Ah, Slow Club. A dynamic duo who always strike a chord. Whether it's the rollicking, sod-it-all-anthemnic charm of 'Giving Up On Love' or the gut-wrenching, raw emotion of 'Beginners', Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor have a knack for taking human insecurity and shaping it into a form that turns your frown upside down, giving you the urge to sing along with lusty abandon.
The band - who are currently working on their third studio album - recently showcased new material during an acoustic show at the stunning House of St Barnabas, and a full band set headlining the first Beck's Live gig at a sold-out Barfly. Prior to the second show, I had an honest and robust chat with the delightful Rebecca - who, in among fixing the Motel's microphone stand halfway through our Q&A, told us about what we can expect from the next Slow Club record, recent encounters with Daniel Radcliffe and Lemar, the unfortunate demise of MSN Messenger and how "growing up" has changed their songwriting process...
How was your show last night? I was watching little bits of it on the internet this morning. Somebody was filming it... Was it the first time that you'd played the new songs? [For a public audience]
Yeah. It was quite harrowing.
The venue looked beautiful.
Yeah, it was a really lovely evening, but just playing those new songs - and it just being the two of us - it was quite emotional, and that sort of weird thing. But it was really good - really good to get it out of the way. I feel like I've given birth - to these new music babies! - and now it won't be as difficult. Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, it's just that first like, thing of... getting it out of the way.
It was good, yep, it was really good.
So do you think most of them will end up on the new album?
Yeah, I think so. We're a band that just works to our means. We don't have loads of songs - we'll have enough! - and we're like, we'll maybe have two or three more and the best ones will make it.
So it's kind of more like, you would write them and then once you get to a certain point, you know...
Well, I know a lot of musicians who will write loads and loads and loads, and then pick the best ones out, but we are too lazy to do that(!) So whatever we write will generally go on an album. But - yeah, I'm so excited about it - and I'm very rarely excited about anything!
So it's been a lovely three weeks of like, finishing it, starting recording a bit, and we're playing some - we'll play some of them tonight. It's all just exciting again. It's really easy to get quite stagnant in a band, and you just get pissed off with it all and you hate touring, or you hate recording, or you hate everything about it - in a weird way. But when you're excited, it's the best thing in the world.
Do you have anywhere in mind for where you would record it?
I think we're gonna do it in Sheffield, which would be a great thing, because we can stay at our parents' houses, and we - yeah. We've got a real idea for it, and we want to produce it in a sort of - very different way. We wanna do that.
So, do you think it will be very different from the first two records? I know it's sort of difficult to say until you've got it all down, as such.
It will be different from - I feel like we've made some progression on every album. The first one was very much just... what we were - we were just like, kids writing songs, and then not really knowing what we wanted to do! - and then the second one was, sort of a total idea of what we wanted to do.
Now, I just feel like we've found our feet with songwriting, and I feel like I'm at an age now where I just want everything to sound beautiful! I don't want to mess around with sounds. I was obsessed with experimenting sonically on the last one, and now I'm like 'No, let's just have everything sound really pretty!' So it's cool. And we've both been listening to a lot of, like, classic, old, like, soul and pop and stuff. Just realising what a good song is - [that's] the inspiration for it, I hope.
When I was listening to stuff last night, I was thinking, 'Oh, that sounds a bit bluesier'.
Yeah. I think just vocally - for me, and we're like - I'm a bit of a, I'm the least talented musician out of all of us! - I don't really play anything all that well, so all I can do really is sing as best as I can - so, trying to write songs - it's kind of where my voice is the best it can be. Which I've never really done!
But loads of things have changed, like, because we're a duo, we always wrote together. We've wrote quite a lot of these songs separately... and now, there's a narrative for both of us that wasn't there before. So I think the music is a bit more direct. The music I listen to is really honest and really direct, and that's what gets me going. So hopefully that's what we'll get.
Do you think there'll be more of a sense of your two different 'voices' on the album?
