Loud, Fast & Urgent: We Caught Up With Heather Perkins Of Slowcoaches

Slowcoaches are loud, and despite what their name might have you think, fast. And furious. The London-based outfit have been playing their hearts out for a few years now, establishing themselves as a gloriously oxymoronic part of the UK DIY scene with their personal brand of punk realism. After smaller releases like a split EP with Feature and more recently, a limited edition single, comes their much-anticipated debut album Nothing Gives. Immediately following the release they’re heading off on a headline UK tour that’s bound to be mental. But before anything happens, we got to ask singer and bassist Heather Perkins a few questions.

You have been around for a few years now. How does it feel to finally have an LP under your belt?
It feels a bit emotional. We’ve been working on all these songs together for a while and without trying to sound dramatic, me and Matty have been though a lot together at the same time. We’ve travelled lots, had some really good times and some really low times and a lot of people have come in and out of our lives. This feels like a good way to kind of ‘close a chapter’ as people say. Personally, I kind of feel like some of the stuff on this album is stuff that’s been hanging over me for some time and to finally see it pressed on to vinyl will somehow mean that I can move forwards, musically and personally.

Nothing Gives sounds decidedly cleaner and ‘bigger’ than everything you’ve done so far. What was the recording process like?
Initially, we tried recording with someone we hadn’t used before but we just didn’t feel comfortable so we went to our friend’s trusty DIY hub, Sound Savers in Homerton to record. We recorded some songs live and some we tracked. There are a lot of layers of guitar on the record and Matty spent a while getting that lovely balance between totally fuzzed out and a really fat sound. We have a very no-nonsense attitude to recording we go in and get it done and we don’t try to filter out imperfections too much. We sent the stems to Ben Hirschfield in LA to mix and he pretty much just got what we wanted right off. We wanted a really fat sound that wasn’t too polished, or poppy. I think he’s got it just perfect.

What are some of your favourite songs from the album, and why?
I love “Thinkers” because it has like 3 lines of lyrics but I feel it says a lot and I can get real sassy playing that one live. “54” is always fun to play because everyone just seems to love that song and it usually gets a bit nuts. “Surface Observations” is pretty fun because the chorus sounds like an oi band or something.

What’s striking about the album is that it’s fun, and it makes you want to jump around, but when you listen to the lyrics there’s this underlying sense of existential dread. Was it intentional, and would you say it reflects the reality of being a twentysomething today? What were some of the main themes you explored?
I think it was totally unintentional but listening back to it it makes so much sense that it’s turned out that way. The lyrics are really dark and it wasn’t intentional at all. I rarely think about lyrics. I usually wait and wait and listen to the demo of the track over and over they just kind of come. It has to be the right moment, where something is on my mind or affecting me and at the right moment I just get a light bulb and I’ve got it down in a few minutes. I think a lot of the album is about relationships with other people and with each other. There’s stuff about struggling to get a job. Then getting a job and hating it. About the DIY scene. About people’s perceptions of women in music. Mental health issues. Hate, love, indifference. There’s so much in there.

Most young creatives nowadays are forced to work ‘real jobs’ in order to support their creative ambitions. Where do Slowcoaches fit in all this? Do you even find yourselves questioning if it’s worth it to go on writing, recording and gigging while trying to hold a job that’s just there to pay the rent?
We’ve always had ‘real’ jobs ever since we started. It’s something that really drives me. I don’t want to work behind a desk. I absolutely hate it. It drains me emotionally and creatively. It’s such a polarised life. I sit in front of a computer all day and then I go play a show and I know none of the guys I work with are able to comprehend that. Then I come back to work and I just feel like ‘the girl in the office’ (I am the only woman in my office). It sucks. But it’s risky not to work alongside your music isn’t it. Because the world isn’t down with you just being a creative. It isn’t structured to support that. You can get lucky and have your parents to fund your music like some people do but once that’s got old or not working you’re screwed. You’re like thirtysomething with no experience of anything except playing music and no one gives a shit that you were in a band when they’re looking at your CV!


