How do you go from creating chaos on the streets of Manchester to supporting one of the most important rock bands of all time? Blood, sweat and a lot of tears, at least that is the story rock and roll’s latest upstarts, Slydigs are sticking to.
Fresh off an American tour with The Who and straight into their own European headline tour, the four-self-proclaimed scaly-wags are living the dream. I caught up with them ahead of their recent Bristol gig to find out more.
“We certainly have had to get heavier shoes in the last year”, says Ben Breslin (bass/backing vocals). Dean Fairhurst (vocals/rhythm guitar) agrees: “Playing in front of 20,000 people in America, living the dream could certainly get in your head but you have got to just keep it in perspective. Our work ethos is still there, especially after learning so much from that experience“.
Fairhurst continues, “we can’t like sit still for two minutes anyway so getting out on our own tour has really kept the DIY flame alive. Doing your own gig keeps your feet on the ground cause like I said to Pete (Flemming, percussion and unnervingly silent throughout) just today, how easy did we have it in America?”
Louis Menguy (lead guitar/backing vocals) adds: “We had everyone lugging our gear and we didn’t have to do anything, just walk on stage but now we’re back carrying our gear, sweating our tits off, but that’s what we’ve always done and it keeps it real“.
“It means just as much to us to see 100 people turn up to a gig with Slydigs T-shirts on and know they are coming for us as 20,000 people really coming for The Who and happening to catch us. What I am saying is that it means just as much to us to play to people singing our songs to us as it does the bigger gigs. We still play the same”.
“We don’t f***ing play differently at the bigger gigs. We put in the same effort in. So, yes, our feet are firmly on the ground, ha ha for now, until we don’t have to!” laughs Breslin.
Despite their protestations that they aren’t quite rock and roll yet, with a new EP out, How Animal Are You?, and a headline tour well underway, it would be easy for four working class lads to start dreaming of the big time. The band certainly dress, swear and chain smoke like proper rock stars! But like many young bands today they are under no illusion about the state of the music industry.
“The music industry has been in a difficult place for some time now. In the UK, I think there is a snobbery in the higher ranks and yet I don’t even think they know what the fuck they are doing, I don’t think anyone has embraced fully the technology we have in our hands and the way in which fans interact with new bands”, says Breslin.
Menguy agrees: “There are millions of people doing the same thing so it’s too accessible. The people that hold the purse strings aren’t putting money into new bands. So, no one is taking a chance on anything unless it’s already polished and perfect. Where labels used to spend money in developing an artist, now they want a developed artist before they are willing to make any investment“.
“I think that’s the thing that’s gone wrong because you get bands like us that start off with no money at all and so it’s hard to get your shit together so that your presentable because as soon as you start you are on the internet and competing with artists that have spent like £30K on a single”.
“It’s like the middle bits gone you know, the development” says Fairhurst, “You get fed straight up way before you’re developed. The internet is great but it can take away from new artists and it doesn’t help that record sales have collapsed. Labels had the money to give you a punt with £1m record contracts. They aren’t going to do that now. The live scene is where it is right now but there are an incredible number of bands touring so there’s a lot of competition. The bands are out there to be seen but there is something missing, don’t know what it is”.
“US – that’s what’s f**king missing, give them a kick up the ass and get them to come and see US!” laughs Breslin lighting another cigarette.
With no money and only raw talent to rely on, how has Slydigs made it this far? The band sprang from the roots of desperation. The four friends looked at their lot in life as they struggled through school and into low-paid jobs and realised that music could be a way out. But it has required hard work, dedication and a fair amount of savvy along the way.
“We don’t have the money to spend on loads of recording time. For this EP, we spent a day and a half so we are ‘a go in and get it done right’ type of band, because we have no fucking other choice. We get it done as quick as possible”, says Fairhurst.
“I think next time we record an album I would like to spend a little bit more time experimenting. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the experience or the ability to have that time in the studio. Some songs we only get like three of four practices before we have to record them. We haven’t actually experienced any pre-production so when it’s recorded that’s it, that’s what you get. We definitely want to pick the right producer for the next album, that’s something we are definitely going to look at”, says Menguy.
Slydigs are a live band. Their performance at the Louisiana in Bristol was like a sweaty vest wrung out over a grateful audience. It was dirty, it was noisy, it was a lot of fun. How do you recreate that atmosphere on an EP that includes only six songs?
