The Subways
Live @ Carling Bristol Academy
October 28, 2005
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

Following our in-depth interview last April, I was lucky enough to catch up with The Subways again, for a short chat, just before the band's excellent co-headline set with Nine Black Alps @ Carling Bristol Academy.

During the past 6 months, so much has happened to Billy, Charlotte and Josh, and with upcoming European / US Tours and their first US single release, Rock & Roll Queen. The band, through sheer hard work and perseverance, are continuing to go from strength to strength, and in doing so, are steadily "building a community."

As a devoted fan, it was really great seeing them looking so happy and fulfilled, and of course, hearing all of their news.

Here's what they had to say…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. Since we last spoke, you've released your debut album and have achieved many great things - but what have been some of your personal highlights?
Billy: "I think for me, it was playing The Carling Weekend, Reading and Leeds Festival. The album had just come out in the UK, and it was one of the first shows that we'd played once the album was out, and the response we got, was just phenomenal! It was one of those moments that I'll never forget, because when we left the stage, the roar was just incredible! It blew us away!"
Charlotte: "Yeah, because they were the first gigs that we did in the UK, after the album was released, and just to see the difference that that made, with everybody knowing all of the songs - it was amazing! Going to Japan was really, really cool, because it was one of those places that we'd always wanted to go to - and Tokyo is just the most amazing city! So being there and experiencing that, as well as playing 2 great shows, was really cool!"

2. Can you tell us more about your appearance on the hit US TV show, The OC - where you perform some of your songs - and how this came about?
Charlotte: "As far as we know, the music producer of the show, just heard our CD. They got sent a lot of bands for consideration, and they picked our CD and wanted us to play on it! We had such a good time over there didn't we (looking at Billy)? We were only there for 1 day - we literally flew into LA, and flew out. But, being on the set was just so cool, kind of seeing how much work goes into each scene - even 20 seconds of dialogue, it takes them a couple of hours to film from all of the different angles and everything - it's really intricate."
Billy: "But we were having such a good time as well!"
Charlotte: "Yeah, I love The OC, it's a really good programme!"
Billy: "Apparently, all of the other bands that have been on the show, stayed in their dressing room and chilled out. But we were out with the cast and the crew, eating Chinese food and getting in some beers - just having a good time and having a good laugh, and making sure that the experience was as enjoyable as possible."

3. Have you been pleased with the response to Young For Eternity, and has The Subways' live experience changed for you, now that more people know your songs?
Charlotte: "Definitely - this tour has been amazing for us, and we've just been really blown away by the response, as we've got so much support in every town that we go to! It's phenomenal really isn't it (looking at Billy)?"
Billy: "Yeah, I mean the first tour we did, was self-funded, and we only had a really underground release out, 1AM, and the second tour, was after the first major release of our single, Oh Yeah. But to be on this tour, where everyone knows the songs, is just absolutely crazy (smiling)! Because the audience are crowd-surfing, and their clapping along, and their screaming the lyrics back at us, and it's just such a great feeling, to know that people feel that way about our music!"

4. What's the idea behind the album's sleeve?
Billy: "It's really just about the beauty of nature, and how in essence, the human spirit is really very young, in comparison to the divinity of nature. And, as we said to you in our last interview, we're also of the idea that we want to build a really big community in the UK. You'll find that in trees, they have all sorts of communities don't they (looking at Charlotte)? Like squirrels…"
Charlotte: "Even down to the little bugs and stuff…"
Billy: "Yeah (laughing)."
Charlotte: "For me, when I look at a tree, it symbolises a community for me - all of the different Ecosystems going on within it."

5. Have you been working on, or finished any new material for your next LP?
Billy and Charlotte: "Yes!"
Charlotte: "We're really excited about the songs that we've got (pausing), there's about 3 or 4 that we're playing in sound-checks at the moment, just trying them out. A lot of the other songs, we want to kind of leave for the studio, to see what happens there - we've got the initial ideas, so we'll just develop them more then."

