Sleaford Mods: ‘It’s absolutely got nothing to do with whether or not it’s going to get on the radio’

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Sleaford Mods: ‘It’s absolutely got nothing to do with whether or not it’s going to get on the radio’

Sleaford Mods Melbourne
words by buzz miljoen and jasper lear

“It’s just bullshit, it’s dog shit, what else can you say about the cunts, y’know? They’re not going anywhere, it will never change and if it does, they’ll still have lots of money so a republic ... what does that mean? We’re still under the capitalist system.”

Sleaford Mods are about to embark on a six-month tour with shows across New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. We caught up with Jason Williamson—mouthpiece of the Mods—to discuss the upcoming tour and the release of their eighth studio album as a duo, UK GRIM.

The group continue to build on the crunchy, grim(e) soaked sound that they’ve built over their decade as a band. They are at once hyper-specific and all encompassing, churning familiar tones and influences into a uniquely agitated sound. Catchy bass riffs and unexpected hooks continue to proliferate UK GRIM but Jason brushes off any ideas of external pressure coming from their success. Even with a broader audience and an international tour on the horizon, Sleaford Mods have not lost focus.

“The thing that keeps us going is the interest in it and the excitement when you come across an idea that appeals to you. Do you know what I mean? And when that happens it’s absolutely got nothing to do with, you know, whether or not it’s going to get on the radio or whether or not anybody else is going to like it, it’s purely down to the fact that we like it.”

Far from selfish, UK GRIM is a product of musical and social intuition. Intuitions that prove consistently on point and potent. Sleaford Mods continue to punch up. But not for any other reason than that the reality demands that they should. It’s a simple sounding and effective formula that comes back to Jason’s ethos—just write good shit.

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It is only natural that with a boost in record sales and sell-out dates that a disconnect occurs.  Although the ‘same old mods’, one thing has changed- Jason expressed an awareness of the group’s connection to the typically working-class topics explored in their music, now that they have experienced success.

“I’m slightly disconnected from the world I was in 10 years ago because I’ve got more money. I’m successful and, you know, I’ve had my ego fucking rubbed by a lot of people. So sometimes you know, that does jar with what other people in music perceive their place in music to be who are existing at the lower end of the industry so you know I can see that. But fuck you, you know what I mean? Fucking kiss my arse …  hardly any of them write decent shit. They’re all just moaning bastards who connect with the same moaning bastards, you know. Come out with something good, you know.”

Referring explicitly to the second track on UK GRIM titled DIWhy?, Jason seems comfortable responding to those who resent him for this disconnection. Rather than depending on the old brand of ‘mopey-washed up-cynicism’. There’s no pretending in this album to be anything more than what they are: acutely aware of the social reality in England.

No broad ideological goals inform their approach, it’s the simple matter of seeing something they don’t like and calling it out. There’s plenty of material to draw from in modern day England and they set on it with precise and unwavering sights. From the minor inconveniences of life, all the way up to parliamentary corruption fuelled by capitalist profiteering.

“I just despise this fucking naivety in people. This willingness to believe what is essentially a group of really selfish ideologies and beliefs that all tie themselves back to fascism and for the very few to make a profit off the masses,

“… nationalism, the anti-vax movement, kind of conspiracy theorists, Brexit. You know all of these things are pretty much connected. And I could bet my bottom dollar that if you do the paper trail back, it’s to people, individuals or groups of people who have similar beliefs”.

Sleaford Mods have on every occasion merged this big picture criticism with deeply personal references—arguably one of the many reasons their music has the proven ability to connect with international audiences. Even if Jason doesn’t consider this when he’s writing.

“I know that what I’m doing, lyrically anyway, isn’t unintelligent and it isn’t strictly biased. And in that sense, it is a positive outburst. But I don’t really think about whether it’s a vehicle to create, as you put it, as a sort of a connection with people, I just think about how good it is and I just value it and merit it from its song writing content to how we both feel about it.”

This combining of the personal and social is achieved on Force 10 From Navarone by enlisting the help of Florence Shaw from Dry Cleaning. Dealing with the topics of childhood and happiness alongside online-activism, they connect with Florence through a masterful blend of the small and big picture.

“It kind of takes from the childhood memory of the film. It’s not especially a great film, it’s just that those words “Force 10 from Navarone” really remind me of being a kid you know? And also, I tried to put the imagery of that to this loose idea of people just being activists online, of a non-willingness to overthrow corruption. But it’s a kind of a broad idea. I don’t exactly know where I’m going with it because it’s a hugely debatable subject. But also, the chorus talks about the idea of happiness and that sometimes being something that can feel even worse than depression. Because being someone whose so used to being in tense situations and sadness, to have that come into your life is sometime just as intimidating.”

UK GRIM perfectly represents this meshing of ideas, each song capturing a myriad of sonic influences. From grime, to a take on “traditional kind of sing along English music” heard on Tory Kong, they continue to sound unmistakably like Sleaford Mods. Jason’s rants hop from subject to subject. Lamenting the image obsessed cool kids on ‘So Trendy’. Protesting the fear mongering media that sows division across classes and borders on Rhythms of Class. For a less skilled craftsmen tackling these broad ideas may feel disjointed. For the fearless Sleaford Mods, it feels just right.

Sleaford Mods are the best of a shit situation. If nothing, a burst of positive creativity in the face of unrelenting circumstances. They’ll be bringing the full force of UK GRIM to Australia next month—a favourite touring destination of theirs. 

“We really enjoyed coming to your country 3 years ago so it’s something that we’re looking forward to”.

Fortunately (and unfortunately) there will be no shortage of song-writing inspiration for Jason and Andy in years to come. 

Sleaford Mods are playing at the Forum on Saturday, June 3. Grab tickets by heading here.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.