If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, only a band like Slagheap could truly encapsulate what it feels like to have necked one too many coffees in a sitting. On their brand new single, ‘Caffeine’, the Bristol quartet’s jittery charm charges into the spotlight and snatches your attention for its brief runtime, causing a headrush of adrenaline.
The jumble of studio chatter, disco-inspired rhythms and group chanting is a sumptuous combination, and while not atypical of previous material of Slagheap’s, it marks treading of new waters for the band and sees them exploring new elements that suit them to a tee. The naivete of their self-titled debut is still markedly present, but things feel like they’ve been elevated to another level and taken in a direction that emphasises their influences, clearly drawing from no-wave acts such as ESG and The Raincoats.
Lyrically, lead vocalist Lydia Johnston has also not lost the sense of humour that was so integral to the band’s previous work, though rather than the surreal stories that graced their old material, ‘Caffeine’ feels like it focuses in on a selection of feelings, told from the perspective of an energy-addled individual, adding an almost neurotic and nervy feel much like a large hit of caffeine would do. The arguments taking place in the narrative brilliantly capture how it is to feel infatuated by someone and almost resent those feelings, especially with lines such as “I was so in love/but only in my head”, and the juxtaposition of “rub off on me/stop rubbing me” that is chanted towards the song’s chaotic climax.
To mark the release of the new single, the band discussed the inspirations and influences that went into the song, creating a wild and inventive stop-motion video and future plans for the band.
‘Caffeine’ takes a more groove-oriented approach compared to your previous single ‘Peckish’, what can you tell us about the influences behind the track and how you went about creating it?
Sadie: We wrote ‘Caffeine’ during a band holiday in a fishing village near Plymouth. We were in an Airbnb surrounded by doilies and ornamental teapots hanging out as a band and mulling over new song ideas. We were listening to disco and no-wave like ESG and ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’ by Shirley & Company, and we wanted to make a song that was fun that people could dance to, but also meant something important to us. We originally recorded the track as a rough demo but loved the energy of the recording so decided to release it as a single.
Your lyrics typically centre around inside jokes and poking fun at each other – where did the lyrical inspiration come from on this song?
Lydia: All of our songs are a collaborative mishmash of our experiences. ‘Caffeine’ is about that intense, manic infatuation we felt when we were younger, the kind where you don’t feel grounded or like yourself, like you had too many coffees. It’s that admiration/attraction feeling when you don’t know if you want to be someone or to be with them. Pastry Pete from the TV show Tuca and Bertie is that guy for us – she once looked up to him, he took advantage of that, but in the end she made better pastries. If you haven’t watched Tuca and Bertie, get on it!
You’ve said that there are plans for a second album which was put on hold due to the pandemic – what can be expected of the record and is ‘Caffeine’ a good indication of where you’re taking things?
Heidi: Yeah, we have been working on a second album since the first one came out really but all living apart – the pandemique [sic] has slowed us down somewhat. We have a lot done, now we just need to bash it all around a bit, revisit and record. We’re hoping to get it out towards the end of 2021 but like everyone, we’re at the mercy of the world right now. ‘Caffeine’ is definitely giving a vibe of what’s to come and is featured on the album.
How did the idea for the cut-out stop motion video come about?
Cate: We really enjoyed making the lockdown-inspired video for our single ‘Peckish’, so decided to make a stop motion video to try something different when collaborating remotely. None of us had animated before but DIY ‘til we die, baby! We had a lot of fun playing around with collage and the video is what our brains vomited up in response to the song’s weird themes of confusion and lust. The actual animation was painful to execute but we are glad that we realised such scenes as a rocket bum exploding across the sky!
When things resume to normal later in the year, what more can we expect from Slagheap? Will you be heading direct to the studio or will you be diving head first into live shows?
Cate: We are excited to be in the WORLD again. We miss messing about with each other writing and recording fruity new music, we miss that jittery sweatiness before gigs – so a large amount of both of those please! If everything goes to plan, we are hoping to record our album in the summer and head to some festivals – we’ll be at Farmfest at the end of July and we’ve already got a gig booked with Repo Man in Bristol on June 2nd! Hoping to announce more dates soon.
Words: Reuben Cross // Photo: AJ Stark
‘Caffeine’ is out now and can be streamed via Slagheap’s Bandcamp.