When I speak to Sloes frontman, Jerome Clark, he tells me about the band’s weekend plan and it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. Whilst my personal itinerary includes a much needed Love Island catch up, the London based quintet are releasing their second EP, “All In The Mind”, on Friday before heading to join The Killers at BST Hyde Park on Saturday followed by a supporting slot for Goldfrapp at Somerset House the day after. Not even a surprise dumping from the Villa could top that.
The brainchild of Jerome and long-time friend Jo Milnes, once the duo recruited Paul Hand, Luke Coare and Katie Milnes, Sloes was born. As Jo explains, “With just the two of us our ideas might have been going one way but as the others committed they brought in a whole new pallet of influences. I would never have predicted we’d have created a band quite like five years ago, but that’s good because it’s far more than I would have dared to imagine possible.”
This exciting collaborative energy is clear in their upcoming EP. Full of bold lyrics soundtracked by beautiful cinematic melodies, the collection of songs are set to propel the band into the spotlight where they belong.
We sat down with the frontman to find out more…
You initially started writing music when you and Jo met up in Columbia. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Jo would come over to my warehouse in Bow and we would sit in this derelict room and try stuff out. It was an inspiring space and we both came away from our first effort super keen to pursue it further. The only issue was that we both had the travelling bug. We decided to go away at the same time and then when we came back we would start something. I was in Belize while my partner worked for an NGO there defending Mayan land rites. We’d been shooting footage of the political situation there but it was more her passion and I had just bought this XLR camera that we were using to capture what was going on. Jo was travelling though South America while this was happening so after much deliberation I decided to jump on a plane and meet him in the mountains above Bogota. It was a risk, but I really wanted to carry on writing with him and it paid off. We spent three weeks backpacking around playing my acoustic until our fingers were raw. Most of our earliest material came from those three weeks.
What kind of music were you making out in Columbia?
I’d always been a singer songwriter so I guess the earliest stuff we did had a kind of rawness to it. I’ve always liked songs to have meanings so all the songs were about what was going on at the time. I think some of those tracks would still be great now if we ever went back over them. We played a few for years after in the band. One was called “Teenage Malaise” but unfortunately picked up the nickname “Teenage Mayonnaise” which we couldn’t shake and kept cracking us up when we tried to play it.
Alongside making music, did you manage to “find yourselves”?
Well I’m not sure about that. I’d already travelled through South East Asia when I was 22 which had much more of that “finding yourself” vibe. I wore Thai pants and coconut jewellery and worked in a yoga sanctuary while stoned out of my tree selling spirulina shakes to aspiring yogi’s. By the time I met up with Jo I’d already travelled through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize for eight months. Both me and Jo had travelled a lot before we met each other. We have both always been keen to see other cultures and places. Columbia was by no means the first place we’d been but we definitely found something in the music.
You came back to London after nine more months of travelling. Do you find it easier to create music here?
I think when you are away it’s inspiring because you are out of your element. When I’m in a place where I live and have all my other distractions and priorities somehow it’s harder to feel inspired. Being out of your comfort zone definitely acts as a catalyst to creative pursuits. I felt ready to crack on when I came back and I worked on a solo project eagerly anticipating Jo’s return.
What was the process for recruiting Paul, Luke and Katie?
Katie is Jo’s little sister so she came to one of our earlier gigs and said if we needed a violinist then she would be keen. Jo wasn’t so sold to start with due to the family connection but when she came to rehearsal they had this fantastic chemistry and I think he realised what a great thing it could be too. Paul was a friend of a friend who heard we were advertising for a bassist. Ironically he’s ended up playing guitar really but that’s just the way it worked out. He definitely brought a sense of sound and a vision with him, which has been infectious. Lukey came slightly later – we’d had a horrible Spinal Tap kind of situation going on with drummers. They kept finding more and more creative ways of capitulating and then Lukey appeared. He was friends with Jesse Wood who Jo knew so we auditioned him and decided he was a winner.
When you all were finally together, did it feel right? Were there fireworks?
