As crucial progenitors of the shoegaze scene, Slowdive have been producing wonderfully lush sounds since 1989, albeit with a lumping near-20-year hiatus in the middle. With two stunning albums since their reunion in 2014, the English four-piece are back at the top of their game, returning to Scotland’s central belt in February to further hammer home their fuzzy greatness. We spoke to the group’s bassist, Nick Chaplin, about media narratives and the ceiling of a certain Glaswegian ballroom.
Now the dust has settled on your latest album, Everything Is Alive, how do you feel about it?
We were a bit apprehensive about it, all of us for different reasons, when it came out. It’s normal that you live with a record for so long, the writing and recording, mixing and mastering, and then eventually it’s out in the world and it’s quite a strange feeling to let it go, if you like. Part of our apprehension was that there was so much goodwill around the band when we came back in 2014, and around the record that followed, that we didn’t know if it would still be the case. We are proud of [Slowdive, 2017] and we do like it, but it was probably treated very nicely by everyone because they were like ‘oh it’s such a great story, we really hope they don’t make a shit record’ – and it wasn’t a shit record, but it was definitely treated very nicely by the press.
Now people aren’t as interested as they were in the story of the band cos everyone knows it, so we thought it might be a slightly more difficult sell, especially seeing as there’d been six years between records. Which is quite a long time. It’s funny cos at every stage since 2014 things have happened to us and surprised us. Like, we were surprised at how many people were interested when we came back. The album could’ve gone in several different directions, and in the end it was a little more like a trad Slowdive record than we’d originally envisaged, which we feared might lead some people to suggest we’d run out of ideas or something. In the end it’s just a relief to get the thing out and feel like we’re in a band again.
The idea of things ‘happening to you’ is interesting, as if it’s not fully in your control. Slowdive’s relationship to the media has always been layered and complex. Have things changed since the 90s?
It’s vastly different to how it was. The relationship we have with any media now is extremely positive. No disrespect to your profession, but it doesn’t feel that the media has the same level of power or control over a band’s destiny now as they did in the 90s. The media and PR stuff we do now is all very interesting and full of great people. There used to be bigger agendas, like Slowdive having been the coolest thing ever at one point, and then suddenly the genre was seen as being boring or pointless, or not exciting.
You know, you were actively picked apart and destroyed, and that doesn’t seem to happen now. Maybe I’m speaking from a position of privilege as an established act and it happens to younger bands, but it seems healthier than before. When we started we got lots of support but suddenly things turned and it was devastating. You can look back and say it was important to our growth as a group, and our story, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I’m glad it’s not like that. It wasn’t healthy.
There’s certainly a lot of differences. There’s a move towards ‘positive music journalism’. It was such a strange dynamic to have existed.
Being able to critique something is essential, otherwise you’re just a mouthpiece for the artist or the record label, but the issue a lot of us had was that off the record a lot of these journalists would talk to us at parties and say ‘look, I actually really liked that record but i just thought it was time to move onto something else so we slagged it.’ And it’s ridiculous. But none of us bear any grudges and that’s just the way it was.
Are you looking forward to your gigs in Edinburgh and Glasgow?
Absolutely. We’ve not been back to Edinburgh in a long time, certainly since the reunion. It’s the Barras in Glasgow this time, which is bucket list for us. We’ve gotten close to Mogwai over the years and that’s their home patch, so it’ll be nice to catch up with them.
Make sure to have a wee look up at the ceiling of the Barrowlands. It’s beautiful.
Difficult for us. Always looking at the shoes, aren’t we?
Slowdive are playing the Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow on 23rd of February and Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh on 24th February. Everything Is Alive was released via Dead Oceans in September 2023