Americana doesn’t have to come from the US to feel authentic. Some of the best contemporary Americana and (hard) blues rock is currently coming out of Great Britain. Bands like The Temperance Movement and Kill It Kid are showing the world that they can do blues rock at least as well as their cousins west of the Atlantic. A still relatively new band that would fit perfectly into a festival line-up with TTM, KIK, America’s own The Black Keys or the also UK-based Australian duo The Graveltones, are The Greasy Slicks.
Unsigned and bursting at the seams with musical talent, they would be a solid addition to any label with an interest in good, honest rock music. But they are also willing to make it on their own. A conversation with two of the three Slicks about figuring out their way as a band…
► In the spirit of full disclosure, we should start by saying that we have some history together – a history that began when you – quite passive-aggressively – followed, unfollowed, followed, unfollowed and followed my Twitter account again when I was still actively doing my music blog.
Rian O’Grady: See, we were talking about this earlier on because we read that on NeverMindTheBuzzkills and we were like, ‘That doesn’t sound like us’. Then we realised that this happened at a time when our Twitter account was not managed by us. So that was probably our manager.
Jack Kendrew: But now we’re happy that it happened that way.
► Who has the keys to the Greasy Slicks Twitter empire now? Someone who isn’t quite so passive-aggressive, I hope.
Rian: We all do now. We’re all logged in on our phones and we take turns in posting. Which works…
Rian: Yeah, sometimes. It can happen that we talk about what video to put up to promote an upcoming gig and then, a day or two before the gig, we realise that none of us actually did it. I definitely can’t be put in charge of it. So Jack takes control of Facebook, and all of us do a bit of Twitter.
Jack: We actually used to be very regimented about this. We would sit down and think about what to post. Everything had to be cleared by everyone, which is a very stagnant way of doing it. It also lacked personality. That was until we stopped giving a fuck about how every little tweet or every single picture on Instagram might be perceived.
Rian: In the last six months, we’ve
certainly started giving it more personality. Now we film everything and put little clips up that show people who we are. It’s more than just saying, ‘Here is one of our songs’. Because of social media, people want to know who you are, more than ever before, and not just listen to your music. I guess you can say that we’re allowing that to happen a lot more than we did in the past. Now people can come and say hi to us on social media and get to know us.
► Are you already seeing any results of this less regimented, more unedited approach to social media?
Jack: Yeah, we get more engagement now. So if we don’t muck it up and actually remember to put out what we wanted to put out, we get more interaction than we did before.
Rian: Also, after our gigs we encourage people more to come and say hi to us. We didn’t use to do that, but now we’re telling people, ‘Come and chat to us, we’ll give you some free shit – we want to hang out with you and we want to know who you are’.
► Let’s talk about the current state of The Greasy Slicks. As we’re speaking, you are unsigned. All three of you hold regular jobs. And, if I’m not mistaken, all three of you play with other bands as well…
Jack: We have dabbled in other projects and have done stuff like session work, but we are now definitely concentrating on The Slicks.
Rian: These days we say no to anything that isn’t The Slicks. As you said, we all work jobs, but all of our weekends are completely dedicated to The Slicks, whether it’s rehearsing, gigging, writing songs. We’ve definitely said goodbye to our social life.
Jack: This is why we like meeting people at shows: We don’t have any social life outside of that. (laughs)
Rian: See, there is another reason to say hi to us on Twitter. (laughs)
Jack: We would do bits and bops on the side, if it makes sense and doesn’t get in the way, but priority number one is this.
Rian: Not that we haven’t been taking The Slicks seriously in the past, but last year, when things were less busy for The Slicks, it was because we were off doing other things. Concentrating on this band is definitely the way to go forward.
► And what would have to happen for you to quit the current jobs and go full-time with The Greasy Slicks? Does it have to be a record deal or is there a point before that would make you go, ‘Okay, this is what needed to happen, now sod the old jobs’?
Rian: We’d simply have to be able to pay our bills with it – not get rich all of a sudden, but to make ends meet through live gigs and music sales. If we can go on tour and have all of our expenses paid, be able to eat and play music, that would be the point. And have a bit of a party maybe.
Jack: An honest wage, like a plumber. It doesn’t have to be rock star money.
Rian: Lots of bands do survive without a label deal. They might not be mainstream and might not be on the radio, but they’re selling out gigs and make a living with their music. We are not in that position yet, but that is the very realistic goal we’re working towards.