“I think a lot of the album is about relationships with other people and with each other. There’s stuff about struggling to get a job. Then getting a job and hating it. About the DIY scene. About people’s perceptions of women in music. Mental health issues. Hate, love, indifference. There’s so much in there.”

Since the band got started, you have been very active in DIY circles across the UK, playing house shows as well as landmark venues like Power Lunches, now permanently closed. Incidentally, the first time I saw you play was at a warehouse party in Hackney Wick! In your opinion, how important is a strong DIY community for bands, both those just starting out and those that have been around for a while?
It’s crucial. We got our first London Show from Andrew Milk (Shopping). Shit, just realised I forgot to thank him on the record. He gave us a show at Power Lunches – no questions asked – and it just went from there. I think it’s also important not to get too bogged down in a scene. I’ve seen scenes develop beliefs and values that are actually destructive to people’s personal and musical development. I think it’s about finding a balance and being true to yourself and your own feelings and morals. Not trying to seek points from people.

In the last few years London has lost some of its independent venues while it’s become harder for new ones to open thanks to irrational license laws. Being from Leeds, what has your own experience of this phenomenon been? Do you think it’s nationwide or is it more of a London thing?
I’m actually from Nottingham but lived in Leeds for 5 years where we started the band. There’s nothing much to say except that it sucks and it’s definitely not London centric. I just read an article the other day about spaces like Hope House and Temple of Boom being under threat in Leeds. Hope House was a practice space and gig space without which we’d never have been able to afford to practice. And Temple of Boom is my favourite DIY space in the UK. It’s being taken over by big businesses and people building flats. It’s becoming harder and harder to just find your own space. Just living is hard enough. I just got kicked out of my flat in London because they suddenly put the rent up.

In April, you took to Twitter to call out a sexist audience member that confronted you (Heather) after a gig in Liverpool. How often do you face gender-based discrimination and how do you deal with it – personally and as a band?
I experience gender discrimination every day. I hate to say I actually feel it’s getting worse. It’s been in the media a lot lately too and I kind of feel like recent events have made me and others feel very angry and very sad because it implies that women are lesser human beings. I am happy to say that gigs and music is one place I find less sexism but it definitely still occurs. I’ve had guys shouting at me after shows asking me why I’m so pissed off on stage, I’ve had guys giving me ‘constructive criticism’ after shows that they definitely wouldn’t offer to a male band member and I’ve been groped whilst playing. But music is definitely generally a safer environment than being at work for example. I tend to deal with it in a very reactionary way. I’m quite vocal and I always call things out straight away. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I do whatever feels right at the time and if I’m angry then I’ll make sure people know about it. As a band, Matty tends to leave me to it and that’s fine because you don’t always want to make it a focus of a show. If something happens, it happens but we move on and don’t let it define the gig or whatever.

More and more musicians are starting to react to and actively point out sexism at their gigs and on social media. What is the cost of bands supporting feminism in order to ensure a safe and all-inclusive space within their audience?
I don’t think there’s a cost if you feel that you’re doing what’s right.

Kim Gordon wrote that Sonic Youth “never operated as an indie band”, meaning they never put her, the girl, center stage just to sell the band. In Slowcoaches there seems to be the same dynamic, but were you ever made to feel that being a ‘girl in a band’ is still seen as a novelty by others? How have your bandmates supported you when faced with this kind of attitude?
I’ve always been really conscious of not being like ‘the girl’ in the band but then lately I’ve realised that that has actually prevented me from pushing myself forward and being proud of the fact that I actually front this band. I think I worry that people will think I’m being self-important or I’m a ‘selling point’ but there are so many women musicians around these days that it’s not special anymore and so I just feel like so what?

What’s the biggest misconception people have about Slowcoaches?
That we’re from Leeds.

Finally, are you excited for your album release? What can we expect from your upcoming tour?
Yeah, we’re so excited. We’ve been waiting a long time for this record to come out. You can expect a lot of noise and hopefully a lot of mosh.

Words: Antigoni Pitta // Photos: Jonny Davies – Nothing Gives is out now on Leisure & District.
You can also read the interview here:

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed