Sleaford Mods will release a self-titled EP on 14 September, a follow up to their 2017 album English Tapas.
Sonically it’s unmistakably the Mods’: you can almost see Andrew Fearn nodding his head to the plodding bass guitar lines that run through the heart of it. And Jason Williamson’s sharp-wit and biting social commentary is intact – more riled than ever, if anything. It sets Williamson further on the path to becoming one of the most enduring lyricists of an era. Honing in on ordinary lives in Britain, this holistic work manages to tell stories of violence, depression and paranoia whilst seeing this behaviour as inextricable from corrupt political actions.
Speaking of the EP, Williamson said: “The lead tracks are mostly full of violent tendencies that only transpire through imagination. People are powerless under the political monster and the intense anger and frustration morphs into illusions of attacking each other through the bravado of social media, depression and paranoia.”
The interview below attempts to unpick some of the above themes. Read in full below and find a link to the new song ‘Put In A Five And Go’:
Gigwise: The first two tracks (‘Put In A Five And Go’ and ‘Bang Someone Out’) centre on violence. It seems you’re talking about people being powerless in response to political oppression, not knowing where to vent their frustration, so they’re throwing it around pointlessly on social media? Surely this is a convenient platform for resistance, one that keeps the masses down?
Jason Williamson: Yeah, they aim it at each other, which is what the government want. It’s the classic divide and rule thing. People these days are so sensitive, so tetchy, and so highly-strung because of the constraints around them. There’s 24/7 media installing some kind of fear in to them. You’ve got this barrage of absolute fucking idiots like Tommy Robinson, Piers Morgan given prime time exposure to air their stupid ideals. You’ve got all these idiots that are constantly in our faces and it gets to the point where people are so fed up. So ‘Stick In A Five And Go’ is an example of someone who gets this harsh treatment online - gets this guy trolling him - and just goes to the extremes in order to try and solve that: he gets in the car and drives up to his place and kicks the shit out of him. It’s like if you can’t get at these people that are doing your head in; then thing to do is take it out on the next best person that’s stood next to you. That’s evident on social media, especially.
GW: You’re talking about the anger directed towards bigots?
JW: Yeah. There’s a massive melting pot of oppression, of political corruption, this blind-folded maze of political correctness, racism, the upsurge of fascism, the worry about what’s going to happen next March with Brexit. It’s a mixture of all these things that accumulated in the geezer that was getting grief. He just wanted to go up there and whack this guy because he was pissed off... It’s about me, basically. This is the reason why I’m aggressive: it is because I can’t get at these other idiots that are surrounding me so I turn around and take it out on the next best person.
GW: There’s an historical side to the EP, too, noticeable on the cut ‘Gallows Hill’. What is that track about? It talks about council neglecting it.
JW: Gallows Hill is an old Victorian cemetery in Nottingham. They used to have a Gallows where they hang people, and the city’s folk would come out and all congregate and see whoever’s going to get hung there on that day. It would be anything from rapists, murderers and petty thieves - generally poor people shoved into small holes in what I can only imagine was a very horrible, dirty medieval city. Then it changed to a cemetery, but it’s also a popular cottaging area. The council have taken the street lamps out all around it so people can’t go up there and cottage. It’s a very bleak place. You get lots of sex workers, pimps, and there’s a lot of hard drugs. At the same time, if you walk around the day time it’s quite a beautiful cemetery. The song’s a homage to that area.
GW: It ties into the feel of the EP as a whole, I suppose, with plenty of violent imagery…
JW: Yeah it all kind of connects. The images are kind of set with Sleaford Mods: there’s that kind of bleakness which is still there, if not even worse these days.
GW: I like the way that you look at the cause of social problems, you seem to analyse why things are the way they are. Is that something you’re actively doing?
JW: Yeah, definitely. Someone trolled me the other day and said we’d sold out because we’re playing some theatre in Nottingham instead of Rock City. I thought that was quite interesting, so I went on to his profile and found out he’s an ex-musician who works at the Royal Mail or whatever. He kept going on about how he still works, and I went, ‘Well, I don’t! Fuck you! I’m not going back’. I’m not going to apologize to these people. It’s interesting; why would you openly attack someone with very little evidence - if any - to back your points up? It’s depression, that lack of self-worth. And, you know, you can try and pull yourself out of the hole in whatever climate and can help yourself a little bit, but generally you can’t.
GW: Who or what should be held accountable for the negative impact on the mentality morale of this country i.e. was it the rise of the Tories into power?
