Slow Club

Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor are Slow Club, a boy-girl duo who’ve left their twee beginnings behind to grow muscular pop muscles via a relentless live schedule and two studio albums. M quizzed Charles on the importance of gigs, Back to the Future and Wings.

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 25 Jul 2013
  • min read
Since getting together in 2005, Slow Club have grown some serious musical muscle via a hectic diary of touring and recording. Their schedule has been far removed from the lethargy their moniker suggests.  

Consisting of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, their early years saw the pair labelled as twee folksters before a tour with Tilly and the Wall helped them grab the attention of Moshi and Moshi and secure a deal.

The resulting record - 2009’s Yeah So - showcased the duo’s deft songwriting abilities as well as a more expansive musical palette showing off rockabilly, riffs and pure pop harmonies and hooks.

Paradise, the band's second record, led to an expanded live line up with a bassist and drummer. With Charles and Rebecca's firm friendship and songwriting partnership driving the band, they hit the road for what seemed like a continual tour.

On the way they’ve endeared themselves to many a music lover, including Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe who loves the group so much he chose to star in their video for last summer's Beginners.

M caught up with Charles from the duo as they'd just put their third long-player to bed and ahead of their recent home town gig at Sheffield's Tramlines Festival. He talks through their early influences, the importance of touring and a passion for Paul McCartney’s Wings…

Can you remember the first songs which got you into music?

When we were kids, my dad used to make these home videos. He used to delete all the sound and put Leonard Cohen songs over the top. They were the most morose sounding videos. There was an album called I’m Your Man and it’s his 80s synth years. I loved it. That was my introduction to music.

How did you pick up an instrument?

I watched Back to the Future and that scene when Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Goode - that was it.

Was it a natural step to start writing songs?

It was quite a gradual thing. I started playing the violin when I was about six, then guitar at nine. I used to learn Oasis songs. Me and a friend then started writing together. There wasn’t really a point when I thought I want to be a writer. It just kind of happened because I enjoyed it.

How did Slow Club get together?

Rebecca and myself both went to schools near each other. They were doing this ‘music mixer’ thing which is where we met. We kept bumping into each other after that.

It got to the point where everyone else was going to university and getting serious. We were the only ones left wanting to carry on with music so we teamed up and decided to sack off our education.

Has being from Sheffield had an impact on your sound?

Not really. I wish we were a bit more of a Sheffield band. We seem to have been left off that kind of scene. But in some ways, it's probably a good thing.

I’d never really listened to many Sheffield acts until we left the city, then I got into Pulp and the Human League. But yeah it’s weird. Sheffield has such a strong heritage. We’ve just finished recording our third album there, which we did at Yellow Arch at Kelham Island with Colin Elliot. It was a really quick process and we had a really good time as so many of our family and friends are up there too.

How has your songwriting developed?

It’s weird. When you do your first record, you’ve got your whole life to draw on. Then you do your second one in six months. After that, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of doing something you know you can do well.

So with this latest record, we both tried to push ourselves both musically and lyrically. Now most of my time is dedicated to writing, I have to be a bit more disciplined because sometimes having more time can be quite harmful.

It’s just about finding a place where you can work comfortably, be productive and not get depressed because you’re failing to write songs. It does happen and when it does, you just need to take a step back from it all.

How do you work? Is it purely collaborative?

It depends – we both write separately. You can tell who has written what because it’s normally the person singing it. But on this record, there are a lot of collaborations where one of us has written it and the other sings. This time it’s been much more open and free and it feels a lot better for it. We’re being a bit more respectful to the songs rather than trying to cram too much into them.

Which current songwriters look up to for inspiration or influence?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bowie but I guess everyone has haven’t they? It changes. Wings. That’s what I’ve been listening to.

Any particular albums?

I’m going to have to say … The Best of Wings. I’ve never really liked Paul McCartney just cos I think he’s a bit smug. But he’s got so many great songs it doesn’t really matter.

You seem to tour constantly. What’s the importance of playing live for new bands?

It’s the most important thing for bands. It just doesn’t make sense for those that don’t play live. It’s all well and good playing at home or in the studio but the whole idea is communicating your music to people. If you’re not out there playing, then it just starts becoming a bit pointless.

We’ve been really lucky in playing out a lot over the last few years and it’s there when you realise how much better you've become.