Back in 2014, Sleaford Mods were travelling around the UK in a van with their manager, playing show after show. As the club tour progressed, the band were blowing up on social media with their single ‘Tied Up In Notts’. Suddenly The Gardian wanted to know what they had to say, and celebrities like Noel Gallagher were commenting on them. Paula caught up with Jason and Andrew at Ramsgate Music Hall…
“Noel Gallagher sitting on his millions can’t seem to find anything better to do then slag off us two, driving around the country in our van. That must mean something.”Jason Williamson
“People think we’re hard nuts and expect us to be asking for heroin. What are they gonna fucking come up with next?”Jason Williamson
Do you feel that music gave you a way out of a mundane life?
Jason: My background wasn’t really shitty it was just average.
Andrew: You could say we’re different – look at the Brit school thing – people who have a lot of support from a young age to do music. My parents constantly tried to deter me from it because they thought it was a fearful thing that I would do to set myself up and fail and be constantly worried. It was quite a conservative viewpoint in a way – the opposite to having a liberal viewpoint which is go for it mate!
Jason: What elevated us and gave us financial backing what the ideas we had musically and the determination and that speaks volumes. People have forgotten about that, the belief in self to do your own thing and think your own thoughts as opposed to going along the path of careerism. That was quite strong with us because we both had histories with music for a long time and we both clearly love music. It was something that we studied and we wanted to make sure that whatever we did was right and we were experimenting with stuff all the time. So that’s why it worked with us. It’s a combination of everything, there’s a lot of luck that’s gone into it as well – right time and right place but the right time and right place will come along anyway if you keep going. It always pops up.
So when you were both kids did you write or play instruments?
Jason: I played guitar and sang, then ended up just singing. Andrew is multi-instrumental.
Andrew: I think if you’ve got something you just keep making music regardless don’t you?
You’ve been gigging a lot lately, I know you recently supported The Specials on tour and you played your first US show in Brooklyn. What was that like?
Andrew: Yeah it was wicked.
Jason: I mean they kind of go over your head a bit because we do so many gigs and you kind of forget where you’ve been. We’ve played so many venues so it was just another gig to us apart from the 10-hour flight and obviously being in New York, I’ve never been and I thought it was a great place. The gig was sold out 600 people; you can’t go wrong can you?
“We like to feel like it all connects together. We’re not going to suddenly change our sound.”Jason Williamson
Last night you played St Albans, is there much of a scene?
Jason: Yeah it was a pretty random place; the idea was to play places where people don’t go anymore, you know what I mean? And the minute we announced the tour people started getting in touch and St Albans was just one of those who got in touch and we thought why not? It’s covering all the areas of the North and the South – all the town so you’re touching base with everywhere. It’s been really productive.
“Sleaford Mods? It sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash to me.”Jason Williamson
When Sleaford mods began it was just Jason initially – So a year into Sleaford Mods you upped sticks and spent a couple of years in London, then headed back to Nottingham – what was the reason for that move? Did you get disheartened with London life?
Jason: I met Andrew when I moved back to Nottingham and that’s when Sleaford Mods really took shape. I moved up to London in 1994 – oh bloody hell! I stayed there till I moved back to Nottingham in 1996. That’s when I started experimenting with bands properly. London was just too expensive and trying to haul guitars and amps on tubes all the time was just fucking stupid. So I went through guitar bands, folk bands, whatever and it took me about 10 years to start doing Sleaford.
“A lot of people aren’t enjoying their lives are they?”Jason Williamson
So ‘Tied Up In Notz’ is that about Nottingham?
Jason: Yeah, but ‘Tied up in Notz’ is also a combination of touring in Berlin and Hamburg and getting in drug scrapes and stuff like that. It’s a combination of the things around you. And also ‘Shit. And then the dealers tipped up’ is just basically ‘here comes trouble’ you know what I mean?
What was it like when you went viral?
Jason: Cool we got a great response.
Andrew: Yeah the video went mad.
Jason: It’s got about half a million now hasn’t it?
I was warned a little about taking on this interview with you two because you have a bit of a reputation. What do you think people find dangerous about Sleaford mods?
Jason: Well its just the music. Unless people know us – I mean I’m no angel, neither of us are but we’re certainly not those archetypal Oasis characters. I mean we might dress a little bit like that but we’re not! What are they gonna fucking come up with next?
Andrew: It kind of makes me wonder – because it does pop up, even right at the beginning of Sleafords. The first time we played Crack Festival, there was this guy who told everyone we were hard nuts so they got us this crate of beer with a sign reading ‘’Sleaford Mods stash hands off you C**t’. So that kind of stirred it up even more and when we played in Milton Keynes the promoter there was a real young lad and he say ‘you want some Stella?’ and I said ‘nah I can’t drink Stella’ and he thought I wanted stronger beer and said ‘I thought you guys would be asking for heroin and everything!’ We were like ‘No mate!’
