When Slowdive reunited in 2014, many assumed it was for the obvious reason to return two decades after breaking up: money. And while that likely played some part in the decision — how could it not? — Slowdive didn't return just to grab some cash for playing their old songs.
"Making new music was at the top of the agenda when we got back together," says frontman Neil Halstead. "We figured we should play some shows first, because that was a way back into being a band again."
Slowdive called it quits in 1995 just after releasing their third album, Pygmalion, which saw the band eschew their heavily layered shoegaze sound for a minimal, electronic one. When the band reconvened 19 years later for a world tour, they had no idea what Slowdive 2.0 would sound like. For Halstead, it became a re-learning process after spending the last 20 years writing mostly acoustic-based music with Mojave 3, which he formed with fellow Slowdive members Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon, as well as with his solo career. He had to reacquaint himself with his old reverb pedal.
"I think it took a while, but I realized the more we played live, the more I could see how I fit into the process, so it wasn't just me writing an acoustic song with reverb on it," he says. "I think initially I was stumped, because we had ended Slowdive as more of a computer band. Almost everything on Pygmalion was a sample that'd been looped, so for me it was about figuring out the direction. And then that became more apparent as we jammed and rehearsed. We just brought it back to the fact that we're a band and we play in a room. It sounds very simple, but it's not always the first thing you think about when you begin making a record."
Their fourth album and first in 22 years, simply titled Slowdive, takes the band's entire catalogue into consideration, while mostly returning to the dizzying, reverb-heavy songs that made them one of shoegaze's most adored bands.
"Although we wanted to write new music first, we needed to play together to gain some momentum and see what kind of record it would be," Halstead says. "Would it be an electronic record or an ambient record? Maybe the next record won't be familiar, but I feel like this one had to be. In part for us to enjoy it and feel like it was worth doing. I think what we ended up with was kind of like a chocolate box of Slowdive. It takes from different parts of the records we've put out, but with an eye to the future, I suppose."
Halstead says making Slowdive revitalized the band and says they are already looking ahead to what's next for them.
"It feels like there is a real energy and a momentum," he says with anticipation, "so it feels like we could probably do another record that is perhaps less of a pop record or one that goes in another direction."