The Subways chats touring America and their new record!
Last week with out planning it, every interview I did was an English band! I interviewed solo UK blues artist Barns Courtney, the ladies in PINS and long time heroes The Subways amongst others. The latter played an incredible set last Friday night on their first US run in eight years! A couple hours before their set, we were able to sit down with drummer Josh Morgan where we talked their new record as well as touring America!
You have a lot going on right now! This is your first US tour in eight years, correct me if I’m wrong. You just started it a few days ago maybe the three things you must have with you while on the road to survive?
Whilst on tour? Wow. Not musical instruments obviously. Well for me, I must have books. Video games and a third one is a spare charger because I always lose them. I leave them at hotels, I leave them in the venues so I need about twenty of them in fact.
Need twenty spare chargers.
Just for my iPad so I can play games and not go crazy but yeah that’s it. Those are the most important things. I think the most important thing is a book.
What are you reading now?
At the moment, I’m reading non-fiction. European based like history. Based in the early 7th century and 8th century. Just the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons. I’ve covered the Roman period. So now I’m getting closer to modern times.
Then like I said, this is your first US run in eight years. You’re only two dates in I think. Maybe how has it been going considering you just put out the new record, it has it’s big fancy North American release tomorrow for Record Store Day. Maybe how have these first few shows been going for you?
It’s really, really exciting. The first show was an in-store in New York. It was pretty much the day we arrived and there was so much trepidation. We were so excited. I don’t think it was our greatest performance ever because we were just like let’s play, let’s play! I’m actually glad we did it this way. It was a thirty minute show in front of maybe sixty people. It was a really nice little fun thing and it was a great idea to have that as the first one. For us to warm into it. Get the excitement out of the way but now the last two shows were great fun. We’re having such a good time on stage and the audience seems to be digging it. Which is most important. We’re just so happy to be here. We have our little tour bus like you see. It’s so nice. We’ve missed it a lot. There’s something very unique about touring America because it is the greatest country in the world. Like all of our little countries look up to it as the father and it’s just so exciting to be here.
The father country.
That’s it! It’s like the modern day Roman Empire.
And in these shows, are you playing a lot of the new record? Are you playing a strong mix of everything? How did you plan these sets?
We’re playing a strong mix. We try and plan as many new songs as we can. We want to play the whole album basically but it’s impossible because we can’t leave out ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ which a lot of people would miss. So we have to be slightly intelligent about it and we don’t want to do a two hour set which we would easily want to but that would just be boring. Even my favorite bands, two hours is just too much. So we’ve been keeping it down to 70 minutes. Someone might shout out a song and we’ll play it. It might stretch to 75 but an hour and twenty, an hour and ten is quite cool.
And you have a lot of material so I’m sure they’re going to have some requests out there. It’s really cool of you to do those requests on a whim like that.
Yeah, yeah! In Scandinavia recently, someone requested a song that we’ve never rehearsed. We wrote it, we put it on the record and we’ve never played it before. We were like oh let’s give it a try! It was interesting to say the least. The chap was really pleased but I don’t think everyone else was. No, I’m joking.
No one else liked it.
No one else liked it, boo! It is hard leaving out songs but we have to do it. We’re leaving out all of my favorite songs because I like the really heavy stuff. The crazy stuff like ‘Twisted Game’ from the new record, we’re leaving out and ‘We Get Around’ which I love to play. Every time we drop it, I’m like no!! I cry in a corner but we’ll keep in ‘Oh Yeah’. Okay yeah that’s fine.
Speaking of this new record, it has been the first one in obviously quite a few years for you guys. When did you start kind of making this new record, this self titled record?
Well, I think Billy is always writing. He writes on tour, he writes whenever he can. So it’s always in process but I think physically when he got me and Charlotte in on it and recording, it must have been like a year ago. When we started actually recording the parts. It’s just such a long process. We want to get the album out as quickly as we can and we have all the songs finished. It’s just on our management’s side. On the technical side of things. It’s too much anticipation and I hate waiting for it. It’s like come on, let’s release it, I want to tour but they think we got to do these bits, we got to do contracts and it does take a while but we’ve doing it for about a year. But obviously, Billy writes before hand. He’s had songs for ages. He’s got this little black book. He just picks lyrics out and guitar melodies. He mailed me and Charlotte saying he’s already got six songs for the next record. He’s going to university for three years. So that’s going to be out in four years maybe. So we’re going to have about six hundred songs by then. Might be a double album.
