In 2015 Slaves, the primal rock duo from Kent, exploded into the public consciousness with their debut album, ‘Are You Satisfied?’ A colourful, funny and often riotous riposte to the dreary mood of Austerity Britain that smashed into the top ten like a runaway train & recently hit 60k sales and officially went silver.
Since then Slaves have not only become generational spokesmen, but have also livened up the British music scene. Their frantic urgency encapsulated in the thought-provoking, post-consumerist album title, and in rousing anthems like ‘Cheer Up London’ (which was remixed by Streets main man Mike Skinner, featuring Grime legend Jammer) and ‘Do Something’. Taken as a whole, it feels like a wake-up call, from a young band that built up an incredible reputation by touring the country with their fierce and chaotic live shows.
“What I’ve learnt from touring Britain,” says Laurie Vincent, 23, the band’s guitarist, “is that everybody says things like, ‘Save independent music venues!’, but then nobody does anything. Everybody says to us, ‘Oh, you’re well political’, and its like, ‘No, it’s all about self-motivation’. We’ve proved to ourselves that everyone has the ability to do something. A lot of the songs are very short simple messages. They’re not meant to align us with a party, or any politics. They’re meant to be, ‘If you wanna change the world, then do it! – if you’re not moving, then do something.’ It’s simple!”
Slaves first collided when Laurie, from Maidstone, spotted Isaac Holman, 24, from nearby Tunbridge Wells, on the mic in a rap-punk group called Bareface. “When my band played a gig with his,” Laurie recalls, “Isaac came up to me after and said, ‘This is sick!’ I was like, ‘Really? I thought you were a grime MC!’ The next time I saw him, I was a bit drunk, and I said, ‘If you ever need a new bassist, just give me a shout’.”
The pair of them simply clicked. They found they chiefly liked the same music – The Streets, Eminem, Rancid, and The Clash – and had a similar focus on lyrics that reflected the world around them. Slaves was born proper in January 2012, with Isaac doubling up as both vocalist and stand-up drummer. In June, after just six months together, they self-released a mini-LP called Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’. “It was like our life’s work,” laughs Laurie, “the first nine songs we wrote. We set up our own label, Girl Fight Records, did our own launch, printed our own T-shirts, all very DIY. We had to have a calling card, especially being from Kent. There’s no venues, nothing, where we come from. Because nobody would take any interest, we had to make it happen ourselves”.
Gigging locally, they’d cause such a ruckus that they actually got banned from playing in Maidstone. As word spread about them, their stripped-down line-up enabled them to tour further afield in the back of Laurie’s Renault Clio. Through a mixture of sheer persistence, and by reliably delivering an energetic, ass-kicking show, they made substantial headway entirely off their own bat.
Via a highly infectious strain of lunacy onstage, their momentum kept on rolling. They signed with Virgin EMI, and in October 2014 made their TV debut when they were invited onto ‘Later With Jools Holland’ as a last-minute replacement. “It turned out they’d really wanted us on the show for a while,” remembers Laurie, “then someone pulled out, and they were like, Right, we’re going to put them on right in between the current top-selling male singer, Sam Smith, and one of the biggest bands ever, U2.” Isaac grins: “Oh, alright then!”
After receiving some mind-boggling compliments from Bono’s combo, one of the other groups on the show, Interpol, invited them out on tour on the spot. Other superstar admirers include PJ Harvey, and Jamie T, who also cherry-picked them as a tour support last winter. They also performed on the newly re-launched TFI Friday where they brought their personal brand of chaos to Chris Evans and friends.
Their debut proper, ‘Are You Satisfied?’ was made either side of Christmas 2014 at Strongroom Studios in East London. The sheer breadth of sound and vision encapsulated in its 13 tracks are staggering for a two-piece of such a young musical age and experience. “We’re just two minds really buzzing with ideas. With some bands, you have one songwriter, and three other blokes that the main guy has to coach. We’re not like that, thankfully.
2015 saw them nominated for BBC’s Sound Of poll in January, and since then they’ve won the hearts of press and radio alike with some inventive BBC session covers of Skepta’s “Shut Down” , LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” and Chemical Brothers’ “Go”, as well as magazine covers including Guardian Guide, DIY and NME and 4* album reviews in The Observer, Financial Times, NME, Kerrang!, The Sun, Mojo, Total Guitar & Rock Sound.
The album released in June 2015, crashed in to the top 10 and the band triumphed at the Kerrang! Awards walking away with the Spirit of Punk Award and also received nominations for NME’s Best New Band 2015, Q Magazine’s Best New Act 2015, the 2015 Mercury Music Prize, Laurie walked away with Total Guitar’s ‘Guitarist of the year’ award and just recently winning ‘Best Video Award’ at the 2016 NME Awards for ‘Cheer Up London’.
By the end of 2015 the pair had become one of the country’s most beloved live acts, completing their first headline tour in March before tearing up Glastonbury with three (count em) sets across three stages, supporting the Libertines at the 10th anniversary of Ibiza Rocks, smashing T in the Park and Reading & Leeds festivals and also selling out every show of their UK campaign, including their London show at legendary O2 Brixton Academy.
The band released a deluxe version of the album of ‘Are You Satisfied?’ in December, which includes two BBC session covers and a slew of non-album tracks. In 2016 the band will be touring the states alongside their friends Wolf Alice, not to mention 2 headline shows at New York’s Rough Trade & Hollywood’s Dirty Laundry at the end of March, and they’ve been invited back to both T in the Park and the main stage at Reading and Leeds fests top add to their title as festival heavyweights.
Populist but hardcore, pithy but often hilarious or surreal, Slaves are the hotwire treatment that the UK music scene so desperately needs!