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18 Oct

Slowdive on grief, ageing and the facility of juvenile

Slowdive on grief, ageing and the facility of juvenile

Because the group prepare for the UK leg of their world tour, founding member Rachel Goswell talks to Emma Garland about grief, ageing, and their growing appeal amongst young audiences

Standing ankle-deep in mud waiting for Slowdive to start their set at this yr’s Green Man Festival, it was hard not to note how mixed the packed-out crowd was. In front of me: a bunch of teenage boys wearing all-black, cross-body bags and all, quietly passing around a joint. Behind me: a Gen X couple and their young kids, who later took a family selfie with the stage. Beside me: a lone raver who gave the impression to be teleported there directly from a free party within the 90s, who turned to me at one point to proclaim that Slowdive wrote “the songs Latest Order never could”.

I got what he meant; Slowdive’s knack for constructing to a speaker-blowing, heart-bursting crescendo is singular. Emerging from the identical Thames Valley shoegaze scene that produced My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Chapterhouse, their sound is so tender it makes you are feeling like Ricky Fitts going nuts over a plastic bag in the wind. Warmer than the English stoicism of Lush, more pastoral than the machine-like grind of MBV, the tranquilised quality of their music belies what number of rules they were breaking. Experimenting with odd tunings, layers of noise and effects against a cultural background of ambient, dub and drum and bass, Slowdive stretched the density of shoegaze across an unlimited landscape, making a sound that’s spatial yet delicately layered. As Alan McGee phrased it when he signed them to Creation Records as teenagers: “I feel you’re fucking ethereal”.

The British zeitgeist, sadly, didn’t agree. By the point they released the now-beloved Souvlaki in 1994, Oasis had debuted and Britpop was in full force. Bravado, pints and football shirts were in, and there was little room left for art school aesthetics and quiet introspection. Critics turned on them, they broke up in 1995 after the discharge of their third album Pygmalion, and the band remained a memory for nearly 20 years as founding members Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead continued in a latest direction as Mojave 3. During their hiatus Slowdive went from industry letdowns to cult darlings, their fanbase becoming a broad church encompassing everyone from filmmaker Gregg Araki to games designer Hideo Kojima to discerning TikTok teens. Ever since their reformation in 2014, they’ve played to sold-out, cross-generational crowds and hit one latest milestone after one other, making their Glastonbury debut in June and earning their first Top 10 album (in multiple countries) with this yr’s every little thing is alive.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Slowdive are experiencing a second wind – vindicated, like many artists who aren’t appreciated of their era, by the arc of time. As Araki suggested recently, perhaps it’s “the search and the trouble” element of discovery that’s drawing this particular generation to a slow-burning band like Slowdive. “While you find it, it’s like treasure,” he says. “It’s something you cherish.” There’s also the indisputable fact that teenagers will all the time gravitate towards art that looks like it’s produced from their perspective. It’s why movies like The Virgin Suicides and books like Catcher within the Rye are continually discovered by latest generations. The identical is true of Slowdive’s music, which captures the emotional overwhelm of adolescence in a way that practically brings you to your knees. Though never rooted in nostalgia, that feeling continues to be present of their music today, underpinning the sweeping optimism of “kisses” and the dreamy post-rock of “alfie.”

Dedicated to Goswell’s mother and drummer Simon Scott’s father, who each passed in 2020, every little thing is alive is a glimmering record draped in the burden of experience. Intimately produced with tactile instrumentation, the songs evoke the hopeful melancholy of their early albums, however the emotion doesn’t come crashing in waves – it feels baked in, lived in, more ‘watching your long-term partner within the garden through a window and feeling a profound love for them in that moment alongside the notice that every little thing is ephemeral’ than ‘having a cigarette in front of your laptop at 2AM following a devastating break-up.’ 

“I’ve never seen the purpose in rehashing stuff you’ve got done before,” Goswell tells me over Zoom from their tour bus outside the 930 Club in Washington, where they’ll be playing later that night with Drab Majesty. “I feel there must be a latest energy to every little thing you do for it to be worthwhile. We actually don’t consciously sit down and say ‘this record’s going to sound like this.’ The recording process, similar to anything, is a journey, and also you don’t know where it’s going to find yourself – but that’s a part of the great thing about it.”

Hi Rachel! How’s the tour going? 

Rachel Goswell: It’s been great! We’ve been out for every week. We just played in Toronto, two nights in Latest York, Boston, and Washington tonight. There are a great deal of Slowdive fans queuing up outside the venue already and so they’re not even going to get in for one more three hours or so! It’s a great deal of young kids, which is basically nice. I spoke to 2 boys earlier who’ve been there since this morning!

Speaking of talking to people on the road, I saw that you just bumped into James Duval and Gregg Araki in Latest York.

