Sleaford Mods are an English post-punk/hip hop duo based in Nottingham, composed of vocalist Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn (since 2012). The duo has released several albums to critical acclaim. Their most recent release ‘Key Markets’ was released in July. Sleaford Mods have just started a tour of the UK and Ireland, Mark Millar from XS Noize met up with Jason and Andrew a few hours before their stunning gig in front of a packed Belfast crowd at the Black Box, Belfast for a chat.
You have just started your tour having already played Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’ and Dublin, how’s it been going so far?
Jason: It’s been all right, the UK tour starts on Wednesday, so we are just getting back into it after six weeks off.
Have you been using the Irish shows as warm-up gigs?
Jason: Not really, they are just as important, it’s just more dates.
How did you both meet?
Jason: I met him at The Rammel Club in Nottingham where I used to support ‘Noise’ bands. Andrew was DJing one night for a guy. He was playing some good music.
Andrew: They were the only people putting on anything art based and touring European bands and whatever was a bit different, like the ‘Noise’ scene. It seemed to be more of a scene back then ten years ago than so much now.
By the time I started working with Jason everything had ended. Steve’s (Sleaford Mods Manager) label is a ‘Noise’ label, he saw us and picked up on that, I think in his world it was time to move onto something else.
What music influenced you growing up?
Andrew: Music in the 80’s and 90’s was so eclectic there was quite a lot of stuff to get into.
Jason: There was lots of Rap, Grime, Old Skool Rap mid 90’s golden era East Coast Hip Hop, Wu-Tang Clan, Kool G Rap all that kind of business.
Was there a particular moment when you realised you wanted to write lyrics about what was going on around you? Did something piss you off?
Jason: That was a growing thought for a number of years until eventually I started putting it on paper and not being scared of it not being a song in the classic sense of songwriting, not being scared of whether it could guarantee me to earn money or get signed.
What is your songwriting process?
Jason: Andrew comes up with the beats a lot of the time, then we discuss what we want to do.
Andrew: It depends how strong the idea is, sometimes if we come up with something that’s a dead cert, then the vocal gets put on straightaway and it’s finished, then sometimes it might be something that has a good beat and we’ll add something to it at the time. It’s quite nice to not really have a strict way of doing it, so it doesn’t get mundane.
Have you been able to put all your albums together quickly?
Jason: Yeah they have been, the last one (Key Markets) was probably the quickest.
Andrew: I think it was OK to do that because by that point we knew how to do it and we just literally had to get on and do it.
Why do you think you are the only band around at the moment really saying anything?
Jason: We get asked that all the time and it’s like fuck knows!
Do you think it might be because you are independent and you are not controlled by anyone?
Jason: Yeah, there’s probably that and the fact we are older. A lot of these bands are signed to major labels, they are young, they don’t care about things like that.
Andrew: There are different reasons really, some people want money so they are obsessed with trying to write a pop/love song, it’s what your intention is, isn’t it? I think we had already earned our stripes by sticking to our guns at what we were trying to do.
It’s funny that you get people like Noel Gallagher and Bobby Gillespie going on about bands not saying anything these days, then when you do, they slag you off!
Jason: (Laughs) Noel Gallagher didn’t like the fact we slagged him off, but it’s his tough shit you know.
Andrew: I think they have been delusional for a long time.
Jason: Bobby Gillespie was riding that Rolling Stones stereotype for a long time, for a while it washed because people were so obsessed with the 60s and 70s but it’s paled into nothing. I’ve got nothing against them personally.
What is the biggest misconception about the band?
Jason: The biggest misconception is ‘We are really angry’, I suppose, people think we are ‘hard’.
Andrew: I suppose it’s the punk thing, people saying we are a punk band, I’ve had blokes done up in spiky blonde hair saying “Are you a Sex Pistols fan”? I was when I was 12-13. The whole ‘You have brought punk back’, thing kind of ticks me a bit, it’s fine for you if it’s rekindled your love of something you like, but our music isn’t really punk.
You have worked with Leftfield and the Prodigy, is there anyone else you would like to work with?
Jason: No it’s just me and Andrew, I did those songs, Andrew wasn’t involved, they were all right. It was kind of like ‘Ooh! all right I’ll do that’, but once you’ve done it, it’s good. I’ll go gigging and do the tunes with the Prodigy and Leftfield when I can. They are nice people neither of us is ruling out collaborations in the future. Sleaford Mods is very much still alive! so this is where our attention is.
Andrew: It’s all about staying focused on what we are doing and not getting distracted, it can blur the lines a bit.
Jason: It can do if you are putting your creative juices into too many projects.
Andrew: Most people might think you are doing it to get famous and we don’t need to be doing that, it’s not doing our own songs any justice.
Jason: That’s very true we don’t need to be doing that.
It’s all been going a bit mad politically across the water in England and here in N.Ireland over the past few weeks. Do you take an interest in the politics over here?
Not in Ireland no, people aren’t happy, are they? I don’t know the ins and outs, I couldn’t tell you fuck all, to be honest. I know there was a bit going on last week to do with the IRA. It looks like it’s going to disintegrate, doesn’t it?
You would have loads of material if you lived in N.Ireland.
Andrew: It’s too hard to understand, you don’t know what you’re being told is true.
Jason: We sold out last night in Dublin and tonight in Belfast; it’s a big honour. I have got a lot of respect for Irish people: it’s a nation that has struggled.
You have a film coming out called ‘Invisible Britain’, what’s it about?
Jason: It follows us on tour, it’s got stuff on every place we gigged, concentrating on social issues with individuals.
Andrew: They interviewed people after the gigs and got stories from people about having certain hardships.
Your music has a very British sound, do you think it can travel?
Jason: We played in New York last year, it was alright.
Andrew: We got offered a tour there, But it wasn’t quite right. It’s a really hard one you either have to slug it out there or just do key festivals.
When Jason is on stage doing his thing what is on your mind, Andrew?
All sorts of things, it ends its so different every time. If it’s a good gig it’s just the interaction with everybody who’s there.
Everyone was raving about your Glastonbury performance. How did you feel about it?
Jason: It was alright it was a good gig, we weren’t that keen on being filmed.
What are your favourite records this year?
Jason: I’m listening to a bit of Grime Integrity by JME, Geoff Barrow from Portishead, that’s about it really, anything else I’ve been listening to is old.
What are your plans once the tour is over?
Jason: The tour finishes in November then we are going to record a new single for release in February. I wouldn’t mind getting another album out by late next year if we can. Next year gig wise isn’t going to be as intense as this year has been, so there will be a bit more leg room, but we don’t know.
Andrew: We are at that point, where people want us to come up with a concept for the album and have theatricals. We are thinking of having a cocktail bar on stage (laughs) They are alright as jokes, I’ve said it now so we don’t have to do it.
Jason: Somebody said we will probably get away with going out as we do for this tour visually on stage, but we have got to think of something else.
Andrew: Maybe that is where a lot of bands make mistakes when they get to the point where you have to reinvent yourself, you are buying into the media idea of Madonna and Kylie and all that stuff.