Slumped on the sofa, complaining about the wifi but being as charming as ever, Slaves are exactly what you’d expect. With their overall relaxed aura and friendly attitude it was clear that everyone’s favourite misfits were going to provide both an insightful interview and entertaining night ahead. Taking to the main room, obviously, of Leicester’s O2 Academy the stage was plenty for the duo, but the room wasn’t even half-enough for their sound. And debut album, set-opener ‘Hey’ definitely sent the room shaking.
Album number two has recently been released, did you find a lot of pressure writing this considering you had such a heavy response to the debut?
Laurie: Pressure on ourselves just to do ourselves justice, and not listen to what everyone else wanted, but not pressure to write.
Isaac: Yeah, I don’t think we felt pressure from anyone else just ‘cause we’re so precious about what we do I think, yeah, we definitely put pressure on ourselves.
However it seemed a large portion of the crowd weren’t here for the old tracks, as the room reached breaking point with adrenaline when second-album, Take Control, tracks ‘Play Dead’ and ‘People That You Meet’ followed. The latter of which including drumming from support band, Life, and a stupidly simple yet contagious bassline, with just as simply infectious lyrics.
How do you think your fanbase has changed since the debut?
Laurie: I still think we’re kind of on the same fanbase, because the more I think about albums I think about some of my favourite bands and I won’t even listen to their new album for maybe six months after it comes out, it’s only your hardcore fans that listen to it I think. So I feel like not a lot of people have discovered us off the back of the new one necessarily yet, and maybe a lot of people wait until – I remember always asking for albums for Christmas and stuff. So I don’t know, it still feels kind of the same, still very mixed.
And although the crowd may have told a different story, the hardcore did shine out from the crowd, even if it was just for the hits. ‘Despair and Traffic’ introduced the first mosh into proceedings, Isaac removing his sweat-drenched t-shirt and the first time I’ve had a pint of p*ss land on my head.
Do you reckon your live shows have brought in any new fans? Obviously because you’ve got quite a recognisable name.
Laurie: Yeah I saw someone tweet “slaves were wicked I’ll definitely be seeing them again”, so there’s definitely still new people that are coming which is good.
It was undoubtedly the quick-paced nature of their tracks that left the crowd continually stoked and never bored throughout the 24-piece track. But that’s just Slaves all over. Their heavy-urgency and angry, non-stop shouting, punk atmosphere creates something that you can’t get bored of, or you’d at least be too scared to.
What made you want to make the kind of music that you do, because punk-rock, almost grimey sounds are something we don’t really hear too often?
Laurie: It’s fun.
Isaac: I think we always set out to make this kind of music, we just wanted to make. I don’t know, I think we just had pent up aggression and we wanted to make loud, dirty music.
Laurie: I didn’t just want to write stuff to get into the charts or something, all of my favourite bands growing up and looking at the past of the British scene, I wanted to make that kind of music, I wanted it to be aggressive, and I didn’t just want to fit in with like Dubstep which was what was going on when we started.
From both looks and listens in the crowd, it seems everyone entered the Slaves journey from different walks of life. Whether it was that infamous Radio 1 live lounge grime cover, their standout debut album and initial singles such as ‘Feed The Mantaray’ the fans have been around for a while. But for newbys, it seems they all arrived from one very big track called ‘Control’ with a fellow British duo.
What made you do the Chase and Status song then?
Laurie: I’ve always thought they were the best surprising live band I’ve seen at a festival before, I’m not into dance music but they did that thing that, for maybe slightly older people, the Prodigy did- like crossed genres, and I always saw them and they always blew me away at festivals so when we got the call it was just like “yeah we’ll definitely come and write with you” and then we weren’t sure what would happen after that or if it would even get released but it was just something we wanted to do so we did it.
And although Slaves didn’t bring Chase and Status on for a surprise performance of the track, and didn’t even play the single itself- it wasn’t noticed. Padding the set out with enough heavy material, it seems as though the ‘Control’ inclusion may have been pushing it.
How can you envisage your sound progressing more in the future?
Isaac: It’s already gone to places we didn’t think it would go, so I don’t know where it could go, it could go anywhere, any direction.
Is there anything in particular you’d want to give a go?
Laurie: I’d love to give stuff like film soundtracks a go.
Isaac: Yeah film soundtracks would be sick.
Laurie: I’ve written like little piano scores that aren’t classical but, I don’t know the word for them, but you know stuff like ‘Amelie’. I don’t want to just keep writing what we do over and over again I want it to always remain fresh. So yeah, anything.
After a multitude of welcoming grunts, and a Kevin and Perry style rant about the world, the duo got into one of the hottest topics of this utterly controversial year and played their ode to David Cameron’s taxes. And with no more to be said, they let ‘Rich Man’ do the talking.
You cover quite a lot of unconventional topics- how comes you didn’t do anything about Donald Trump as quite a few artists did?
Laurie: We did ‘Rich Man’ which was based, when we wrote that, that was David Cameron had just been done, well he didn’t get done, he just got caught for tax-averting. But we were in the studio around the time when it still felt it was an open-race, Bernie was still in the race and we were sort of behind that. But we’re not a political band, and there’s this, in my eyes, just because you make aggressive music doesn’t mean you have to be preaching politics. The Sex Pistols were quite a lot about anarchy and in a lot of the Clash’s song they inspire people, like know your rights, but they don’t tell people “do this, do that”, and I think there’s a misconception about it. No one in grime is rapping about politics are they? Or they’re not directly saying it, I think because we’re one of the bands that gets labelled as “punk” everyone expects us to make comments on it, but we’re not a newspaper we’re a band. I want to make music.
New songs followed, played in the same old way. Whilst ‘Sockets’ and ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’, two of their most overplayed songs, were still as fresh as the day they were written, and as heavy as ever.
How do you portray your punk element in your live shows?
Laurie: The punk element is just how we perform and want to play loud and there’s shouting, but there’s just as much of a hardcore element and a metal element, and an indie element. It’s just people love things to be in boxes, and I don’t think our music can be put in a box.
Unsurprisingly their energy bounces throughout the room regardless of the venue. Whether it’s a sold-out O2 academy, or one that can barely even hold their family.
How was it going back to your old intimate tour days when you did the ‘Back in the Van’ tour?
Isaac: It was fun, it kind of feels like we went straight from that to this tour. How long gap did we have?
Laurie: We had about a month off, it was pretty full on.
How do you think you two can expand as a duo, live or in the studio?
Laurie: I think live there’s some ideas to bring in visuals eventually, and we’ve got at the moment our support bands drummer comes on and drums in one of our songs, and then our merch guy Ollie comes in and plays on ‘Consume’. There are ideas, we’d like to collaborate with other musicians that are already established and not established and sort of be producers, there’s loads of ideas in the pipeline but it’s always trying to make it happen that’s the hard bit.
Introducing second-album title track, ‘Take Control’, with an acapella nursery rhyme shows the pure diversity that is so epitomic of Slaves, considering they then turned it around full-pelt into one of the punkiest tracks of the set. Whereas ‘Angelica’ provides a somewhat funked-up, somewhat soul element to proceedings, with the duo providing a stripped-back, authentic representation of just how versatile they can be.
How do you make just the two of you work so well?
Laurie: Some things are just fate, aren’t they? I think when you cut down your resources it makes you be more creative, whereas if you sit in a room with loads of people and loads of resources it’s really hard to narrow down an idea. So sometimes being stripped back works to your benefit.
So have you never had the desire to get any more members in?
Laurie: No, basically. I don’t like anyone else’s writing, we cover the two grounds. Isaac covers the beat and the vocals and the melody, and I do the musical melody and that’s kind of when it comes to songwriting that’s all there is in terms of how to split it up so it’s kind of like, we don’t need anyone.
However there was one thing that seemed to be missing from the otherwise perfectly executed set. That one cover that won the hearts of every Radio 1 Live Lounge lover, ‘Shutdown’ by the grime King.