JW: I think New Labour going into the coalition and the coalition going into the Tory government completely. Or perhaps capitalism itself is steam-rollering along at a pace that it can no longer control. There’s still lots of money about, and yet there isn’t? It’s a mixture of lots of things. Primarily, I think the David Cameron / George Osbourne partnership there truly did disable things.
GW: There are people who live in denial about the effects that government policy has on its citizens psyche. You, however, seem to be on the other end of the spectrum as you’ve been around a lot of people who are experiencing the results of bad political decisions first hand. The words “this bloody constituency” on ‘Bang Someone Out’, for instance, convey this.
JW: Yeah, people are losing their jobs in government, the NHS. In the private sector, as well, things are being closed down. I have friends who work in all those areas and are suffering as a lot of that. It’s directly affecting people in a couple of ways: it's not only the physical effect of them losing their paid work, it’s also the grey effects of this arse end of austerity and entering will be Brexit - which is even more of a pisstake than austerity was. We’re inbetween those two things at the minute, supposedly. And you can’t deny that the psychological effect of having that having over you is not affecting people, of course it is.
GW: Can you see them doing a u-turn on Brexit?
JW: No. It’s been knocked out of the press again, the heat's been taken off Theresa May. […] I think they’re sitting on it and want to push for a hard Brexit. There’s a lot to gain for the Conservative Party by having one: a) they will remain in power possibly, and b) the implementation of the new tax law from the EU won’t take effect; so that’s going to interest a lot of elites backing the Tory party.
GW: Right, that’s a point….
JW: Yeah, my fear is that there will be a hard Brexit. It would be chaos. If the army and the government are talking about stockpiling food, then it’s very possible that it will become a reality.
GW: This EP is self-titled, which is a bit of an honour for it isn't it? It makes it sound definitive to me.
JW: Yeah true. No it’s not because of that, we just couldn’t think of a title. I had a few, our manager Steve had a few, and when I asked Andrew [who wrote the music to this EP before Jason added lyrics] he just kept coming back with ‘twat’ or ‘fucking twat’, or ‘wanker’. I was like that's not going to work. He was like yeah it will.
GW: I bet he’s right in a way, though…
JW: You can overthink things too much can’t you. We didn’t even do a video for the song because we didn’t have any ideas. Videos do help a tune but not if you do one just for the sake of it, it’ll be shit.
GW: You’ve had a great run of it in recent months: you've been adopted well by Q mag and going to do two dates at Roundhouse, have Oya festival coming up. Do you feel things happen best when you’re staying inspired and things just naturally come to you?
JW: Yeah it just comes, don’t really overthink it. It’s quite a hard business really to keep going with in a lot of ways, though. A lot of things about it make me really angry […] There’s bands getting awards that shouldn’t be. Awards shouldn’t exist anyway as it’s such an outdated mode of celebration. They’re fucking pointless, terrible. In terms of promotion, there are corporates that push big bands on to the masses, it’s pretty crap. In order to make yourself feel like you’re doing something of any value you have to really concentrate on it and make sure what you’re doing is as close to you as possible, and not be taken by the myth that is potentially on offer to you. Like a lot of these people, they get into clown suits, get into the public arena jump around and then once they’re out of that public eye they step out of that clown suit and there’s somebody else completely different. It’s just wrong.
GW: What are the songs ‘Dregs’ and ‘Jokeshop’ about? There’s words in Dregs that perhaps correlate to depression.
JW: 'Dregs' is all about when I used to glass collect in a bar about 10 or 15 years ago, it connected with what we’ve got really, the options for a lot of people are just dregs really. That’s a time in my life I will never forget, though, it was just a glass collecting job, it was quite a good time. I used to collect glasses from the tables and because I didn’t have any money I would take them and place them next to the pot wash, saving two or three decent looking pints so I could drink them whilst I was working.
‘Joke Shop’ is about disappointment. It's about people in your life that can’t sort themselves out then realising that it's got nothing to do with you. You’ve got no choice if they don’t want to sort themselves out. You don’t have to stop talking to them, it’s not to say you shouldn’t write them off, it’s how they are.
GW: When did you start feeling that?
JW: Just about a year ago, I spent most my life trying to help people then if you can’t help people you keep trying and if that doesn’t happen what do you do, you can’t really turn your backs on them.
GW: Thanks for your time, Jason, all the best!
Sleaford Mods - S/T EP Tracklisting is below. The EP will be available on 12”, CD & DL
'Stick In A Five And Go'
'Bang Someone Out'
Sleaford Mods autumn live dates, UK:
21 Sep – London Roundhouse
22 Sep – London Roundhouse
30 Sep – Royal Concert Hall Nottingham