After a long day and too many train delays, I arrived in Brooklyn for Slaves’ first headline show in NYC. No one is at the venue save the crew and Rough Trade customers, and the band had been running around the city getting grub and haircuts. I meet up with their publicist Taylor, who recounted taking Isaac Holman (vocals, drums) to her friend’s barber shop down the street and how funny it was because her friend was a huge fan of Slaves’ music.
Around 6:30, soundcheck finally starts after a few routine delays, and Isaac and Laurie Vincent assumed the stage to run through a few songs before the big show. It’s always interesting to watch a band soundcheck, especially a band like Slaves. If you know anything about them, you know that both Isaac and Laurie have larger-than-life personalities, but in soundcheck, they’re somewhat tamed. The duo ran through a couple out of their dialogue, including a new track called “Consume” which iterates the phrase “consume! Or be consumed!” Even with the volume down, I had to wear earplugs during soundcheck to save myself from hearing loss.
After soundcheck, I met Isaac and Laurie who both denied my protocol handshake and went in for sweaty hugs instead, after which they apologized (both actions were profoundly English). Post costume change, Isaac and Laurie joined me on the venue balcony for a quick game of ping pong and portraits. We were scoping out a rather small area for pictures, but with my back turned, Laurie helpfully got into the bin and I had realized in that moment that this band is a God send. All of us bursted out in laughs and after Laurie fell out of the bin, Isaac sarcastically confesses, “We’re SO punk!”
Come time for the show, Isaac’s punk comment came to life. Slaves don’t mess around. A fan named Daniel who stood by me had repeatedly expressed how ecstatic he was that America is finally getting some Slaves shows. To be honest, I worried about how Slaves would be received in the States, where indie is popular but only if it has pop tendencies. But as soon as the drum hit and the bass line grooved, Slaves began one of the best shows I had seen this year. Through the show, people were moshing, shouting lyrics, and headbanging nonstop. Making witty banter and sharing their own beers with the crowd, Laurie and Isaac made life long punks out of everyone there.
Because Slaves’ music is so in-your-face and loud, you may pass them off as another run of the mill punk band – but I assure you they are not. The duo has penned some of the smartest lyrics that have come out of England in years. Shouting “Put another 0 in your paycheck! Are you done digging your grave yet?…Cheer Up London! It’s not that bad,” Slaves converse with job-obsessives like myself. Their lyrics are unapologetically honest, their energy is batshit insane; Slaves is a band that America has been waiting for. All they’re missing is some pyrotechnics, but we can worry about that when the band returns.
Now my commute to work isn’t complete without listening to “Cheer Up, London” at least once.
Photo Credit: Joyce Jude Lee for THE RADICAL