"What Kind of Record Would It Be?" and Other Challenges Faced by Slowdive After 22 Years
Published May 02, 2017When Slowdive reunited in 2014, it wasn't all about nostalgia or money or even to see if they could do it. They reunited because they wanted to be a band again. The shoegaze legends' first shows after 20 years demonstrated that they were not only better than ever, but also more popular than ever. The band's textured, soporific sounds aged better than any of their contemporaries (My Bloody Valentine included), which made their decision to return with a fourth full-length a brilliant idea.
On May 5, the band release Slowdive, their long-awaited comeback album, via Dead Oceans. The album represents the best attributes of their previous work through the lens of a band who sound more inspired than ever two decades after they released their supposed swan song, 1995's Pygmalion.
"For me, it's the record that gets us back into being Slowdive," frontman Neil Halstead tells Exclaim!. "It has to be familiar to us as well, otherwise we would think, 'Why are we even doing this?' In part for us to enjoy it and feel like it was worth doing."
Here are five things you need to know about Slowdive's first album in 22 years.
1. A new Slowdive album was discussed before they even rehearsed for the reunion gigs.
"That was at the top of the agenda when we started doing stuff. It was about making new music. We figured we should do some shows first because that was a way back into being a band again. 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. Would it be an electronic record or an ambient record? 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."
2. After years of writing acoustic-based music, Halstead's 2013 album with side-project Black Hearted Brother helped prepare him to revive Slowdive.
"It definitely enthused me. It was the first time I'd really done that since Slowdive, and I really enjoyed it. I think it really opened my head and made me realize that I didn't have to make just folk records."
3. Learning to write music for Slowdive in 2017 was tricky at first.
"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. 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."
4. The album is self-titled for a couple of reasons.
"We came to the same conclusion to name it Slowdive because it felt like the start of something again. Our first EP was called Slowdive, and it seemed like the right impetus for us this time too. The record is also like a summation of our music. Plus, we couldn't think of a good title, so we just went in that direction [laughs]."
5. The next Slowdive album could sound completely different.
"Doing those shows in 2014 and 2015 gave us a pathway to where the music would go. [This is] definitely not a live record, but it does have that band energy that Pygmalion didn't have. It feels like there is a real energy, a momentum, 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. Maybe the next record won't be familiar, but I feel like this one had to be."