Slowdive - Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell on the Bands That Inspired Them

Under the Influence

Aug 12, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands Bookmark and Share


While Slowdive's early singles rode in on waves of distortion that saw the band lumped in with the rest of the shoegaze pack, by the time they released their 1991 debut album, Just For A Day, they had delved into a more ambient territory that set them apart from their peers. We asked founding members Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswellwho share guitar and vocal duties in the recently reformed bandto tell us about the artists and albums that helped shape Slowdive's sound. While they acknowledged the influence that classic rock groups such as The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, and The Byrds had on their music, the bands that most heavily informed their sound were practically their contemporaries.

"We really liked Pixies," says Goswell. "Doolittle was kind of an anthemic LP for us back in those days."

"We were all really into The Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth," says Halstead. "There was a great club in Reading called the After Dark Club. The promoter there for about two years, he'd book these great bands. We were all 16 or 17 years old, and we'd see Spacemen 3 and Loop play there. We saw My Bloody Valentine play there."

The influence of these bandsmany considered to be pioneers of using distortion as a textural deviceisn't what set Slowdive apart from the rest of shoegaze's first wave. Slowdive's songs were gentler than those of their brethren: almost as much dream pop as they were shoegaze. This variance could likely have been the result of the individual band members' divergent tastes.

"Nick [Chaplin] and I were basically old goths," explains Goswell. "Or young goths. Post-goths, maybe? For me, personally, from a singing point of view, I was inspired by Siouxsie Sioux, who I just adored. She's amazing. I've never seen anyone else quite like her. She's such a strong character, and quite a strong role model for a teenage girl to have."

"Rachel had a slight goth leaning that I certainly didn't share. I really hated all that stuff," Halstead says, laughing. "But then Nick kind of liked that stuff as well, and we all really liked The Cure."

"I used to love The SmithsI still doand The Cure," says Goswell. "Nick would probably say his bass playing was inspired in part by Simon Gallup and in part by Hooky [Peter Hook] from New Order. I think those two are bass guitar gods in his eyes. Neil was more indie, like The Primitives and Talulah Gosh and stuff, in the early days."

Despite their differences, the members of Slowdive could all agree on another then-recent band: Cocteau Twins. Given the gauzy, ethereal aspects of Slowdive's sound, the influence of that essential Scottish dream pop group makes a lot of sense, and can be heard most easily in their music.

"We'd all drive around endlessly in Nick's carbecause he was the only one of us who had a carand listen to tapes of Cocteau Twins albums," Halstead says.

"Christian [Savill] was a huge Cocteaus fan, and I loved them as well," says Goswell. "A friend gave me Treasure on cassette when I was 16. I would listen to it in bed with headphones on just marveling at Liz Fraser's voice, and think, how can she sing like that? Those were amazing sounds."

[Note: This article first appeared in the digital/tablet/smartphone version of Under the Radar's June/July issue (Issue 50).]



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