Slow Club Forgets The Door And Finds A Window

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

When hard times strike, survival breeds strange bedfellows – and it has certainly made that of the music and advertising industries lately. 'Music' and 'advertising' have always gone hand-in-hand as their business structures have made their respective marks on pop culture, but it has always been a fairly uneasy and generally conflicted alliance; one makes the music and the other makes the image, but often the bands making the music have contended that image shouldn't matter. With the exception of institutions like the Vans Warped Tour, the conventional wisdom among rock n' roll bands of any stripe or sub-genre has that the willing acceptance of advertising dollars for anything – at all – is akin to 'selling out;' a theory that has been generally agreed upon since punk broke in 1991.

In the uncertain financial times of the new millennium however, no line is quite so easy to tow, and absolutely no rule is hard and fast. There are doors closing. While neither musicians nor the advertising industry has actively endeavored to change their views or dealings with each other, as technology makes it progressively more difficult for musicians to turn an honest dollar and advertising has always been both largely responsible for and dependent upon the global economy, both camps have begun to re-think their strategies. As a result, an increasing number of practices previously reviled are becoming progressively more 'okay;' like the notion that advertising is an ideal location for a band to reach an audience they wouldn't have been able to previously. When a song appears in a national advertisement, everyone seems to win now; the band that does such a product placement has a better shot at breaking into a market because advertising – particularly on television – is so pervasive; everyone hears it, and everyone with a television gets a passive exposure. In that way, as Slow Club guitarist Charles Watson admits, while it might be a surreal way to reach new audiences it would be difficult to seriously complain; with the door seeming to be closed, the band has found a window to break into the big leagues.  “The way things have gone has been good in some ways,” admits the guitarist cautiously when the subject of Slow Club's music appearing in advertisements for companies including Ritz Crackers in Canada, Frito-Lay in the US and on the second season finale of Chuck comes up. “I mean, obviously it isn't ideal to be on an avert – it's not like we went looking for it or anything – but the opportunity came up and it meant that we'd be able to stop working for a little bit and concentrate on playing music. We're not signed to a major label and we don't have a publishing deal or a lot of money being thrown at us in the UK on the record side of the band so it has been a good way to supplement being professional musicians.

“We're not advertising shills or anything, but it is a really cool thing as far as being a very instant way of reaching people,” continues the singer/guitarist, mulling over the different positives and negatives over the band's position. “Instead of it being a show somewhere that only a comparatively few people would have been able to see, it's right there in everyone's house across the world; it's kind of a crazy concept. It's kind of hard to grasp because I don't exactly know how many people have heard it on TV, but it's hard to imagine all the people listening to it. It's really weird for us, but also a really good thing in some ways too I think. In cases like that, people are honestly just picking up on us on the basis of the music and that's what I really like: people that really care about what they heard. They don't care about where they heard it and neither do I really, the fact is that you heard it and that's all that really matters. I remember there have been a few times that my first exposure to a band's music was in an advert; it turns out that it's an awesome way to reach people.”

While it's difficult to argue with that volume of free promotion, no advertisement has or could ever hope to really encapsulate Slow Club or their album, Yeah So – they've only utilized snippets of the story. Now out in the US [the record was first released in Europe and Canada on July 6, 2009, but landed in the States on March 30, 2010 –ed], Yeah So presents the portrait of young but enduring love as a state of mind that can shift but not change; beginning with innocence and youth. In the beginning, the album eases carefully into its' look at romance with the simple and folky “When I Go” and, with tender vocal harmonies, wins hearts right from the outset as Watson and Taylor make soft-spoken promises to each other to stick around to the end, come what may and no matter what. It's a beautiful and heartstring-plucking introduction that makes listeners want to believe as much as the singers do. 

…And then the band flips the emotional center on its ear on the very next track!

Utilizing a vintage and well-worn indie drive similar to that of The Vaselines, Slow Club rocks out a twee, 'fallen out of love' anthem in the form of “Giving Up On Love” and sets the other extreme that the band will be operating within for Yeah So; the band happily bounces along and lovingly spits in the eye of love and lovers, either loving them or loving t hate them. The song isn't aggressive so much as it is good-naturedly petulant and seems deliberately contrary to its predecessor but is still cutesy enough to keep the hooks from “When I Go” anchored.

In the case of Yeah So, the true winners are actually the American audiences. The domestic US of Yeah So attempts to make the best introduction they can by collecting a few of the better cuts from their first two EPs as well as some live tracks and including them on a second-disc mini-album packaged with the album making it of all the greater quality. One would think that the value of a great album would make it worth checking out and falling in love with on its own, but the second disc in this set seals the deal; this is essential listening for anyone that misses indie rock romance and critics should beware – there's a new twee in town, and you'll be captivated by it.

And while you're being captivated by it, listeners can rest assured that they may not have to wait long for another course. According to Watson, the writing process for Slow Club remains ongoing and, because the nature of release schedules on different continents never exactly align, it's entirely feasible that fans may be able to track down more music sooner than they think. “The funny thing is, some of the songs that ended up on Yeah So are actually pretty old,” laughs the Watson self-effacingly. “Some were recorded as early as 2007 – that's when “When I Go” was done the first time, and there are a few others like that which appeared on Yeah So as well. We re-recorded them for the album, but some of the songs on it have been around since, like, late 2007 and early 2008. We finished recording the album in early 2009 so even the newer songs are already a year old. A lot of that happened because it was our first record; we did it, basically, because we didn't really have any choice; with lack of back catalogue. Even further than that, this album has been released pretty slowly – pretty much territory-by-territory – and each time it comes out somewhere else, we go there and tour it because it's fresh in people's mind. That's what we did when our album came out in the UK and Canada, and that's what we've been doing in America as well. At the same time, we're still working on new songs when we can and I think we're going to do an EP around the summertime. We've only just gotten back on writing and working on new songs and making sure that we're staying engaged in being creative and not just touring our asses off. If you can believe it, we've actually found that counter-productive.

“We've sort of worked it out now and, while it's not exactly a set time or anything, but we'd like to get the album out before the end of this year, that's the aim so we've been working toward that,” Watson continues, getting audibly excited at the possibilities the future appears to hold. “We've both become more proficient at writing music and we're learned a load of techniques and been exposed to a load of different ideas and sounds which I think had made the writing process easier. It's all become a lot more diverse so it's just a really exciting time for us to be writing right now. We're in a different city now – we're in London – so the songs that we're writing now are different and sort of reflective of that in a way. We've started experimenting with writing on keyboards a lot and trying out different chord progressions and using drum machines. We're just trying out different tools to try and get a different look at how you can write instead of just writing on guitar. I mean, there will be songs that were written on guitar, but there will be a lot that aren't as well. It's kind of hard to explain because no one has really heard them yet, we're just writing and we're the only two that know these songs so, to me, they sound really awesome and I love them; I'm really excited about it because I think we'll have made a really good second album from these, but it's hard to have an objective viewpoint because we're right there in it.”



Slow Club – “When I Go” – Yeah So

Further Reading:

Ground Control's review of Yeah So.


Yeah So is now available domestically. Buy it here on Amazon .

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