More about: Sleaford Mods
NB: this interview was carried out in November 2020.
Sleaford Mods frontman Jason Williamson hasn’t engaged with political music recently. He can’t get into it.
As a duo - Williamson on vocals and musician Andrew Fearn - the band have built a reputation for incendiary live shows and political commentary. They overtly criticise the establishment through electro-punk diatribes on albums such as Eton Mess and Austerity Dogs, and the tradition continues on the band's eleventh studio album Spare Ribs, out today.
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While the song 'Short Cummings' muses on the legacy of former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings, 'Nudge It' talks of a kind of cynical class tourism that has emerged in the arts; a 21st century version of Pulp’s 'Common People', if you will.
“Whatever they're doing at the minute is not working, you know, it's patronising,” Williamson says of others attempting to address Tory era policies and political discord.
“It's as if these people or bands just want to take on somebody else's experience because it's cooler, you know. But there are thousands of middle class musicians and creative people that are doing really good stuff,” he continues. “And I think that's because they think about it, and they connect with their place in the world.”
“I'm not talking about politically, but I'm just talking about the perception that they use language in an interesting way,” he says. “But a lot of these commercial acts [where] there's a lot of middle class accents that you just get that vibe. It’s just posturing. It's just lazy. And that's what I tried to get across in 'Nudge It'.”
Williamson has been engaged in a spat with contemporaries IDLES for a couple of years, in which class is something of a sore spot. He had complained to the press last year that the ostensibly middle-class Bristol band had impersonated angry working-class people.
Instead of engaging with other music that sounds like the band’s own, Williamson says he would rather sink into the dulcet tones of singer-songwriters such as Aldous Harding or the slightly grittier Alex Cameron. Having acquired a taste for collaboration, working on recent single 'Mork and Mindy' with Billy Nomates and 'Nudge It' with Amyl and the Sniffers' Amy Taylor, Williamson says Harding is one the songwriters he’d most like to work with in the future.
“What this album has done is it has shown that we can work with other people, because me and Andrew we get a bit nervy you know, thinking it's gonna be shit. But what this has shown us is that we can do that and push it forward.”
Sleaford Mods’ panic about producing something good cut through more universal worries about the pandemic, too. “I think all I was bothered about, and I know this is gonna sound selfish, is doing a good album. And we've done that. So I'm happy,” says Willamson.
“I don't want to fall on my ass, I think because we’re older now and a bit long in the tooth and we've done this, we've done that, we’ve fucked up, we've done the drugs, whatever,” he continues.
As we speak, news is eking out about viable vaccines - a potential saviour for the music industry.
Speaking on the contradictions of the anti-vax crowd, Williamson says: “you've got no issue putting in five pints of lager into yourself every day, yeah? You wouldn't want to have a vaccination for something that has crippled the world, you know?”
His next concern is on earning money. With gigs in the balance, and live stream performances providing little cushion, many artists will be facing the same uncertainty. Williamson enjoyed the live streams the band did - including a show beamed from the famous 100 Club in London - and loves performing in any context, but says online events are not a viable way to actually support a working band.
“Apart from that, I'm not going to get into any kind of mega worry about the state of the world or peoples' futures. It's just too large. I can't carry it,” he says.
Spare Ribs is out now on Rough Trade Records.
More about: Sleaford Mods