The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

Chaotic Good: Lower Slaughter Interviewed
Mat Colegate , January 9th, 2018 11:37

Sinead and Barney from high-octane UK choogle unit Lower Slaughter talk to Mat Colegate about their debut album and the roll of the D20...

Pound for pound Glasgow/Brighton four piece Lower Slaughter are probably the best heads-down, pump-your-fist, no-nonsense boogie unit in the UK right now. A thunderous collision of ZZ Top-esque riffage and Sabbathian pummel, topped off with the mesmerising vocals of former Divorce singer Sinead Young, Lower Slaughter's début album What Big Eyes was one of last year's best, so we at tQHQ were made up when they offered to play at our fund-raising show at the Lexington on Saturday. Also it is only right and proper is that we have a chat with them in order to gauge the temperature of some strange times, as well as talking about sexism in the underground, depression and Dungeons And Dragons.

There's some real thumbs-in-beltloops denim-clad boogie on the album. Where does that come from? Is there a disguised classic rock influence going on?

Sinead: Definitely for the dudes, for sure. If Jon was here he'd have a lot of classic rock to share with you. It's the guitar tone, it's the riffs, man. Little bit catchy, little bit metal, little bit rock & roll...

Barney: There's the AC/DC influence...

S: I'm out on AC/DC

My editor asked me to mention Status Quo.

S: Yeah I've heard that before. Not a massive fan of the Quo but I like the riffs that we have that reference the Quo. Does that make sense? We have quite a lot of diverse interests. We've often tried to figure out what bands we all really like.

B: We found three didn't we? Sabbath, Public Enemy was another one...

S: we'll find that three of us will really like one band, but one person's not so hot on them and it goes around like that.

B: John and Ben really like Guns 'N Roses, but me and Sinead don't.

So if you hear a Roses riff sneaking in do you head it off at the pass?

S: No, a band is what everyone else brings to it. It's greater than the sum of its parts and it needs to have that gestalt beauty.

Are any of the songs hangovers from Max's time with the band (Levy, previous singer) or were they all written with Sinead?

B: There's two songs that cross over and they're both on the album. There's one song called 'Tied Down', which we only ever played live once and the lyrics were completely different. And another song on the album called 'Caliban And The Witch'. The plan was to scrap everything.

S: I went into a practice and I really liked the songs, especially 'Caliban'.

Sinead, you're in Glasgow and the rest of the band are in Brighton. How does that work?

S: They tend to write a lot of the music parts and send me things as they're in progress and then everything gets finalised in practice when we're together. The vocals can change a lot of the vibes of the song. We might lengthen a part, shorten a part, there's a bit of flexibility at that point.

B: The three of us, me, Jon and Graham, practice pretty much once a week. We get as much done as we can and then send it over to Sinead.

Have they ever sent you anything that you thought was total shit?

S: No, there's been stuff where I've been like, “I'm not entirely sure if I'm feeling this” but then we work it through. It has happened where I've been uncertain for a bit, but that's just because it may not have been how I would write it. But, y'know one again, faith in the band. And also a respect for what everyone brings to it.

B: We're working on some stuff at the moment that Sinead hasn't heard yet, but she'll probably hear it and say, “Well this part needs to be longer.” Having that presence there is quite exciting because you can be working on something for a month and then it will be changed significantly.

A lot of people seem to think you're quite an angry band. I don't really see it, but...

B: We don't either.

S: Dead shouty, I guess? I don't know. It's a couple of different things in my mind. One, I shout a lot and I think people are like, “Woah! A woman shouting. They are angry about many things...” which I kind of understand but disagree with. And also, I'm Scottish and when Scots people shout sometimes they sound very angry. When I've been down in Brighton I've had a couple of situations where I've bumped into other Glaswegians in the street, started having a chat with them and then afterwards my friends have been like, “I genuinely thought you were about to fight until you guys hugged at the end.”

B: No one ever makes that point about male bands. No one says about a band like Gallows: “Oh he's so angry.” We're a party band. We're heavy but it's pump-your-fist heavy.

In the current climate partying is a politicised act anyway.

S: It can be. You don't want a fiddling while Rome burns situation or a 1920 post-world-horror situation where everyone's partying because you don't want to deal with how brutal reality is. I think there's a lot of that. Politics is in a very interesting situation at the moment, with increasing globalisation and global communication. How the fuck do you deal with that much information coming at you at all angles all the time? For some people you just have to party I guess.

