Monday, 28 February 2011

K&A with Laurence & the Slab Boys

So it turns out my first K&A session of 2011 has been doing the rounds a lot recently.  Let's see if this one can stir up some hype for my latest victims, Laurence & the Slab Boys.  The 'Laurence' in question (that rather sultry looking chap to the left) may already be familiar to some of you as the guitarist in one of my all-time favourite Scottish bands, The Cinematics.  Having relocated to Berlin with the rest of the band, Larry Reid has decided to start this new project with bandmate and bassist Adam Goemans.  With tracks now appearing online and an album in the pipeline, I thought I'd ask Larry a few questions... again.  Here's what he had to say about the band, the other band, and what we can all expect from him and The Slab Boys...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Laurence & the Slab Boys?
Larry:  At our live shows we are myself, Adam and a couple of friends we met in Berlin, Max and Tim. There have also been quite a few other musicians who have played different instruments on our recordings. I suppose, in many ways, it’s really more of a collective than a band.

Kowalskiy:  What's the story behind the name?
Larry:  The Slab Boys is a trilogy of plays by John Byrne, set in Paisley. I was born in Paisley and I’ve always wanted to name a band after the plays, but other band-members have vetoed it in the past. This time around I think I’ve just been more headstrong, and then we added the “Laurence and...” part to make it an even more unlikely-sounding band name. My parents think it’s a stupid name, which is usually a good sign. I’m sure people will just shorten it to The Slab Boys but I might threaten to sue any promoter that doesn’t use our proper name, Mohammed Ali-style.

Kowalskiy:  So, how did The Slab Boys get together?
Larry:  Adam and I were in Berlin with our other band, recording an album. The recording ground to a bit of a halt three-quarters of the way through and we decided to take a break from it. I’ve always been quite active in writing and recording songs so I decided to put something else together in the meantime, and it seemed natural to work with Adam on it. Ross from the Cinematics played drums on a lot of the recordings, also, as he’s a bit of a genius-machine in the studio. When it came to consider playing live we roped-in some of our Berlin friends. Max and Tim play in another band, Johan Van Der Smüt, and are great musicians.

Kowalskiy:  Many will know you from your other band, The Cinematics.  How do The Slab Boys differ?
Larry:  I think it’s really quite a different sound. You could call it shoe-gaze, but it’s also pretty folksy and has some dirty rock n’ roll riffs thrown in at times.  I could be wrong, and I might be foolishly writing-off a potential ready-made fan base here, but I don’t think many Cinematics fans will even be into this band. Perhaps music-listeners that got into the band through Love and Terror or the Silent Scream EP will dig it and will be savvy to the progression, but anyone looking for something that sounds like Strange Education will wonder what on earth is coming out of their speakers if they hear it.


Kowalskiy:  Who are your main influences?
Larry:  All of the music I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager. Dylan, the Velvet Underground, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Neu!, Radiohead, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Bowie, Primal Scream, Ride, Tom Waits, Felt, Momus... most of the Creation stuff, actually.  Some of the influences will be obvious in the sound, and others are probably just a figment of my imagination.

Kowalskiy:  What are you and the Slab Boys up to at the moment? Any plans for releasing some material or gigging?
Larry:  We’re still working on an album. We might put it out through some conventional channels, or we might just give it away on Bandcamp and then tour it for a bit. If we thought a particular label would actually bring something to the party then we’d talk to them, but I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that established record labels are the worst people in the world to trust to put out your music.  We have some shows lined-up. We’re supporting Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who are one of my favourite bands of the last couple of years. We’re also supposed to be playing with Glasvegas and touring with Wild Beasts, and there is talk of some festivals in the summer. We have a date pencilled in for London and I hope to play in Glasgow at some point. That’s tricky as although I’m based between Glasgow and Berlin, most of band is based only in Berlin, so we’ll have to look at getting the boys over and show them around Glasgow.

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?
Larry:  All of the artists I listed as influences. Perhaps minus Dylan, as I’ve already seen him once in my life and he was great, and I’ve heard that his standards vary from magnificent to murderous, so I wouldn’t want to tarnish the memory.  It could be like some kind of travelling mini-festival, playing all my favourite European music cities, a different one each night for a week: Paris, Rotterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bologna and then finally at the Barrowlands in Glasgow.  If I was curating it then I’d stick some of my friends’ bands on to make up the numbers and then get my brother to MC it, as he’s an old-style comedy genius.

Kowalskiy:  What does your new project mean for the future of The Cinematics? Is this Robbie and Take That all over again?
Larry:  I think it would be a shame if the Cinematics never made another record. I personally feel that creatively the band were coming to a peak. Those guys are the most talented musicians I’ve met. We toured pretty solid for more than two years, which is a long time to spend sitting in the back of tour-buses, dressing-rooms and hotels, and then decamped to Berlin to record during the hottest summer and coldest winter that anyone there can remember, so it was always going to be very physically and mentally draining.

If it was up to me- and this is not a criticism of anyone else, as they’re all good guys and everyone is entitled to do as they please- then we wouldn’t be having any break at all. We can take it easy when we’re forty and I think that it’s very hard to come back after a period out. In this day and age, where people consume music like any other disposable thing, a fan base will just move on and I don’t know how it will pan out for the Cinematics. There may be a new album out in the medium-term, or it may be lost forever to the ether.

It would be a pity, that’s all I’ll say, but at the very least it has granted me the freedom to write and record the music that I want to, without the restrictive expectations of an American or European fan base.

Kowalskiy:  Guess we'll just need to wait and see what happens then.  Anyway, as a Scot living in Germany, do you keep up to speed on what's happening musically in Scotland? What Scottish bands are you listening to, and are any beginning to make waves over in Germany?
Larry:  I’m not really able to keep track of what’s emerging, as such. My pal put out The Scottish Enlightenment on his label a few months back. I like them a lot. Also, Angus from Capitals knows the other Cinematics members from way back, and his band sound really good. I’ve yet to see them live, but their recordings are great.  Scottish bands are actually something of a vogue again in Europe. I meet lots of people who want to talk to me just because I play in a Scottish band. I’m sure they’d rather be talking to someone from Mogwai or Franz or something, I grant you, but in their absence I’m Scottish enough for people to be interested.  As uncool and unfeeling as it sounds, “Scotland” is a strong brand and people want part of it. That fact can be used for good by great bands, like Twilight Sad or the Phantom Band, who get a fair amount of attention on the continent, or for evil by the countless other Scottish acts who sin in our name.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from Laurence & the Slab Boys in the rest of 2011?
Larry:  There will be an album, for sure, before summer, and possibly an EP later on, as we’re bound to write loads more songs. Hopefully there will also be some great gigs.

Kowalskiy:  Anything else you'd like to add??
Larry:  Yes. If you like the sound of all this then look us up on Soundcloud, Facebook, etc etc... if you don’t like it then you can just stop listening.

   Space Dream #2 by Laurence & the Slab Boys

If like me, you do like it though, then there's more tracks to hear on their shiny, new Soundcloud page, and keep an eye out for details of the album and any future Scottish gigs.  I've got a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from them this year!

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