Interview: Slagheap | LOUD MagazinePosted on: 01 May 2020
This article was first published in the second edition of LOUD Magazine, 365Bristol's dedicated music publication.
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Wonky post-punk and loads of fun: a natter with Slagheap
The band name was a toss-up between Slagheap and Solar Anus. Catherine, the band's bassist, claims she came up with the winning title, but Sadie, the group's guitarist and synth player, isn't sure. "There's another Slagheap," adds Lydia, the band’s other guitarist, "and their song goes: Slagheap stands for fun and friends. And I'd agree with that."
I'd agree with that, too. When I meet with Slagheap; comprised of Catherine, Sadie, Lydia and drummer, Heidi, sparks fly within the group. Before our interview begins, the four spend time catching up; chatting and joking. They're so at ease with each other – and they're hilarious too. It's lovely to feel part of it, even just for an hour.
“So, how did you all meet?” I interject. "We shared parents," says Lydia, gesturing towards her older sister, Catherine. "Still do," before a short discussion about Catherine having to clean up Lydia's home birth ensues. Years later, Catherine met Heidi, an amateur drummer, during a "late-night hospitality hangout." Then, Catherine met Sadie, and soon, the pair found a love of gigs: "we were gig fiends," Catherine recalls. "We would be really annoying and loud."
It all led to one night at the pub, when Catherine introduced Sadie and Heidi. The three got talking about Sadie and Catherine's love of gigs, and Heidi mentioned she'd been playing in a covers band - "just for fun." It's when Heidi, who admits she can be "a bit impulsive", took a chance: "so, I was like: I'm just going to book us a [practice] room. And even if it's just for a laugh, we'll just go, make some noise and see what happens." Lydia was "bullied" into joining the heap at the practice room.
"We were just shouting about boobs and stuff in the first one," Heidi recalls. "But I just had a feeling we'd got good chemistry together." That was two years ago. In the time since, Lydia, Catherine and Heidi have turned little to no experience with their instruments (Sadie is a trained musician) into an eight-track, self-titled album, released in November last year. Catherine, in particular, learned how to play the bass from scratch.
“You wouldn't guess that,” I tell them. Recently, the group recorded a triumphant live session at London's Maida Vale Studios for BBC Introducing in the West. In response, they seem coy, before Sadie explains: "we get a bit shy, but we've come such a long way as a band. We really like the sound of that DIY, raw, wonky stuff – that's the kind of thing we're going for." "Yeah," Lydia jokes, "people have said to us from the beginning: don't get too good."
It's a progression that has been extremely organic - accidental even. After Heidi drunkenly asked a promoter to put Slagheap on a lineup ("he was understandably a bit lukewarm"), the group got their first gig - inside a primary school. And since, the bookings have kept coming: they’ve just finished a UK tour with Geneva’s Massicot, and this summer, Slagheap will play their first festivals. "Although creative practice, being together and hanging out is the most important thing," Heidi explains, "we are starting to take ourselves and the whole thing a bit more seriously because why not? We've had some amazing opportunities and feel really lucky to be doing stuff."
At its root, Slagheap isn't about external validation (though "it has helped," says Lydia) - it's about friends uniting to laugh, make noise and express themselves. "Everything else is the sideshow," says Catherine. "We have this magical space between the four of us," Lydia expands, "where we are creative, we make each other laugh, and we probably feel safer with each other than most other people in our lives. That’s what we love about it.”
Slagheap's music is funny, raucous and informal; like any group of mates should be. Take 'Catherine's Pranging Out', a "milestone" for the group as their first-ever song. The track was inspired by a night out gone wrong, in which Sadie, Lydia and Catherine accidentally attended a sex party on acid. "You just need the perfect environment and that's the final say on the matter," Catherine says, tying up a discussion about that infamous night. "If there are unknown elements, you're just gonna fucking freak out. And then go down a prang hole for the rest of your trip – which is what I did-" the group burst out laughing.
Or take 'Horsey Girl’, an ode to people like Sadie, who had a "prepubescent obsession" with horses. "I'd go to the library every week and read all the horse books available," Sadie admits, over cackles. "Usually, a song idea comes from taking the piss out of someone and running with it," Catherine resolves. "I think we have a natural aversion to taking ourselves too seriously," adds Heidi. "Also, we want to talk about important things but not in a super worthy, teary, white woman sort of way."
It's an important point to make. Slagheap isn't just about taking the piss out of each other – their music springs from real-life irritations and a shared need for catharsis: "we genuinely come to practice confused or confronted by certain experiences or feelings we've got, and we work through that confusion together," Sadie explains. "And I think a lot of our song lyrics show that confusion, like ‘Do I Do I’, which stems from a conversation about what kind of life you want to have." ‘Power Shower’, too, is a mix of humor and seriousness. Borne from a group joke about repeating the phrase in Sadie's mum's Northern Irish accent, the track also relates to autonomy, choice and masturbation. And ‘Love Island’ - a song about old and new relationships – "but then," Lydia says, "we called it Love Island." It's discussion of real struggle without pretension or superiority - it's just fun.
It's a playfulness Slagheap bring to the live space, too - "an antidote” to the often oppressively-cool atmosphere of gigs. "I think it'd be nice to create some space for people to just hang loose and not worry too much about whether they look great or who's going to ask them what great record they're listening to,” Heidi explains. “Just, if you like Eiffel 65, live that truth, babe! You know?" (Prior to this, the heap talked about their recent tour, and a night when they danced to Eiffel 65's 'Blue [Da Ba Dee]' at a pub in Sheffield.)
And while the group begin work on album number two, Catherine shares their plans to start promoting, returning the favour to those who have shown Slagheap kindness so far: "it's not enough, I think, for any of us to just be a band in a place. We want to feel like we have cool relationships, and bring up people around us."
Photos courtesy of James Birtwhistle
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