Aaron Starkie named his band The Slow Readers Club as a two fingers up to ‘labels’ in his high school. The Mancunian lead singer, who grew up in a council estate, acknowledges he has had a chip on his shoulder in the past.
But the evolution of his band and popularity of their synth-heavy third album released this year, have managed to shake off any insecurities. Aaron chats to Susie Daniels about his 80s influence and how going digital was a less pressurised alternative to being signed up…
Does it feel like a long journey to get to this point with third album Build a Tower after minimal recognition for your first two albums?
In the run up to the third album, to come up with everything before that we did everything DIY and had a fan base building up. There wasn’t that much pressure but once we were signed up we were more focused and sharp. Things keep getting bigger and bigger!
Why do you feel this album is breaking through?
With the last album Cavalcade it had taken to people’s hearts over a long period of time. Sales weren’t declared properly because we didn’t distribute in stores, only online doing it digitally through Tune Core (a digital site for independent artists music). We had thousands waiting to hear the third album and it has back catalogue quality. For the first album we weren’t happy with the sound but the songs stand up.
What’s the difference in sound between your former band Omerta (means ‘code of silence’) and The Slow Readers Club?
Jim, the bass player, was in a band with his mates from school and they advertised for a singer and Omerta was formed. We did okay and got to a level and eventually it started to peter out. People’s careers started to take off so it came to a natural conclusion. My brother’s band didn’t happen for him so I invited him along to Slow Readers. It was more of an evolution. David, on the drums, brings a different kind of energy to the band. With people going it was a chance to reset. In the early days of Slow Readers a few tracks were more pop-py and light-hearted and that didn’t work out for us.
Our music is more existentially about darkness lyrically (laughs).
Do the boys from Omerta still keep in touch?
Yeah. Nick, the guitarist comes to our shows and helps us to set up. Neil, the drummer is still in contact with Jim. They wanted to leave it behind and they’re both doing fine in their lives.
What is it that kept you going on with a band where many others would fall to the wayside?
My parents are both music lovers. My dad played guitar and busked listening to Elvis, Bowie, Dylan, The Beatles, Motown. I performed at a young age singing in school concerts and didn’t mind getting in front of people. It’s a good means of expression and I still believed in the songs. I never was one saying, ‘I want to play Wembley’. Neil the drummer talked in those terms but I just wanted to play the music. Seeing the music resonate with people is a magical thing.
What instruments do you play?
Early on for the first couple of albums I played synths and keyboard and I play acoustic guitar at my recent gigs. When I was a teenager Oasis were big and every lad was picking up a guitar to sound like them. My brother had a reel to reel (tape-based home recording kit) and at 13 and 14 years old we would get ideas and record them.
Would you have ever considered the X Factor if it had gone on any longer and you didn’t get any recognition?
No. In my early years when I wasn’t writing then I would possibly have performed in it but it’s all more about the entertainment of the show than the actual music isn’t it?
How did you get the name, ‘The Slow Readers Club’?
When I was changing from junior to senior school one of the classrooms had a sign on it saying ‘special needs’. It quite scared me. It was the rejection of that concept really that became Slow Readers Club. It’s a f**k you really. Basically I’m a council estate kid with a chip on my shoulder.
Did 1980s synth bands such as Depeche Mode and Joy Division influence your sound?
People have compared us to these bands and these are the bands I was listening to growing up.
You’ve supported many ‘80s bands but to reach readers like ours do you aim to support current bands?
We supported James in 2016, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Charlatans and gig by gig and festival by festival it’s been happening but we’ve not had a lot or radio play so we depend on newspapers and magazines like yourselves. We did do the Dot to Dot Festival (Manchester/Bristol/Nottingham) and we do want to reach twenty somethings. It’s something we want for 2019.
Which bands did you listen to growing up?
When I was first starting The Bluetones, Mansun, Shed Seven, Erasure, The Smiths, The Beatles through to Oasis.
I was always intrigued by dance music like The Chemical Brothers but never went down that road. That music opens you up to different audiences. Enter Shikari remixed our song Supernatural and put it on Spotify while they were doing a side project called Shikari Sound System.
Is a high chart position important?
It is something else to legitimise and for people to book you for festivals. As a band, you’re fighting all the time to get a voice.
The Slow Readers Club play Glasgow School of Art on December 8th.