Interview: Slaves (UK) chat about Download Festival, being pals with DMA’s and playing Cal Jam 18

Last month, we sat down with UK rock duo Slaves while we were backstage at the Cal Jam Festival in Los Angeles. Today, the group have been announced alongside the likes of Sum 41, Pennywise and Thy Art is Murder in the second round of announcements for Download Festival, being held in Sydney and Melbourne next year. The shows will mark the band’s first visit down under – and having seen them a number of times overseas over the years, I can safely say Aussie fans are in for a treat.

But while this is their first visit to Australia as Slaves, at least one half of the group has been spotted in Australia in the past, and they call Aussie bands like DMA’s mates. We talked about all of this, their upcoming visit, their recent time in the USA and more.

We are backstage at Cal Jam 2018 with Slaves, all the way from the UK. Welcome! Welcome back to the US.

Both: Thank you

Laurie: Nice to be here

It’s the end of a long road for you over here, you’ve been doing some shows over the last couple of weeks and then you’re heading off back to the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Russia – the touring continues. 

Isaac: The world awaits, this is just the start so we’re trying to look after ourselves a little bit

Is that the hard part now? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a few years, you’ve probably made your mistakes along the way *band laughs* you probably still make plenty of them I hope. Do you find yourselves going in with a bit of a strategy now when you’re doing these longer tours and having to travel around the world, I mean, I just came in from Australia and I’ve lost my voice! Feeling fine but, you know, that shit that happens when you’re on planes for stupid amounts of time. 

Laurie: Yeah no, definitely a game plan now, you can’t just go in to heavy, you have to work up to it. There’s so many tours I’ve finished where I’m like…I get ill, I’m literally just done. Because this is the longest tour we’ve ever done, we’re taking it really seriously because we don’t want to let people down as well. Playing our show and meeting people is more important than us having too much fun.

Isaac: Definitely.

And how was it up there today? I saw Dave and Taylor from the Foo Fighters side of stage rocking out.

Laurie: We were just like ‘look, no one’s gonna come down, it’s early, we’re gonna just fucking do our thing’, and then I turn around and Dave’s going *gesters a thumbs up* at me, and I was actually just like ‘keep it cool’, turn back around and started humping the audience.

Well it’s better than humping Dave

Laurie: Yeah, maybe I’ll do that later

*laughs* The night is young! Are you gonna get to hang around and see the rest of the show here? Theres a Nirvana reunion happening and there’s lot’s of cool stuff planned.

Isaac: Yeah, we’re gonna stick about. Excited to see some good live music. Obviously Iggy Pop, (we’re) massive fans, can’t wait for that.

Laurie: Crazy that that might be happening, a Nirvana reunion, I can’t quite get my head around that. To be in that place at the right time it’s kinda that thing, you know like when 2Pac was a hologram and everyone goes on about it, this is the thing that everyone’s gonna go on about next, and we’re here. It’s quite weird, I’ve never been in a cultural thing like that before.

And what is it coming to be chosen for this festival? Because obviously its a heavily curated rock festival, we’re in Los Angeles, it’s the home of so many of these bands that you’re seeing that you’ve grown up with.

Laurie: I honestly was saying to Isaac today, just like, I was being super dramatic just like, ‘this is the gig of the year’, like ‘Dave Grohl has picked us to play this festival, everyone that comes to this festival is serious about rock music.’ If you impress here, it’s the world is your oyster. Like theres a serious hall of fame of rock people here, theres gonna be, theres fucking Iggy Pop, Matt Helders from Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age are here, Garbage, Butch Vig’s here, Dave Grohl’s here. It’s like…I’m just losing my mind a bit.

Are you gonna be that person that’s gonna get drunk later in the night and wake up with a bunch of selfies with everyone? 

Laurie: I’ll be right sober mate

Isaac: Yeah Laurie’s not drinking but like, he definitely would’ve and he probably still will.

Laurie: Isaac was saying we should leave our outfits on but I’m worried about stinking.

