There are plenty of perks to running a blog – I get to hear plenty of new music, often get asked to come along to gigs for free and, most importantly, it makes it look as though I know a thing or two about music. However, since kicking off WCT a few months back there haven’t been many moments that have got me quite so excited as when Aaron of The Slow Readers Club confirmed that the band would be willing to take the time to be interviewed by me. I managed to interrupt one of their practice sessions and, after a little back-and-forth over whether Liverpool or Manchester is the greater city (it’s the former, obviously) here’s a rough guide to what happened;
So how did the band first get together?
Aaron: Jim and I were in a band called Omerta previously after I answered an as in The Loot, an old newspaper which was like the pre-historic version of eBay, and I went for an audition. We were in Omerta for 3/4 years and that came to an end, at that point I asked Kurt[is Starkie] to join the band and we had a few drummers – including Dave who’s in the band again now. That’s when The Slow Readers Club was born. The minutii of that isn’t very interesting… Kurt is my brother so obviously I knew him when he was born.
You’ve got 2 brothers from Manchester in a band? I’ve heard that one before…
Kurt: We don’t fight!
Aaron: We should do, get some free press…
It would get you on NME every week for years after you split it… The band name is ‘The’ Slow Readers Club isn’t it?
Aaron: That’s right. We’re not offended if people lose the ‘the’, although we’re making a logo with a ‘the’ as well.
Where did the name come from? Are any of you particularly slow readers?
A: No, it’s kind of our take on The Smiths – it feels outsider-ish. It’s a little bit rebellious I think. I have a very clear memory of going round secondary school, when I was leaving junior school to be orientated, and we went round all different rooms like science labs and I thought it was crazy. We came to one room which was called ‘special needs’ which is such a non-PC term these days. I thought it was curious that you could be put in a stream from that early on and SRC is our version of that. It’s a rejection of that notion.
It’s a much nicer way of putting things!
A: I don’t know what it would be called now. Special educational needs?
Where did you start playing? Has everything grown from the Manchester pub circuit?
A: Yeah, Kurt had been in a band with David as well before so we were all familiar with the live scene in Manchester. I think our first gig as Omerta was at Band On The Wall and probably our first gig as SRC was at Ruby Lounge. We’ve played a few places around Manchester, some of the newer venues as well like Soup Kitchen and The Castle we’ve played recently. There was a thing in the press recently about it being the most live venues in the country of any city. There’s a lot of choice. There’s not always people there. More recently there tends to be more people. These venues become trendy and suddenly they’re not trendy any more. It’s a cool city for music.
Do you ever find that the amount of venues can inhibit the music scene? I read Scroobius Pip recently saying that he doesn’t go to Liverpool for most of his tours because people don’t go as there’s so much on.
A: I think there’s some truth in that, definitely. I think the main thing for any band in Manchester is that you can struggle under the legacy of previous bands. Also, people have an image in their mind when they think of a band from Manchester – understandably so. They’ll picture some swaggering ludites or Morrissey…
A: Or Bez! There’s a cliché and people will sort of moan about it. When I was growing up I thought it was fantastic, it’s a great thing to celebrate. You still can’t escape that indie music when you’re out in clubs in Manchester and I suppose students that are coming from out of town want to hear that as well. It lingers, it’s quite a heavy thing for musicians in the city to carry.
Are you proud to be a part of that heritage?
A: We respect those bands, yeah, it was just a long time ago. It’s an albatross I guess, it’s difficult to break through from.
You’re out doing your own thing, trying to break more waves.
A: Exactly, The Smiths were probably an influence on us and we’ve been compared to Joy Division in the past and that’s natural given the amount were we exposed to that music. You don’t want to be looking to the past too much though.
I was going through your playlist on YouTube and it felt like I was going backwards in time as I went through the list – Don’t Mind has a 90s vibe, Start Again is a really 80s sound. Would you say that there’s a particular era that inspires you?
A: Yeah, we grew up in the 80s. I was listening to Spotify in the car on the way to practice tonight, probably shouldn’t say this as it isn’t the coolest thing in the world but I was listening to Yazoo. This must have been A LOT when I was a kid. You can see some of those melodies come through, the heavy synth melodies. 80s bands were a big influence but we try not to be confined too much. Obviously there are parameters as to what we can do as a band, we aren’t going to do a One Direction song or whatever, but you try and keep it varied and keep ourselves and the listeners interested. The variety you hear on The Beatles albums or Bowie albums, you’ve got ballads and things that are a bit more varied than a lot more contemporary bands. I’ll buy a couple of singles and the whole album can be on one level. I guess we just try and vary it.
