The Subways burst onto the UK music scene back in 2005 with their debut 'Young For Eternity'. Making a name for themselves at their live shows and festival slots, The Subways six years later are still just as strong.
After taking some well needed time out, The Subways return this month with their third album 'Money and Celebrity'. Gigwise caught up with the band; Billy Lunn, Charlotte Cooper and Josh Morgan to discuss their new material, live dates and working with producer Stephen Street.
So you’ve just finished recording the new album, ‘Money and Celebrity’, how are you feeling?
Billy: Brilliant, well I’m a bit hung-over at the moment but otherwise I’m fine.
Charlotte: We’re just really, really excited. We’ve got a tour that starts next week, it’s ten weeks long, goes all round Europe and we cannot wait for that. We had a really good summer of festivals as well which sort of started off the touring for this album and we just can’t wait to get inside and do some small club shows.
When did you start touring this album and playing the new songs live?
Billy: We did a short tour in June. As soon as we finished recording the album we were basically tugging on our managers shirt sleeves saying ‘please, please book us a tour’, because that’s what we love doing and it had been a year, because we spent a year writing the album. We went straight on tour, we did a small UK tour and then, as Charlotte said, the summer festivals in Europe, which has been amazing, a great way for us to get the blood pumping and introduce some new songs into the set.
How have the new songs been received so far?
Billy: Better than some of the old songs, which is fantastic. The first time the audience were hearing the songs they were going absolutely nuts for them. I’m honestly not exaggerating! The first time that we released that the songs we were writing on this album were actually working was last year when we did a small tour. I remember playing in Lithuania and I can remember sticking ‘It’s a Party’ in the set about half way through and there was a sort of good response to some of the songs and then we were in the B-verse, building up to go to the chorus and we stopped, and everyone knew the chorus was coming. And it’s like, I think we’ve written quite a good song here, it’s working, it’s doing what we intended it to do. When we were writing the album, in the back of our heads we were like ‘right, remember you’re going to be playing these live for the next two years.’ So I think we wrote a real live sort of album that’s going to be great when we play live.
‘It’s a Party’ was released as a free download and you’ve done a few free downloads here and there, is that your mentality to just get the new songs out there?
Billy: Yeah, I think it’s more or less a thank you that we give to the audience for waiting so long, because we take three years with every record, we tour for two years and then we spend a year writing the album. We’re not like Arctic Monkeys or bands like that who release an album every year. We do enjoy giving away the free songs anyway.
Gigwise: You’ve built up quite a fan base through playing festivals, is it something you keep in mind when you’re making the album?
Billy: Yeah you do, I always have that in mind anyway when I’m writing the songs.
Cherlotte: I think definitely there’s certain songs that, ‘that’s going to be great to play live, can’t wait to play that’ which gets us excited when we’re in the studio.
What’s your favourite song off the record?
Billy: ‘I Wanna Dance With You’ is probably my favourite, I’m most proud of that.
Charlotte: I really like ‘Popdeath’, that’s my favourite song.
Josh: ‘Rumour’, it’s the heaviest one.
You’re about to start your first full UK tour in three years, how does it feel to be back and where do you like playing the most?
Any particular venues you’re looking forward to?
Charlotte: We’re going back to KOKO, which we’re really excited about, we love KOKO. It’s probably my favourite venue in London so that’s really good. In Manchester we’re doing the Academy 2 which is really good because we’ve done Academy 1 and Academy 3 about four times each, so it’s going to be really good to do Academy 2. We’ve heard good things about Oran Mor in Glasgow, the Thekla in Bristol is always reallygood, Falmouth Pavilion that’s a great venue. I’ve kind of just listed half of them now!
Billy: Yeah you have, you’re so diplomatic!
And then you’re heading out to Europe, how do you find it compares to playing on home turf?
Billy: It’s pretty much the same apart from when they sing your lyrics it’s an acute little accent.
Do you find that the same songs go down just as well?
Billy: They’re pretty similar in the reaction, but one thing I do know is that the Belgians can’t clap in time! They can do everything else really well but they can’t find the pulse…
Josh: There’s quite a variation of clapping abilities in all countries. Like Japan are phenomenal, they’re better than me, I follow them!
You recorded the album in London with Stephen Street, how was it?
Charlotte: We’ve been really lucky that on all three albums we’ve said who we’d like to work with and initially they’ve all said yes, so it’s just been amazing, we’ve never had to think of plan b. We always thought that Stephen would do a great job on this album, so it’s amazing that we got to have that realised.
Billy: Half way through demoing this record I just said to these guys, ‘Stephen Street would be perfect for this record’ and after we finished demoing it we had the 12 songs, so I gave the CD to our manager and I said ‘the first person you give this too is Stephen Street’ and then like a week later I got a phone call saying ‘love them, they’re great, it’s Stephen Street how you doing, come meet me in London’. We’ve just been so lucky.
Billy, you recorded all the demos yourself, is producing something you’d like to get more involved with in the future?
Billy: Possibly yeah, I’m still looking for a great punk band to record, so if anyone’s out there!
You’ve come a long way since your first album, ‘Young for Eternity’, what’s been the highlight?
Billy: Supporting Foo Fighters at Lancashire Cricket Ground was something else.