When you played on the Desertfest last year you took time out to remonstrate with another band on the bill about their name, quite justifiably as they were called Black Pussy.

S: I felt uncomfortable being on a bill with a band like that. People make jokes and try to pretend that it isn't a deeply racist and misogynistic band name, but Barney later saw on their merch table all this Pam Grier-esque Blacksploitation vibe going on and it's just disgusting. It's just actually really shit.

When you see something like that do you ever think that the shock you experience might mean that our little corner of the underground rock scene is in a bit of a bubble?

S: There's a lot of change going on and a lot of different scenes happening simultaneously. I can't really say if it's a situation of being in a bubble, because at the moment there's just an overwhelming amount of music out there. I do think that more often than not that kind of stuff is critiqued these days. I understand that people get taken aback by the criticism, but at the same time it's a dialogue that's going on. Musicians can get caught up in the idea that it's about what they're doing, but also the audience brings as much to it as the bands do. And that comes with questions of what is and isn't acceptable and what makes people uncomfortable.

There are lyrics on the album about depression. I personally find it really difficult to create when I'm depressed. How do you get stuff from that state and turn it into art?

S: Around the time that the band was starting I was starting to become aware of my depression resurfacing and having a serious negative impact on my life. It's part of the reason why I moved back to Scotland, to be closer to my family and the support networks of friends that I have. At that period as well I wasn't medicating or anything. I would go to work, come home and I'd practice. Do the things to which I was obligated. Eventually [Lower Slaughter track] 'Calls From The Abyss' came out of that. That was a three month process of trying to finish lyrics for a song, when usually it comes very quickly. Since moving back home I've started on the health care side of managing depression - therapy, antidepressants - which is helping the creativity again. The benefit of playing in a band like this is that if I'm dealing with difficult, painful, negative emotions the music can fit that and it can work in well with what we do. It becomes very cathartic.

Is it a particularly fertile time to be playing music in the UK at the moment? It certainly feels like it.

S: I'm blessed to come from a very fertile music scene. Since the age of 16, 17 I've been around a massive group of people that is fluid and changing. Some people retire out of it after a while, then the fresh blood comes in. There's always a constant renewal. I think that there is a lot more creativity. People are seeing it and seeing how easy it is. The thing that bothers me is that you don't want to get into a situation where your economic means influence your ability to create. That's one of the problems with the crunch economically. It pushes out a lot of voices. Your income directly ties into what equipment you can buy and how often you can practice and all these other different things. That's my only fear: that everything gets too expensive and people get edged out.

B: Being part of the Brighton music community for so many years now, the shortage of venues is the big thing. The number of new bands that pop up compared to the number of venues is quite a problem. But other than that there's more here than there was a few years ago. It kind of goes in stages. There will be periods where everything becomes quite jaded. I think that happens with a lot of scenes anywhere, in this country or anywhere else in the world. I'm always open to being connected with as many bands as possible. But the difference between this band and any other bands I've been in is we're not connected to any specific community as such.

S: Everyone's getting older and chilling out and settling down I guess. We all work full time and have other things we do in our life outside of it as well.

B: Jon has a family so we all have other things going on. It's a different dynamic to being in a band ten years ago when it was just like, “Let's tour forever!”

Sinead I have heard on the grapevine that you are a fan of epic fantasy. Have you ever LARPED?

S: No, at the moment we're doing a video for 'Caliban And The Witch' and that's the closest I'll get to LARPING. We had a really good time in a public park in Glasgow with some fireworks and capes. I play a lot of RPGs so I think that's where I get a lot of my LARPING desires out.

What character class do you play?

S: It varies. I would usually be stealth ranged, like an archer-type. Or something with magic.

What character classes do you think the rest of Lower Slaughter would be?

S: The story telling part of his personality is very strong so I think I'd definitely cast Barney as a bard. What do you think Barney?

B: I don't know what you're talking about.

S: I think Graham would be a Ranger. He's got a bit of the woodsman in him, coming from the Pennines. He's always going out and sending us pictures of mountain walks. I'm going to give Jon a Paladin role. You need a Paladin in your group. Also because he has a good sense of right and a caring, supportive fatherly thing, so yeah, we've got a Paladin, a Ranger, a Bard and a Wizard.

Lower Slaughter play the Quietus fund-raising show at The Lexington on the 13th of January with Gum Takes Tooth and Mighty Lord Deathman