Fairhurst explains: “We must have about 40 songs demoed over the years. Tracks like The Kids Feel Underrated are really old, some of the first songs we wrote. When we came to choose the tracks that was when we realised how difficult this was going to be. For one thing, we all had to agree”.
“Yea I got two black eyes”, says Breslin.
Menguy continues: “Yes, so a six track EP is hard because we have got such a wide array of songs so you can easily choose three tracks and it could completely change the mood of the whole EP and take us away from where we are as a band and in our live performances”.
When we caught up with the boys, they were still reeling from the terrorist attacks in their home town in May. As a touring band, they know better than any the responsibility that this type of tragedy can place on an artist.
“It’s a strange thing right now as terrorism seems to be focussed on a lot of music stuff. The thing in Paris happened just before we were going to France and then we were playing in Manchester on the Friday (19th May) and then that happened on the Monday at the Ariana Grande gig. It feels like when you’re on tour it is closer somehow, like it is just ahead of you each time and it is quite a strange feeling of being part of this and not knowing where it is going to come from”, says Fairhurst.
Breslin continues: “But then music brings people together, people don’t stop going to concerts, those people coming together and spontaneously singing Oasis songs, it’s really moving, it just shows the power music has to keep people together”.
Menguy agrees: “When we were in Paris we were literally two weeks behind the tragedy, on the same tour. We were playing the same venues. When we played in Paris it was a full room and that was very emotional. It was great to see everyone had come out and wasn’t afraid. They are not going to beat us”.
“Parisians have the same heart and soul as the Mancs do, they will stand their ground. They did it to the wrong fucking city here”, concludes Breslin.
“You have to go through these things to appreciate who we are as people and a society. This is the first time we have had a chance to voice our opinions since it happened but there’s only so much you can say on it”, says Fairhurst.
“I have seen all the interviews, with Noel Gallagher and Peter Kay and everyone is speechless. It’s hard to say anything. But you don’t have to – the music does it – we are all on the same level, we all feel the same about it, we are all one spirit. We are mending together spiritually, with music”.
Touring is the lifeblood of the group and it’s just as well that they get on as they point out their tour bus, a glorified transit van parked just outside the venue.
“They’re all bastards, I fucking hate the cunts. Hate them”, Breslin laughs. Menguy is a little more forgiving: “We spend so much time together anyway we’re used to it. It is a bit more intense when we’re on tour because we’re in each other’s pockets but we’re so close”.
Fairhurst agrees: “When we first started out we toured Ireland and literally lived out the back of a van so you can’t really get much closer than that. We now have a little bit of space at least”.
“We can tell you what really happened in the back of that van offline – we don’t really want what happened written down, I don’t anyway”, winks Breslin. Fairhurst retorts rather cryptically “It’s not tennis”. “I know, why do you think I am holding my tongue!”, replies Breslin. I push them but for now their lips are sealed!
Living in close proximity, recording as and when they can afford to, this is hardly rock and roll but the lads don’t seem to be deterred, more determined taken from the set of their jaws.
“I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I wasn’t in music” says Fairhurst. “I would be travelling, I’d be on the fucking beach me, somewhere in Australia looking at chicks and shit. Chicks”, Breslin is clearly the clown of the group and they all start laughing.
“I’d be doing art or painting because that’s what I did before. I just love choosing things that are notoriously hard to make a living from”, says Menguy. “Only because we have a f***ed-up Government that won’t do shit for the arts” says Breslin.
Like lots of young people if the polls are to be believed, Slydigs voted Labour. Also like many young people the June election was the first time any of the boys felt politically engaged enough to vote.
Breslin explains: “Young people should be involved in politics because politics is people man. There was a problem before where people thought why get involved in it, it’s bullshit but I think right now there’s been a change and it’s the kids that are getting fucked over directly – it’s them that suffer through their inability to change it. That’s why the rich are just getting richer (although I might be one of them in 10 years so I might regret saying this!)”
Fairhurst continues “Labour’s not perfect but all I am saying is that being under the Tory government is not doing anyone any good – certainly not creative artists in this country or potential creative artists. In fact, if you want to be a musician it is actually a detriment to not vote because Tories don’t like anything but money”.
We leave it there. Breslin stubs out his last cigarette and the boys return inside to eat and rest before the gig. It is all handshakes and smiles but I can feel the nervous tension buzzing amongst the group as they get ready for the game. It’s not tennis you know.
Words by Leander Hobbs