Who said powerpop can only come from sunny places ? The SPEEDWAYS have just put London on the contemporary powerpop map with their fabulous new album « Radio Sounds. » Mauro and Matt tell us more about the band, the new album, their music tastes and much more !…
Can you tell us about the beginning of the band ? It seems like powerpop is not that pouplar in London these days, was it easy to get the band line-up together?
MV: Matt did the first album as pretty much a solo project – he kept in touch with me about how it was going as I wanted his new band to play my powerpop festival (summer 2018) I’d been friends with him and a big fan of his previous band the Breakdowns for a couple of years, and as I’d left the Godfathers, I was looking to do something new and offered to join on guitar – it worked out great timing-wise! I suggested Adrian for bass as we both knew him and knew he’d be a great fit. Kris was the last to come on board, literally weeks before the first gig! I guess it was kind of easy to get the line up together as we were, in a way, the obvious candidates on the London scene!
Matt: Yeah, it started off as a solo thing really. I had a collection of songs that I really wanted to release. I was “between bands” so I just thought fuck it, I’ll do it myself (with my old band mate Dec on drums)
I think people thought I was just being coy when I initially said “1 album, 1 gig” but I genuinely meant it at the time.
It just so happened that things went well & I got some confidence from that.
The band fell into place really nicely, as Mauro says all the obvious candidates came on board!
I’d been spending a bit of time down in London for a couple of years by that point & had met some lovely people & made a bunch of friends so it was pretty straightforward getting a band together.
What have you released so far?
MV: Two full length albums and three singles, I think?
Matt: Yep, two albums ‘Just Another Regular Summer’ & ‘Radio Sounds’ + the singles ‘Seen Better Days’ , ‘Kisses Are History’ & ‘This Aint A Radio Sound’
Can you tell us about the new album “Radio Sounds”? Where did you record it? Did you have a precise idea of how it should sound before recording it?
MV: I recommended my old pal (and former bandmate from Jonny Cola & the A-Grades) Jez Leather to the others work on the album, as I reckoned he’d work well with us, in terms of musical background and temperament, and working with him went as well as I hoped!
Matt: Well we knew it would sound different from the first record because we were a proper band by now, and I think we wanted that to be evident, but at the same time we also gave nods to the fact it was a sequel to ‘Just Another Regular Summer’
Everyone definitely brought their own style & energy to the tracks.
Jez really helped in the Studio too. He got where we were coming from & was great to work with.
I think if you’re making an album you have to think about it as an album – you open up with your lead single or title track, keep the energy going with the next couple of tunes, then hit them with the first tearjerker etc.. We were all on the same page with those rules.
The plane taking off at the end of the LP is poignant & ties in with the tube train effect on ‘Regular Summer’ – all that kinda stuff was thought out in advance. In that respect there was a precise idea.
Kris recorded his drums separately with Ben from Los Pepes‘ mobile recording gear.
There was a real team effort and it turned out really well.
Does it take a lot of time to write a song or is it something easy for you?
Matt: It varies really. I either write from a title in my head, like ‘Just Another Regular Summer’ came from a text message I sent where I literally said “it’s just a regular summer now she’s not here any more” & I wrote all the lyrics in one sitting in a hotel room. They never changed. That doesn’t happen very often though!
In contrast ‘This Is About A Girl Who Loves The Sun’ was based around a hypnotic riff.. I couldn’t get the title for ages but I had the rest of the song.
I definitely write in spurts – 3 or 4 at a time, and then nothing for months on end!
Melody comes quite easy but the rest can be frustrating at times.
I try to write lyrics that can be visualised which is why I mention locations a lot! and I like choruses to repeat the song title so that they stick inside your brain!
This is a weird time to release an album because of the coronavirus and quarantine, have you thought about releasing it later in the year?
Matt: I can’t say we ever thought about delaying the release, but of course we knew it would be coming out slap-bang in the middle of lockdown.
We were working with 3 labels this time so we had to take eachothers situation & availability into account.(Alien Snatch are in Germany, Snap in Spain & Beluga in Sweden) But we were all equally keen to release this summer as planned.
It’s a killer not being able to promote the record at shows though, there’s only so many times you can annoy people with Facebook posts!
It’s not ideal, but it is what it is.
You always have cool artwork, do you do it yourselves?
Matt: thanks, yeah I think it’s really important to have artwork that suits the music.
The whole package kinda thing.
