Sleaford Mods on beefing with IDLES, hating The Brit Awards, loving Drake and the sheer joy of making cakes

Also: how to make the perfect Victoria sponge

Nottingham electropunk duo Sleaford Mods, made up of ranting frontman Jason Williamson and producer Andrew Fearn, once released a track with the lyrics: “Try scrolling down the website of the NME, without laughing / I’ll give you ten quid if you can keep a straight face.” But we’re not bitter, so we put it behind us.

As they release excellent fifth album ‘Eton Alive’, we got Jason on the phone to see if he could make us crack a smile. He did, but they’re still not as funny as our website.

You said this new album is less cynical. Are you mellowing out?

“I’m not attacking it the way I used to, because you just wouldn’t, would you? You wouldn’t do the same thing. What we do is so cut-and-dry that we had to approach it a bit differently. It’s just subtler, perhaps. A little bit more poppy. They’re pop lyrics, essentially. I’ve been listening to a lot more pop.”

What kind of pop?

“’80s R’n’B, mainly, but also the first two Drake albums. That opened a whole new world. I started delving more into trap and then from that into drill. I wanted to attack things a bit less.”

You’ve left Rough Trade and are now independent. How’s that been?

“It was a premature move, really. We didn’t have anything in place. People say the record labels are bad but they offer the band an infrastructure. We’re quite big now. We’re not selling albums out the back of the car. So to go from that to nothing was a bit of a shock. We had a lot of grief in the camp. We parted with out manager and my wife Claire had to come onboard to overlook the operation. I know it all sounds a bit wanky but you need it at this level.”

Has sobriety changed the way you write or perform?

“It’s just that I get to do more things now, instead of wallowing in self-pity and paranoia, instead of phoning five or six people and saying “I’m sorry – what did I do?” and then going out and getting more drugs and getting drunk again.”

And it hasn’t changed what you talk about….

“No, [my lyrics] are still very negative. It’s very unreasonable, it’s full of critiques. It’s naïve, in a way, almost childlike. And I don’t think any of those things have disappeared. The longer this goes on, there’s always a chance you could turn into a bit of character with it, which I certainly haven’t.”

For how long can you continue talk about working-class culture as you get more successful?

“Next album, probably! No, I don’t know. I did 20 years of unskilled labour and that was only three years ago. On ‘Kebab Spider’ I have a go at people who’ve had a record deal for 30 years and are commenting on things they probably don’t know that much about any more. But I also think that I’ve got a right to talk about my past, because it was only five minutes ago.”

I heard that when you got sober, you got really into cake. What’s your favourite cake? 

[Suddenly because very animated] “Anything with sponge and icing on top. But also a good carrot cake. Victoria sponge. Almond slices. At the minute I’ve got a fetish for pain au chocolat. And scones as well – I love scones. I love it with butter. Not cream and jam; it’s too much. But with butter, I just love ’em. Because I go the gym every day and don’t drink, I can have a cake every day. I’ve got a bit of a paunch but that’s alright, isn’t it? You’ve got to have a little one, haven’t you?

And you bake… 

I make Victoria sponge but I do it with butter cream because fresh cream goes all over the place.”

Any other top tips for a great Victoria sponge?

“Just don’t prat around with it. Get stuck in. It’s all in the arm work.”

Do you reckon people wrongly think Sleaford Mods are just a couple of angry blokes?

“I can understand why people find us annoying. It’s two blokes, one’s barking, the other one’s stood behind his laptop with a bottle of lager. The reputation we’ve got puts some people off, but other people say they think it’s funny.”

What do you make of the newly formed Independent Group?

“It looks terrible! You only have to look at the photograph. It’s like, come on. They do not look like people that are gonna offer any solution. I’m gonna vote Labour and that’s it.”

Have Labour done enough to oppose the Tories?

“Who knows? Unless you’ve worked at the chicken factory, you don’t know how it works, do you? You don’t know the kind of pressure they’re under. Particularly that Jeremy Corbyn’s under. All these things take such a long time to execute. The Conservative Party have got a complete hold over everything. We’re under a complete sheet of nationalistic, patriotic, rightwing ideology at the minute. It’s hard to breath, I expect. Could he have done better? Probably.”

Have you ever thought about not voting?

“I can’t bring myself not to. Even though I lean towards just fucking it all off. But I can’t justify it. Anything to get the Conservative Party, really, and hopefully things’ll get a little bit better for people that are getting absolutely squashed by them. I’m not. I’m alright at the minute. But that’s not the point, is it?”

Now, about your comments about Idles…

 “Yeah, no comment! You know it. It’s been all over the place all week – it’s just kicked off. I’ve got nothing else to say about it.”

Was it a publicity stunt?

 “Absolutely not! No. I don’t do things like that for publicity. I don’t need to sell albums off the back of that. I wouldn’t do that. I think other people have – not mentioning any names…”

So you just meant it, then?

 “I really do believe in what I say. Well, most of the time. So I wouldn’t do that to try and blow things up.”

You also tweeted disparagingly about the Brit Awards. What does the Brits say about British music in 2019?

 “The thing I noticed about last night is that there wasn’t much online presence about it. People weren’t really talking about it.”

Would you have liked to have been there?

 “No, I don’t like awards ceremonies. I’ve been to a couple and they weren’t very nice. If I’d been 21 and on Warners’ rosta and selling two million records a year or whatever, yeah, I probably would have gone and it probably would have been a laugh. But they’re no real place for anybody like us. I’m a proper working musician and I don’t think it’s a place for us any more.”

Could you, like IDLES, who went, take that spirit to a mainstream event?

“Not at all, due to my feelings about said people. I didn’t see it that way at all. They all merge into one for me.”

Well, you’re not the only one that doesn’t care for the Brits

“The Brit Awards is solely about profit for the few at the expense of the many. Most of last night’s acts won’t be remembered in a few years. Remember him and his sister? Who was he – Bedingfield? They were everywhere a few years back and they were both terrible! The Brits is a way of making money.”

So you’re rather steer clear of all that industry stuff? 

“We’re part of it, but we’re not in the thick of it. We’re not in the massive commercial arena. Even though we’re a well-known band, we don’t have to tout ourselves about like that. There’s loads of bands like us that operate on outer circle of it that do just as well. If not better.”