Isaac: Yeah we do fucking pong

Laurie: You wanna meet this people and make them think….obviously it looks good but we actually fucking smell

It’s been a while on the road

Laurie: Well it’s a conscious decision that when we put these white slacks on, we’re not going to keep them clean, so why don’t we make them as filthy as possible? And it worked.

You’re on the road promoting your latest record, it’s only been out for a month or so now, how have you found people have responded to it? How are you feeling playing the new songs? It’s a fucking killer record.

Both: Thank you man.

Laurie: I actually think it’s too early to say, I don’t know like, we put the album out and the twitter reviews were like incredible. 100% positive, not a single negative one, everyone saying it’s the best record we’ve ever done, but we’re not gonna know until we’re in our home land playing it in front of our bigger crowds what it’s really done

Isaac: Yeah, we don’t know yet.

Laurie: We put it out at a really intense two weeks, and then we took two weeks off and it was the weirdest feeling in the world.

What do you mean by an intense two weeks? What was going on?

Laurie: We did instores, we did radio shows, we promoted it the most we’ve ever promoted it and then we had a two week rest before this tour and like, I nearly lost my mind trying to work out what happened

Isaac: Felt weird as fuck.

Is that the most sort of press you’ve done around a release?

Isaac: Yeah we were like, exhausted

Laurie: Everything about this record was like ‘we’re gonna do this properly this time, no fucking around’, but like, hearing you say ‘the record’s great’ is still to me like, sinking in that people are out there listening to it.

Yeah, and it’s like you said, it’s still early days and you still seem to be figuring out how to incorporate it into the set. You’re gonna be finally coming down to Australia next year and you haven’t toured Australia before. I was lucky enough to see you at The Great Escape a few years ago before the first album came out, around the time the first album came out. There are certain hallmarks of that tour which aren’t going to be on this tour, you know, “The Mandaray” and all that sort of stuff that was so memorable about those shows. When you go and hit a market for the first time, you almost have to go like ‘do we need to go back to some of those things from the start?…

Laurie: Yeah that’s what we did today like…

Isaac: It’s about catering your set for where you are and your audiences

Laurie: And we do that. There’s lot’s of different sides to our bands, if you listen to our record, you’ll find some slow jams on there but they don’t always come out live, so it’s a skill we’re still learning but we’re not just a band that are gonna just tour…when you’re like Foo Fighter size, I think that’s when you tour the album, coz everyone will know it

Ah they don’t even really do that anymore I noticed, they used to, but now when they do their stadium shows, there’ll be like two new songs, it’s like they’ve almost gone past that point, but they used to do that. 

Laurie: Yeah. There’s a real conflict in both our minds because like, playing the new songs to a home crowd is incredible but then when we’re in America, it’s like you almost just wanna, we’re going even further back and the set’s feel like pre-first album. We just wanna go fucking ballistic because it’s important to remember why people like you in the UK

Isaac: and why we do it as well. Like, we just did this one weird set where we played ‘Girlfight’ twice in it, we just like thrashed out for like an hour and it was so fun and proper reminded me of why we do this.

Laurie: and we got a bit…I don’t know what the word is, but convinced on the last album that you know, it’s a show…let’s get the show good, get the set list good, and I was depressed but the end of it because we weren’t having fun, and I think it’s important that people don’t know what they’re gonna get when they turn up, so it’s hard work challenging yourself to change the set.

It’s a balance, yeah

Laurie: When you find a really good set it’s like ‘uuuuugghhhhh’, but if we change that, if we change that…

Isaac: And then thats when you find yourself becoming contrived and like, in a rut

And not enjoying it 

Isaac: Exactly.

Coz I mean that’s, you know, you go back to those earlier shows, there was that spontaneity to it that you could clearly see you guys were just fucking loving absolutely every minute of it, and thats infectious 

Laurie: Yeah definitely. And I feel like we’re starting to feel…the last few gigs, we’re really starting to feel that again. And like, we’re definitely gonna hone in on that and carry on doing it.