6. Many congratulations on your engagement, which was announced on stage at the Camden Barfly, last July. How do you both feel?
Billy: "Thank You (laughing)…"
Charlotte: "We've actually been kind of semi-engaged for ages. We're the kind of people who go with the flow, and nothing's to official with us is it (looking at Billy)?"
Billy: "Yeah."
Charlotte: "We always knew we were going to be together forever anyway, didn't we?"
Billy: "Yeah, it just feels like it's cemented now, it just feels like we're moving forward. But you know, we're not just engaged personally - we're engaged musically! Because me and Charlotte, especially on this second album, are a partnership, we sit down and write songs together don't we (looking at Charlotte)? I think because the band is on such an incredible journey at the moment, it's hard not to be inspired, and Charlotte's just having so much to say, musically and lyrically in the songs, and I'm really proud of her because of it!"
Charlotte: "Ah, bless you (laughing)."


7. Has the Music Industry been everything that you expected it would be?
Charlotte: "I don't think we really knew what to expect?"
Billy: "Yeah."
Charlotte: "I mean when you hear stories from other bands, you can never really take that as the truth, because I think it's different for every band, and every band has a different experience. There's been some stuff, that we've found really hard and frustrating within certain areas of the industry, and then some stuff we've found amazing, and you never would of thought that you'd get that kind of support from that area."

8. As a fellow young band, what do you make of The Arctic Monkeys rapid success?
Billy: "I think the way they've built their community, without getting any industry involved, is fantastic, it's incredible - and it's a great new way for bands to expose themselves! But, the rise is (pausing), I find it a little scary. I mean I like them, I really, really like the songs, but I'm scared for them, because it's only down from here - where can you go from a Number 1? But I hope they last as long as they intend to…"
Charlotte: "What I do like about them, is that they didn't get to Number 1 with a big advertising campaign from a major label - they got to Number 1 by touring around the country…"
Billy: "And building the fanbase. But then the rise is fairly rapid isn't it? And it's a scary prospect."
Charlotte: "Oh yeah, definitely."
Billy: "So I have to say, it's a little scary and it must be scary for them, but I wish them the best really."

9. If you were to compile and burn a 'Mix CD' to leave with me, what would be on it?
*I ask Billy and Charlotte to pick 5 songs each*
Charlotte: "Shall we do 5 from this year maybe (looking at Billy)?"
Billy: "No, let's do 5…"
Charlotte: "Just 5 in general?"
Billy: "Yeah, we'll bounce of each other."
Charlotte: "Ok."
Billy: "Smokey Robinson, The Tracks Of My Tears."
Charlotte: "The Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams."
Billy: "The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black."
Charlotte: "Gwen Stefani, What You Waiting For?"
Billy: "Oasis, Wonderwall."
Charlotte: "Muse, Citizen Erased."
Billy: "Mew, 156."
Charlotte: "Kylie Minogue, Love At First Sight."
Billy: "Madonna, Like A Virgin."
Charlotte: "And my last one - Depeche Mode, I Feel Loved."

10. Are you hoping for anything nice at Christmas, and what are your goals for the New Year?
Billy: "I think I'm just hoping to spend a lot of time with my family at Christmas - that will be the best Christmas present!"
Charlotte: "Yeah, and a nice big roast dinner is what I'm hoping for as well (laughing)!"
Billy: "A few glasses of wine. E.T. Extra Terrestrial - that's always on TV at Christmas (laughing). I think that in terms of the band for the New Year, I just want an organic, steady, inclination - as many albums as we can possibly make…"
Charlotte: "Yeah, and lots of travelling!"
Billy: "And write as many best songs as we possibly can, to try and do as well as we can!"

11. Lastly, your fans obviously love you! Is there anything that you would like to say to them?
Billy: "Thank You for everything - FOR EVERYTHING!"
Charlotte: "We are in debt to you, for all you do!"
Billy: "Exactly! We're in debt to you!"

A very special thanks to Billy, Charlotte and Josh, to The Subways' Tour Manager Steve, and to James @ Pomona, for all of their time and help.

Bristol Set List

With You
Young For Eternity
City Pavement
I Want To Hear…
Lines Of Light
Oh Yeah
At 1AM
She Sun
A Plain Above
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
No Goodbyes
Rock & Roll Queen

Write Lines of Light about this interview on our message boards here

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.