Rachel Goswell: Yeah! I’ve all the time kept in contact with them and we all the time see them at any time when we’re in Los Angeles. They all the time come to shows. I feel they’ve come to each show we’ve done in LA, whether it was Slowdive or the Mojave 3 years. I only came upon on our first day in Latest York through a mutual friend that they were on the town. The show finished at 9PM and so they literally walked into the venue just as we were doing “Golden Hair”, which is the last song of the set, but we frolicked for a bit afterwards and that was lovely. It’s only a shame I couldn’t go to the [4K restoration] screening of Nowhere. That may have been cool. I went to the premiere of that back within the 90s, in Leicester Square in London. It definitely looks like a full-circle thing.

Araki obviously has an extended history of using Slowdive’s music in his movies – he called the band his “spirit animal” in one interview. Why do you think that your work pairs so well?

Rachel Goswell: The music is, I suppose, quite emotional. There’s a variety of feeling in there. It’s been an extended time since I’ve watched Nowhere, but I do know that it opens with “Avalyn”. There’s definitely a resonance there – and with Mysterious Skin as well. [The director] Scott Haim was in Boston after we were there, so we met up with him, and he’s come to the shows the last thrice. It’s funny, it looks like wherever we go in America now, we all know someone just about in all places we play. I used to be taking a look at our tour dates considering, are there any days where I literally don’t know anybody? Seems, no.

You’re never going to recover from the lack of someone that you just love, it’s just an ever-evolving technique of coping with it” – Rachel Goswell

That have to be a pleasant feeling. 

Rachel Goswell: It’s, but sometimes you sort of yearn for a day of just complete quiet. It’s an actual whirlwind. We’re out here for nearly 4 weeks so by the point we go home I’m going to be really knackered [laughs]. But I live in a small village in Devon, so I can just go home and be really quiet for 2 weeks before we kick off the UK a part of the tour. 

It looks like your music is usually shaped by quiet, pastoral settings. The cottage in North Wales where the seeds of Souvlaki were sown, the Thames Valley surrounded by the Cotswolds and the Wessex Downs growing up, Neil’s studio in Cornwall now. Your music I feel, more so than some other shoegaze or post-rock band, feels like a landscape. It feels very bucolic and romantic. I used to be wondering if that’s something you are feeling too, and whether your surroundings inform your songwriting much?

Rachel Goswell: Neil wrote the most recent record and he’s predominantly the principal songwriter in Slowdive, but there’s been a couple of over time that we’ve written together, and I feel the landscape will certainly have a bearing on the sounds. Obviously, there’s a variety of layering of all different instruments, and for a variety of the songs also layering the vocals as well and them not necessarily being super distinguished. It’s all a part of that texture. I feel “Slomo” was inspired particularly by Newquay, where Neil has lived since 1995. He’s a surfer, so he’ll all the time be by the ocean. When he’s not by the ocean, he’s definitely a fish out of water.

There’s definitely something in regards to the sea where, in the event you’re the form of one who gravitates towards it, you sort of need it to feel normal. 

Rachel Goswell: Definitely. And I find with touring, particularly now – we haven’t done much touring since 2018, and clearly we had the COVID era in between, so this yr for us is basically the largest amount of live shows we’ve done in an extended time. We went to Australia earlier within the yr and I actually noticed, in a short time, how much I needed to be surrounded by trees and green, since it’s all cities that you just’re playing in. Our day by day ritual on that tour was to search out a botanical garden to go to and simply to have that sense of grounding. So I find that’s very essential for me after I’m out now. 

One thing that sets All the things Is Alive aside from previous albums is that it’s tinged with loss and a latest sort of darkness. While your early albums have a sort of dreamy, forever-summer sort of vibe, this has more of an autumnal feeling of transition. Perhaps that’s partly an age thing, but I do know there have been some personal losses and shifts for the band around this album too. Could you speak to those a little bit bit and the way they arrive through within the songwriting?

Rachel Goswell: I lost my mother early on within the pandemic and Simon lost his father, about two months apart. I don’t think that those losses affected Neil’s songwriting, but on a private level for Simon and I it was, and still stays to an extent, a difficult time. You’re never going to recover from the lack of someone that you just love, it’s just an ever-evolving technique of coping with it. So on a private level there was sadness, however it was good to have one another when it comes to our friendship, to support one another and talk through those things. But those losses didn’t directly affect the songwriting. 

