Tiswas. That’s certainly what Sleaford Mods have created. For those of you who need a little brushing up on your British vocab, a tiswas is “a state of anxiety, confusion, or excitement.” It’s also the name of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn’s forthcoming EP, which is handy. It’s rare that you see so many people tripping over each other to come up with the definitive statement on a band. If it isn’t praise for the intensity of their live shows and admiration for the way Jason spits out invective like a dart straight to a bull’s-eye, it’s worry about what it all means and where they can go next with their stripped down sound. Maybe the most ironically funny responses have been the ones whose judgments reek of shocked and confused. It’s loud, it’s working class, it’s misguided, it’s too simple, it’s too angry – dear me, you’d think it was the start of punk all over again. Never mind the bollocks, Sleaford Mods have made a big splash. The band will be playing their first stateside show in Brooklyn this week, in the midst of a tour through the UK and Ireland, and Northern Transmissions wanted to catch up with Sleaford Mods and find out what they really think. Alice Severin was able to talk with Jason Williamson about the words, the phenomenon, and the message.
Northern Transmissions: Hello Jason, how are you? Where are you right now?
Jason Williamson: Hello. I’m good thanks, I’m in the kitchen making my daughter a hot drink.
NT: Your albums, Austerity Dogs, Divide and Exit, Chubbed Up+, and soon to be released Tiswas, have really hit a nerve. Were you surprised that people took your words and music so much to heart?
JW: Yes a bit. I mean its appeal has gone up the wall, I didn’t expect this as the subject matter is very ‘local’ in places and littered with slang and swearing. It meant a lot to us and we knew it was good but we never foresaw this happening.
NT: There’s been a lot of talk in the press about the fact that you have now left your day job, and taken this on full time. How do you feel about that, and can you describe the moment when you first realized you were going to do it?
JW: I have mixed feelings about it because I’ve worked all my life. I’ve decorated our spare room and made that into an office of sorts to do all the band stuff in there but what the fuck do I do? When do I start doing that? I walk around town in the day and feel a bit stupid. I’m slowly getting used to it, I guess, that and touring. No more party boy, it’s work now and I’ll treat it that way as much as I can. I don’t intend to lose sight of its core, no fucking way. The moment I realized I could leave work? I got nervous. Me and Andrew are now the bosses, with exception to our actual manager, that’s odd.
NT: Do you get people coming up to you after shows, and talking to you about the songs? Is there any particular idea or comment that you hear a lot from the audiences?
JW: Yeah – “That was fucking real music! Thank fuck it’s come back into my life.”
NT: Some people seem really shocked by the swearing and the attitude, but for other people it’s completely normal, like one of their friends got up on stage and finally started speaking about how they feel. Do you agree?
JW: Yes. It’s how I and all of my friends, well most, speak. It’s a form of expression that had been forgotten, actual accents have been snubbed out by stylized vocals and sexualized images.
NT: When you’re writing the songs, do you ever change the lyrics to fit the music, or is it more the other way around? Like in Pubic Hair, “It’s not a pyramid, you’re not a fucking Pharaoh” with the bass line behind it, just fits together.
JW: The words never alter to fit in most cases. Sometimes we do craft the song until it’s the song it should be, you know, you can hear it and so you cut it down until it’s lean and right but generally we throw the music and rant together. Most of the time it works straight away. As we grow as a band I think that practice will change because you can’t just knock out the same shit all the time.
NT: “Needles protect the blue logo from pigeon shit” is a great line from Black Monday, and comparing the smell of piss to bacon in Tied Up in Nottz. The way you pick out small details that mean a lot is brilliant. Do you think you’ve always noticed things?
JW: Yes. It’s central to how I think you should describe the bleakness of everyday surroundings. It’s normality and it’s mundane appearances. It’s man made defenses against animal waste and the trail of stench left by human internal waste – shit – and the way we barely manage to conceal that too. Dogshit sits under a poster of Kate Moss at the bus stop, know what I mean? I find that really powerful and very inspiring.
NT: There are an increasing number of musicians who are referencing or dealing directly in their songs with current political realities. Like in Tweet Tweet Tweet you’re talking about UKIP – “all you zombies tweet tweet tweet.” For a long time, it seemed that musicians were avoiding politics.
JW: I’m not aware of too many bands or artists who are referencing organizations of control. In the UK I can’t think of hardly any acts who are communicating social disdain. Elements of ‘Grime’ are closest to this I guess but not too much else. UK guitar bands are weak at best and seldom display unrest of a social kind, or at least a display that I find interesting, so I’m in disagreement with your view point in many ways. Obviously I can’t survey all so I’m sure there are people out there doing good stuff. In another sense there are bands etc. that are musically interesting, but for me, current bands who turn me on are very few and far between. I’m currently listening to The Specials, BJM, Alexander ‘O Neal, The Fat White Family and bits of Dean Blunt.
NT: You’re touring in the UK and Europe now, then you will be coming over to the States at the end of November for a show in Brooklyn. How do you think an American audience will react?
JW: I’ve been told American audiences don’t like profanity hahahaha. I’m sure they are just as receptive and dismissive as any audience.
NT: And – five albums that still inspire you.
More Specials – The Specials
From the Double Gone Chapel – Two Lone Swordsmen
Definitely Maybe – Oasis
Ironman – Ghostface Killah
Modus Operandi – Photek