Interview: The Subways
Tue, 09 Sep 2008 12:00:49
The Subways Videos
All Or Nothing is more than just the title of The Subways' fantastic new album. It's a mantra for the UK band, and it's served them well. Their diligent devotion has yielded an eclectic batch of catchy rock tunes equally infused with punk rock attitude and garage rock wisdom. It's a sound that's fresh, fun and fiery. Bassist/vocalist Charlotte Cooper took some time to talk to ARTISTdirect in this exclusive interview about the band's latest album, the legacy of great UK bands and why she likes NYC better than L.A.
How do your songs tend to come together?
It depends on the song. Billy [Vocalist, Guitarist] usually comes up with the melodies and the guitar parts. Then he shows them to us, and we play the songs together. Then we'll work on adding parts. Sometimes Billy and Josh [Drums] will write together, or Josh and I will write together. It's different for each song. Billy comes in lyrically. For this album, he wrote most of the lyrics in the studio. Musically the album was basically ready when we went into the studio, but I know he was writing lyrics up until the time he performed them.
Do you write any lyrics?
I definitely tend to help write the parts that I sing. Billy is at the front of the tracks though, and he's the main lyricist. The little bits that I have on the songs are mine though.
What's the scene like in the city you're from?
It's actually not a city but more of a town [Laughs]. Billy and Josh live in a small suburban town, and I live in a village. It's kind of cool. There's not much going on there really though. I've seen some of the small venues that we used to play at a lot when we were kids. Those places are really cool, but they're only 200-capacity or something like that. We're quite close to London though. Since we're only about 40 minutes away, we spend a lot of time there as well.
With all of the great music that's emerged from the U.K., do you feel like living there is especially inspirational?
Yeah, there are a lot of great English bands that have come out. I think there's just a passion for it. There are a lot of great bands that come out of the States as well.
Yeah, but you have all of the classics over there.
[Laughs] Not all the classics, but some!
What was it like working with [Producer] Butch Vig?
That was pretty amazing. For us, it was an honor just to meet him. We've been fans of his production work with Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Sonic Youth forever. I'm a really big fan of Garbage too, and he's their drummer. So it was amazing just to meet him and see what his ideas were. We met with a lot of other producers, but not one of them really got our ideas or what we were trying to do. Straightaway, Butch was really excited about the songs, and we agreed with his ideas. It was a perfect working relationship.
Did he help take the songs to the next level?
Totally, we had a lot of these songs ready for a while. We were writing these for quite awhile when we were on tour. We played some of these songs live as well because we had an expectation for how we wanted them to be. Butch is amazing, and he took everything to another level. He's so meticulous with the sounds of each instrument. He and Josh would spend ages working on getting drum sounds. With Billy and I, he worked on loads of different guitar sounds for the tracks. It's amazing how much knowledge Butch has. I love how he made my bass sound. My live sound has quite a lot of low end and some distortion. He totally punched that up on the record.
Was "Kalifornia" inspired by a particular trip to the Golden State?
That song was written quite awhile ago actually, and it was written after a trip to L.A. Our first ever trip to the States was when we went over as a band to film our songs for The O.C. for a couple days. That song was written after that when we were on tour. We love playing that song live, and we'd been playing it for about two years before we recorded it. We wanted the song to reflect the amazing time we had in the States.
What was the story behind "Boys and Girls?"
That song's been around for quite awhile as well. We were on tour with Taking Back Sunday and Angels and Airwaves. On the very last show of that tour, we decided to play that song live. We thought we were ready for it, and we figured we'd take a chance and see how it went. Then all of the other bands came up afterwards and said, "What was that new song? We really liked it." We knew it was going to be a good song on the record then [Laughs]. Using both my voice and Billy's is something that we've really enjoyed playing around with on this album. Billy and I have been working on a lot of harmonies together, and we found it exciting.
You have a big sound for a trio.
We definitely try. I think from all the touring we've done, we can predict what everyone else in the band is going to do. Definitely we try to make each part count to make the sound full.
Where did the album title come from?
We did two batches of recording for this album. One was in June of last year, and one was in September. It was a bit of a struggle getting the record done because there was so much going on. We felt like we had to put everything into it. This was the time for it. It was all or nothing. It's kind of like how we like to live our lives. We think if you believe in something you should put everything into it. You want to put yourself in it completely. With the way the music industry is, it could all end tomorrow. So we had to put everything we possibly could into it.
It's a little fishing village in the very south of the U.K. There's a bit of a story behind that song. Billy wrote it when he was ill in Germany. He had a really bad case of food poisoning when we were on tour there, and he had to stay in his room. It was a promo trip and he was stuck in the hotel. The only English-speaking channel had this fishing program on about Newlyn, and I think he decided that he'd rather be anywhere else than where he was at the time [Laughs].
Do you like playing the States?
We love it. We missed it actually. We got to New York yesterday actually, and it's so amazing to be back here. We're glad to be doing a little bit on the East Coast and the West Coast. I can't wait to come back and do a full tour again because we've had such an amazing time in the States.
I really love New York. It's probably one of my favorite cities in the world. I love the closeness of New York. L.A.'s too spread out for me. I do like it there though. There are some amazing parts of L.A.
How do the songs translate live?
We grew up playing live. It's definitely what we're all about. We're really energetic. Billy and I are running all over the stage, and Josh is banging the drums as hard as he can. We definitely do have a bit of a punk rock vibe because we started playing a lot of punk rock in London.