Truck Talk With The Subways

Billy Lunn on the festival and album four…
The Subways

Hey, festival-goers! It can’t have escaped your attentions that there’s an abundance of pretty attractive weekenders on the schedule for this summer. And while the weather holds, there are few better places to be than before a big PA, your favourite band on stage, and a cold one in your hand.

Having started in 1998, Truck Festival in Oxfordshire is one of the longest-standing niche events on the domestic festival scene. A distinctly intimate affair with a capacity some way south of titans like the Reading and Leeds combo, the two-day do has nevertheless attracted some considerably impressive names to its cause. The Lemonheads, Idlewild, Mystery Jets, Supergrass, Frank Turner, Teenage Fanclub, Frightened Rabbit, Gruff Rhys, Saint Etienne… previous line-ups reveal a host of standout acts.

This year’s festival – taking place July 19th-20th – features Spiritualized, Ash, The Horrors, The Joy Formidable, Gaz Coombes, And So I Watch You From Afar, Rolo Tomassi and so many, many more. Click to the festival’s official site for information and to buy tickets while you still can. 

Playing just beneath main-stage headliners The Horrors on the Saturday night is The Subways, and Clash caught up with guitar-toting frontman Billy Lunn to chat about Truck and the band’s forthcoming fourth studio LP.

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The Subways, ‘Rock & Roll Queen’

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So, you’re doing Truck this year. It’s a well-established festival on the calendar, but is it one you’ve been to previously?

No, we’ve never played there before – but I’ve always wanted to play there ever since my favourite band in the world, Future Of The Left, played there a few years ago and said that it was great.

And are you going to be able to make a weekend of it, or are you proverbially flying in and out?

Unfortunately we’re going to get there, load in and play. We’re playing Campus Fesztivál in Hungary, then we’re at Mighty Sounds in the Czech Republic, and then we’ll be flying into Luton in time for Truck. We’ll try to get there as soon as we can, because there are tons of bands that we really want to see.

The Horrors… they played just before us in an NME tent back in 2007 or 2008, so it’ll be great to see them again. The last time we saw them, they were just about to release their really good second album.

Gaz Coombes, too, is like a massive hero of mine. I’ve been in an embarrassing situation before where I’ve collared him and asked for a picture with him. One year at Leeds Festival, my wife and I were up there camping and we managed to get backstage, and The Hotrats were playing – that being Danny Goffey and Gaz Coombes playing a bunch of covers. I went to my wife, “Please come over and take a picture of me and the guys.” They were like, “Are you really sure you should be doing this?” But they posed for a photo anyway. So it’ll be great to see Gaz on stage again.

Royal Republic are a great band, too. We did a massive UK and European tour with them, and every time they came off stage we’d be crapping ourselves about following them. They’re so good. It’s an amazing line-up.

You know that you’re playing directly after the local legend that is Gaz Coombes, on the Saturday…

Deep down, we feel a bit silly about that. But it should be amazing. It’s really important to pay homage to artists like Gaz, especially if you’re going on after them. It’ll be really nice to share a stage with the lead singer and songwriter of a band that are one of my all-time favourites. But, deep down, I do have that sort of Wayne’s World, “we’re not worthy” feeling, about going on after him. I might just lose my shit.

When planning for these festival sets, which come in quick succession, just how practised do you need to be, and how flexible can the sets be?

We try to be as flexible as we can, but if you start taking the piss you get people coming on stage and turning your amps off. We had Deep Purple’s manager come on stage once and pick on Charlotte (Cooper, bass and vocals). We were just playing our normal set, but apparently Deep Purple wanted us off five songs earlier, for some reason. We were like, no. To be honest, I think it was more to do with the crew – I doubt the band cared. But you can get that everywhere, the imposing crews: “Right, we are here, and we’re going to be arseholes for the rest of the day.”

But we try to stick to our time limits. We’ve three albums now to work from, but we’ve done so many different sets that we can work out what works and what doesn’t. If I feel the next track isn’t going to work on a particular night, I’ll switch it. If ‘Girls & Boys’ is too metal for that set, I’ll play something like ‘1am’ instead, which has Charlotte singing too, and is quite happy.

We are fairly well rehearsed – but we’ve been writing and recording a new album recently, and that’s taken up much more of our time than rehearsing. But we’ve been doing this a good few years now, and it only ever takes a couple of clumsy songs for us to get back into it, for the machinery to get well-oiled again.

And on album four: that’s progressing, is it? Everything is going as it should be?

We’re about 10 songs in now. We’re all producing it, and I’m engineering it. We’re working down at a local recording studio. Over the last few years we’ve managed to collect recording equipment, which has been a real plus. So we’ve been accumulating equipment as we’ve gone along, and we bought some microphones and other bits, and thought: after working with Ian Broudie, Stephen Street and Butch Vig, we must have learned enough to be able to do this by ourselves.

We’re pretty confident about it. We’re having fun, and just taking our time. I think we’ll probably release it this time next year, or maybe a little bit earlier. But it’s all coming along really nicely. We’ve got this feeling again when we’re writing songs with a degree of trepidation. We don’t know how our fans are going to take this new material – which I think is a really healthy thing. So we’re quite excited about it.

That implies that the new album might be something of a departure from your third LP, ‘Money And Celebrity’, then. Are we talking about a heavier set, or one with more complexities to it…?

I guess, in some ways, it’s a lot more positive than what we’ve done before – but in others it’s a lot angrier. We’re reaching out to each extremity. We’ve got a minute-long song, which we’ve never really done before, which is a pure thrash-out, and we’ve got probably our poppiest number yet on there, too. But I think we’re known as something of a schizophrenic band anyway, so I hope that the new record will sit quite well beside our previous albums. We’ll have to see how it goes!

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The Subways, ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’

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Find Truck Festival online here

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