SNACK met up with Annie Booth and Chris McCrory of Slow Weather to discuss their upcoming debut EP ‘Clean Living’, why live performances matter, and the perils of social media.
You’ve worked together previously. How would you say your creative partnership is different when you’re working on a collaborative project such as Slow Weather vs. work produced just for Annie?
Annie: It would be great to hear what you think as well, Chris. I’d say with my own stuff I can be a lot more particular and angsty. Our collaborative working relationship is really open and creative, and yeah, I think not having preconceptions for what we wanted this release to be was helpful and very good for making new music.
Chris: I think the fact that there weren’t any expectations or limitations set on something we were doing other than ‘let’s meet up and write songs.’ We’re really happy that it worked out. Every time we got together, we just sat down and spent a few hours and wrote another song. Once we had about five, we just went, ‘well, let’s just book some studio time and record it!’ There wasn’t too much thought put into, ‘oh, let’s make it sound like this or like that.’ There was an element of that, but we probably didn’t spend more than half an hour actually talking about it.
As I’ve got more experience as an artist, you realise it’s quite rare that you meet someone and it just works. Especially in a songwriting capacity.
There are a few artists that have tried to make the best of the pandemic by doing online streaming releases. Is that something you’ve considered for ‘Clean Living’?
Chris: Not really. What’s important for us is that the record itself is the main focus. So if we [could] actually play live I think we would rather do that. I think we would have toured it a little bit if we were able. I don’t think streaming it would do it justice.
I’m yet to see any sort of live stream that does do an artist justice, other than, obviously, the Nick Cave thing and the Laura Marling thing. There’s a lot of production, budget and stuff behind that. That was really special, that worked. But for us, being at the stage we’re at, we can’t do that. So, I’d rather not do a webcam thing.
Annie: Yeah, I completely appreciate why a lot of artists are doing live streams. I know that there’s a sense of isolation from fans and audience members – you do miss that connection sometimes. But I agree with Chris – in terms of this particular project, I think it would make sense for people to listen to the record in its entirety. That’s all we could hope for, especially because it’s a 12-inch vinyl. I think that would be a really special way for it to be enjoyed, just on a record player.
Chris: Also, we’re not really big on social media anyway. That was something we wanted to consciously avoid in any sort of meaningful way because I think it’s taken away from the actual music. It’s almost making bands’ existences about everything but the music. Really, the thing that matters for us is the five songs on that record.
Do you think some bands detract from their sound by appearing to put their image first?
Annie: I think that image is always tied into music. You can’t escape it – you are always going to have the visual and the sound. It’s about not distracting the listener and making sure that the focus is kept on your songwriting and the production. That’s what can get lost nowadays; you sometimes feel that you are buying into the person as a product. That can sometimes make me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Chris: Yeah, I think there is a balance. We take a great deal of care in the artwork. We worked with a local artist who we really like – Kyle Wheelhouse, his name is – to design the cover. Image is obviously important to an extent, but there comes a point where the balance tips and it becomes more about the image than the music, and that’s the sort of thing we want to avoid. You want the image to be appealing to people, you want the aesthetics to be appealing, but you don’t want that to overshadow the music.
Maybe in the last five years there’s been a move towards things being more image-orientated because of the nature of social media. If you’re being particularly cynical you can look through Instagram and start to wonder: are you a band or are you a social media account?
Annie: It’s even more difficult in these times where everything is predominantly on the internet. I agree – I think use just as much as you can so it’s not distracting from the point, really.
Talking about image, your single ‘Great White Male’ has a music video which was directed by Ben Hall. Did you have an idea in mind, or did you let Ben interpret it himself?
Chris: Yeah, I had seen Ben’s work for the art school degree show – the virtual degree show that he did. I loved that. Obviously there was an element of humour which he had, and I really like the aesthetics. I got in touch with him and kind of gave him free reign. He’s actually done the video for ‘Clean Living’ as well. We asked him to do both because we liked his work so much.
Again, to talk about image, I think bands’ photography and music videos in particular can often be pretty boring. I wanted to work with someone like Ben and give him total free reign to make something equally as good to look at as the music is to listen to. Do you know what I mean? Something that isn’t necessarily a traditional music video.
Annie: We also felt quite strongly that, other than the press pictures, about not being in the videos or a lot of the artwork. Again, just so you can appreciate the narrative and the story, and it’s less about us as people.
You spoke earlier about Annie’s EP. Is that what you’re planning on doing next? Do you think you’ll work together as Slow Weather in the future?
Chris: Right now we’re in the middle of recording our next album, basically. I’ve just finished something – I don’t know if I’m going to call it a solo project or a new thing altogether. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I guess lockdown’s giving me the chance to get serious about it. I don’t know! For us right now, the main concern is finishing Annie’s album. Let’s finish this and then we’ll see.