That’s cool though that he’s going to school.
Yeah it is. One of us is actually going to be educated.
Well you started this band when you were so young. I was reading that the average age was seventeen of the band. How old were you?
When we recorded the first album, I was seventeen. It was crazy. I’d been playing drums for three years. I was rubbish. It was fun.
Then I wanted to ask you, I’ve been interviewing a lot of British bands that are just starting to come over. You’re at the age where they’re coming over for the first time. Maybe advice to bands who come over?
Just appreciate it. I think the first time I came over we were just touring the world and going to different places. I didn’t really respect the fact that I was in these different countries as much as I should have done. Now I’m 29. I’m an old man.
Don’t say that!
I’m perhaps too excited to be here but I should have been when I was young and youthful and energetic. Nowadays, we’re so energetic on stage. When we’re off stage, we’re just like zombies. Just moping around but whilst you’ve got the energy, just bloody enjoy it. Have a lot of fun. Just meet as many people as you can and just try out Taco Bell. Just try that out. Definitely it’s really good.
You like Taco Bell?
Yeah we don’t get it in the UK. I’ll have like two or three trips in one day.
I’ve put on like 10 kilos. I’m going to get home to my family just ginomorous.
No, I’m the same way. I mean, 27, but I already feel like whenever there’s a chair I go right to the chair. I’m like I’m reviewing so I can sit.
I get it! It’s when you get to my age you start making noises as well. When you get up, you’re like ugh. That’s when you’ve reached 29.
Two years older then me. I have a lot to look forward to.
Then kind of going back to the record, you chose to make this one the self-titled record. Obviously you’re a few records deep. Maybe was there a strong reason for the band to kind of make this album the self-titled? A lot of bands tend to do it first but it’s becoming something lately where bands are kind of waiting. Was there something about this record that really defined The Subways for you?
Yeah, it was very fitting because we recorded this album completely by ourselves. Billy, the songwriter and guitarist, he took us in the studio. We had done all the recording and all the mixing. Practically everything. So it’s a hundred percent Subways for the first time ever. Our first album was Ian Broudie, our second album was Butch Vig and third was Stephen Street. We thought we had learned so much from them that we’d give it a go ourselves. Billy I think ended up pulling his hair out because there was just one point he was like oh my god I don’t know if I can do this. But we pulled through and yeah he did it all. One day we were just discussing it in I think it was a Japanese restaurant. Me, Billy and Charlotte. We were thinking, what can we call it and Charlotte suggested perhaps calling it The Subways because it was completely one hundred percent us. Great idea, I thought. I was really pleased with it.
Maybe how was that to kind of do it all yourself? I’m sure you had deadlines from a label in the past that kind of thing but maybe how was it to do it yourself. You’ve been playing together for so long. Maybe how was that to kind of be in the studio just the three of you?
It was actually really nice. Strangely, we’ve had less arguments just doing it ourselves. I think it’s because we’re kind of experienced and we just find that we have a flow. We just get to it and we know what we need to do and we know how to do it now. Previously, we had just been like what do we do here? Should we do this? Should we do that? We’d have a producer leaning over our shoulders saying maybe we can do this, maybe we can do that? Now whenever we write a song, we kind of in our heads know how it should sound and we chop anything out that we don’t need. There’s no ego involved. We just say if I do a drum part I really like but it doesn’t work in the song, I’m totally happy to chop it out. That’s just how music should be. That’s how bands should be is all about the song and it’s all about the album. There’s no egos involved and I think that’s a huge element. Left our egos at the front door and just powered on in. Just have some fun.
Then maybe a softer one to kind of end it off, I know you have so much going on. I counted it, you have fifteen festivals this summer. You have so much going on. A soft one to end it off, the first CD or first cassette you can ever remember buying as a kid and the first concert you remember going to?
The first cassette I bought as a kid, what was it? It probably was a Smashing Pumpkins record I just have to remember which one it was. I was really heavily into Jimmy Chamberlain at the time. “Siamese Dream” I believe. That’s when I really fell in love with music and just really appreciated the loud noise and just the impact it can have on just any day life. So I think that was it. Yeah, “Siamese Dream” but Billy had a cassette tape with like a documentary about the album they made so I saw that and went out and bought the album.
That’s really cool! Do you remember your first concert?
My first concert that I attended was ACDC. My dad took me. It was in London. It was really cool and that’s where Billy got like the Gibson SG guitar from. From that concert. I just spent the whole time looking at the drummer. Like yeah, I want to do that!