Street wise antagonists Sleaford Mods are one of the edgiest musical propositions currently subverting the hearts and minds of the disaffected and those with an ear for a shouty dose of clever, take no prisoners word play.
The UK duo, consisting of rant-worthy front man Jason Williamson, musically fortified by the minimal junk-shop electro of the phlegmatic Andrew Fearn, have been gaining an ever growing legion of rabid admirers, including fellow musicians such as Iggy Pop, who declared the band “the best rock and roll band in the world right now”. Their claim to such lofty praise lies in their musical minimalism, in turns edgy yet catchy (ala antagonistic late 70’s New York duo Suicide), melded with their willingness to shout out the frustrations of both the educated and the working class in a world where austerity, brexit and rampant capitalist greed are all too prevalent.
Their upcoming Australian tour is one of the most highly anticipated on the 2020 calendar, and it’s been awhile coming, as acknowledged by a relatively subdued and friendly Williamson when I chatted with him recently.
“It’s the right time to do it now. We should have come over a few years ago but it just didn’t happen, for one reason or another. But this time around we’re very much prepared and looking forward to it. I’ve never been to Australia, so I’ve got absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like. I’ve spoken to people who’ve toured over there and they’ve said it’s brilliant. So we’re really looking forward to it. It’ll be a really good experience, I think. It’ll be interesting to see what happens and how people take it, you know what I mean.”
In spite of his intense, somewhat unhinged stage persona, Williamson has in fact been free from the scourge of substance use and partaken in a relatively clean-living lifestyle for awhile now. I put it to him as to whether becoming a father a few years back was one of the strong motivating factors in his reformed ways.
“Of course if was, yeah. I didn’t want to see my kids grow up with someone on the rollercoaster ride of depression and everything else. I want a healthy family life and I want to remain married to my wife, you know. Because if I had of carried on the same way as before, that wouldn’t have happened. You can’t put up with that insanity, it’s stupid.”
The bands most recent album, ‘Eton Alive’, their fifth studio effort, came out on their own record label, Extreme Eating. It turns out that this has been a very brief dalliance, with the duo recently returning once again to the respected fold of their previous label, Rough Trade Records. Says Williamson of the experience; “We had a really turbulent year last year. We parted company with our manager and it resulted in us leaving Rough Trade. But we’ve since signed back with them in December and we’re back working with them. It was a premature departure, it felt like we had a relationship that hadn’t developed to its true potential. Being independent was ok, but it was just really fucking hard work. And we thought, well we don’t need this, as the label wants to get us back, and they don’t fuck about with us. It’s not one of those situations. They let us totally be ourselves, they’re there for advice or whatever. They’re like parents, like mum and dad haha! They’ve got decades of experience with god knows how many brilliant bands who’ve been signed to that label. So we decided to go back. We weren’t earning that much extra money by being independent, it was just a lot more work. So that was that”
And that was also that when it came to the rest of our interview, with a few technical glitches leaving me to paraphrase the rest of our ever more enlightening conversation rather than being able to quote Jason directly.
I asked Jason about the track ‘OBCT’, off the latest record, ‘Eton Alive’ and whether in fact the sound of that much maligned instrument, the kazoo, makes an appearance about half way through the track. Jason informed me that it is indeed a kazoo, for which he owned up to being the responsible party, and that its somewhat ‘cheesy’ sound was an effective counterpoint to the menacing bass-line of minimalist musical side-kick Andrew Fearn .. the ying and the yang.
Whilst on the subject of the bands ‘musical director’, Andrew, I asked Jason if he’s as laid back and nonchalant in real life as he appears to be when performing. Especially when compared to his own hyper-animated performance style and mannerisms. To which Jason replied that Andrew is in fact the more social and outgoing one when it comes to mingling backstage after the show, whereas he prefers to keep to himself. Which is maybe not so surprising when one considers how much of himself Jason gives when he crosses the line and gets up on stage to perform.
In wrapping things up on a light-hearted note, I asked Jason that if this music caper thing, for whatever reason, had to stop for him tomorrow, what he would do with himself next. After a self-depreciating chuckle and a throwaway line about “probably heading down to the pub”, he alluded to his other interest, acting (of which he’s dabbled a bit previously). Although in his eyes, that particular profession is probably even more head-fuckingly mental as his current vocation!
But for now we can rejoice in the knowledge that with Sleaford Mods continuing to go from strength to strength, this alternative career option is clearly a long way off. And with their debut Australian shows looming large on the horizon, we’re about to see exactly what the fuss is all about when it comes to their dynamic live reputation.
Sleaford Mods will be performing in Australia in March at the following shows:
· Wednesday 4th March 2020 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
· Thursday 5th March 2020 – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*
· Wednesday 11th March 2020 – Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne *2ND SHOW ADDED*
· Thursday 12th March 2020 – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD *VENUE UPGRADED*
· Friday 13th March 2020 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA *SOLD OUT*
· Saturday 14 March 2020 – Rock Rover, Fremantle WA *NEW SHOW ADDED*
· Saturday 29th February 2020 – Farmer & the Owl, Wollongong
· Saturday 7th March 2020 – Golden Plains Festival, Meredith
· Sunday 8th March 2020 – A Festival Called Panama, Launceston
· Monday 9th March 2020 – WOMADelaide, Adelaide
Get your tickets here.