Jason: It pushes things along because that kind of image is associated with a chaotic kind of nature but come on it sounds like Crosby Stills and Nash to me – ‘Sleaford Mods’! It’s just good music.
Where did your musical style come from?
Jason: I don’t know, I got into hip-hop and wanted to write and rap. I got more into spoken word stuff – Mike Skinner. When The Streets came out I thought what the fucks this?! But that’s where it originated.
Do you like John Cooper Clark?
Jason: He’s alright I haven’t really heard much stuff and The Fall I haven’t really heard them either. It’s basically called mod really. Or was – but I’ve just got more stuff under my belt.
Would you say there’s a progression between your 2013 album Austerity Dogs and your latest album Chubbed Up?
‘Chubbed Up’ was a compilation of 7 inches so ‘Divide and Exit’ was really the last thing we did and ‘The Tizzwazz EP’ and I think both of those moved on considerably yeah. It moves on in a way that we’re happy with.
Andrew: We like to feel like it all connects together. We’re not going to suddenly change our sound.
When shooting the video for tied up in knots, did you have to hire the bus?
Jason: Our manager used to be a bus driver so we met him on his lunch break at the start of a route and shot the video.
Andrew: Doing it you could imagine what it was gonna look like and just how simple it was. It feels like everyone’s forgotten about doing things that way and production skills and computers come into it and people can make flashy videos. It seems like we’re not allowed to see anything like that anymore.
“If you’re not making money you’re fucked and you’re treated like shit.”Jason Williamson
How do you feel about the strain on people today?
Jason: There’s a lot, yeah. A lot of people aren’t enjoying their lives are they? I don’t think a lot of people have ever enjoyed their lives. I think the older you get you realise that the confines are very apparent and they last for the majority f your life.
Andrew: In my generation, people that come to our shows, its good to encourage them again and get people involved. When they thought things were kind of over for them. But I think we’re doing that with the older generation as well.
Do you think the government should do more for people?
I don’t think it’s the government’s job to do anything different. That why they’re there. They are there to serve themselves and keep control of everybody else you know? Its kind of a pitchfork for the behind the curtain goings on of general control. Its arguable that there are people there that want to make a difference.
“Look at us as a positive thing – people who have got off our arses and have gone out and made money.”Jason Williamson
Andrew: The idea is just out of control because the government don’t own – like in Nottingham there’s companies that own most of the venues. I’ve toured in o2 places and in independent places there’s much more of a feeling that we’re supporting something a lot more valid then buying into the industry which I know isn’t the government but it’s the same concept and thought process – greed.
Jason: Yeah if you’re making money they’ll look after you but if you’re not making money you’re fucked and you’re treated like shit.
Andrew: If you’re willing to look like and idiot and work for the BBC – you’ve got a job for like as long as you’re willing to do soulless day time TV.
Jason: They’d probably look at us as a positive thing – people who have got off their arses, as the Tories believe in, and have gone out and made money. That’s how they’d see it so they’d probably champion the cause in a lot of respects, which is ironic really. But most people haven’t got money and most people haven’t got aspirations. There’s not a lot to go on. You can find a passion in something but not a lot of people do. It’s difficult, really difficult.
What can people expect from a Sleaford Mods show?
Jason: Just good music, proper music how it should be you know? No gimmicks. Just passion, good songs and stuff you can identify with. I think that’s important really. The reason a lot of people come to the gigs is because they identify with it.
Do you have a message for people who are into the band?
Jason: Not really I haven’t got any message for people were just doing what we wanna do. It just so happens that people are coming along. We don’t wanna give a message to anybody.
Andrew: I think the face of the aggression and how it’s evolved is mostly a celebration. It’s a room full of people smiling and dancing, not sitting frowning like they do with guitar bands I’ve seen. Static crowds of people watching post rock, it can be great music but I think that’s all got very tired. So if we do represent anything it’s this new start to something. Its almost like we’ve got to pick up the pieces.
So this summer you’re playing Hyde Park supporting The Who. How did that happen?
We got asked to do it by a promoter because in September we’re playing a longer tour and bigger venues. The Who are obviously one of my favourite bands ever. I’ve not really got a problem with them so I thought ‘yeah’. Initially I was unsure because you’ve got Weller on there and everything else. All these people I’ve liked but there’s been issues, etc. and my opinions of them and stuff. We got loads of shit for it ‘What the fuck you doing? You selling out?’ all this shit – what you on about you silly bastards? You can’t turn a gig like that down.
Andrew: For every one person who says that there’s 100 people saying ‘go for it’. We’ve stuck in there and worked all our lives making music and something paid off.
- Main photo credit: Alasdair McLellan (Provided by Beggars Group)