by Joanna Orland & Isla MC
The Subways, a young pop-punk band from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, have had a pretty good year so far. They have just released their debut album ‘Young for Eternity’ and, staples on this summer’s festival circuit, they have played Dour in Belgium, the Isle of Wight festival, and of course Glastonbury. What was it like to be handpicked by Michael Eavis?
Billy: “That kind of thing you’re never going to forget. Like when Noel Gallagher said that we’re one of his favourite bands. When a person who is so influential in today’s culture says something about your tiny little band, that you just play pop songs with, it’s always going to mean something to you.”
Interviewing The Subways was quite a pleasure for us. Young and enthusiastic, they displayed a total lack of pretension and just the right degree of self-awareness. The interview was lots of fun and the band were more than capable of having a joke at their own expense, while speaking articulately about their music and their plans for the future. Billy seems very much the leader of the band with lots to say on every subject. Charlotte was a strong presence who did not allow herself to be overshadowed, and while Josh only opened his mouth once, the comment he made was very assertive. Then he wandered off to find himself another beer. A rock star in the making!
The Subways are a very close-knit trio, consisting of frontman and lead guitarist Billy, his bass player girlfriend Charlotte, and his brother Josh on drums. They have been playing together since their mid teens, when Billy heard Oasis’ ‘Supersonic’ and decided to start making music himself. How did they break into the industry so young and with such apparent ease?
Billy: “Just by playing extensively in London, gigging constantly and building up a fanbase. We would play everywhere, the smallest places. We’d stay home, rather than go out with our friends, and work on the music, then takes our friends to our gigs. We worked really hard.”
Did they feel they missed out on that part of growing up?
Josh: “No, there was nothing to miss out on. We were going up to London at fifteen playing gigs and getting pissed.”
Charlotte: “It was a really good time. We would be at school during the day and then going up to London at night.” Billy: “It was like leading a double life and it was fantastic.”
So what would they be doing if they weren’t doing this? Billy claims that his number one choice would be a cleaning job.
Billy: “My mum used to clean in an office block and I used to go with her after school. Eventually I got my own job there and that was my favourite job. It would be ten at night, no one would be there and I’’d be doing the hoovering, writing songs in my head, singing to myself while I was taking the bins out. That’s what I’d be doing!”
Do they prefer playing live or being in the studio?
Billy: “Can’t say really.”
Charlotte: “Both equally I think.”
Billy: “No, not both equally. Both on completely different planes. It’s like saying do you prefer cheese or yoghurt? I like both of them but in different ways.”
Charlotte: “Both are challenging, especially since we’re only a three-piece. When you’re in the studio you’re able to embellish a bit more, whereas on stage you have to really work to fill your space, to create that sound when there’s only three of you.”
Billy: “Playing in the studio you’re indulging in the spirit of the music, and playing live you’re indulging in the passion and the energy. In the studio you have this whole spectrum of instruments to experiment with, but live it’s just us and we have to kick out.”
Here we noticed Billy’s serious festival feet. They were pretty disgusting.
Billy: “I know! We were in this hotel room in Belgium last night and I thought there’s no way I’m touching those taps!”
Charlotte: “We walked across the festival to get to the press tent, and I’m looking at Billy’s feet thinking how the hell have you done that in the space of ten minutes?!!”
So how would The Subways sum themselves up in only one word?
Billy: “Varied. We’re not here to play the same old style. We explore as much as we possibly can. For us the Prodigy, Sigur Ros, and Simon and Garfunkel are as prominent in our songwriting as Oasis and Nirvana.”
Charlotte: “As bands go on they do find their own. We’re still trying to find our feet in the sound we’re trying to create.”