Jack: I also don’t think that it would really be a line-in-the-sand sort of moment. It’s probably going to be more of a gradual transition.
Rian: To be honest, right now we’re just having a really wicked time and we’re not constantly thinking, ‘Oh, by this time next year we need to have achieved that’. We’re very laid back about it.
Jack: We found that a good way to go about it is to control the things that we can control and not worry too much about the rest. If we want to record an EP, we’ll see to it that we have the right songs and that we get into a studio. But we don’t have a timetable for the next year and then scramble to meet the goals on it.
► Nowadays, there are different opinions on record deals, from ‘still the ultimate goal’ or ‘not necessary, but nice if it happens’ all the way to ‘I’d rather do everything myself and enjoy the freedom of not answering to a label’. How do you see it?
Rian: To us, it would depend on who the label is and how the deal looks like that is on the table. A major deal is great, but not if the label then tries to change the style of the band and the music. Of course it’s always easier said than done, but we’d rather be signed to an independent label, where we are in control of the creative side of it, than sign with a major label and succumb to the corporate man.
Jack: At the same time, if we’re able to build our own little team and survive on our own, that would be brilliant. So even signing with an independent label isn’t necessarily the best option. The moment you’re signed to a label you’re not just paying yourself, you’re signing everyone else’s paycheque as well. But again, the right kind of deal with the right kind of label could be the best thing ever.
Rian: But the short answer is that being signed to a label is simply not on our immediate to-do list.
► Talking about building a team: You had a manager very early on, but you lost that manager at the end of 2014 – luckily not because he died or you fell out with him, but because he moved across the pond. How did that affect the band?
Jack: There was about a week where we thought, ‘Fuck, this is bad’, but when the smoke cleared it was more like, ‘Fuck it, we can do this on our own’. It gave us a new perspective.
Rian: Yeah, we realised that we had sort of become complacent, thinking that we’re just gonna do the music and our manager will sort out the gigs and everything. Then, all of a sudden, it was all on us. That was a real kick up the arse. We got so much more proactive. All the things our manager had been telling us before but that we hadn’t really been thinking about – like engaging more with our fans – we finally started doing. Now we’re putting out much more content. And it’s not the same stuff recycled over and over again. We don’t just tell people about the last music video a hundred times. It’s always new stuff.
Jack: Our former manager was a really good friend of ours – he still is – and he gave us some great advice and sorted out some great things for us. But him leaving was a bit of a wakeup call, and we realised that we can manage the band ourselves if we work hard enough for it. There are plenty of bands out there who are doing it that way.
Rian: The thing is, we just got a new manager, and that probably happened exactly because we were not running around, asking people to be our manager.
Jack: Yes, he came to our gigs, he saw what we were doing, he saw the things that we were doing for ourselves, and that’s how and why we started talking.
Rian: Let me tell you about a little chain of events real quick. We played this crappy little gig somewhere in Kensington, at a point where we said, ‘We have to stop doing these crap gigs in London. We’re basically paying to be here. This isn’t getting us anywhere’. But it just so happened that someone saw us at that event who then booked us for another gig, at a slightly swankier venue in Covent Garden. We turned up there, they didn’t have any monitors – a nice gig, but a bit of a mess. Someone saw us at that gig, though, and then booked us at a number of much swankier venues that made us go, ‘Should we even be here?’
Jack: The kind of places where you look at each other and say, ‘Take you’re fucking hat off or they’ll kick us out’. (laughs)
Rian: From that we got another gig and there we met our new manager. All from a crappy little gig in a crappy little bar.
Jack: It shows you that you simply have to put yourself out there, even if it doesn’t always seem like a great gig.
Rian: Like Charlie Wright’s.
► What’s Charlie Wright’s?
Rian: It’s a Thai restaurant in the East End, where we literally played to the other band.
Jack: And the barman.
Rian: Oh yeah, and the barman. At one point two people came in, danced for a song, then left again.
Jack: At the time, the only saving grace was that the other band had more members, which meant that we played to a bigger crowd than they did when we were the ones listening.
Rian: So we played to five people that night, but one of them happened to be the booker for the Hebden Bridge Blues Festival, who got us a slot there. So even crappy gigs that make you question what you’re doing there can lead to better things, create great content or a great part of your story. Jack recently talked to a friend who said he and his band want to gig more, but they don’t know which gigs are worth it. And Jack told him that he won’t know and that he’ll just have to take what he can get and go from there.