NOTTINGHAM’s Sleaford Mods make their return to Limerick for the first time since December 2014. Back then their independently released second album ‘Divide and Exit’ was popping up in ‘end of year best of’ lists.
Beat maker Andrew Fearn and rapid-fire storyteller Jason Williamson spit out short sharp narratives on living in austerity gripped Britain. ‘Job Seeker’, ‘Jolly F****r’ or ‘Tied Up in Nottz’ are still in the set, glorious raging poetry, equally bitter and funny.
Since that Limerick show the duo grew their fanbase from nostalgic old punks and headbangers to indie kids and major festivals. Their 2015 Glastonbury appearance and a highly charged set in their hometown made them stars. The excellent documentary ‘Bunch of Kunst’ [well worth a look] followed the duo as their next LP charted in the Top 20 between Lionel Richie and Taylor Swift.
For the 2017 album ‘English Tapas’, Sleaford Mods signed to Rough Trade.
The follow up album is ‘Eton Alive’, coming out this February 22 on the duo’s own new label called Extreme Eating Records.
Jason Williamson is on the phone from Nottingham, chatting about the new record and the stress of planning an album release independently.
Unlike their early career when small indie label Harbinger Sound, run by ex-bus driver Steve Underwood, would take care of the promotions and touring, Extreme Eating Records is managed by Jason and Andrew and Jason’s wife, Claire.
“We left Rough Trade thinking we could go independent again. Which we have managed. But it has been quite a hard slog. And I don’t think we appreciated quite how much what went into it at the time.
“Record labels are there for a reason in a lot of respects. You begin to respect the fact that they are on the landscape for a reason They are not these evil things that tie you into a terrible contract for years and years. They can actually work for your music in terms of infrastructure, so we have learned a lot but I think we are up and running now…you know what I mean.”
Album number six ‘Eton Alive’ is another step in the duo’s progress. Written over three months the album takes a more introspective and reflective stance.
The former speed and raging of ‘Jolly F*cker’ gives way to more mellow ‘When You Come Up to Me’. Andrew and Jason have explored and developed what their economical setup can achieve. New track ‘Discourse’ has Ska tones while the introspective track ‘When You Come Up to Me’ is positively soulful, veering “dangerously close to melody”, as one John Peel might have joked if he was still with us.
Don’t worry SM haven’t gone all jazz fusion and musician-like, the kazoo blowing in new track OBCT is probably as close to a solo as you will come across!
“A lot of the music is quite warm. It’s quite lush,” says Williamson.
“The angrier tracks aren’t as angry as they used to be. The anger is a bit more thought about now. It is not as irrational or spontaneous.”
Mellowing a little perhaps. Now the duo is in their late forties, would they have handled this success if it had come to them as kids?
“We would have blown it big time. You have to be really lucky to navigate this at 20 onwards and still be doing it. I would have had too many drugs. It would have been an issue. I always wanted to be famous when I was younger. I always thought I would get free drugs and free beer. It just kept being about drugs really!” laughs.
Jason is three years off the drink and all besides. His writing has been given a new lease of life. The live gig has more energy, “It’s more physical in a good way.”
Making a Sleaford Mods record involves Andrew working on the beats and sending the finished cuts to Jason.
“He will just send me music fully formed and I work on it at home.
“If the track has too much I’ll ask him to make this a bit more cognitive or whatever.”
For most of the time it is just Jason. “walking around the house pondering what I’m going to do with the song.
“I like to take my time with it. Before it was all improvised, we would fling them together. After a while that formula becomes tired. You need to grow and thankfully, we have.”
Sleaford Mods with support from Dublin rockers Vulpynes play Dolan’s on Sunday February 10.