Interview: The Subways
Published on September 13th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Punk-pop heroes The Subways are back to delight their hardcore following anew with their third album, the Stephen Street-produced Money and Celebrity, which came about via the innovative new Pledge method of fan input and interaction, not to mention the money it raises for charity.
Rocksucker caught up with their exceptionally good-natured drummer Josh Morgan for a chat about their glut of new material, why his brother and Subways front man Billy Lunn would make a good teacher, and of course whose head he would like to be served in a sandwich…
How would you describe Money and Celebrity to those who haven’t heard it yet?
I would like to describe it as a poppy, rocky album with a lot of grit and emotion involved, a little bit of punk in there. Hard-hitting, grit your teeth, get your head down and rock out, basically. It’s quite lyrical as well; our lead singer Billy wrote the lyrics before he wrote the melodies of the songs, which we’ve never done before. It’s worked out for the better for us.
As is the norm these days, you’ve had to sit on the album for a few months while the whole campaign gets worked out. How frustrating and/or nerve-wracking is it having to wait that long between completion and release?
It’s very frustrating and nerve-wracking, yeah. We’ve been twiddling our fingers for quite a while! We’ve had a few festivals and a bit of promotion leading up to it now, and I think it’s worked out for the better; we’ve had the chance to judge whether the audiences like the new songs and it’s looking quite positive, to be honest. They’ve never reacted to new songs quite as well; they’re all singing along by the last chorus, which we’ve never had before [when performing new material]. You can see from the way they’re mouthing it that they don’t know the lyrics but they still try! It’s fantastic. We’ve had a lot of time to build this up so I think it’s worked out positively.
Did Stephen Street have any good stories?
Yeah, plenty of good stories, mostly about Morrissey that were interesting. I’d rather not share! (Laughs) Stephen’s a legend; he’s so cool and I can’t believe we got to work with him. On our three albums, we’ve been lucky enough to get to work with three of the best producers in the world, ever, in my opinion: Ian Broudie, Butch Vig and now Stephen Street. Stephen’s worked with some of the best British bands in history and he really brought it to our sound. And he had a few stories to share!
Did you find there to be much difference in the respective methods of those three producers?
Yeah, quite a big difference. Butch Vig brought quite an American sound to our performance, and we were touring America quite a lot at the time so we felt it right to try and capture that heavy, grungy sound, which I think we managed to do. With this one, we actually wrote sixty songs, most of which we dropped, and the twelve that we ended up agreeing that we liked had a very English feel about them. So we thought we should get someone who really encapsulates this British sound, and who else is there but Stephen Street, you know?
What’s going to happen to the other forty-eight songs?
There’s one that we might use for the fourth album and there are five or six that are going on a special edition CD that we demoed and rerecorded in the studio ourselves. The rest of them we’re just dropping. (Laughs)
It must have been hard to keep a straight face while recording this Pledge video. Do you agree that Billy would make a good children’s TV presenter?
Oh yeah, of course! He always has quite a lot to say and he’s very articulate. He’d also be a very good schoolteacher, I believe. He’s very good with interviews and he leaves Charlotte and I quite speechless some of the time.
What was the inspiration behind his new red hair?
Basically, he said he was drunk one night with his wife and he said to her, “I’ve never dyed my hair.” He very drunkenly said, “Let’s dye it red!” so they dyed it red. (Laughs) He’s stuck with it now; he has to keep it because he used it for a photo shoot! I think it looks quite cool though. It’s quite crazy. It’s quite punky, isn’t it? Kind of Sex Pistols.
So it’s not an Arsenal thing?
That was involved, actually. They wanted to decide what colour to dye it and Billy said red straight away, because of Arsenal.
You have quite a hardcore following. Have you ever had any particularly weird, perhaps even scary, fan encounters?
Generally, they’re all very cool and nice. We’ve met some hardcore fans, like these guys who follow us around the world: they came to Australia, America, Japan, everywhere! We’ve grown to know them and they’re very cool guys. Sometimes we come to venues and there are some very strange people, but I like that. It adds a bit of spice to the tours! (Laughs)
Charlotte must get some weird attention from time to time, no?
Strangely not. I think most people are respectful to her. She’s a clever girl so, if anyone is strange with her, she can handle it pretty easily.
This question is inspired by your latest video: if you could have one person’s head in a sandwich, whose would it be and why?
Let’s see…I would say…Jennifer Aniston. I’d like a taste! I’d also like a bit of cheese in there – I love my cheese and I’m moving to Paris soon – and maybe some salami. Sound good?
As confirmed addicts ourselves, we must ask you what your favourite cheese is.
I would say brie.
Good shout. Are there any up-and-coming artists you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
There’s a French band called Superbus who are probably the best band I’ve ever heard. I love them so much.
Finally, if we were to ask you right now to name your top three albums of all time, off the top of your head, which would you name?
Superbus – Lova Lova, Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and Nirvana – In Utero.
Josh, thank you.
Money and Celebrity, the new album by The Subways, is released on 19th September 2011 on Cooking Vinyl. See www.thesubways.net for more details.