I wanted the first album to be cinematic and primarily black & white with just splashes of colour, so this album it made sense for everything to be as colourful as possible! – that was the direction I gave Josh Clark who did both Speedways album covers.
I’ve known Josh for a few years & he was one of the first people I spoke to about the Speedways. He said if I ever needed any artwork to give him a shout – so I did!
He’s a fantastic artist and he gets what this is all about perfectly.
Adrian, our bass player is also a brilliant artist and sleeve designer. He’s responsible for the artwork on all our 7″ singles.
It’s cool having both to work with! – whenever I send either of them an idea or whatever they get back to me with exactly what I had in mind!
There’s been many interesting powerpop bands in the US these last years (although it seems like it’s calming down a bit now), do you think there could be such a wave in the UK and Europe or do people’s tastes and culture won’t get along with this idea?
MV: In the UK, I think it’s unlikely – there are quite a few in Europe though, I think, particularly in Spain…? I’ve been promoting a powerpop weekender for a couple of years now and it seems like the vast majority of bands who would fit on the bill are from Europe or North America!
Matt: yeah, in the last year or so there’s been a bunch of great records from the likes of Tommy & The Commies, The Whiffs, Baby Shakes, The Reflectors etc.. who I feel are coming from a similar place to us influence & presentation wise. We’ve been lucky enough to play with Tommy & The Commies and Baby Shakes too.
In the UK in terms of ‘Power Pop’ certainly Lucy & The Rats are a band we share stuff in common with. I feel I have a slightly similar writing style to Lucy for sure and we usually end up playing shows together!
More Kicks as well of course. We share drummers & a love of melody!
You seem to have quite various influences in the band, can you choose 5 albums you love and tell us a few words about them?
Matt: The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead – an album that changed my life when I first heard it. Moz & Marr at their very best.
MV: Iggy Pop “Lust For Life” – strutting, sensitive, bad-ass, fragile, melodic, snarling, desperate, dangerous – a masterpiece!
Adrian: Void‘s side on the Faith/Void split – 12 blasts of explosive angry East Coast hardcore, kicking off with a expanse of guitar feedback into blistering riffs and a pummelling backbeat, exactly what I needed to hear at age 15 and still to this day. In my opinion the finest thing Discord Records put out.
Kris: The Knack– Get The Knack’ – best combination of pop , punk and 60’s surf. Beatles meet Beach Boys style with punk kick.
Matt: That’s 4! ..so I guess to make 5 it would have to be something like ‘Leave Home’ by The Ramones. Pretty sure we’d all agree it’s a huge influence on us individually & collectively!
The situation for small clubs is really bad in most places these days, I guess it’s the same in London, right?
MV: Yup! We’re just crossing our fingers and waiting really till things can reopen again, I hope everyone does what they can to support these venues as we’d be lost without them.
Some of you created the Some Weird Sin night, right? Can you tell us about it?
MV: Yeah, that was me and a colleague (Simon who plays bass with the postpunk favourites Desperate Journalist), way back in 2012! It kind of grew from just being a cool, pretty messy club night where we could play the kind of mix of punk rock, glam, postpunk, New Wave, rock’n’roll etc that we liked, to a night where we put on more and more and bigger bands from all over the world, which has been nice. Things have got very busy these last couple of years, we put on a hell of a lot of bands of quite a mix of genres – the Briefs, Giuda, the Parkinsons and Dirty Fences have been some of my faves but I often get the biggest buzz putting on bands that are just starting out or that I’m trying to give a break to! It’s also where Matt and myself first met, so perhaps without SWS I’d never have ended up in the Speedways!
Matt: That’s where I met Mauro yeah! I remember telling someone “I’ve started going to this club night in London where they play Protex, Hanoi Rocks & The Ronettes ffs! I think I’ve found my people!”
It’s hard to plan anything these days, but what would be the ideal plans for The SPEEDWAYS at the end of the year and in 2021?
MV: Just to be able to play live again! Ideally to get back over to Europe as much as possible, too.
Matt: We definitely want to get out to Europe again.
I’d like to maybe do a few UK shows outside of London next year too if we can find a band to do a little tour with perhaps. Whatever works out for the best.
We hope to put out another single from the album later this year.. & make a video.
We’re also getting the first album re-pressed on LP because it’s sold out, there’ll be new artwork for it which gives it a fresh feel!
Beyond that it’s all still wait & see like it is for all bands right now.
The dream is America ..& Japan would be great too!