Interviews

Sleaford Mods: How the ringleaders of rebellion solved a problem like 2020

Sleaford Mods

Outrage, dissent, chaos, anarchy. Times like these call for a band like Sleaford Mods.

Over the last eight years, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have spent their days putting a face to Britain’s demise. Class struggle, injustice, bigotry; it’s all cut from the same bullshit cloth. Sleaford Mods fasten that cloth to a flagpost, letting the truth fly free.

Amidst the pure cannon fodder that was last year, however, the duo turned inwards. Suffering a back injury just weeks after the start of lockdown, Williamson used his downtime to reminisce on his childhood, specifically his experience with spina bifida.

What emerged was the band’s strongest album to date.

Sleaford Mods

HAPPY: Congrats on the album. How does it feel having the bad boy out in the world?

JASON: Brilliant, yeah. I’m really surprised by it, to be honest.

HAPPY: Yeah?

JASON: It’s got a really good reception. I mean, I knew it was good but it’s been really surprising that it has hit so much.

HAPPY: Yeah, totally. Well, last year almost felt like it was just so comically fucked that it was pure fuel for this next album.

JASON: Yep.

HAPPY: Was it hard to whittle down everything you had to say into those 13 tracks?

JASON: I didn’t really have a lot to say at the start of it. I obviously wanted to do something that talked about stuff that people knew. I wanted to try to get it into the souls in a way that wasn’t just obvious. So, it took a while for it to get political, I think. I started talking more about stuff like on Mork and Mindy, that was the first song we wrote and then Short Comings. Then I modified the lyrics later on a little bit for that song. So, it took a while for the political edge to come into it.

HAPPY: Really? What were you intending the album to be like before?

JASON: I don’t know! Just good.

HAPPY: (Laughs).

JASON: I just wanted it good. ‘Cause, you know, we constantly get criticised for our fucking age. We’re not exactly like young people anymore. We constantly get criticised for sounding the same all the time. So, you’re constantly on edge and you feel you’ve got something to prove all the time.

HAPPY: Yeah, totally. But that’s such bullshit because you guys are always changing up your sounds and experimenting with new things all the time.

JASON: Well, this is it. But I guess my issue is that I listen to the wrong people, you know what I mean?

HAPPY: Yeah.

JASON: I should just cut them off. But you can’t help but listen to bad criticism, even if it’s just one person.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s definitely hard. Are you finding that it’s getting a little bit easier to block it out the longer you’ve been in the game?

JASON: Yeah! It is a bit. I think we’ve been cocooned in the house all the time with lockdown etc. It doesn’t help, I guess. You’ve got psychological restraints on you, don’t you? So you kind of tend to concentrate on the negative.

HAPPY: When it comes to the politics of the album, where does the balance come into play for you stitching together what’s happening on an international scale and on a local scale in the UK?

JASON: I think a lot of it was just getting involved with the stuff in England really. We was in Australia for like…was it your place? For like two weeks at the start of the year.

HAPPY: Yeah.

JASON: And I think I was really inspired by that. And stuff like Glimpses, I wrote in New Zealand actually. And then started to think about, you know, just the fact that I was really loving it out there you know what I mean? And then we came back and then it was just purely UK lockdown stuff, and what’s all around me.

sleaford mods

HAPPY: So, did lockdown hit as soon as you got back from Australia and New Zealand pretty much?

JASON: Yeah.

HAPPY: Fuck.

JASON: Yeah, it did. As soon as we got back, we were in lockdown.

HAPPY: Sonically you guys really pushed yourself with this album. Was there a conscious effort to establish some different point of sound with these new songs you’re putting out?

JASON: Yeah, it was important to try to push it. We weren’t sure how we were going to do that but as soon as we started, we sort of talked about the collaborations then it kind of started writing itself in a lot of respects. Andrew’s stuff just naturally pushes itself forward anyway. Every time we come to write an album he sounds different. So, with that in play, the collaborations tipped it over the edge a little bit more as well.

HAPPY: Yeah totally. What was it like working with our girl Amy [Taylor]?

JASON: Yeah, she’s wicked. We’re kind of big fans of Amyl and I really like what she does with her singing and stuff. It took a while for it to get done because obviously she was over there and we was [were] over here.

HAPPY: Did she have any collaboration in writing the song or did she just jump on for the vocals?

JASON: Oh, yeah. Well, she did a verse and then she sent that over. She did some ad-libs as well. So, we got those and then we just experimented, we were going to put them in the end. Andrew had the great idea about dropping her in like a hip-hop verse or something. And that really worked, it was really powerful. So yeah, that’s what we stuck with really.

HAPPY: Yeah, this is the first album you’ve done collabs on too isn’t it?

JASON: It is, yeah. And it proved to be really successful. We didn’t really think it would work for us but definitely. It looks like something we could perhaps use in the future as well.

HAPPY: I read somewhere that you guys felt like this was a liberated album. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

JASON: Yeah, it was. I mean it was talking about childhood. I’ve talked about childhood on a few of the tracks. It’s the first time I talked about myself as opposed to what I saw around me, I guess. But I think I’ve been experimenting with that idea for the last two albums you know? And I think on this one I took it a little bit further, talked about childhood in a more explicit way.

HAPPY: Why do you think that you chose to focus on that particularly on this album?

JASON: I don’t know. I had back injury over the Summer last year. And that got [me] thinking about when I was a kid, I had an operation on my back. I was thinking about all of those things around that period, you know, the early ‘80s and stuff like that. It kind of extended on that with Mork and Mindy, that was the first idea. Then I went into stuff like Fishcakes. It weaves in and out of the album somewhat.

sleaford mods interview happy mag
Photos: Charlie Hardy

HAPPY: Was it a bit daunting to release something so personal?

JASON: Nah, not really. It’s whatever works, you know? I don’t get worried about overexposing myself. It’s just whatever works on the record.

HAPPY: Well now that this new one’s out what have you guys got in the works? Are you chilling for a bit? What’s happening for you?

JASON: Dunno. Looks like we’re going to be out for the count again this year doesn’t it really?

HAPPY: Yeah.

JASON: We’ve got a tour at the end of the year that we’re going to hopefully be able to do in the UK.

HAPPY: Yeah, hopefully.

JASON: And apart from that I think it’s just…who knows.

HAPPY: Again, congratulations on the album. Thanks so much for the chat.

JASON: No problem, thank you.

 

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