Sleaford Mods are used to doing things on their own: DIY, independent, circumvent the bland decaying corpse that is British music by taking yourselves out of that sphere all together.
But wait: new EP ‘TCR’ doesn’t do that. It’s out (in all good record shops) courtesy of Rough Trade, part of the Beggars Group. So what’s that all about Jason Williamson, eh?!
“Well, they showed some interest,” the ranter/writer laughs. “At first we didn’t think we really need anyone, and then it dawned on us that perhaps they could help in some ways. I don’t mind people putting in a few suggestions every now and again because it obviously helps. We’re four, five albums in now. Sometimes you need a little bit of advice or a suggestion about a way of working… that can help.”
It’s a leg up, but far from a sell out – ‘TCR’ picks up exactly where Sleaford Mods left off, with the duo taking aim at the shit-storm that is British life. It’s a message that only seems to grow in potency and foresight, too, with Brexit – and the appalling, narrow-minded campaign that preceded it – finally unleashing some of the Great British Public’s darker, nastier emotions.
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The closing song on their latest EP –‘Britain Thirst’ – tackles these morons head-first. “It was based on the paranoia – or the pathetic beliefs - that these hard right wingers have. A lot of these racist, fascist groups always reel off the same things about Asian sex gangs and all this bullshit. When there’s white sex gangs as well, there are white serial killers. It’s not just one race of people. It discusses the paranoia around that, and I tried to write it from a jumped up perspective from one of these idiots, where ‘they’re gonna come into my house, nick shit, and kill my dog! We need to get ‘em out the country quick, we need to ship ‘em off.’ That’s what it’s about.”
“Completely, totally, brainwashed to fuck a lot of people are. I mean, it’s not so much frightening, it really angers me – it’s laziness, and people mis-directing their own dis-satisfaction through a media message, really. It’s an excuse.”
This low-lying frustration and anger can be expressed in different ways, though. Title cut ‘TCR’ opens the record, and it takes its name from a race kit popular with kits in the 80s, who would endlessly watch the same electric cars zoom round and round and round.
“The origins of it are just that the options we’ve got before us in Western society are quite limited,” he argues. “Without trying to sound completely cynical and nihilistic there’s not a lot, really, to play with if you truly think about it. And this is kind of exploring the idea of that, thinking that the grass is always greener, when most of the time it’s not. There is that idea of going out and having a good conversation with a good friend, having a couple of pints, which is positive. But sometimes it’s viewed as a better option than sitting around the house when it can be just as unfulfilling. It’s exploring that, really.”
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Completely, totally, brainwashed to fuck a lot of people are.
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Honing in on the mundane nature of austerity Britain, Sleaford Mods have become poet laureates of the grey, grimy extent of life on this small, rain-sodden isle. It’s something they continually come back to, something that seems to charge them in ways other facets of our daily existence perhaps don’t.
“Well, it’s not talked about,” he says, when probed on this. “And I think it’s a real powerful message and subject. A real powerful vessel to use for multiple songs. The idea that it’s the truth of the matter, really. Underneath all of this blanket mindset of un-intelligence… and that’s partly down to people’s complete disinterest in wanting to try and educate themselves in the sense of what is truly going on, partly down to the fact that people haven’t got the time. And the umbrella over all of this is the massive media machine, the people behind it that are slowly feeding us with all of these messages.”
“It’s quite a claustrophobic environment to live in, with pockets of relief, pockets of so-called happiness, perhaps. Moments of shrugging it off. But generally, if you tune yourself into it then it’s ever-present. Anything from the BBC News on the radio through to local papers, to pamphlets coming through your door.” “Aside from that, on top of that, you’ve got the fact that people are on very low wages, poverty is going to put somebody into the mindset of pure survival. So you don’t have time to think about anything else apart from surviving. Those who have got money are wagered off with consumerism, and the day-to-day stress of that wage that they’ve got. Whatever that may be. All these factors come into play.”
That isn’t to suggest that ‘TCR’ is simply a one-trick pony, however – it’s a surprisingly broad record for something so compact, matching compact lyrical insight to some of co-conspirator Andrew Fearn’s most intriguing sonic patchworks yet.
‘Nottshead’ is a searingly satirical take on an as yet un-named music industry figure, but it could be a pastiche of any number of unpleasant, coked up and ego-centric traits. “It was based on an incident where I was asked to do a remix a very long time ago for someone, and I tipped up at this place and everyone’s off their heads. It was funny, but quite patronising in some respects as well. They didn’t really get what I was trying to do for them.”
“And it was exploring that thing of how sometimes labels, small labels, or labels that groom artists before they’re pushed on to a major label, have this kind of cult thing about them. Everyone in the label is cool, snazzy, and it’s all a load of bollocks, really. It explores that, and the fact that a lot of people are used and abused, and thrown out if the product doesn’t take to the market.”
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People are used and abused, and thrown out if the product doesn’t take to the market.
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Its remarks like these that underline how impossible it would be for Sleaford Mods to be assimilated by the mainstream – it simply wouldn’t work. Currently working on a new studio album, Jason also admits that he hankers for another writing project, and toyed with a few short stories earlier this year.
At one point, we discuss the fact that the industry structure hasn’t been able to replicate what Sleaford Mods have achieved. “You attract that mentality more with people who listen to the music and comment about it, rather than other bands or anything like that. It might change. I thought that people would probably try doing something similar or along those lines but there hasn’t really been anyone.”
The extinction of working class voices from pop culture, I offer, is almost entirely complete. “It’s completely squeezed down,” he replies. “There’s nothing – there’s still nothing, really. And the media outlets, everything that’s going on with entertainment, the path to getting anywhere is so narrow, and it’s dictated by the same set of rules, really, where the real stuff isn’t getting through. You’re just getting financial projects seeping through. Especially with music. It just seems completely flat.”
“People don’t want the truth, see, as the truth isn’t very attractive. It’s difficult to make money out of that. Anything that gets through the bottleneck is just shit, X Factor style crap. It’s a bit of a tough old time. I don’t know how it’s going to end up, to be honest.”
And that’s where we leave them: two Notts geezers, two urban guerillas refusing to sit out Brexit dystopia, two people refusing to lie down on their arse and watch the telly. Truth told, we could do with more like Sleaford Mods.
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'TCR' is out now.