A number of people think that “Prayer Remembered” is a really sad and mournful song, but Neil actually wrote that after the birth of his son in 2019. He wrote that the morning or a few mornings after he was born. I remember after we first heard it. It was actually an easy song to record, since it was quite straightforward and the structure was there and the band just form of played around him. It was done in a short time. I remember singing various melodies within the studio that might have gone really nicely with that track, but Neil was adamant that he didn’t want any singing on it. It was a really personal snippet of time for him and it was right that it remained instrumental. Sometimes you don’t must have vocals on a track for it to carry beauty and meaning. There are a couple of tracks we’ve done over time which have remained instrumental, in order that’s also a part of what we do. 

“We don’t need to must define each song. We’d quite throw the query back at people and say: well, what does it mean to you?”

Slowdive’s early appeal was rooted in teenage emotion – a time when every little thing is latest, overwhelming, very tender. Neil says within the Pitchfork documentary about Souvlaki that it’s the sort of music that might only come from an 18-year-old. How has your personal relationship to those first three albums modified with age, and what’s your relationship to them now?

Rachel Goswell: As people, obviously, we’re so much older. I feel generally the teenage angst has definitely all gone, however it’s been replaced by middle-aged angst [laughs]. We’re all parents and there’s 30 years of life experience since those records were done. Initially after we got here back and began to play those songs live again, it will take me back in my mind to those time limits after they were recorded and the things that were occurring on the time. Now after we play them, I just see a sea of individuals – and a variety of really young people who find themselves the age we were when those songs were recorded. There’s a variety of emotion on the faces of individuals within the audience. I’ve all the time been a people watcher after we’re doing gigs anyway, but to see how much those songs mean to people… And naturally they resonate with younger people because we were that age after they were written. So I assume that appeal will probably all the time remain, to an extent, for young people hearing it for the primary time. 

I don’t sit down and take heed to those old records anymore. I feel probably a variety of artists would say that after a record’s recorded and mastered you take heed to it for a specific amount of time and also you’ll all the time be critiquing it, wishing that XYZ was barely different, never 100 per cent pleased with every track. But there comes some extent after that where you’re listening to the songs and relearning tips on how to play them live, which is what we’ve been doing recently for this tour, and mentally you’ve moved on a bit. You don’t take into consideration those songs in the identical way. Once they’re released, they develop into owned by everybody and everybody may have their very own interpretations of what the songs mean. You get the odd Slowdive song that’s very transparent lyrically, but a variety of it is rather ambiguous, and again that’s all the time something that we’ve done. We don’t need to must define each song. We’d quite throw the query back at people and say: well, what does it mean to you?

That younger fanbase is unquestionably something that’s grown between now and the last time you toured extensively. You’ve been rediscovered through TikTok and boosted by the recent resurgence of shoegaze bands in North America and South Korea. What’s it been like seeing that occur? Is it an enthusiasm you’ve been in a position to feel, on stage or off?

Rachel Goswell: Definitely. Ever since we got here back in 2014, our audiences have all the time been noticeably generationally mixed, and really mixed gender-wise as well. I feel COVID and TikTok have had so much to do with a few of it, and it’s good for us. Our manager received an email before our Australian tour earlier within the yr from a 15-year-old complaining that the gigs weren’t all ages. They really desired to see Slowdive and so they didn’t think it was fair that you just needed to be 18 or whatever it was. So from that time on we were like, well, just open every little thing to all ages then. So now our shows are all ages, wherever we are able to. I swear there was a 12-year-old within the audience in Auckland, standing in front of me and Christian, and that was mind-blowing because she was just so small! We even have a variety of people our age, who’ve been with us from the 90s, bringing their teenagers to the gigs and experiencing Slowdive with them, which is beautiful to see. It’s really quite special. I really like talking to folks that come to the gigs, too. I feel it keeps us younger in some ways. 

We’ve all got teenage children as well who at the moment are understanding what their parents do. Not my son, because he’s got additional needs, but other people within the band have older kids who’re realising what their dads do and what Slowdive actually is. A few of their school friends just like the band. Although, one in all Christian’s kid’s friends was like, ‘your dad’s band is shit!’ – in order that they’re going to must put up with a variety of that as well [laughs]. But it surely‘s great. We’re very lucky to be within the position that we’re in, and we don’t take it without any consideration. 

I saw your set at Green Man and was really heartened to be behind this group of teenage boys who were right on the front, all wearing black, smiling quietly and passing around a joint. It jogged my memory of being the identical age going to shows with friends, being completely swept up in a very specific way. What are the bands that you just associate with that feeling growing up? 

Rachel Goswell: Haha! That’s our audience all right. I was the identical after I was an adolescent. Me and Nick used to go as much as London to The Marquee to see various goth bands on the time, like Fields of the Nephilim and The Mission, and we’d all the time be right on the front. I used to be smoking spliffs as well, so I see myself within the audience now. It’s like having my youth reflected back at me.

every little thing is alive is out now

The UK leg of Slowdive’s tour kicks off on October 30. You can get tickets here

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