An interview with The Slow Readers Club

Written for Epigram

The story of The Slow Readers Club is a remarkable one, and one that proves that determination and hard work pay off. It’s also one of paradoxes. Frontman Aaron Starkie humbly says that the band are ‘just four guys who have still got day jobs’, yet they’ve sold out every gig on their current UK tour. Despite having two albums under their belts, The Slow Readers Club remained unsigned until a few weeks ago.

Yet, through word-of-mouth, supporting the likes of James and The Charlatans, and undoubtedly, the unparalleled relationship they have with their fans, their fanbase has ballooned over the past couple of years. The Manchester four-piece have been dubbed ‘probably the biggest band you’ve never heard of’, but it seems that could be about to change. Starkie hopes that the additional backing of the label Modern Sky UK ‘will be another step up the ladder in terms of going out to Europe and the US possibly, and getting a lot more festivals and that kind of thing.’

With their sights set on touring beyond the UK, 2018 will be an even busier year for the band than this one has been. 2017 has seen them embark on two headline tours, play a string of festival dates, and support James again at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl. Indeed, they are ‘getting quite near towards the end of [album three] now’ and ‘hope it will be released around March next year – fingers crossed.’ With just a ‘few more tracks to finish in the run-up to Christmas’, fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

But there has already been a taste of what’s to come from their third offering. In addition to ‘Through the Shadows’ and ‘Lunatic’, new tracks that have already become firm live favourites, the setlist for last month’s Dublin gig included two more new songs. Starkie is rightfully pleased that ‘one, in particular, seemed to go down very well’ and that they have ‘kept the standard if not improved’ on their previous material.

‘Lunatic’ is the first of the new tracks to have been officially released. Of its music video, Starkie says ‘it’s a step up, performance wise’, as ‘I move a lot more than I’ve ever done before. It’s quite kinetic, in the choruses, especially in the way that Chris [from video production company Croftwerk] has cut it.’

The video ‘was filmed at London Road fire station, which is a massive disused fire station’ – the ‘families of fire service people used to live there’, including Starkie’s mum. With ‘crumbling seventies wallpaper’, the band ‘wanted something that sort of resembled an abandoned asylum, to fit the theme of the tune, and that was the nearest place [they] could think of to achieve that.’

So how do songs that are adored by so many fans come into being? ‘Most of the time we’ll write from a jamming session, it might start with a bassline, or a keyboard line from men, or even a beat sometimes’, says Starkie. The next step is to ‘ad lib a vocal melody over, and sing absolute nonsense for a while, just something that fits in terms of intonation.’ In terms of lyrics, sometimes they come straight away, but ‘other times, I’m still writing the lyrics when we’re in the studio. More often than not I’m doing that actually… I think I like the pressure of it!’

From the perspective of someone who is a huge fan of both bands, getting to see The Slow Readers Club support James was a brilliant experience. For Starkie, it was ‘mind-blowing’, and also an opportunity to develop ‘in terms of performance’. He feels ‘I had been fairly static until that point. That’s okay when you’re in a venue like Night and Day in Manchester, where it’s just 300 people – but when you’re playing to 3000 people you need to give a bit more.’

Whilst the 2016 James tour might have been The Slow Readers Club’s first chance to ‘play really big stages’, it certainly won’t be their last. They board the decks of Thekla on November 17th to play another sold-out gig to their ever-growing fanbase.

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