It comes and goes over time but people are once again talking about the death of the album, with people being more in favour of the EP format. Is that something that you find yourselves going towards?
A: We kind of are into albums but having heard that, maybe we should have done EPs…
It saves a lot of time if you’ve only got to do 4 tracks!
Kurt: With things like Soundcloud now, people can listen to what they want.
A: It also depends what exposure that track has had – whether it’s been purely on YouTube and whatever and been passed around, I don’t like using the term viral but people have embraced it. Or it has been used on an advert or had loads of radio play, there are different ways in which a track can be exposed. We are still doing albums at the moment.
K: With an EP it’s not a single, it’s not an album, so what are the rest of the tracks? They’re not B-sides. It’s supposed to be a part of a theme…
A: That said, we might do an EP after this album – just for the sake of getting things out there.
K: It takes a couple of years if people are waiting for an album.
A: I think the impressions that I get from our fans is that people are wanting an album rather than an EP.
How long has it taken you to get the album together?
A: Too long. We all work so it fits around that, it’s not very rock and roll… Some tracks are really frustratingly long to work on but I think the first album was out in late 2012 so it’ll have been 2 years between the albums.
K: It took a lot longer to write though.
A; Yeah, the first album was written over years and years. We took some tracks from back in the Omerta days. We’ve written the second album quicker and we’re closing in on finishing the album.
There’s probably a fair bit more demand for the second album. People are aware of you and they want whatever is coming next.
A: Exactly, yeah. If we were signed and had a label, the marketing machine and all the pressure that comes with that then I’m sure we’d have worked quicker.
David: And we wouldn’t have had to go to work!
A: We’d have had a bit more of a logical release schedule but it’s just a DIY thin we’re doing.
[I then foolishly ask them about their day jobs, which will not be included as they weren’t as rock and roll as you might expect (and because I don’t want them to get fired or anything!)]
A: You’d be surprised how many bands work.
K: Bands signed to small labels work a lot.
When did you start thinking that more people going to listen to your music? Was it when you first got played on 6Music?
A: Yeah, Start Again was the first track played on 6Music. Back in the day Omerta got radio play as well. We were really confident with the material and with a bit of luck you can get support from radio. Having those 2 releases near one another really helps and we’re doing a lot of gigs and a lot of smaller festivals. We’re working hard to build up a good live reputation and getting good reviews. All that helps when they’re checking you out. The support on the most recent single Don’t Mind has had plenty of plays on 6Music, Steve Lamacq’s round table and the recommended playlist. We’re looking at releasing forever in your debt in December to capitalise on that. It was released in November in last year, just us putting it out there, no plugging, and that’s probably our strongest track in our opinion. Certainly it’s the most loved when we do it live. Hopefully that will get us some radio play and take us through to the new year when we’ll have to second album out.
Have you started planning tours for next year?
A: We’re speaking to some agents at the moment but nothing is booked in yet. The intention is to tour the second album, we might be doing stuff overseas as well – we’re speaking to some guys in Russia and LA. This has all come off the 6Music exposure.
Russia’s a bit of a strange one – given the recent situation…
A: I can’t say too much about it yet but a guy saw us in London when we were playing with a band called Echo Tape who have gone and done some stuff out there so we’re just talking to some guys about doing a gig in Moscow, promoting our material out there. It’s all early days.
You’ve got to start touring somewhere, why not Moscow? Just one more question before I let you go, who is your least favourite cartoon character?
David: Skeletor! I hated him. Actually, it’s Bones from Superted – he freaks me out. He reminds me of the Chelsea footballer Schurrle. Just have a look at him and he looks like a skeleton. I don’t like skeletons.
I don’t think many people do!
Jim: Mine’s Starscreen from Transformers. The one with the annoying voice, he always gets battered by Megatron – he’s the number 2 that wants to be number 1.
[Plenty of discussion ensues, including the line “was there a unicorn in He-Man?” and we fall down the cartoon rabbit-hole – I find myself arguing for the cause of Rocksteady and Bebop from TMNT. There’s special hatred reserved for Dr Claw from Inspector Gadget, due to his anonymity, as well as Penny the “smart-arse” from the same show”. Once the phrase “anything out of Power Rangers” comes out, it feels like the right time to bring things to a close.]