I Dream of Vinyl

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“There’s no way back to how things were” – an interview with The Subways

After an absence of eight years, UK rock band The Subways are back with a brand new album Uncertain Joys. Recorded and produced by front man and producer in his own right Billy Lunn, it was mixed by the Grammy Award-winning Adrian Bushby (Muse, Foo Fighters, Everything Everything), and mastered by Katie Tavini (Mykki Blanco, Arlo Parks, Nadine Shah). Billy (guitar and vocals) and Charlotte Cooper (bass and vocals) also had to cope with a line-up change – founding member and drummer Josh Morgan left the band in October 2020 after the studio sessions had been completed with Camille Phillips coming on board.

Kicking off with the excellent riff-heavy lead single “You Kill My Cool”, the album becomes very much a game of two halves. The first set of songs have a generally lighter feel while still being packed with tunes and guitars. The second half is punkier with darker subject matter tackling the state of the world today. The record finishes with “Futures”, a seven minute track that is made up of three sections and is probably The Subways’ most ambitious music to date. It’s great to see the band still pushing their comfort zone and expanding their sound after twenty years and it’s well worth checking out.

We were able to chat with Billy Lunn about the new record and some of the challenges he and the band have faced over the last few years.

Hi Billy! How’s everything going right now?
Very well, thank you! We’re currently midway through our first UK tour of 2023, and it’s so wonderful to be back onstage again – especially playing the new songs for the fans.

What classic album cover is your current mood?
Great question. I’d have to say… Nirvana’s Nevermind. I feel like the baby floating helplessly in the swimming pool desperately reaching for the dollar bill on a hook.

Your fifth album “Uncertain Joys” is out now and it’s your first LP in a while but it’s well worth the wait. When did you write and record the songs?
I wrote the songs during my time reading English at Cambridge. I had three years to sit back and become a music appreciator again (like before we wrote and recorded our debut album), and the songs just kept coming. I’d be up late analysing something like Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’arthur, and would suddenly be hit with a fit of inspiration. Once I graduated in 2019, we began the recording process at my studio in Hertfordshire.

You had a line up change in 2020 when founding member Josh left the band. Did that change the approach to the record in any way with Camille joining the band on drums?
Thankfully, Josh recorded all his parts before he decided to leave the band to pursue his own musical endeavours, so Charlotte and I were ready to go to complete the album. We’re very much looking forward to recording album 6 with Camille contributing her incredible input, which we’ve been lucky to enjoy whilst on tour with her since she joined.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?

Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan. Such a remarkably beautiful album, which shifts and changes not just within the album itself (stylistically and thematically), but also in my perception of it with every listen. I’d play it endlessly if only for the gorgeous Love Minus Zero/No Limit, which I think is the closest anyone’s ever got to Petrarch.

Eight years is a long time between albums – was that a deliberate choice and what has everyone been up to?
We never really planned the eight-year gap between albums, but my three-year undergraduate degree and then the pandemic hitting the world the following year kept us from releasing anything new. We were certain we’d only release an album if we could properly tour it. We love being on tour.

You recently revealed that you have Borderline Personality Disorder. It feels like the stigma around mental health is starting to change but how has the diagnosis changed things for the band?
It’s certainly changed things for me in my life, and I only hope it has made things easier for everyone around me. At least now I have an explanation for the extreme highs and lows, the emptiness I regularly feel, and the auditory hallucinations. For a long time I felt so isolated in my own head, believing I was crazy. If me speaking out about the diagnosis can help anyone escape a similar torture, then it will have been wholly worth it.

You have some rescheduled UK headline dates coming up before you head off to Europe and you’ve mentioned how Brexit has created so many issues for artists. What do you feel needs to be done?
Unfortunately, there’s no way back to how things were – how simple and easy the process of planning and executing a tour once was in relation to how things are now. We campaigned for the UK to remain in Europe, and we’ll continue campaigning to make things easier for the creative arts industry, given the myriad stumbling blocks the UK government has foisted upon us since the advent of Brexit. A lifting of the time restrictions placed on working in the EU would be invaluable at this stage. But, even after that, there’d be so much more that needs addressing. The carnet we have to fill in and stick to for a specific number of months leaves us worrying we’ll at some point be stuck in Europe without the essentials we need because of the constraints placed upon us.

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
A vegan pizza with hella tomato sauce and a panoply of vegetables and Italian spices would be my choice. You can call it… Pizza Vegamazing. Terrible, I know…

What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
All the tours we can get booked in. As long as we’re playing on a stage, and as long as we’re making people dance and sing, I’ll always be a happy Billy.

Photo Credit – Laura Lewis

Formed in 2002, by now The Subways should need no introduction. Nearly 20 years into their career the band have had multiple chart-worthy album releases including Young For Eternity (2005), All Or Nothing (2008), Money And Celebrity (2011), and The Subways (2015), spawning a slew of hit singles including ‘Rock & Roll Queen’, ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Girls & Boys’ and ‘We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time’.

They have toured with AC/DC, Foo Fighters, and Oasis, appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and graced the festival main-stages of Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Lollapalooza, Download, Soundwave, Hurricane & Southside, Rock Im Park, Rock Am Ring and many more.

The band have worked with Nirvana and Garbage super-producer Butch Vig, as well as Blur and The Smith’s mastermind Stephen Street, and the band have appeared in several major films and videogames including Guy Ritchie’s Rock’N’Rolla, American smash-hit TV drama The OC, and Colin McCrae: DiRT 2, Saint’s Row 2, Fifa Street 2, Forza Horizon.

You can find out more about the band on their website to get tickets for their upcoming gigs and some merch and you can follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news.

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