I think probably when Lukey settled in. Having consistency is one of the hardest things to have in a band, especially in an expensive city like London where everyone is trying to keep their head above the water. Once you have that consistency, if the ingredients are right you start to click. It’s amazing how long it took us just to have a settled line up but once we did, the fireworks starting popping off. I look back on some of the earlier gigs and cringe a little bit. The mistakes you make seem so obvious afterwards and you kind of can’t imagine ever thinking certain ideas would work. I think the more time we have spent together the more our sound and confidence in each other grew.
“I’ve always liked songs to have meanings so all the songs were about what was going on at the time… One was called “Teenage Malaise” but unfortunately picked up the nickname “Teenage Mayonnaise” which we couldn’t shake and kept cracking us up when we tried to play it.”
Was it easy to combine your visions of how you wanted the band to sound?
Being in band is about compromise and valuing everyone’s input. You can’t say you want everyone to collaborate and then ignore the ideas that conflict with what you want to do. We’ve all grown to trust each other and luckily, all agree on exactly what we want for the band.
Who would you say are each of your main musical influences?
Hmmm, for me it’s people like Nick Cave and Bonnie Prince Billy, Jo always comes back to Radiohead and Arcade Fire, Paul probably Beach House or recently Future Islands, Katie loves Mystery Jets and the Maccabees, Lukey has a soft spot for Black Sabbath I think. To be honest most of the bands I just mentioned we all love. Indie basically, with a bit of singer song-writing too. We recently covered a Cat Power track and everyone loved that. I think we all have quite a lot of crossover.
You released your debut EP “Chasing Tails” in 2015 and now you’re getting ready to release the follow up “All In The Mind”. What are the differences between the two EPs?
Production is one key difference. Our friend Jono Bell recorded “Chasing Tails” and at the time we were really pleased with it. I think there’s a rawness to it which is to be expected but is also part of its charm. The tracks on that EP are very varied – it’s almost like we are still trying to find our sound a little bit. “All In The Mind” has more cohesion. We worked with Hugh Worskett on it and we really stripped the tracks back and started all over again. I think “Where To Start” had three different choruses by the time we finished. Hugh was great at just saying when something wasn’t really doing what it was supposed to so as a result I think the songs flow better.
Do you feel like you’ve grown as a band in the two years between?
Definitely – over the last two years we’ve really found our feet and I think it shows in the way we play together, the music we write and the way we interact with each other. I think our live set has massively improved as we’ve been lucky enough to spend more and more time gigging and our shows have been getting bigger. Our sound has developed to so it feels pretty positive at the moment.
What can we expect from the new EP?
You can expect some seriously heart felt songs that reflect our generation and our experiences. There’s a little for everyone but hopefully people sit back and take it and give it the time to really appreciate it. An EP is a body of work that should grow on the listener. Our songs always have meaning so there’s something in it for people that love lyrics but also there are lots of interwoven melodies and textures, which we hope people enjoy and appreciate. I think it has elements of pop, some orchestral tones and other tracks that are straight-up indie. It’s a fusion of styles which comes from a group of people all having input in the sound. To me that’s one of the strengths and we all hope people enjoy the journey.
Alongside the EP you’re performing at two massive gigs – BST Hyde Park with The Killers and supporting Goldfrapp as well. Are you excited?
Words can’t explain how excited we are. Both of those gigs are the kind of gigs you dream of playing when you’re a kid. I’ve stood and watched these artists playing before and now we get the chance to share a stage with them. It’s fantastic but we feel it’s come at the perfect time in our career. Having them back to back is going to be a rollercoaster but we’re not complaining, Jo is getting married the week after so obviously this is a pretty hectic time for him. I said to him if all goes well it might just be the best week of his life.
What songs are you most looking forward to performing?
For me it has to be “Where To Start”, I’m playing guitar in that one and I’ve been really enjoying it. The track has everything for me – it’s a slow builder but it’s tender and then it build and builds and gets pretty epic by the end. Hearing that blasting out of an enormous PA is going to be unbelievable.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We are due to release our second single, “Where To Start” this Friday and then that will be followed up with the release of the EP as a whole. Obviously we’ve got some really exciting shows coming up and we plan to do our own headline tour before the end of the year.