On first impressions, many would look at me and categorically not strike me as the type to listen to a bit of garage punk now and again. I can’t say I blame them – every mosh pit I have encountered I’ve had to assign a personal body guard to act as a barrier against alcohol fuelled grown men and women. With all that being said, I must admit that it’s a lot of fun (providing you don’t get seriously hurt) and a perfect excuse to run around like crazy and not be considered absolutely ridiculous. One of my biggest memories of being stuck amongst a herd of tall men in a mosh pit derives from Reading Festival, 2013; while watching Harlem born rapper, ASAP Rocky, I lost my group of friends and found myself being head butted (by accident of course), which then lead to my favourite pair of sunglasses being smashed. Luckily there was no body damage and the whole experience was great fun. More importantly, I feel that Reading Festival 2013, was great preparation for my new found love of SLAVES band; a garage punk duo, who despite being in the limelight for just one year, have managed to encourage the most exhilarating and entertaining crowd reaction – the mosh pits are incredibly fun and not too severe for those, who like me are a bit more fragile.
Signed to Virgin EMI Records, Tunbridge wells punk duo SLAVES are the latest music sensation to emerge from Kent. The slaves themselves Isaac Holman, 22 on drums and vocals, and Laurie Vincent, 21 on guitar revealed the news of their signing to fans via their Facebook page early last year. Growing up around the same area as SLAVES and attending secondary school in Tunbridge Wells, I recognised Isaac Holman from a previous band he had played in at Tunbridge Wells Forum – they were called Bearface. From this, when I first saw SLAVES on YouTube I automatically took an instant liking to their music, perhaps as a sort of pride that they were formed in Tunbridge Wells. The SLAVES duo have achieved soaring success, first playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds Festival 2013/2014, supporting Royal Blood, Touring with Jamie T, making exclusive appearances on popular shows such as ‘Later’ with Jools Holland and receiving a number of nominations from NME. Despite this burst of fame, the duo have never forgotten their roots, constantly making return visits to Tunbridge Wells Forum and surrounding local venues in order to reach all their fans. I am set to attend their latest tour of the Tunbridge Wells Forum this February. I cant wait!
A definite appeal of SLAVES for me is their modernizing of the punk genre. While sticking to the fast, hard-edged roots of what is considered to be classically punk, they have sculpted their music in such a way which could appeal to those who aren’t necessarily keen on the idea of mosh pits and shrieking vocals – they are increasingly becoming a different breed of revivalist punk. From the SLAVES gigs I have attended, I have noticed how they manage to summon and almighty racket with rapturous reception – one that is fun and at the same time not too brutal to stand back and simply enjoy. Distinctive to SLAVES band is Isaac’s stand-up drum kit; the duo’s typically short songs and stripped-down instrumentation embraces a sort of DIY ethic. For me this rather rustic style is incredibly engaging and almost refreshing in the sense that all musical genres, not matter how mainstream or not they may be, can still compete with the more popular music styles and still be highly influential within the music industry.
Playing at their home venue, the Forum in Tunbridge Wells, January 2014, the Courier wrote: “it may only be January, but 2014 is already looking set to be a turning point for the Tunbridge Wells garage punk two-piece Slaves”. SLAVES first single, ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ was released through Fonthill Records and truly makes recognition of their roots; the two minute, 20 second howl finds the duo lost in the local woods of Tunbridge Wells, trying to find their friend, (you guessed it) Debbie’s car, while also in a paranoid dash to escape an encounter with Bigfoot. In an interview with the Courier, the SLAVES duo stated: “we’ve had the song in our set for a while now and it has got some good attention live.” For me, the appeal of SLAVES is one which is comedic – many of their songs are completely bizarre and random, making it so easy to just enjoy the music and follow the wacky adventures of the duo. In an interview with NME, guitarist Laurie Vincent stated that: “I feel like we’re a small percentage a comedy band – like we’re not a joke, but at the same time, it is a joke”. For me, this relaxed approach is actually very stimulating and invigorating.
In fact, it is apparent that SLAVES source much material for their songs from shenanigans around Tunbridge Wells; their song ‘Girl Fight’ tells of a rough night out in the town, ending in a rather messy girl fight. The song includes a two-minute spoken-word introduction and a 27-second running time, sparking much curiosity but also helping the band stand out in what could considered to be a genre with incredibly limited appeal. However, in a recent interview with NME, the duo revealed that ‘Girl Fight’ has recently been removed from their set list for fear that the band may be considered as “jokers”. From a more personal/local approach, I love listening to SLAVES songs based on proceedings in Tunbridge Wells because I can actually identify with the location and truly imagine the story in my head. A distinctive memory I have of seeing ‘Girl Fight’ live at the Tunbridge Wells forum was finding myself being lifted off the floor from the sheer force of the crowd creating a frenzy of moshing – it was my first experience of what it might be like to stage dive!
As slaves climbed up the competitive musical ladder, a real moment of success could be seen with the duo being invited to appear alongside U2 and Sam Smith on BBC 2’s ‘Later’ with Jools Holland. Following their performance of their single ‘Hey’, the duo began to trend on Twitter and was met with euphoric applause. In discussion with Kent Messenger, guitarist Laurie Vincent said: “it was mind blowing. We have had the most insane reaction that none of us were prepared for.” The fact that a rather unique garage-punk duo can perform alongside pop artists such as Sam Smith is refreshing because fans of both genres can enjoy a real fusion of musical talent.
Speaking of trends of Twitter, SLAVES have been nominated for two NME awards including ‘best new band’ and ‘best social media’ for their Facebook page. Perhaps their Facebook page has attracted much attention from anecdotes such as “custard creams or bourbons?” and signing most messages off with “be kind to your pets”. It is these personal touches which make fans like me feel as though they are on a much more personal level with a band, who are increasingly growing in eminence. In the same interview with NME, when asked why the duo signs their messages off with “be kind to your pets”, vocalist Isaac Holman responded with: “The thought of someone being horrible to their pet is just gut-wrenchingly horrible”. Again, this comedic and especially normal approach on the bands social media is incredibly inviting – as a fan, I don’t feel intimidated by their new found fame, but appreciated. Alongside this, SLAVES band was placed on the long list for the BBC Sound of 2015 award.
SLAVES are set to go on tour starting February 2015, revisiting the Tunbridge Wells forum and debuting their latest single ‘Hunter’. Personally, I cannot wait, and despite the garage punk genre being of very limited appeal, I would strongly recommend going to see them, because a gig with SLAVES is an incredibly enjoyable night out. In the famous words of the punk duo..."YOU ARE ALL SLAVES."