít be allowed to play in our country under obscenity laws. You canít say that name. Youíll never support Oasis

Iíd compare you to bands like Unrest/Air Miami or Eggs. Who makes you tick?
T: (blank faced) I donít know either of those bands, Timís really into bubblegum pop – ĎYummy Yummy Yummyí – that kinda stuff. Kyle is a huge Beatles fan, so we all listen to different things and I donít know how all that stuff gets worked into our sound, but somehow it must.
Us Europeans know more obscure American bands than you do, donít we?
T: Thatís so true! When we were in Belgium they were asking about all these bands, playing stuff and I loved it. Our tour manager is from Holland and he turned us on to the Radar Brothers, really nice quiet music. But you know theyíre from California like we are and weíd never heard of them before. Thereís so many bands in the States.

Iíve noticed that American bands will last as long as it takes to get the members through college and then quit, but over here we form bands to avoid proper jobs – whatís going on?
T: Like a phase. I think a lot of families pressure their kids to live the American dream – buy your house, do your career thing – so I think a lot of people quit. Thereís so much bullshit you have to deal with.
Do any of you have proper jobs?
T: Iím a teacher in elementary school.
G: Iím a computer technician...really!
T: Kyle is a recording engineer, he records all our stuff, and Tim is unemployed. He does a lot of stuff for the band but he doesnít have a regular job.

Does being with Matador mean an end to the home-made sleeves?
G: We canít do them all obviously but in our contract we agreed with them that weíd get a certain amount of raw CDís to put in our own packaging to sell at shows.
T: I think weíre up to about six or seven thousand of our first two CDís. Thatíd be a full time job pretty much because each one of those things takes so much time, so in a way what can you do?

SF/Oakland/New York – how do you manage with living so far apart?
T: I think it helps us because weíre only together for short periods of time so weíre forced to concentrate and get a lot of work done. Whereas a lot of bands maybe practice twice a week for an hour and then drink a couple of cases of beer, we do a lot of work. Since weíre apart we have a lot more time to reflect and analyse and talk about the things that we do – so that distance is really good in a way. We all write music in different ways with different methods, since weíre not together all the time weíre not watching the same TV programmes or living in the same house.

I hear youíre into toys in a big way.
T: In the States weíve got quite a few mechanical toys that move around and do things. Here weíve only got a suitcase-and-a-half-full because of the small amount of space in our van. Our dream is to have huge amounts of mechanical things operating on stage. But yeah, tonight we have some – and fresh batteries too – so thatís a nice thing.

Do you think Letís Stay Together by Al Green is happy or sad?
T: I think itís a very happy song. You can tell that they have had some hard times and Iíve had some hard times with my girlfriend but with that song you resolve to make it work. The music of that song, just the way the band plays, makes me happy every time I hear it.
To me it can be quite sad. A plea rather than a positive statement – a last attempt to stop things falling apart.
T: To stop the ship from sinking. I can see that.

Whatís your favourite expletive?
T: I donít know – cocksucker? I call a lot of people cocksuckers. I mean only when Iím driving. Thatís very harsh, maybe you shouldnít put that in your magazine.
Do you notice people swear much more in America than here?
T: We were here for three days two months ago for a Peel session and we didnít really meet that many people but most people here I notice have a really broad command of the English language, they use the right word in the right context 90% of the time; whereas Americans if thereís an entire vocabulary theyíll use like this much of it (indicates small space between finger and thumb) and the rest is cuss words. Thatís the main thing I really realised. Itís nice hearing people like yourselves speak because you realise what else is out there.

Geoff wakes up and looks at my notes...
G: About this ďI hate artĒ comment. My girlfriend and I went to the Louvre on Paris about a week ago and it totally changed my whole view of the whole art thing. I love it, Iím really into the paintings and sculptures – itís turned me around again.
Did you go to the Pompidou? I find that more modern art has a lot more appeal than classical works.
T: Iím the same way as you, Iím more into that new stuff. Iím sorry, Iíd have a lot more to say if I wasnít so hungry.

John Peel has been forced to call you Feck – why is radio swearing such a big deal?
T: Our host from Matador told us about the TV programme with that on, so thatís how people would know. We also heard that after 9 oíclock on TV you can say ďfuckĒ, but not on the radio? We were in Sweden and I couldnít believe the station IDís they were having us do, like one was ďFuck you motherfuckers – weíre Fuck!Ē Something we would never dream of saying on the radio.
But itís less taboo to be known as Fuck in mainland Europe, as an amusing second language thing.
T: But everyone knows what it is and everyone uses it. I was really surprised. It comes up but itís not so much of a big deal. And we played on the national radio station in the Netherlands as well.

Well there you have it. Swearing is the universal language and it turns out that it is big and clever to do so. These people were lovely, so buy their records and they might come back.

 

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