We did start writing more Slow Weather stuff. I think if it wasn’t for lockdown, we probably would have written another EP by now, or maybe even an album. It just depends on what happens. We’re working together, it’s just not Slow Weather.
Annie: Yeah, no pressure for that, hopefully.
The two singles you’ve released so far from the ‘Clean Living’ EP – ‘Clean Living’ and ‘Great White Male’ – are quite different in tone. Was there a connecting theme for the album, or was it written on a song-by-song basis?
Chris: The EP is quite funny in that the running order, five tracks, are the order in which we wrote them. Those were the only tracks [as of recording the EP] that we had written. It is quite interesting for us as artists and as music fans to listen to the progression of an artist. In the progression of the EP you can hear Annie and I and who we are as a collaborative effort. There wasn’t that much thought to it other than, ‘let’s just meet up and write songs because we get on quite well.’ Maybe there is some kind of theme that links it… I think Annie would probably know.
Annie: Yeah, I would say that the fact it’s in the order we wrote it, there is something very satisfying about that. It just naturally fell into place. I would say in retrospect themes such as bitterness, getting lost or clinging onto some kind of hope runs through it. I think a lot of it was spontaneous and it did very much feel like it came from both of us. It was a very good contrast of both our styles.
Coming together from different musical styles, do you have any shared influences for this project?
Chris: There’s obviously the public image of Catholic Action or Mt. Doubt or whatever, but we tend to like different styles personally. When we met up to do Annie’s ‘Spectral’ EP we already knew that we had a lot in common musically. In a way we don’t: we come from very different backgrounds, but there is a sort of intersection, I would say. Would you say that you like Andy Shauf and Chris Cohen, Annie?
Annie: Absolutely. There is a crossover. I’m thinking of people like Bowie, Lou Reed, Neil Young…I was a big fan of James Taylor growing up. I maybe listen to a bit more modern stuff, whereas Chris has an extensive range of influences. I think Chris is more into the old school at times. I would say we both have different lyrical approaches. I would tend towards more melodic approaches and Chris would come up with absolutely brilliant, clever lyrics that would throw me off guard with their take on things. I think the term intersection is definitely apt.
Chris: Annie was really good at fitting lines I would come up with into a narrative that made sense. We kind of balanced each other out.
Annie: That made it a lot more fun though.
Chris: Yeah, the cool thing was that it kind of happened without us having a conversation about it – it’s only now that it’s basically out that we’re like ‘oh right, yeah, that actually worked really well.’
Do you think that working within the same close-knit Scottish scene has changed the way that you sound, both throughout your careers and in this project?
Chris: I’ve always had bands that I like in Scotland, but I’ve always wanted to get out of Scotland. I love it, and it will always be my home, but the world is a lot bigger than Scotland. It’s only an hour and a half until you’re in England and then only a day or two’s drive to Europe, and so on.
I remember saying to the guys in Catholic Action quite early on, ‘Glasgow’s great but let’s get as far away from it as we possibly can.’ Recently, as far as contemporary music goes, I’ve been much more influenced by what’s going on outside of the UK.
There are amazing Scottish bands and we’re so lucky to be from Scotland, because there is such an incredibly healthy scene in Glasgow. For me it’s always been the intersection of the strong music scene and the art school that’s made Glasgow really interesting. You’ve always had this strong guitar pop thing here, but there’s also an electronic and dance music scene that’s arguably as healthy. But as a direct influence on us? For me, I’m not really too sure.
Annie: I’m kind of a geographical and musical hybrid, because I was born in England, grew up around Perth and I’ve lived in Edinburgh for a long time now. I also go through to Glasgow a lot and I’m inspired by a lot of European and American music as well. I try and find what I like wherever I go, but I keep my own sort of compass. For our individual projects and for Slow Weather I think that we do try and find inspiration to an extent in other styles and music, but we keep to our own path at the same time
Chris: It’s never made sense to me to follow a local scene too closely or participate in making the same music as all your pals, because that’s kind of boring. I mean who wants to listen to the same band ten times?
Annie: I would say I’ve probably been influenced subconsciously by bands like Mt. Doubt just by being in it for so long and admiring the work of Leo Bargery. It’s more like the personal support of people around you in lots of different places and different cities that’s encouraging, I would say. If there’s a bit of camaraderie it incentivises you to keep going with it all.
The only other question left is to ask if there’s anything you particularly want to say to our readers?
Chris: If you like the music, please buy the record! Buy the physical record. You’re not only supporting us as artists, you’re supporting a really healthy scene in Last Night from Glasgow. I think they’re doing something great in the way they operate, being not-for-profit and working with a hell of a lot of artists. If you could support them and us by buying the physical record, that would be great.
Main image credit: Gemma Dagger
This interview was first published in the December 2020 issue of SNACK magazine. You can read the full magazine below on your smartphone, tablet, or pc.