Jammerzine has an exclusive interview with Aaron Starkie from The Slow Readers Club. With today’s release of their new album ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ (listen below), we get an ever-surprising evolution that is the musical revolution of The Slow Readers Club.
And, in today’s interview, we talk with Aaron about ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ as well as the music scene post-COVID and what lies in store for the Slow Readers Club.
‘Knowledge Freedom Power’
‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ is as much of an announcement as it is a new album. A stylistic evolution, for sure, but also a signature. A new signature sound that is as epic as it is earnest. We get an expansion on the already known SRC sound, but here it is amplified and refined to the moment at hand. A time stamp, if you will.
While you will find your favorite song within the pack here, that will change with your mood. Each song is endearing in it’s own way. I have already changed those favorite songs a few times since that initial listen. But what I can guarantee here, is that you will keep finding favorites for years to come. That is testament to the staying power of this album. Hopefully, you will find a favorite artist in here as well.
Featured image photographed by Trust A Fox Photography.
About The Slow Readers Club & ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’
As forecast by recent singles and emerging fan favorites ‘Modernise’, ‘Lay Your Troubles On Me’ and the title track, the album sees the band moving beyond their dark-hued post-punk roots to embrace luminous synths and anthemic alt-rock that can also appeal to fans of early Bloc Party, Muse and White Lies. And while its themes are still informed by scathing social commentary, ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ consistently exudes the power of the collective human spirit to counteract the growing dystopia around us.
As vocalist Aaron Starkie explains, “The world had become so bleak it felt a little indulgent to paint apocalyptic pictures when they were playing out in the real world. I thought people would probably want to hear more uplifting things, it was my intention to be a bit more positive. There’s still a lot of melodrama in there and it’s still dystopian in places but there’s more positive shades in this record.”
Beyond the singles, those uplifting moments emerge both lyrically and sonically. ‘Sacred Song’ plays up both elements, its sparkling guitar motif and imagination of a beacon of hope in the shape of a saviour goddess elevating the mood. ‘What Might Have Been’ is thematically more sorrowful, but otherwise beams just as brightly, placing a Balearic twist on an indie-rock heart in a similar way to Foals but with a yearning ‘80s undercurrent. The record closes on a hopeful strand, with ‘No You Never’. It finds Aaron reflecting on his childhood growing up on a council estate, where he felt limited by social and financial concerns. Despite those challenges, his ability to express himself via music demonstrates that there can be opportunities beyond what might immediately be apparent.
‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ is launched alongside a new video for the moody, hooky synth-pop break-up song ‘Forget About Me’. It was the final song to be written for the record and remained in development as the band entered the studio. Its writing was completed in an experimental style, with the band based in the studio while Aaron contributed via WhatsApp as he remained at home with Covid.
Completed by Aaron’s brother Kurtis Starkie (guitar), James Ryan (bass) and David Whitworth (drums), The Slow Readers Club recorded the album with producer Joe Cross (Louis Tomlinson, The Courteeners, Hurts).
The Slow Readers Club recently announced details of a special ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ album launch event on February 28th. Held at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, the intimate event will feature a live edition of #TimsTwitterListeningParty, which will also run concurrently on Twitter. The band will then take to the stage to perform acoustic versions of some of the new album tracks, as well as hosting a raffle in which fans can win rare memorabilia, merchandise and guestlist places for upcoming shows. The event is already sold-out.
The event follows their recent ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ preview event, where they were joined by a local legend in the shape of the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham.
‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ is available to stream or buy HERE. The band’s official store also offers limited edition vinyl, CD, cassettes and t-shirts which feature alternate black artwork.
Next month will see The Slow Readers Club take ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ on the road with a UK and European headline tour, interspersed with a show as special guests to Pixies. Several gigs are already sold-out, with many more to follow imminently. Any remaining tickets are available HERE.
Track By Track
This one started off with a keyboard riff which Aaron started at home and then we jammed around it in practice. It’s a song about the constant need to learn and adapt to changing circumstances, bit of a techno fear song. Partly inspired by having to work again when covid hit. It’s a familiar TSRC theme I guess about struggles with systems, life’s pressures and conformity. It took on a new life in the studio when, working with Joe our producer, we properly established the structure and dynamics. Joe suggested a really aggressive synth sound for the main riff, and got the bass and drum sounds sounding really powerful, it makes for a great album opener and single, we can’t wait to play it live.