Charlotte: That was a very, very big moment for us.
Billy: That was it, life goes downhill from there. Once you support, meet and play with the Foo Fighters, everything’s just downhill.
Charlotte: I think for me it’s probably some of the bigger festival crowds, we’ve played to 60,000 plus people and it’s just absolutely mind blowing when you see that many people dancing, singing and going crazy.
Are you hoping to get back to the UK festivals next summer?
Billy: Oh yeah, definitely.
Which UK festivals are your favourites to play?
Billy: I think Reading and Leeds are the ones that matter most to us. Going back, for me Reading 2008 was probably my most favourite moment on stage. 2008 was the fifth year in a row that we played Reading and Leeds, and just looking out on the crowd and just seeing them go absolutely nuts. Everything was tip top perfect in performance wise, I didn’t hit a bum note, Charlotte’s usually really good, Josh was brilliant, so it was just amazing.
So back to the new album, what influenced the title ‘Money and Celebrity’?
Billy: Our manager was asking me about titles and saying you know, come up with a nice snappy title that encapsulates the record. Everything I came up with he didn’t like and he phoned me up when I was really drunk once and he goes ‘right, I need a title for this album, the record label would really like a title’. I was just thinking about the songs on the record and I went 'money, money and celebrity!' and he goes 'perfect, that's great!'. Money and celebrity are probably the two most prominent issues that I deal with on the record. And the song ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’, was inspired after a few friends and I went to a club, this great 80’s bar near where I live. I was having real difficulty writing the album, every time I pick up the guitar I just couldn’t think of anything and a few friends of mine that worked in the public sector lost their jobs and so we thought, ‘right, we’re going out, we’re gunna get pissed and have a great time’ and we went to this great 80’s bar, it was about midnight, we were hammered and we thought, ‘right OK, the club’s closing, it’s time we moved on to another bar’ and we realised that none of us had any cash.
My friend who’d just lost his job leaned on to me drunkenly and went ‘ah Billy, we don’t need money to have a good time’ and I went ‘that’s a song, that’s a song!’ So I ran home to my flat and I wrote the lyrics to ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’. That’s the first time ever, that I wrote the lyrics before I wrote the music and that’s where I sort of picked up writing again really. It’s quite a lyrical record and I ended up writing about just what I saw on TV, the financial crisis, watching the news, money and that kind of thing, and celebrity culture, dealing with, Charlottes favourite song off the record, ‘Popdeath’ and looking at all the magazines in the supermarket, so yeah ‘Money and Celebrity’ just felt like a really apt title. Though there are songs about dance floor rejection and that kind of thing!
Do you think it’s quite a relatable record then?
Billy: I hope so. I mean I don’t really set out to make a relatable record. It’s not really an associate political album but it’s the most associate political stuff we’ve ever written. Nothing sounds more boring than writing a political record for me. I just wrote songs about things that bugged me or excited me, I moved into a new flat and I ended up writing ‘Down Our Street’about these crazy neighbours I was just getting to meet. I just write what I find interesting, the same way that (sort of) Jarvis Cocker, I don’t want to make any comparisons, but (you know) he’d go to record stores and he uses anonymity at the time to ease drop on conversations and that’s how he came up with his material. You just write about what you hear and what you see.
It took you a year to make the album, how was the year?
Billy: A really difficult year. I think it’s because it’s a time of intense criticism. I’d write the songs over the weekend and I’d present them to Charlotte and Josh, and they’d go right, thumbs up or thumbs down, so that’s the first sort of criticism. And then the songs that would get through this filter we’d record the song on my laptop and then send them to our manager and he’d give us the thumbs up or thumbs down. By the end of the process I’d chucked away about 64 songs. I’ve got a hard drive just loaded with songs and it’s a really difficult time when you have a song that you totally believe in and then it’s like, nothing. I went through a period obviously, as I said, where I just couldn’t write anything, I was tearing my hair out, I sprouted two grey hairs on the side of my head! Yeah it was really difficult, but you’re also critical of yourself, ‘can I do this, am I any good, will the audience like this, will weresign again’. Those are the questions you’re always turning over in your mind, and at the same time you’re trying to be creative, because if you go to bed and you haven’t written a song, you’re disappointed in yourself because that’s what you’re meant to be good at. I think that’s just being an artist isn’t it…
Charlotte, Josh, how was the process for you guys?
Billy: It’s difficult for you as well though because these guys have to be creative, they’ve got a lot of pressure as well and they see the pressure I’m under so it does get a little bit difficult. But I think that helps the process, that helps when we rock out, sometimes we just don’t talk, we just jam and that’s really, really healthy. And that’s why music is so brilliant, it’s cathartic for us. Sorry, I’ll let you guys speak (laughs)...
Charlotte: I just find it totally difficult I’m not a naturally creative person so this is the bit I find the hardest.
Billy: Yeah but you say that, but you make some of the best bass lines in any rock and roll band…
Charlotte: Bloody hard work to do it though! It’s not something that I feel comes naturally and then because Billy’s worked really hard on this song, so I feel I want to work really hard on my bit. I think it’s just pressure from ourselves though, everyone does that in what they do, you want to be the best you possibly can in everything you put your mind to and everything you work hard at.
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