'True protest goes very undetected': Sleaford Mods speak out ahead of gigs in Leamington, Northampton, Leicester and Hitchin

Andrew Fearn and Jason WilliamsonAndrew Fearn and Jason Williamson
Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson

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Sleaford Mods are back in the region this month as part of a huge 32-date UK tour.

The electronic post punk duo are playing the Assembly in Leamington, the O2 Academy in Leicester, the Roadmender in Northampton and Club 85 in Hitchin among other venues across the Midlands.

Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn released their latest album Eaton Alive in February, the record followed 2017s English Tapas.

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As part of their tour, the pair are dropping into record shops for signing sessions ahead of shows, including at Spun Out in Northampton on April 18.

We spoke to singer Jason Williamson about the band’s new record which is available to order via https://sleaford-mods.myshopify.com

Q - How do you feel about Eton Alive, I presume you’re happy with the finished product. How do you think it differs to English Tapas?

A – “Yeah, definitely. It’s really strong, I'm really happy with it. I've listened to it so much that in my mind now it's an old record now and it's time to move on. I'm looking forward to playing it live and seeing the reaction from people. It'll be interesting to see how people react to it given that we think it's just a strong as any of the others. In some ways, it is quite different sounding to English Tapas. The aim is to always do something that's slightly different and that carries the formula along. I think there's a few poppier songs on it. The songs in general are more confident and more full sounding. It's slightly more commercial perhaps. We're dead happy with it.”

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Q – Was it intentional to write something slightly more commercial, or was it just the music Andrew was writing at the time?

A – “That was literally it. I just said to him, 'look, do what you want'. We had no game plan and it normally works out if I leave Andrew to his own devices. I can't tell him what to do with it and to be honest, I'm not the best conductor a lot of the time. In the early days I knew what I wanted with it and we achieved that and it was like, 'where do we go now'. Thankfully, Andrew has turned the sound into his own and created his own trademark music. There's no big game plan. It's whatever he comes up with and he's obviously improved and he continues to.”

Q – This is the first record on your label, Extreme Eating. Was the plan always to establish a label and self-release?

A – “Rough Trade left us to our own devices, there was never anyone coming down to the studio in the middle of recording and telling us to put a verse there or chorus there - like you get with a lot of signed acts. It was sort of communicated to us that we didn't need Rough Trade. Our manager was convinced we could do it independently like we had done before, but wasn't the case and we parted company with our manager because of that. It was a premature decision really. In hindsight, I probably wouldn't have left and would have probably have done another album with them and then looked to getting an independent structure below us for future releases. I think we're up to speed with it now. We're doing all right.”

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Q – The album title Eton Alive is obviously open to a few interpretations, can you explain the meaning behind it. There’s an intended class reference here isn’t there?

A – “The title is a pun on the political situation in the country, how the last eight years of austerity and policies that were injected into that were partly engineered by people that were educated at Eton. The album talks about the mood of the country. It's not a call to arms, it’s not an in-your-face political record. It more charters the mood and the vibe in people. How people have become despondent, beaten, powerless, even more so confused and divided.”

Q – Do you think we’ll ever see a change from rule by the Eton elite?

A – “It will shift at some point, whether that shift is in 50 years or 500 years. It will shift eventually. The human form will meet itself face-to-face and become what it should truly be which is a highly intelligent, carriage of thought and action. At the minute though, not at all. We're going to have this for a very long time. The English people are largely happy to be conquered by an aristocracy that in return will give them an English identity. I can't see it changing for a long time. There's going to be pockets of resistance and that will give the few a bit of hope from time to time but this will go on for a long time. I would be very surprised if it changed in my lifetime. They have their claws into the very fabric of what it is to be a human being in England and you can't get away from it. It's in our psychology. I try and separate myself from it but is still there.”

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Q – You talk about the mood of the country, do you think art and culture thrives in periods of austerity when there’s such dissatisfaction and anger at the ruling classes?

A – “It can be, but it's shown us time and time again that it gets pulled in and it gets hijacked and turned into more of a marketplace stock figure than an actual lobbyist form of creativity. You'll get a couple of people that do it, us for one probably, a couple of others in the country, but not many. There are a lot of people under the guise of protest music currently that are far from it. True protest goes very undetected I imagine and isn't in the media, it certainly hasn't got a PR team. I'd be hesitant to think these periods of political darkness can create a massive wave of opposition in the creative market.”

Q – Turning to the new album, what are some of your favourite songs on the record?

A – “OBCT discusses my doubts and worries about now being in a more affluent area, having more money, living in a bigger house and connecting that to the shallowness, to the pointlessness of the music industry - its absolutely stupid systems and networks and way it promotes itself. It talks about the emptiness of celebrity and about the lie of celebrity. When you're confronted with it face-to-face it becomes so fantastically stupid. Into The Payzone talks about consumerism, about the higher level of consumerism I'm now experiencing because I've got more money. I go into town in my car, I leave my private property and I buy things in a much more fluid way and it's the solitary experience of that the numbness of it. I kind of envisioned it like Tron, where they've zigzagging around in these bright red and blue lines and it's all very insular. I was worried whether When You Come Up To Me was any good, but I think it really works as an album track. It talks about again the distance between ourselves and virtually everybody else, how it’s becoming bigger and how we are losing touch with each other in a real interpersonal sense. Discourse talks about old memories of working in a roadside cafe on a motorway. Some of the girls there were sort of moonlighting as sex workers to lorry drivers that turned up. Bleak horrible accounts of normal life really.”

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Q – Earlier this year in a Guardian web chat, while talking about Idles you said music can’t solve political problems. Does political music matter?

A – “Yes, it does but I don't think it solves problems. You can't be looking to musicians to change things, it's a load of b******s. You can get bands that culturally change things. I'm very much a believer in that. Bands can't change political opinion, you're not going to get people in charge getting swayed by a band's message. Possibly, the only one that nearly came close to that was Bob Marley when he bought two presidents together. I'm sure these other accounts, but no generally, no.”

* Sleaford Mods play the Assembly in Leamington on April 11, the O2 Academy in Leicester on April 12, the Roadmender in Northampton on April 18 and Club 85 in Hitchin on May 11, among other dates. Visit seetickets.com/tour/sleaford-mods to book.