I think so! But I - I think it's just like anything. We've grown up and we've realised we don't have to - because it was very much, "Oh, I'll sing a bit, you've got to sing a bit now, and we've got to share that", or we've got to - you've got to sing 'we'll'... I know it sounds stupid, but now I'm saying 'I' or I'm saying 'he' or 'she'.
It's weird little changes that have helped our songwriting, and it's both of us growing up and saying "OK, you take this one, I understand". Do you know what I mean? It's not a tug of war - like it is when you work with someone, we're just both a bit calmer about it all. And I think it makes for much better songs, so yeah, it's exciting. I'm saying all this and you'll be like, "They're rubbish! I don't know what you're talking about!"
I'm sure I won't! Do you have a frame in mind for when you want to release it, or is it more of a case of 'when it's ready, it's ready'?
When it's ready. It always takes so much longer and - this bit's the best bit, the bit where it's like me, Charles and someone else who's producing it, that's fine. Then it's [when] everyone else's opinions start - as soon as you finish it, they're like, "Oh, I think this, I think that". So I predict six months [of that](!) Then it will come out, like, next year? I don't know. But the sooner the better, because I'm just bursting to tour and stuff, so hopefully we'll be going with it pretty soon. But there's a lot of work to do as well.
Where did you guys first meet, actually?
We were at different schools, but the schools we were at used to do music and drama - they would encourage you, and they'd get all the schools together to do like, music geek workshops, basically. And I was one of those, and Charles obviously was one of those. So we met there, and then he started going out with a girl who was my friend. Me and him used to chat on MSN about Jeff Buckley!
I can't believe they've killed MSN Messenger off!
I know! A/S/L? That was the best! So, eventually - I had had a band - well, I was the drummer in a band, and we knew the frontman of Charles's band. Then we started writing songs. But I only feel - I said this on the last record - but it's like - we only feel like now we're a real band even though we've been doing it for years! But no, it's good. We both were meant to go to uni and we both didn't, so hopefully we can carry on not going to uni and not having a job! But yes, it's a good way to live, I suppose.
Out of curiosity, again, the video for 'Beginners' - which is how I first really got into you, actually - and I suppose you must get asked this all the time... [Rebecca laughs]. How did he [Daniel Radcliffe] get involved?
He's a big music fan. He guest-edited Time Out magazine around the time that one of his films was out, and one of the things he did was an interview with us. He's a massive laugh, and he's really similar to us, and we all got on, so we kind of stayed in touch with him.
When we needed a video, Lucy [Needs] - who does all our videos - had written up this idea. We needed an actor, and we were like, "I've got a good idea about an actor. Let's ask this actor!" And... he loved it. It was brilliant.
Whenever we get people to do stuff for us, we feel a bit, "Oh, shit". You sort of feel bad about it - in any capacity. So someone like that, doing something for you, you know - for like, a billion percent less than they usually get out of bed for - we found really, like, "Oh god, thank you".
What I realised was it was three-and-a-half minutes for an actor to just have his own canvas, really. And I think he enjoyed it. So, it was cool. And we've stayed in touch with him now, and he' s a really fun friend to have. So... it all worked out really nicely.
I remember being really struck actually by the fact it was in one clean, unbroken take as well. I think that's why it had such an strong emotional impact on me.
That was [down to] Lucy, as well. She's a big fan of the one-shot. She defends that type of music video to the end, and we're always like, "Does it have to be that?" But it does, it works so well. The pair of her and Daniel together works really well... She's one of my oldest friends. She's my partner in crime! But she is also an artist, she's done four of our videos now. So it works out really well. We should probably let someone else do it!
Well, if she's doing a good job for you, you don't wanna get rid of her! The other thing I saw - which made me feel slightly bad about my own interviewing skills - was you interviewing Lemar.
Oh, yeah! Wasn't I good?
It was really good - I was terrified!
It was a joke that just went too far! Basically, I just think Lemar's brilliant. But, I was tweeting about it. It only came about because my friend is his PR, and she was like, "Oh my gosh, you have to do this". So, it was all a sort of me - 'cause I don't know what I'm doing, really...
