ENRG Music’s Bryce Arthur caught up with Manchester-born band The Slow Readers Club as they stopped off at Edinburgh’s own Liquid Rooms on their 47-date UK/Europe Tour.
The Slow Readers Club have a strange little history. Frontman Aaron Starkie was also leading man for early 2000s band Omerta (alongside current Slow Readers bassist James Ryan), who made three singles, all of which sold out fairly immediately. There’s a great quote on Omerta’s Wikipedia page regarding their debut single that says, “…stockists were forced to restrict purchase to only one copy per customer in the interests of public order.” “In the interests of public order” it says, as though the people would riot if they missed getting their hands on this single – one hell of a pedigree.
Omerta folded in 2007, but returned as The Slow Readers Club in 2009. Several years and a couple of lineup changes later, Aaron, Kurtis, David and James are sitting on a couch in a green room here in Edinburgh, getting ready for the final Scottish show of their 47-date tour of Europe and the UK.
I wanted to make sure we’d been alright hosts for their four Scottish shows, and the band responded pretty positively. “In all four cities we’ve played [in Scotland], it’s the first time we’ve played them,” says Aaron Starkie, vocalist. “So a part of it is just us seeing what the crack is up here. We’ve played Glasgow a few times – the last one at the art school sold out – so it’s just about seeing what we can do further afield really.”
‘Further afield’ is putting it pretty mildly – I expressed my disbelief at the size of their 47-date tour, to which they replied that they’ve added yet another stop (a hometown gig at Gorilla in Manchester, which has predictably sold out) bringing them up to 33 UK gigs, 15 shows in Europe, and 7 festival appearances later in the year.
David Whitworth, drummer, said, “We effectively went full time in January, so it’s the first time we’ve been able to tour on this sort of scale. We’ve got 50-odd gigs in three months, so we’re very busy right till the end of May.” He finishes: “Definitely not complaining though!”
Aaron spoke about how the band are trying to keep such a long tour interesting: “We’ve varied the set between each gig, just trying out different things like linking tunes, me working the stage, changing up vocals.” The lads have already noticed that they’re getting a lot of folk following them from gig to gig – not only in their local area but up here in Scotland, too. Varying sets is proving to be important for keeping these followers engaged as much as the band.
There’s opportunity for a lot of new experiences on such a long tour. I asked if the guys were looking forward to seeing Europe, to which Aaron replied that even Edinburgh was new to them. “I think we’re all really interested to go to some of the cities in Europe, but I’ve never even been to Edinburgh, which is weird. Great atmosphere though, it’s like when we’ve played Glasgow: we’ve always gotten a really good reaction, and it’s been the same for all of our [Scottish] shows so far”.
“For me, Amsterdam is one I’m really looking forward to,” says Kurtis Starkie, Aaron’s brother and Slow Readers Club guitarist. “It’s our first sold out show outside the UK. Unless you include Ireland, of course.”
“Which you probably should, since it’s outside the UK,” adds David, provoking a few laughs from his bandmates.
After the Europe leg of the tour the band is hitting a few music festivals, including Live at Leeds and Mad Cool in Spain to name a couple. Do the band prefer these festival gigs to their own shows? “Less pressure,” says drummer David. Bassist James Ryan joined in, admitting about how important festival gigs were: “We’re still at the stage where we’re building our fanbase up, we’re not like U2 or Coldplay massive where we don’t care. Festivals are big for us – even if you just win over two people there, that’s two more people coming to a gig here [i.e. one of the band’s own shows].”
Aaron weighed in, saying, “It does depend. It’s a lot more pressure to headline a stage where you’re part of the billed lineup that people have come to see, but if you’re on smaller stages or “introducing” stages it’s a lot more relaxed.”
Speaking of pressure, I asked the band the standard question any Manchester band gets asked – do they feel the need to live up to the legacy of the massive bands that have come out of Manchester? Are they trying to be as big as The Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses?
“No,” laughs David, “that’s not big enough!”
Aaron, after doing a bit of maths, says: “We’ll soon have done more albums than the Roses, so if we’re going by sheer weight of numbers…”
James gives a slightly more elaborate answer: “We’ve said this before, but: The whole ‘Madchester’ thing was boxed up as something you could go out and buy, so it’s hard to get out of that. It’s not a shadow necessarily, ‘cause it was great for the city and we’re proud of where we’re from, but we’re trying to get out of it.”
“Manchester deserves to be more than just a nostalgia trip,” concludes frontman Aaron. “In terms of music, I wouldn’t see us as competing with The Smiths any more than say, Arcade Fire.”
As of January, the band are full-time musicians. To round off our chat, I asked how The Slow Readers Club were feeling about their future. David replied, “I feel very confident about where everything’s going. We’ve been in the studio, got some demos down, we’re ready for the tour…”
“It helps that the tour’s selling out as well,” says Aaron. Which is true, as 11 of the 48 shows are sold out at the time of writing. “With making music, there’s not any kind of pressured focus, we’ve not gone “oh, we need to write more songs now”, it’s just been fun.”
For news, ticket information, and Slow Readers Club merchandise, check out their website here.
By Bryce Arthur