Slow Club’s third album, Complete Surrender, is inspired by heartbreak. But it’s a beautiful summer day in New York, and the Sheffield, England-based duo can’t be bothered to linger on the idea of romantic gloom and doom.
“Fuck it!” shouts co-vocalist/drummer Rebecca Taylor. “Life is too short…People keep saying, ‘Is it hard to sing on these songs?’ But it’s really lovely. It’s hilarious that I get to travel the world and have lots of fun after writing about something that wasn’t very nice. I don’t really go back there.”
Considering that the album features torch ballads “Not Mine to Love,” “Dependable People and Things That I’m Sure Of,” and “Suffering You, Suffering Me,” it seems hard to believe that performing songs from Complete Surrender wouldn’t cause Taylor even the tiniest of twinges. Sure, the heartache is cloaked in a bombastic wrapper that brings to mind the theatrical peaks of Dolly Parton and delivered with a heart-wrenching verisimilitude that would make Lykke Li proud. But how does one go on stage every night and do the musical equivalent of reading a diary entry (sample: “I know that he loves me, I watch him leave/I’d do anything at all to hear his voice call me.”) without, well…feeling feelings?
“Sometimes I try to think about [the story behind the songs], and I wonder if that’s going to enhance my performance,” Taylor says, laughing. She pauses to point out that she’s definitely not a method actress. “But not really. I think it’s pretty universal. A couple of the scenarios, they’re not all about the same thing, so I do think through it when I’m singing, but not really. I’m just trying not to fall over and to look attractive! That’s on my mind more than anything else.”
Slow Club vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charles Watson patiently listens to our exchange, occasionally mumbling his agreement between bites of salted chocolate doughnut. More reserved than Taylor, he offers ideas in quiet, concise bursts—underscoring an idea that his bandmate has brought up, offering a dissenting option (he groans, rightfully, when the term “twee” is mentioned), and turning questions around to facilitate conversation outside of the normal question/answer interview format.
Slow Club’s third album marks the first time that Taylor and Watson’s opposites-attract relationship has been fully translated into the music. Previous outings, 2009’s Yeah So and 2011’s Paradise, saw the pair writing from a shared perspective and often singing lock-step harmonies. Constantly and proudly evolving, the musicians finally felt ready to present themselves as contrasting parts of a whole, celebrating both Taylor’s belting and Watson’s emotive piano ballads.
“We’re different people and our lives are really different,” explains Taylor of their shared chemistry. “You can make music, but it doesn’t have to all come from one perspective. I think that’s what’s interesting. An album of just my feelings would be pretty horrible! An album of Charles’ music would be critically acclaimed.”
“You’d tell people that you listen to it, but really you could never quite bring yourself to get through it,” Watson jokes.
“Watson Three—it’s a massive piece, very hard to digest,” Taylor interjects, imagining her bandmate’s epic solo work. “I wish I was more metaphor-driven. I could shroud my feelings in something that people would have to figure out. But I just can’t.”
It isn’t just musical styles where the two take different approaches. They may be the band that crafts songs about love, heartbreak, and sex, but like in every other element of their lives, both Slow Club members come at the topic from very different angles.
“I tend to not write songs about just one person,” says Watson. “I struggle to write a whole song about one person. It’s basically a massive collage. I never really know who it’s about, really.”
“Sometimes I date people and I think they’re waiting for a song,” Taylor reveals. “I think some people are going out with me to get a song out of it. It’s funny. I can generally tell if they want one…I can still remember feelings from quite a few relationships ago. There’s not really any way of guessing. The only person who ever really knows is Charles. And he can’t be asked to tell.”
Sure, it’s a bit of a dark thought to end the chat on—but not all is lost. The day is young, their stateside trip is still full of promise, and Watson still has another half doughnut to look forward to. Most of all, they’re serious about their desire to look on the bright side. For now, Slow Club is prepared to keep smiling.
“The worst things are really great in a way,” Taylor muses. “It’s all got to get good, I suppose. I don’t know about anything anymore. I don’t understand anything anymore. So every day I’m like ‘Here’s today!’ I get to the end of it and I haven’t lost my phone or cried, then I’m really happy.”