When the two-decade mark approaches, most broken-up bands wouldn't think of reconvening. But not Slowdive, the shoegaze group whose quick rise and fall in the music industry spanned only a small time of five years. The ethereal-sounding indie rockers known for inspiring the likes of Radiohead (Collin Greenwood once told NME that he remembers seeing the band at the Zodiac in Oxford and he was "surfing on their white waves of sound") decided to part ways after their 1994 Toronto show, following a severe backlash from music critics. Fast forward twenty years filled with inactivity and the Reading five-piece found themselves with a firm show offer on the table. But why come back now? Guitarist Christian Savill claims, "I'd say that what we noticed over recent years is that people have been starting to ask us. And at the time, the timing wasn't quite right. We had things going on in our personal lives, whereas this time we were all living in the same country. The idea was to make new music and the catalyst [behind the reunion] was Primavera in Barcelona."
Now headlining a North American tour, Slowdive is seeing numbers like never-before, playing packed out shows all across the United States and Canada before they head to play their final two concerts of the year in late December in London. We sat down with Savill at Terminal 5 in New York City before they played their biggest audience yet to discuss the band's current tour, what will be next on the horizon, and Savill's recent stint as a Whole Foods janitor — yes, you heard that right.
How's the tour been so far?
It's fantastic. It's only been our third gig so it's all pretty new to us. It's been great because the last time we came here was 20 years ago on our own tour and we were playing to maybe 300-400 people and now tonight I think it's close to 3,000.
How do you feel about your fan demographic now compared to 20 years ago? I think what's really interesting is the idea that there is such a time discrepancy and now you guys really have to start fresh. Have you noticed that a lot of your fans have stuck with you or is it all new faces?
It's amazing really because when we did this tour it was in the land of best guesses because we really had no idea what size venues to book or anything. We didn't know if it would only be people who were around back in the day on a nostalgia trip, but we found that there's a lot of people who weren't even born or were very young the first time around saying "we always wanted to see you live" and now they can.
So what was the rehearsal process like – did it take a while to readjust?
I would say that it clicked. I mean the first time we rehearsed was the first time that all five of us were in the same room in 20 years. So it was so surreal when we got there and we started playing Slowdive and it was as if there was no gap at all.
You kind of spoke about it before, but what do you think will be different in regards to new music?
I think the honest truth is we don't know. I think the hope is that when we finish the tour we can get together and see what works. And I think the best music in the past has been when things have been done very organically so we're hopeful we can do something new and exciting that's still true to Slowdive but that's also moving on.
What's the biggest change you've seen in the music industry now that you've come back into it?
There's not as much record company power anymore and music press doesn't seem to be as powerful either. It just seems to be bands and their communities, which is really nice – the reaction is more instantaneous. Before you could play a show and not really know what the reaction was, but now you come off stage and you know – it's on Twitter and YouTube and Instagram, or whatever. Now, most of the show people are on their phones and if that's how they want to enjoy it, then...
How do you feel about that?
I definitely think it's a bit alien to me. But things change, you know? I guess what people would want to get out of it is different, but I don't know. Now I think that people want share their experiences with their friends. I guess I'm just from a different generation.
What's the plan after your two shows in London in December?
Well that's what really nice – it's up to us. It's all on our terms, when before, everything was mapped out for us and now we can just see what we want to do. We'll try and do a new record or do more shows, but if we don't feel like it, then we won't. There will be some pressure, though, putting something new out. I know with other bands that are gone for a long time and then try and put out a new record, you're always slightly nervous thinking, "Oh God, I hope this isn't shit."
So you're planning on releasing new music independently?
Yes, I think ideally that's what we want to do.
What songs do you find that most people resonate with?
We just put ‘Dagger’ in the set from Souvlaki and people have been singing along to it, which is really new to us.
What contemporary bands are you into now?
You know, I end up listening to songs and think "brilliant!" and then buy the album and only end up listening to that one song. So, I don't know – I could make a really fantastic mixtape and that's about it.
Have you been to New York since the last show?
Yeah, just on holiday really. I also used to live in the States.
Asheville, North Carolina. Yeah, it was really nice. I worked as a janitor in Whole Foods maybe three years ago.
That's a fucking big change.
It is a big change. I remember one time I was vacuuming produce mats and they had the in-store music playing and there happened to be a Slowdive song on, and I thought, "This is really weird."
Did any of your co-workers know?
Yeah one guy did, he came over and was like "Dude, what is this?" and I just said, "I don't know, I didn't put this on." So that was a surreal moment...
Words by Banu Ibrahim