INTERVIEW WITH THE SUBWAYS, 10/03/05.
Hertfordshire trio The Subways are taking the music scene by storm – Barely out of their teens, they won the Glastonbury battle of the bands competition last summer, have just signed a major label record deal and are about to release their debut single Oh Yeah, which is a mix of crunching guitars, boy-girl vocals and a chorus as infectious as an epidemic – think Nirvana, The Von Bondies and The White Stripes.
Jeremy Lloyd caught up with Billy Lunn, their talkative and charismatic front man and his equally eloquent and knowledgeable girlfriend bassist Charlotte Cooper, just before their show at London’s Camden Crawl festival.
So what inspired lead singer Billy to start playing music and form a band? “I heard Supersonic by Oasis and I wanted to play the guitar, so I taught myself some Oasis chords, like the typical Noel Gallagher ‘G’ or ‘A minor.’ I also learnt some Nirvana songs and I really wanted to play in a band – I had the urge!” he informs.
Billy goes on to explain that playing music was, for him, was an escape from the trappings of small town isolation and mundane, dead end jobs.
“Welwyn Garden City, especially after 6pm when everyone’s gone home, is very desolate – there’s nothing to do. London was the place to be, and if you couldn’t afford London you’d be round your mates house smoking dope, drinking beer or getting in a band, working your arse off and trying to get the hell out of there – for the love of God, I did not want to be a cleaner for the rest of my life!”
And how exactly did he assemble the band in the form they’re in now? “Josh (The band’s drummer) is my brother so he was the first person I went to in terms of rhythm – the guy’s nuts, so I thought he’d be perfect for drums! I was going out with Charlotte and she’s got great musical talent. We were all so close, and it felt so right,” Billy continues.
As far as musical influences are concerned, Billy and Charlotte list a whole host of bands and acts from a wide variety of genres that have had an impact on them – “From my Mum, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles – very motown, very pop – great melodies, great bass lines. From my Dad, Deep Purple and AC/DC,” Billy explains. “I like everything from Muse to Kylie Minogue to Marilyn Manson - we take in so many things,” adds Charlotte.
After listening to some Subways material, it’s clear that their influences are indeed widespread - there's a bit of blues, a bit of punk and and a bit of pop all thrown in. "This first album is not stylistic. We've abandoned a sense of style, we don't want to attach ourselves to any scene - there's all kinds of stuff on there," confirms Billy.
“Welwyn Garden City, especially after 6pm when everyone’s gone home, is very desolate – there’s nothing to do" - Billy Lunn on the joys of his hometown...
It's also clear that the lyrics are a very personal affair. “They’re about love, life and work – that’s all I’ve done! I’ve been in love and I’ve got up in the morning and not wanted to go to work. It’s just about those three things, the lyrics are based around what I’ve experienced, I can’t say anything more really,” Billy explains.
The Subways shot to fame last summer after winning the Glastonbury battle of the bands competition, which secured them a lucrative slot on the famous Other stage – the starting point for many great bands such as Oasis and Coldplay to name but a few.
“It was an amazing and daunting experience for us, because before that we’d played at most in front of 100 people,” Charlotte recalls. “It was a really receptive crowd – they were listening, watching and clapping and cheering for us which was really nice,” she continues.
Despite only being thrust into the public limelight with their Glastonbury performance, the band have in fact been around for a couple of years now, touring around their native Hertfordshire, Essex and London trying to make something out of music.
Has there been any particular gig they’ve played that has stood out from the crowd? “One of the best has got to be the first ever London venue we played, The Buffalo Bar in 2002. It the first ever London gig we played so we were so proud of ourselves. That’s when we really started believing in our music.” Billy declares.
Capitalising on the post Glastonbury hype, the band have recently inked a major label deal with Infectious, the home of pop-punk veterans Ash. Their debut album, out some time this summer, is being produced by ex Lightning Seed Ian Broudie. How did this relationship come about?
“We listened to The Coral and The Zutons records and thought the way the rhythm sections worked together and the vocal harmonies both sounded amazing. So we found out that these were produced by Ian Broudie and looked into other stuff he did like The Lightning Seeds and The Wedding Present – it was such a wide range, so we thought he would be a great person to do our album. With our album we wanted to make every song different, and we thought he’d be really good at capturing that,” Charlotte is keen to point out.
As for the album title, “I’m looking to call it ‘Young for Eternity,’ because I’m infatuated by the concept of time. It scares me, it’s so important – people don’t consider it. You’re lying in bed and you hear the tick tock of the clock and it’s scary. I just want to make as many albums as I can before my time’s up, and ‘Young for Eternity’ for the first album just felt right,” explains Billy.
As an up and coming band, I asked them their opinion about the topical issue of online file sharing – A good way to gain exposure or detrimental to the music industry?
“I’m looking to call it ‘Young for Eternity,’ because I’m infatuated by the concept of time" - The Subways debut album title - you heard it here first...
“Downloads are very important to catch a snippet of a band – what we do is download one track and if we like it, we go out and buy the album,” Charlotte muses. “I’ve got to say that I’ve downloaded a few tracks from the album and had I not done that I wouldn’t be into half as much as music,” Billy adds. “As long as people are digging the words I’m saying, who cares?”
And it’s certainly clear that people are ‘digging’ The Subways at the moment. Their headline slot at the Camden Crawl tonight saw a packed out venue of devoted fans singing along to Billy’s every cool and ultra composed word. Fans outside even had to be turned away, such is the current demand to catch a glimpse of this band.
“We’ve just been paid a ridiculous amount of money to go and do a festival in Japan, I can’t wait!” exclaims Billy – it seems those long days and nights in Welwyn are soon to be a distant memory.
More info: www.thesubways.net
Single ‘Oh Yeah’ out 21/3/05.