Well, you hid it very well.
I just carried on talking, because I can talk for England! But, erm - he came to this interview with me after he'd just been on like, Loose Women, This Morning, and there was me, sat there in a t-shirt with his face on going, "Hey! I'm not a journalist, but..." But he was great as well, he loved it.
He seemed well up for it, but I suppose if you've had Simon Amstell shouting questions at him in a car park through a megaphone [on Popworld during a mock interview dubbed 'Lemar From Afar'], I suppose you'd be up for anything. But he seemed like a really good sport.
Yeah. He came to our show at Christmas as well! It was so sweet. He was at our afterparty - everyone was so excited that he was there, and it was so nice! People were getting their photos taken with him, and I felt a bit bad for the guy, 'cause he just wanted to have a nice time! But he met my mum, which was adorable, so - yeah. He's great. I think he's amazing.
He's got a wonderful voice.
Yeah. He is so cool.
I'm surprised he's not, kind of.....
Well, what I realised is that he totally kind of is, he does really well as soon as you're not in, that like, TV 'bubble' of, like [Fame Academy]. But you can totally have an amazing career, still.
And I suppose he's got more [creative] freedom, in some ways anyway.
He's really into his music, which a lot of people that come out of TV shows and stuff aren't, really, they just wanns sing...
They just want to entertain [in the broader sense], I suppose.
I think that's the difference. If you care about music, then you will have a career for a long time. I don't know. What do I know?
I'm trying to remember what it was I was going to ask next... Ah, a question I ask pretty much everyone in some form. What's the one band - or act - that you would drop everything to go and see at the moment? You're in, night on the sofa, someone's playing...
[Jokes] I rarely move from the sofa(!) Does it have to be a band that's touring now?
Nah, anyone really, I guess! Anyone that you've been listening to lately that you're really into, your favourite band of the moment, that kind of thing.
Erm... I always - have you heard of Perfume Genius? He's like, really really good, and I would go and see him play. Yeah, I'm sorry! I generally don't go to gigs anymore at all - I wish I still had that in me - and now I feel bad for the people who come to my gigs! But he is amazing.
Is it hard sometimes when you're writing an album, or getting ready for a tour, to kind of - want to...
It's very weird. You get... making music kind of kills music for you. But it's like that in any sort of job, I think. I don't know, I sound like a bit of a spoiled brat, don't I? I don't mean it, I just think...
No, sometimes in writing, I guess when I'm just writing news constantly, I feel like it kind of kills off your creative [fiction] writing skills, and you're like, "Oh, I should sit and write this, I should sit and write that". And at the end of it, you're like, "I just wanna sit and not stare at words for so long [a time]".
You see, I can listen to loads of proper, like mainstream pop, because it's so not what we do. It's like watching reality TV, it's like really easily digestible. But, Perfume Genius is... you know... you can't listen to some music if they're playing (out on tour), because I might get jealous if it's better than what I would do. Then I might get stressed out that we've not thought of that first!
But sometimes, some artists come along and you're just so in love with it and you're so amazed by it and it's so good that you just think, "It's OK". And he's one of them.
And last but not least, if I had to get you to pinpoint one song of the new ones that's your favourite, do you have one?
That's a really good question. I love them all actually - at the minute! I'm sure I'll start to hate some at some point. It's been quite an emotional, a really tough one to write - so all of them have got things about them that are difficult. But that's what makes them good to perform, I think. So, I don't know! There's one called 'Suffering You, Suffering Me' that is really fun to sing. We're going to play it tonight. And I get to not play anything and just sing it, and I really enjoy doing that.
Is it full band tonight?
Yep. So I'm going with that one! But I'll probably change my mind soon.
Slow Club's third studio album will be out 'when it's ready' (although if you read from start to finish, you'll have sussed that out already). The band were speaking backstage at Camden Barfly ahead of the first headline show for Beck's Live. For tickets to other Beckâ€™s Live gigs and further information, visit https://www.facebook.com/becksvier.