Sleaford Mods have announced their return with details of new album ‘UK Grim’. Check out the title track below, along with our interview with frontman Jason Williamson.
The follow-up to the Nottingham duo’s acclaimed 2021 album ‘Spare Ribs’ is due for release in March, with the first taster of the record arriving in the form of the biting dance-punk title track painting a bleak picture of post-COVID Britain, accompanied by a fittingly merciless video from political collagist Cold War Steve.
“The last thing we wanted to do was another laddy video of just me and Andrew [Fearn, multi-instrumentalist] just bopping our heads,” Williamson told NME. “We just thought, ‘What about Cold War Steve?’ I got in touch with him because I know him a little bit. We did a thing a few years ago with a mini exhibition of my words written on cardboard boxes, ripped up and then put underneath some of his work. We asked him to do the video and he was over the moon – we couldn’t believe it.
“I try and hold off texting him because I don’t want to blow too much smoke up his arse and it just puts people off!”
‘UK Grim’ will be Sleaford Mods’ seventh album proper as a duo (but 12th if counting earlier rarities), and features guest appearances from Dry Cleaning singer Florence Shaw, and Jane’s Addiction‘s Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro.
“The album was written during the non-event which was COVID and I’ve just got increasingly angrier with myself and everyone else,” said Williamson. “The energy of it is a lot more aggressive.”
Williamson described ‘UK Grim’ as a very natural successor to ‘Spare Ribs’ – an album that he said “still takes me by surprise” due to its success, critical response and Top Five chart placing.
“We knew the album was really good, but at six albums in you don’t expect that kind of reception,” he said. “Will this one hit the zeitgeist again? I don’t think so; it’s just us doing our thing on our own again. It hasn’t been carried by anything apart from perhaps the ultra-demise of any kind of reason in government politics. Perhaps in that sense, ‘UK Grim’ might strike a chord with people at their wit’s end, with people having to suffer these fucking idiots.”
Sleaford Mods CREDIT: Johan Rönnow
Speaking of how the political landscape in the UK has only worsened as they’ve reflected the scene across their previous six albums, Williamson said: “We’re definitely not getting any justice, things aren’t going to change, the system isn’t going to change; you’re still going to have your bedroom anarchists railing against a world that is far bigger than them.”
Having often spoken out against bands for “unconsciously appropriating a working class voice” – and a previous high-profile feud with IDLES – ‘UK Grim’ comes with the hip-hop driven ‘D.I.Why’ taking aim at “post-punk dross” and “shouty” acts that came in the wake of Sleaford Mods.
Asked if he’s expecting any backlash for the song, Williamson replied: “I don’t think there will be. People have had a pop and I can’t see them coming at me again – they’ve exhausted themselves and I’ve exhausted myself. The battleground has been deserted and all we can see now are a few swords and severed limbs.
“These people view themselves as some kind of Spartans for music social justice and some kind of moral high ground. They’re just as bad as anyone else. I didn’t get into this game to sit in the top room of a pub playing to four people forever. If they’re feeling a bit pissed off because we travelled through their scene and knocked them all dead – then what can you do? That’s fucking life.”
Williamson told NME that he often notices the duo’s influence on many bands after them, but “most of the time I don’t appreciate it”.
“I was trying to tell myself that just because I don’t appreciate it doesn’t make it A) a bad thing or B) that they are all wankers,” he admitted. “They’re just doing things because they want to do them and have been influenced by people. I still can’t get a buzz off people being influenced by us, unless of course I’m really taken by it.”
He continued: “To a certain degree, there is a time and a place to criticise people – but also there’s a time and a place to think, ‘Well, they’re just doing what I did with the same influences I had’. I am not completely right and the person who fucking knows it all – as much as I used to think I was – but there’s still a part of me that thinks there isn’t any room for anybody else to do this type of music. You get offended sometimes. It’s just the way it is.”
One band that Williamson has been “taken by” are south London post-punks Dry Cleaning, leading the duo invite singer Florence Shaw to lend guest vocals to album highlight ‘Force 10 From Navarone’.
