Back in the days when I was jumping through my room at my parents house, listening to The Subways and other bands as well, I would have never thought that I’d be telling this band to climb into a shower one day. But guess what!
So yes, it’s The Subways – Billy, Charlotte and Camille – right before their gig at the sold out Molotow club and of course it is interview time. The band who is known for rock classics as Rock & Roll Queen, Shake! Shake! or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is on tour to promote their newest record Uncertain Joys and is more than ready. We’re shaking hands, I turn the mic on and alright, here’s the first question!
Whilst doing some research for this interview, I stumbled upon the fact that your band turns 20 this year – congratulations!
20 years, did you ever think you’d be around for so long?
Billy: I can’t say that I ever anticipated us being in a band and making music for this long. But then I think, I maybe didn’t think that far ahead (laughs), you know? I never ever thought that far ahead, I’ve always assumed that we would be making music in some form or other, whether it’s just down the pub with our friends or out on tour playing to audiences across Europe. It’s all occuring to us quite a lot at the moment, now that we’re reaching these anniversaries. I mean today is the 18th birthday of our first single Oh Yeah!
Oh Yeah, if it were a person, could now drink in the UK. Legal! I mean it’s probably been drinking for a few years now with its friends. At least now it can go to the pub.
Charlotte laughs: Get served!
Billy: And get served, yeah! Provide its provisional driving license. I never even dreamed that I could be doing this job so long. That we’ve been doing it for so long is kind of a bonus I suppose.
We see – time flies!
What’s the difference between being a rock star now and then?
Charlotte: I guess everybody goes for a big change between their late teens and their late thirties. We just didn’t care about that: ‘We all go on tour forever, just have a good time and it’s all about partying’ and I guess now it’s maybe a bit more chilled down? So we still like going on stage. The stage is where the craziness happens still, but it’s more like yoga (Billy laughs out loud) and water off stage.
Bit more self care and stuff.
Charlotte: Yeah, I’d just break if we’d carry on a full pelt.
Billy: I mean things hurt a lot more now and they hurt for longer. So it takes longer for the body to recover. As you get older you just got to be a bit more measured about stuff like Charlotte said. Saving up and preserving all our energy for the perfomance. Which for us is everything about being in this band. It really is all about being on stage and seeing the crowd go crazy and just feeling the music vibrate through your body as everything. If we get to enjoy to the fullest extent our perfomances on stage then we’ll do whatever we need to do around that, yeah! Which obviously means much less party now (Charlotte and Billy chuckle).
But the show’s still a party I guess …
Billy: It is!
Charlotte: The show is a party!
Billy: That’s a very good point!
Camille, to get you on the boat as well!
They started the band in 2003, back then there was no social media around.
Social media – do you enjoy it, or do you hate it?
Camille: I’m not overly fond of it to be honest. I think it’s necessary, especially in the music business to be on social media. It just is. However I think there is a way of using it in a positive way and not in a negative way. Some people used to use it in a negative way, but now that we have the opportunity for the world to kind of see who we are on the internet, you can actually use that in a positive way. Spread positive vibes, messages, so, I don’t think it’s all bad. And it’s a great way for communicating with your fans. Before you wouldn’t been able to I suppose, which is very lovely.
That reminds me actually speaking of social media. I got shown this website the other day called Wayback something (it’s Wayback Machine) and it takes screenshots of websites from way back when and I looked up The Subways ’cause I was trying to find my MySpace page. And I found The Subways MySpace page from as far back as like 2007.
Charlotte: What was in our top 10?
Camille: Ehm, Taking Back Sunday, a lot of bands and stuff. That was fun! I couldn’t find my profile, which I was really upset about ’cause I was happen to have myself a really cringy emo phase.
There’s another gang celebrating a round birthday this year, at least in Germany. It’s 50 years of Sesame Street!
Do you have a favourite character from it?
Billy: I suppose everyone likened our ex drummer Josh to Elmo.
Charlotte: Elmo! I think everyone also likened him to the Animal – ’cause that’s the drummer we need!
Billy: The Subways need an animal drummer (everybods laughs). And he didn’t talk, did he? That’s a muppet or one from Sesame Street?
Camille: We’re talking about Sesame Street here?
Camille: Yeah, that was The Muppets, Animal.
Charlotte: Oh sorry!
But it’s the same puppet guy, Jim Henson!
Charlotte: So that’s why we got confused, okay!
Billy: I think it’s amazing that Jim Hensons son has taking over and is doing very well though. And the legacy continues. What’s also clear is that I need to differentiate between The Muppets and Sesame Street.
Another one in pop culture:
It’s Star Wars or Star Trek for you guys?
Billy: Ooh, don’t make me choose! Can I pick one of each? So can I pick Deep Space Nine from Star Trek and Empire Strikes Back from Star Wars? And then I’d like those two to can exist on a higher plane of both their franchises. Yeah, I can’t choose between either, I’m sorry. That’s not happening.
Camille: Charlotte’s face was right now just saying me neither.
Charlotte: Please don’t ask me!
Camille: Star Wars. I’d never really got into Star Trek. I probably should give it a go because I do really like sci-fi. It’s just one of those, that’s just passing by. That and Doctor Who, I’d never really gotten into that either.
Billy: Well, the great thing for me about Star Trek is it’s origin lie in like a pro immigration, pro diversity mindset, you know like Gene Roddenberry. There are all these alien races and they look different and they act different, but they are kind of the same. They all want love and they all want peace. And they all love their family.
