Review: The Slow Readers Club in Bristol

April 2, 2019

Review: The Slow Readers Club in Bristol

With sold out shows from the beginning of March, The Slow Readers Club embark on a mega UK and European tour, as lead singer Aaron Starkie said, ‘for the first time ever as a full-time band’. Rose Parish managed to catch them at The Fleece in Bristol…

Formed in 2009 from Manchester, The Slow Readers Club have toured extensively with three studio albums under their belt and two live ones, with an extra extended album of an acoustic set from old and new songs: For All Here to Observe. These previous albums include, The Slow Readers Club, Build A Tower and Cavalcade. It wasn’t until touring with the band James in 2016, and being played on Radio 6 music by Steve Lamacq throughout this time, that they became more recognised musically. In 2018 they released the album Build A Tower which was number 18 in the UK top 20.

I managed to catch a first glimpse of The Slow Readers Club in Belfast last year at The Limelight. I wasn’t sure what they would be like considering I’d only heard them on YouTube – but I loved their sound. This is the second time I’ve managed to see them and their reputation precedes the last gig.

Walking into The Fleece to see The Slow Readers Club is more like entering a football match than a gig at first. You instantly notice the hardcore fans with band t-shirts standing and waiting at the front even an hour before they come on. You see the beanie hats; the vague glimpse of ‘The Slow Readers Club’ tattoos on people’s bodies and the banter is rife with people who travel round whilst clutching beers and discussing what favourites they will play. It was disappointing there was no one with scarves with ‘The Slow Readers Club’ crocheted into them, somewhere amongst the crowds.

The gig was set to start and band came on stage, and all you hear is a stifled, drunken but sentimental ‘READERS…READERS…READERS…’ The gig started with the track Lunatic’ from their latest album Build A Tower, which encapsulates the domineering effect they have as players and lyricists. Aaron Starkie sings the towering lyrics ‘Build a tower, Hundred storeys high, Lock myself in isolation.’ With people starting to rally and hands rising up, which to me looked like some sort of conformist dark cult gathering at first… until I realised that it was like the gig in Belfast where The Slow Readers Club always manage to bring in an impending performance with singing along to the songs.

A still from the official music video of their hit song ‘Lunatic’.

In a previous interview Aaron has been asked about the songs telling a story ‘…this one on the album [Build A Tower] called ‘Distant Memory’ where I’m thinking about the people, rather than myself.’ This comes across in a very breakable and distinct song ‘Don’t Mind’ that they played at The Fleece that night. It has a way of bringing you into a mind of two lovers who are aware that things are over but watching it from a removed perspective.I found myself consumed by desire which carried along a long time.’ This brings things slightly back to the song ‘Lunatic’ where Aaron sings part way through the song ‘And the drink and drugs will pacify…’ which is incredibly spoken within the performance. Aaron sings this with a very poetic like voice that adds more of a dark realism about the way life is consumed by isolation through addiction. The Slow Readers Club manage to blow out the honesty through their lyrics in the way they add all this together when they perform.

The Slow Readers Club went on to play tracks from their other two albums, such as ‘Lives Never Known’ and ‘Plant The Seed’, – which is an epic song and has a great music video that is just so simple but slowed down with a great emphasis on incorporating dancers into their videos; ballet and free style performances, which goes so well with their mixture of electronic elements in the way they play. The best performance was ‘Forever In Your Debt’ because it had a stomp down of bass playing from Jim Ryan, which sounded like it could have brought down the stage.

I caught up with Jim the next day to ask what memorable performances they’ve had so far. ‘We played to a sold out Leadmill in Sheffield [950 capacity] and that was definitely memorable. People on each other’s shoulders without the security telling them to get down. It was a proper party. Regarding a new album, we’ve already demoed six tracks early this year, so the plan is to get back in the studio after the festival season and hopefully have another album out early next year.’ Jim said they love playing in the South West and having a day off in Bristol ‘allowed us to get out and soak up the atmosphere around the place. We’ll definitely be coming back.’

I don’t think you get many performances like this with such a historical catapult of music that Manchester brought to culture. When you watch Aaron dance when he sings, it’s like watching Ian Brown from The Stone Roses in the early 1990s. It’s a signature dance where he pulls everything in, but it’s his own. Watching this all unfold set’s your sights up from the crowd to see the real identity of The Slow Readers Club. The vocals from Aaron Starkie always seemed to have an ephemeral similarity between him and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. For those who haven’t heard of Joy Division they were a band from Salford, Manchester in the late 1970s. Joy Division defined a post-punk era and, like The Slow Readers Club, they also had their own austerity on stage.

As The Slow Readers Club ‘Forever In Your Debt’ plays in the background, I think of the heavy lyrics Aaron sings at the gig, the stomping of the bass, then the drums and back to the drop of the guitar. Then he starts the mesmerising atmosphere all over again by singing ‘no way to go, no way to go I follow, you want to know, you want to know I’m here for all time, all time like the sunrise.’ And then you find yourself feeling like you are caught in something like a football match again, the rallying starts and you hear yourself singing back the usual songs of things gone by because there is something we can all relate to in The Slow Readers Club’s music.

Article written by Rose Parish

Featured image: ©Julia Schwendner

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