Started with a riff from Kurt, he shared it over whatsapp and Aaron adlibbed the vocal melody over the top – think we had just the verse to begin with. We then worked this into a full song in practice with Jim and David contributing their parts and ideas around structure and dynamics. It’s a song about the dying embers or a relationship – where everything feels hollow and there is no communication and imagining a future with / and without that person.
This was a lockdown guitar idea that didn’t make 91 Days, mainly because it lacked a chorus and needed jamming out in a rehearsal room! It was codenamed Lemon for a while because the feel of Kurt’s bubbling guitar riff reminded Aaron of Lemon Jelly. It’s one of the brightest songs on the album sonically and thematically, it’s a song about an imagined goddess savior, a mother figure who sings a lullaby and takes the pain away.
‘Lay Your Troubles On Me’
This was born out of a jamming session in our rehearsal room. We were jamming around the verse idea at rehearsals and then went for a brew break. When we came back we started on another idea but soon realized it was the same notes but with a completely different groove and feel. We didn’t want to lose either version and we loved the idea of the tune getting progressively louder and intense so we combined them.
Working on this one in pre-production Joe helped us make the crescendo work well with a cool synth sound. Lyrically its a song about recognizing someone going through difficulties, reaching out and offering support. The vocal melody mostly came in the practice room but the high melody hold on for dear life the ones you love’ over the crescendo came in the studio.
‘How Could You Know’
This was a song built around a piano riff and verse idea Aaron had at home, then we worked on the chorus together in practice. These kind of songs can be the hardest to get right in terms of how it builds and the general dynamics but it came together really well. It’s a gentle song about ignorance, anger and lashing out – about someone that’s good deep down but puts up lots of barriers and pushes people away.
Knowledge Freedom Power’
This one transformed a few times and it took a while to land on the right structure. The original idea was a drum and guitar loop but as the song developed it moved away from its origins and more synth focused. The synth part originally mirrored the verse vocal melody too like Blossoms Charlamagne – but we moved away from that. For a while we only had the synth intro, verse and chorus and we went around in circles with it. Once we got the middle section “won’t you say a little prayer” in place it just made so much more sense. Lyrically an exercise in sloganeering, a mantra for education as a means of emancipation from social / psychological confinement.
‘What Might Have Been’
Verse and bridge came together very quickly and it had a great groove and interplay between the guitar and and bass riffs and the vocal melody goes off on a mad little journey. We couldn’t get the bridge vocal line out of our heads for weeks and it kinda blocked us for a period of time because we couldn’t think how it could get to the next level. So we tried minimizing the chorus and the contrast works really well. its a song about a lost love – imagining how life might have panned out with your ex.
This was one Aaron demoed at home and then brought intro practice to flesh out into a full tune. Might have been just the verse and bridge and we arrived at the chorus together – not sure. Lyrically it’s a song about watching the world go to shit and feeling powerless in the face of it, I theme we’ve touched on before with songs like ‘On the TV’ and ‘All I Hear’ it was written as troops were gathering on the borders of Ukraine though not specifically about that. it could equally be about financial and environmental collapse I guess.
‘Forget About Me’
The last song to be written on the record, we went in the studio with the track still in development. Joe our producer added the lead synth part in pre production. It’s a break up song with a few great hooks.
Kurt sent across a chord sequence over Whatsapp and we knew we needed one more track so this was going to be that track. We had a verse/bridge worked out but Aaron got Covid a week before the studio so the track wasn’t finished before we started pre production. This probably meant we were writing this one in the studio and over whats app with Aaron at home and it felt a bit more experimental.
‘No You Never’
When writing the lyrics I was remembering how it felt growing up on a council estate, where your horizon feels limited by social and financial conditions – “No you never did dare have those grand ideas”. It started out as a piano track but grew into a full band tune in rehearsal and the studio. Originally the piano part mirrored the vocal melody almost completely, we worked on simplifying this so there was more space in the track.