Dream darlings: The Slow Show talks to Northern Soul
It gladdens the heart when a band from your own neck of the woods does well. And so it’s a treat to see how well Manchester band The Slow Show is doing. Very much in the category of ‘one to watch’, this five-piece has garnered critical acclaim for its second album Dream Darling, not to mention great reviews for its earlier work.
Consisting of Rob Goodwin (vocals), Fred Kindt (keyboards), Joel Byrne-McCullough (guitar), James Longden (bass) and Chris Hough (drums), this is no new ‘young guns’ group – everyone is in their late 30s and early 40s. This is particularly evident in the lyrical content of the material. The songs feature the type of life-changing experiences that could only have been written by people of a certain age. Another factor giving the band its distinctive sound is Goodwin’s deep dramatic vocal delivery.
The Slow Show began when keyboardist and producer Kindt helped to launch Manchester studio, Blueprint. Goodwin was working there with another band and the pair bonded over their love of orchestras, brass bands and film music. The other members were also recording at the studio and impressed Kindt so much that he decided they could all work well together as a unit.
I chatted to Fred and James about the new album and plans for the future.
Northern Soul: The majority of ‘up and coming’ bands’ tend to feature musicians just starting out in the industry. Does being that bit older give the songs you write more depth?
Fred: Probably, yes. I suspect there aren’t many 18-year-olds who can tell a story about a man rejected at the altar or the mind games of working girls. We’ve had a turbulent year and our private lives have changed a lot. All of that gave us plenty of inspiration.
NS: Rob’s vocals are unique and instantly recognisable. Is the best vocal interpretation of a song more to do with the feeling from a voice rather than the range?
Fred: It’s both. Rob never initially thought of himself as a singer and we looked for someone for six months but the people we met didn’t serve the songs very well. Rob’s more of a storyteller and if you’re the person who has written the song you can get its point across much better than anyone else.
NS: The album was mostly recorded late at night. Was this intentional to give additional atmosphere to the music?
James: Although we’re not morning people, it wasn’t an intentional decision. We just seemed to work better at night because there are less things happening around you and therefore less distractions. In terms of atmosphere, silence is a powerful aspect in our music. It can be comfortable or uncomfortable depending on the mindset of the listener. I think, in the best case, silence creates tension.
NS: You have enjoyed particular success on the touring circuit in Europe. Has this felt like an important training ground for future UK shows?
Fred: From the beginning of the band we’ve toured Europe extensively but, in the UK, only sporadically. As a result, we are more established in mainland Europe but it wasn’t a choice, it’s just the way it happened for us. Our recent tour included Berlin, Zurich and Oslo but also Leeds, Bristol and here in Manchester so things are steadily balancing out.
NS: The music industry loves to to pigeon-hole every new act that comes along. The Slow Show has been compared to the likes of The Blue Nile and vocally to Leonard Cohen. Are the comparisons annoying and something you brush aside or have there been any strong influences on your music?
James: It’s never annoying to be compared to great musicians and singers but we are also influenced by many less obvious artists and styles such as Sigur Ros and orchestral, cinematic music.
NS: Orchestral and choral elements feature throughout Dream Darling. Is it a tricky balance working out how much to add and what to leave out of a track?
Fred: It can be but we always try and work out what works best for the song overall. Some songs such as Strangers Now are quite grandiose affairs and having strings, brass and choral aspects fit well and are appropriate. On some songs these elements alone or in combination just don’t work and are therefore not included on the song. But we never think ‘this track must use strings or brass’, we just experiment with things and see what works best so it’s quite an organic process.
NS: The heart of the music business is still very much thought to be in London. Does it make any difference – positive or negative – being Manchester-based?
James: I don’t think being from Manchester has really been advantageous to us, although we obviously love the city and are proud of both its musical heritage and its creative influences. Realising just how many great bands have come from Manchester makes you believe you can make it too and that’s a very positive, important thing.
NS: If one song on the album summed up the band right now which one would it be and why?
James: I would chose the song is Ordinary Lives which is about loss. The overall theme of the Dream Darling album is change which we have all experienced both individually and collectively as a band during the recording period. While this track is musically a little different from the rest of the album it captures this theme of change perfectly.
To listen to The Slow Show talking to Lucy McNamara on The Northern Soul Podcast, click here.
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