“She’s just quite cutting, quite dark and a really interesting person,” said Williamson of Shaw. “I got to know her a little bit and I’m in total awe of how she creates this non-landscape; this empty portrait of whatever she’s talking about. You don’t even have to know what she’s going on about, which is brilliant and I identify with. Behind her, you’ve got a very interesting band – Tom [Dowse] on guitar, Lew [Maynard] on bass, Nick [Buxton] on drums. They’re fucking brilliant and stand apart from the rest of the bands.
“They are completely and utterly accomplished. For a band with a few EPs and a couple of albums, I think they’re fully formed. At the same time, the future is still there for them.”
The album also comes with a surprising high profile guest turn from rock legends Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction on dark dance-punk of ‘So Trendy’.
“[Farrell] got in touch and said he wanted to write a song, so we said, ‘Yeah! Why not?’” recalled Williamson. “Myself and Andrew are not extensive Jane’s Addiction or Porno For Pyro fans, but we recognise he’s always been a very cool person. He added a brightness to the song, even though it’s not bright. It just feels like it has opened up the idea of what we do a bit more.”
So could we perhaps see a future collab with another rock god like Axl Rose, perhaps?
“Oh God, that would be amazing!” laughed Williamson. “In fact, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan says hello sometimes on Twitter. I’m a really big Guns N’ Roses fan, so that’s just amazing.
“The further we go with this, the more me and Andrew feel like stepping out of the mould. As long as it works, it’s not such a bad thing. He’s got the same kind of open mind about it.”
Dry Cleaning. Credit: Guy Bolongaro
Sleaford Mods have also recently been on social media celebrating the 10 years since the release of their debut album proper as a duo, ‘Austerity Dogs’. Asked if they might tour or play shows for the landmark anniversary, Williamson said: “We were, but the release of this album overshadowed it. We were going to do a couple of gigs, but by the end of last year we were fucked so we didn’t bother. I don’t know. There will be plans for a couple of bits towards the end of the year, but then you’ve got [2014 album] ‘Divide & Exit’, which is the one that really blew us up.”
He added: “It would have been a really good campaign to put ‘Austerity Dogs’ back out into people’s consciousness. I listened to it the other day and it’s really fucking good – really minimal but with loads of space and quite naive almost.”
Since the arrival of ‘Austerity Dogs’, Sleaford Mods’ albums have been charting higher and higher upon release – with ‘Spare Ribs’ landing at Number Five. Do the band have their sights set on a Number One this time?
“We are everything I’ve always wanted a band to be, but would I like more? Yes, of course I would!” said Williamson. “Fingers crossed that this one will go all the way up but I’m not setting my heart on it.”
Looking back on their musical growth, Williamson concluded: “[The music] has still got to be good, raw and have some kind of amateur feel to it – something that nobody else has got. You can’t do that by making the package completely glossy. It fucks with me being 10 years into this anyway. I read somewhere that bands shouldn’t exist for longer than 10 years and I thought, ‘Fuck me, they’ve got a point’; but at the same time, have they? This can carry on.”
He added: “I think we’re growing into it. It remains to be seen what will happen in the future, but I think it’ll just keep going. We’ll just kick an album out every two years and it’ll be an interesting form of creativity – do you know what I mean?”
‘UK Grim’ will be released through Rough Trade Records on March 10 and can be pre-ordered here. Check out the full tracklist below.
‘Force 10 From Navarone’ – featuring Florence Shaw
‘On The Ground’
‘Right Wing Beast’
‘Smash Each Other Up’
‘So Trendy’ – featuring Perry Farrell & Dave Navarro
‘Pit 2 Pit’
‘Apart From You’
‘Rhythms Of Class’
To celebrate the release of the album, Sleaford Mods will also plat two special shows – one homecoming gig at Nottingham Rock City on March 14, and then Pryzm in London in conjunction with record shop Banquet on March 15. Fans can access ticket sales by purchasing the album.
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