How do you feel about Skepta’s Mercury Prize win and the fact that grime music is such as big thing in the music scene at the moment?
Laurie: It’s huge
Isaac: We’re well chuffed for him
Laurie: And Kano being on the shortlist as well because, I feel like if you get nominated that’s a huge thing as well, the whole experience watching it made me kind of realise how big it was that we got nominated the year before, it only sunk in then.
When you got nominated first, how did you feel with that?
Laurie: I didn’t even really know what the Mercury Music Prize was when we got nominated.
Isaac: I didn’t really, I’d just heard of it and knew that it was big.
So it only really came to life when you saw Skepta got it this year?
Laurie: Yeah going through that bit. Well he’s smashed it hasn’t he.
‘F*ck The Hi-Hat’ gave Isaac the chance to speak out about one of his biggest frustrations, people destroying him for his drum set-up. Whilst ‘Are You Satisfied?’ brought everything back into perspective, with a slowed-down, rare no-mayhem three minutes.
What do you think the future’s like for music?
I’m joking, I think with things that happen in society that are sh*t it always breads great creativity, so I hope that music and art and stuff will be inspired by the current world affairs and it will be good and I hope that the waterboarding general sort of music you hear on the radio starts to change because it’s all very blending into one more than ever.
What do you think the future is for Slaves?
Isaac: Dunno, no idea, just carry on. See what happens.
Laurie: Festivals and album three probably.
Isaac: Just keep writing and getting another album out. Stay prolific.
The duo “finished” their set with their natural selection of ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘The Hunter’. Leaving the crowd, as always, wanting more, but the encore came with a surprising choice of tracks, considering all of their most well-known had been conquered.
What are the topics that really p*ss you off that you’d like to cover the most?
Laurie: Engagement I guess, the idea of how people can be so disengaged and uninterested, I don’t know what topic you’d call that. But I guess what we’ve always written about is just people. We like writing about people and stories, but at the same time I’d write an instrumental song, I just want to write stuff that feels good to play- it’s hard to sum up.
Bumbling their way back onto the set to yet another backing-track skit, the twosome still had three more tracks up their non-existent sleeves. Starting with ‘Lies’, taken from the new album, the crowd were slowly introduced back into an encore that perhaps didn’t need to be had.
Do you ever get judge by where you’re from about your music, because you have quite a common sound, in comparison to where you’re from?
Laurie: Of course we do, because Isaac’s from Royal Tunbridge Wells but where you go to where you grew up, you didn’t grow up in the “royal” part. And it’s just that juxtaposition of Royal Tunbridge Wells and a punk band, we definitely get judged on it, but it just makes it more interesting and yeah, people think we’re posh boys who play punk and it’s funny. But I don’t really feel the need to prove them wrong.
Dedicated to an overly vocal fan, ‘White Knuckle Ride’ came as the penultimate track to the set, using the golden 2012 tune to truly set aside the loyal ones from the newbys. However everyone was brought together for the final hur-ah, in the form of the raucous that is ‘Spit It Out’, summing up the night in three simple minutes.
Did either of you go to University?
Laurie: I went for a year and then I dropped out.
What university did you go to?
Laurie: UCA Maidstone, it doesn’t exist anymore.
Why did you drop out?
Laurie: I just realised quite early on that if you want to be creative there’s nothing for you to learn at uni that you can’t do yourself in my opinion and I think the three years I would’ve spent learning, I got to this point just. Well, a little bit before this. It’s not for me, some people work in that environment but I just don’t want to do a job, I want to make my own work.
What were you both like at school before that?
Isaac: Quite bad, naughty.
Laurie: I just floated through the middle, never got in trouble but I wasn’t very good.
As crowds ecstatically ricocheted out of the venue, all singing a different verse of a song they barely knew, you could tell Slaves’ presence would stay in Leicester for longer than that evening. And supposedly until their return, which everyone will no doubt be counting down the days until.
Finally, what advice would you give to students at university who want to be in a big band and be successful?
Laurie: Work hard, be nice, don’t expect to get discovered on YouTube.