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SLOWDIVE Back to the souvlaki shop

At the forefront of the genre of music that would come to be known as shoegaze was Slowdive. The four piece from Reading disbanded in 1995 but their reputation has continued to grow thanks to the albums they left behind. Some 22 years later, and on the back of a successful run of live shows, Slowdive have release a new self-titled album. CHRIS HAVERCROFT spoke to vocalist Rachel Goswell about this latest chapter.

The reintroduction of Slowdive into the musical landscape has been a gradual process. Three years ago the band were invited to play the Primarvera Sound Festival in Barcelona. They didn’t want to come back and only play a few gigs, so the idea of making a new record was firmly on the cards.

“We did need some time you get back into the swing of it,” suggests Goswell, of the band’s reformation in 2014. “We enjoyed the gigs way more than we ever expected and thought that we had absolutely nothing to lose by doing a new record so we very slowly started putting the record together. It is definitely a bit more tiring than it was 20 years ago and we are all juggling our families as well, so we have to choose carefully what we can do and what we can’t do.”

As such, in their youth the band members used to exist around what Slowdive was doing and now Slowdive has to exist around what else is going on in the band members lives. It has meant that Slowdive has a completely different focus this time around and is not bound by the pressures that were bestowed on the band during their formative years. Goswell says the band appreciate things a lot more in this phase of the band and are aware that they should enjoy every second.

“It has taken us all a while to adjust to the fact that there are people that are interested in Slowdive, and it is a really lovely thing,” she says. “Neil (Halstead – guitar and vocals) did a solo show in 2103 and asked me to come along and do some vocals with him. We did some Mojave 3 songs and a couple of Slowdive songs acoustically and that is what sparked things off really. We realised that we got on ok and it was worth the gamble. At the time we didn’t understand how much interest there was until we got to Primavera and there were something like 25,000 to 35,000 people there. It was quite overwhelming for us and that night was very special for all of us in the band.”

The way that the musicians write for Slowdive is different to other bands that they have been in. Goswell suggests that Slowdive is very much about soundscapes and that is very much at the forefront when thinking about writing. The album was written in a number of ways, from weekends spent recording jams in rehearsal rooms, to Halstead coming to the band with song lyrics and structures already in place. Often the songs were very raw until the group were able to do a bit of “panel beating”.

“The difference with this record is that we didn’t have time pressure on us and we didn’t have a record label so we didn’t feel we had to get something done,” Goswell says. “It was a case of just trying this when we can and see if a record comes out at the end of it. Neil (Halstead) would take home the rough sketches of recording sessions and play around with the structures and write around those. I wouldn’t say it was an easy record, but it was a different record. We obviously wouldn’t be releasing it if we weren’t happy with what we had at the end of it.”

Slowdive have been held up as one of the flagship artists for shoegaze – which in itself is a construct that was invented by a journalist. Goswell has never thought this moniker should define Slowdive and is perplexed and the longevity of the phrase.

“I noticed that during the age of myspace shoegaze was a recognised genre and I remember laughing and thinking how far it had come,” she says. “The journalist who coined that phrase must be surprised; we didn’t set out to make a shoe gaze record, it is not something that we think about. It is obviously a press created genre and has now spawned other genres from that, and to be honest I get confused about a lot of them. Personally it is not a genre that I sit down and have a listen too all that often. Some of the new bands almost sound like they are paying homage to an era.”

“We didn’t want to do new music that sounded exactly like what we had done before. There is obviously a Slowdive sound with the guitars and the way the vocals are mixed in and I think this record has nods to our previous albums, but we would like to think that it is current and points to the future.”