When you get rascist Star Trek fans, it just baffles me. You know at the moment in England they are very anti immigration and anti multi culturarism and then they turn out to be Star Trek fans it’s like: ‘Are you watching the same show as me?’ You know even way back to the 50s and 60s, it was just so open minded! And so boundary breaking. I think visually Star Wars was always way better than Star Trek. Again, I’m compartmentalising the two. I just cannot choose.
Need to stuck with you Billy!
I read that subways where a place to hide for you – a safe place.
Where – if necessary – do you hide now?
Billy: I still go to the subways.
Billy: Yeah, I find it really peaceful! My family are always like: ‘Be careful down there, there’s some strange people hanging out there.’ And I’m like: ‘I’m one of these strange people’ (laughs). But also I really like sublime natural, pastoral landscapes, so anywhere with like a vista. So if it’s by the sea or on farm land, rolling hills, lots of animals – I take great solace in the company of animals. Because of our anthropocentrism – you know the human race is so focused on just the human race and it kind of shows in how it’d been treating the enviroment and animals and the way we mass produce and treat animals in this process – I’m very much: Treat any animal like an angel. Like an innocent. We saw a couple of dogs today, we saw a pussycat, I saw a pigeon. So we’re always saying hello to the animals in an animal voice.
I cleary remember seeing you guys live for the first time.
You did show your Strawberry Blonde tattoo, but didn’t play it live.
Yet you seem to do so from time to time.
Is it ’cause it’s hard to play live?
Charlotte: I guess ’cause it’s more of a like chill out number, it’s not always one we put on the setlist. However it is always the one that people from the crowd shout out for, so we often end up – it’s not on the setlist – but we play it, because someone asks for it. So we do sometimes rehearse it, just in case (laughs). So we can just be like: ‘Oh yeah, we can do that one!’
Billy: In Manchester, recently the same thing happened. ‘Strawberry Blonde!’ ‘Arrgh, okay’, we quickly played it. It’s funny how that song is the one …
Charlotte: It’s always the one that people ask for.
Here and now
Camille, you’re the new drummer.
Has it been easy to find your place in the band?
Camille: In all honesty, yes it has! That sounds egotistical or something, I don’t mean it like that. It’s been easy in the sense that my welcome was beautiful. The best loveliest welcome I ever had in a band. And I really get on with the band! I was already a fan of their music and their style. I think, we have a lot of the same musical taste as well, say, I think writing is hopefully – fingers crossed – gonna be a breeze as well when we start writing some new material together. And yeah, I just gel really well with Billy and Charlotte as people and musically as well. So yes, it’s been wonderful. It’s very wonderful!
You’re new record Uncertain Joys is a bit more calm, but The Devil And Me still kicks ass!
How did that song come into existence?
Billy: It was originally a b-side for a song on our third album. And I’ve always loved it and it’s never quite made the cut. So for this record, because we were in charge as in terms of like choosing songs and how we were gonna approach it, we were like, yeah, let’s rework Devil And Me and let’s make it kick! ‘Cause the demo version is great, but the recording isn’t so great. So we thought, let’s really focus on a great recording of Devil And Me. And yeah, we included it because we love rock, we love blues music, it has his origins in the blues themes, which is like the devil …
Billy: Yeah, the deal exactly! It kind of conjures the whole crossroads thing. So yeah, it ended up sounding really great, so we included it on the record and now we just have to get it ready for perfomance (laughs). ‘Cause we’ve had a few people asked for it to be played live, but it’s not quite fitting to the set just yet. But we will.
I mentioned The Devil And Me, but what’s your favourite track on the new record?
Billy: I really love the title track Uncertain Joys and I personally think it’s the best song I’ve ever made – obviously people are gonna disagree, but I’m really, really proud of it. And I just love playing it live, yeah!
Charlotte: I might go for Influencer Killed The Rock Star. I think it’s because I’m really enjoying playing it live at the moment. It’s quite hard to pick a favourite song, so I pick my favourite one to play live.
Camille: That’s also my favourite one to play live.
Billy: Two-one, I face opposition (everybody laughs)!
Camille: But I think my favourite to listen to because of the lyrical content and musical content is probably being Incantation. I love the meaning behind it, which … I’ll let you explain it, if you like to (gesturing towards Billy). Yeah, I really love that song, it’s great! We should play that live at some point.
Billy: We need to play that live! Yeah, Incantation is me fully coming to terms with my bisexuality. So I ended up paying homage to the young me, who never really knew what it was all about and why I was getting this feelings. But I decided to write a song about my first ever crush on a guy, so … yeah!
Didn’t know that! That’s really sweet, it’s like you embrace this young guy and I don’t know, give him a hand?
Billy: Yeah, exactly! Just to go: ‘You’re okay, it’s not wrong, it’s fine!’
Source: YouTube, THE SUBWAYS
For the last question I took inspiration from your second record – All Or Nothing:
It’s always fine to hold onto
There’s always time to make it up
The Subways – Always Tomorrow
But what can’t wait until tomorrow?
Billy: Arsenal winnig the premier league title (laughs)!
Camille: Me having a second dinner! (Billy laughs out loud) I’m so hungry all the time.
Charlotte: The glass of wine after the show.
Billy: How satisfying!
Camille: That’s a really good answer!
And that’s it, the beginning of 2023 and another great conversation – wow! Thanks to my mates at the Messed! Up Magazine for making this one happen. Pictures from the following concert by the amazing Julia you can find pretty soon right here.
This picture was shortly taken after us chatting about the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds (Charlotte: ‘It’s so traditional!’), one of the best places in the world, introduced to me by my friends from Fizzy Blood.
Text, interview & Polaroid pictures: René Biernath
Big thanks to Julia for the pictures right out of the green room!
Instant Film: Color, For Use With 600