And there is that element, I mean, I said it when I first saw you guys and still today, it’s seeing you guys live, that’s the dealmaker for I think anyone becoming a big fan, it’s like, getting to see that live show and seeing how much you guys bring to every performance 

Isaac: Yeah definitely, come watch us.

Laurie: Our crew always say like, we’ve got a few new crew members like in the past year, and they’ve just been like ‘I can’t believe how you give it just as much effort to 50 people in Boston, as you do to like, thousands. It’s just like, we give it every time. It’s what’s important to us. We’re a live band. I mean that’s why we made this new record, coz it was almost like a track to lure more people in so we can keep doing what we love.

And you have been really good at releasing records, you’ve been putting out a new record every year. Are you looking at continuing to kind of keep that on? or just see what happens and how things go? 

Laurie: Yeah like, there’s like this weird structure to be releasing at the moment and like ‘bands do this, bands do that’ we kind of just wanna like, do the opposite. If theres music, there’s music like, we write frantically, we’ve already got about ten new songs now and it’s just a case of wanting to be creative. We’re learning more and more about talking to each other about what we enjoy and I enjoy the creative aspect like, on a whole other level, and Isaac enjoys the live aspect on a whole other level. We both enjoy the opposites as well but, to keep us both happy, we have to keep doing loads of different shit. So yeah, there might be a new record tomorrow

When you’re finally down in Australia, we’ll get to experience that live but, you’ve had a lot of experience with Australian bands over the years, you’ve toured with DMA’s, you played a show with DZ Deathrays, it’s quite a few acts, you’ve got Amyl the Sniffers coming up as well. What have been your experiences with Aussie bands? Do you get the chance to come listen to many? 

Laurie: DMA’s like, mine and my girlfriends joint favourite band at the moment just like, they’re culturally so important what they do and, I loved how much they reminded me of us in the way that ‘what you see isn’t what you get’. And I think we have a lot… they’re a different thing but, you see these guys dressed almost like UK chavs and then they come and play fucking beautiful music. I made a joke once that it’s almost like, we look like we’re gonna be the opposite band maybe *laughs*. Yeah, Australian bands are wicked. They’re always… we’re really good friends with… ah they’re my favourite people to be backstage with, the DMA’s, we’ve played with them, like 10 shows probably over the years and we’re always just, I mean, we all know each other numbers and hang out and I’ve done T-Shirt designs for them, it’s like a real family affair now.

Yeah, thats wicked. A good connection for at home. When was the first time you met them? Was it Great Escape when you both did that?

Laurie: It was actually. We were both playing like a Vevo stage and I was hammered and I remember Mason saying ‘I like your outfit’ and I was like ‘I like yours’ and we just started talking. I don’t think they watched us that year but there was always just like a, magnetism.

A band like DMA’s is gonna naturally going to do well in the UK and a band like you is naturally going to do well in Australia. 

Laurie: (Matt) Mason got hammered one night on a, on like we did this festival, we did like three shows together and, he was on a bus with and us and was like, ‘dude’s you just need to write a love ballad’ and he just kept going on about it. Do you remember it? *Isaac nods*.

Well, congratulations on the new record, we can’t wait to see you down in Australia for Download Festival next year and hopefully we’ll get some indoor shows with you as well because I wanna see the sweat dripping off the ceiling. 

Laurie: Thank you very much, can’t wait to come

Isaac: Cheers dude.


Slaves will plays Download Festival in March. Dates are below alongside the other additions to the festival. For more about Slaves, head to their official website. Their latest album Acts of Fear and Love is available now.

Download Festival Dates:
Sydney Saturday March 9 || Parramatta Park
Melbourne Monday March 11 || Flemington Racecourse

Just Added to Download:
SUM 41 (Only Aus Shows)
PENNYWISE (Only Aus Shows)

For tickets and more details, head to Download’s Official Website.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.