Slaves are a band hailing from the UK that are making noise as an unmistakably British punk act. They have gained a lot of attention for bringing raw and exciting performances that have a distinct lack of pretentiousness in a British music scene flooded with bands that are leaning more and more towards American-centric influences.
Slaves have become a staple on a thriving underground UK scene, fuelled by a DIY mentality and the internet, bands are doing it for themselves and building an army of talent that are dangerously bubbling to the surface.
Luckily on my travels I got to catch up with Slaves and asked them a few questions that they will probably hear a thousand times again, given their growing cult following.
Hi Slaves, first off I wanted to ask you about the members of the band and where you’re from?
Laurie from Maidstone and Isaac from Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
How did Slaves begin and what prompted you to start Slaves?
I: Me and Laurie met at a few shows and became mates, I asked him to play bass in my previous band Bareface as we had let the bassist and drummer go and needed people to take their place. We played one show together and soon after we decided that we weren’t happy with the way it was going so we decided to break off from the band and start something fresh together. We tried to find a drummer but truth be told we didn’t really have any mates that were up for it, so Laurie said why don’t you try drumming standing up.
What was the idea behind the band’s name? Is there any meaning behind it?
L: When we were trying to form a previous band we had been discussing band names, so the topic of names was continuous over the period of about 6 months. When we started this band I had the word just stuck in my head and we weren’t sure at first. We toyed with “The Slaves” and settled for “Slaves” after many long conversations. There isn’t a conscious meaning behind the name on our part, just the fact that it is a poignant term with a lot associated to it. That is what compelled me most to it.
Are there any specific direct or indirect influences on the band?
L: Music wise, yes, a lot of Crass/Refused/Joy Division and Elliott Smith to name a few on my part. Other influences include frustration at the local music scene mainly the cliquey attitude surrounding the music being played, ‘the right way to dance’, ‘the right way to look’ alienating the people who care about the music. I hate that and want us and myself personally to have nothing to do with it. I want people to just enjoy music again and not care.
What were you listening to growing up?
I: I don’t think I could narrow it down to a genre or a set of bands. My old man is a big vinyl collector and I’ve been brought up with a wide range of stuff. I’ve always been well into punk, reggae and a lot of hip hop too. I was listening to all sorts as a teen but I guess that is the music I always go back to and that I find most influential. Genre doesn’t matter; I like songs not genres.
You are notorious for tearing down the venue as well as de-robing during a set, which gives everyone a good chance to get a look at your ever growing collection of tattoos. Which was the last one you got?
L: My eagle vs snake but technically I have just got a spider’s web to finish off my right arm done too.
Are there any misconceptions about Slaves so far that you hear often? Do people make assumptions about you?
L: The most common is that we are going to use other peoples drum kits. People can never get their head around our drum set up until they see it. We also had “you guys look like you are going to play music like Chase and Status” at an early gig because of the way we dress. Obviously, he was surprised when we did take to the stage.
Your lyrics are something that seem be a largely memorable part of your songs. What inspires them?
I: I take inspiration from so many places; every day actions and conversations, relationships, films, friends, books, government, philosophy, girls, quotations. It’s cliché to say, but life fascinates me, and I like writing about the stuff I think about, if I don’t then I overthink everything and it messes my head up.
Your live set up is stripped down, which not only makes it visually memorable but allows for a no-nonsense, very effecting sound. How did that come about?
I: When we talked about starting something together, we didn’t know it was going to be like this, we did think about getting more members a few times, but why fuck around with something if it works; it’s perfect.
You went from doing a few shows to being featured in NME in a short space of time. What do you think is the main factor behind the interest all of a sudden?
L: I’d like to think it’s the hard work we have put in, behind the scenes there’s a lot going on. Playing every gig we can get our hands on just to show people our music. It’s also raw, people like that, you don’t see it that much anymore. Bands nowadays concentrate on harmonies and backing tracks, which we don’t dismiss at all, but the energy and raw power is our thing people notice.
You’ve got a couple of songs up on your SoundCloud after the original demos were taken down, are there any more on the way we can look forward to?
L: Yes we have another 5 tracks recorded and ready to go, and more have been written since.
Is the internet or word of mouth a more important factor for you?
L: I think they are equally important. I dont really use the internet that much and I prefer word of mouth, that way you can take the opinion from someone you know and trust more. It feels good to know people are talking about your music, even if they don’t like it. The internet is good because you can spread the word to a wider and more accessible audience in the click of a mouse, nice and easy.
Laurie you do all the artwork at the moment, was that always the plan and how did that start?
L: Well I study illustration and it was just a natural progression; we needed a t-shirt design so I put it together. The actual font was designed by Isaac who drew “Slaves” on his hand when we were still trying to decide on a name and it stuck.
Have you ever gone through a show where someone hasn’t impatiently requested ‘Girl Fight’?
What can we expect from Slaves in the future?
L: A tour of the UK, we are putting the wheels in motion now and we hope to be on the road soon. Also we have some support slots with Cerebral Ballzy and The Skints coming up. You can expect a lot of gigging and some new tunes!