Sleaford Mods + Billy Nomates were at the 100 Club and we weren't but yet we were

(Photos by Thomas Jackson of TyneSight Photographic for Sleaford Mods. Thanks to Talia Miller of Rough Trade.)

The past two months have been brutal for the family. Two weeks ago, we got some respite from the grief and spent a day with our extended network of friends and relatives. It was genuinely beautiful but exhausting. Heidi and I came home from Connecticut right before 8 PM, and New York delivered the God goods. The air was warm but quick, zooming around like it was shipped in from some mesa landscape. We were dead tired and uninterested in cooking—Gruppo, around the corner, came through with sick-ass thin crust pie and kale salad with chicken. Things were right in the world for a minute. And then we watched a streaming concert. Very much against our expectations, it was thrilling.

Sleaford Mods played an empty 100 Club along with Billy Nomates and a poet named 1990s Chris. After the gig, I emailed Tor Maries (Billy Nomates) and Jason Williamson (Sleaford Mods) to chat. Tor was nice enough to send some photos, too.

SFJ: That 100 Club show was tops. I’m glad the camera operator was moving around. Some online gigs just feel like Zoom calls. (Shout out to director Huse Monfaradi.) Did you like it? How did you all figure out how to present it?

Jason: We enjoyed it yea. It did worry us before hand cos you know, live streams are just that, live streams. It’s not a gig but our manager insisted we use a proper film crew on this and lighting. It paid off. I watched it back after and it worked, you got the idea you know. 

SFJ: Which songs were the new ones? Were there two or three?

Jason: Two yea. ‘I don’t rate you’ and ‘Elocution’. 

SFJ: What the fuck is going on in the world right now?

Jason: Greed, incompetence and Evil, mostly, from the main controllers. Down in the ranks of the masses you have division, brain washed idiocy, evil again, and much much thinking from those who care too, about the state of the humanity. The negatives are far outweighed currently. This is obviously connected with the true worth of our main leaders who all veer towards autocratic methods of governance more so than their direct predecessors. 

SFJ: Are people in England doing like people in America and pretending “things are better” and going around without masks?

Jason: Yes, those who believe it’s a mass distraction or method of control are refusing to wear masks. Just wear a fucking mask for fucks sake. It’s interesting how these people are suddenly motivated against ‘state control’ they all seem to have ignored the last 100 fucking years. It’s pathetic. Wear a mask! 

SFJ: What do you think it would take for British people to resist like we’ve been seeing in the US this year?

Jason: Not sure. I’m still unconvinced. Apart from the odd splash of rioting in inner cities mainly from oppression against black communities by the police, I can’t see much else happening. The middle classes won’t revolt. The working classes are divided. If any change comes it will be silent and over time. 

SFJ: I found it very comforting to watch you yell. 

Jason: Haha. Thank you. I don’t like looking back at myself at the best of times. I’m still at times in shock people like what we do. 

SFJ: I’ve been pointlessly thinking about how we could amend and rewrite the Constitution. Which won’t happen soon, but it’s overdue.

Jason: Tough one that. I’m not entirely sure about the contents of the Constitution but I think you mean, why won’t you as a nation grow into something more fitting in relation to the yearning for a more intelligent global mindset? Well I guess you are suffering from the same traditionalist Idiocy that we are. A friend of mine said to me that he thinks they’ll be another 3/400 years of Capitalism. How he came to that number isn’t important for me but the massive amount of time was. It’s certainly not over yet and won’t be for a long time. 

SFJ: When did you meet Tor? How did that connection come about? She’s great.

Jason: She contacted Andrew on Instagram and he kept showing me and our manager the videos she’d sent him of her performing in her room. It was weird. Eventually that turned into a want to re-listen. She spoke with Andrew quite a lot and Claire our manager eventually got in contact. Tor, had self-released her debut album on Spotify and we just kept listening and listening. It was clear she was very good and it was refreshing to hear someone who’s been influenced by us that sounded like they’d push it into something else. The rest is history really. Geoff Barrow got in touch and said he liked her and so I got him and Claire talking as Claire had started to help Tor a little. Boom. 

SFJ: Wait, this album on Spotify just came out in August, so that can’t be what you’re talking about.

Jason: No, it was the same album virtually, bar a couple of tracks, and she re-did “Super Market Sweep” with me guesting on it. The idea to re-release was because she’d signed to Geoff Barrow’s Invada label and all concerned felt the album needed a proper launch. Geoff helped re-produce a couple of tracks and Tor re-did vocals on some. The whole thing was kinda revamped at Invada Studios. 

Tor: I started making tracks around 13, 14. I've always written little bits n pieces, on guitar or piano or just recorded weird stuff into a walkman. Nothin good, just did it.

I made the album in my bedroom, demo'd everything, got my brother to play a live kit and send me the wav files, same with my friend Rich who leant his bass sound on a couple of tracks. I then just put it all together, taped mics to stuff, played a broken 7 & a half key synth and then ended up going to Invada. We mainly just polished it all up a bit with Geoff, James & Stu (Invada engineers) & rearranged a few bits. The majority of it was done before I got there Geoff steered it into a more professional realm, but kept the soul of it. 

Like anyone, I'm influenced by any sound I like, but I’m playing around with what I sound like & that will be taking many different forms. 

I don’t overthink my lyrics, I'm sure some people would say that's a negative but truly they just come from everyday stuff, stories, how I'm feeling, depression, frustration, sometimes I just feel happy & cool and I wanna write that way. I don’t know really. Sometimes a picture of something or a throwaway phrase on the radio writes itself in my mind.

Right now I've set up a studio space in my dads shed & I'm working on an EP release for Jan 2021. I have no choice but to be productive & creative right now. I think it’s essential for communication and to find outlet, escape within what’s happening. I never really felt that attached to the old world, & while I’m lucky to have a safe space to experiment, that's how I'm filling everyday. Equally, I'm swimmin in the sea and walking in the woods a lot. Without soundin like a dick, I know I'd go a bit mad in the city right now, look for easier escapism. There’s no real money comin in, but there wasn't before. 

I was living in Bournemouth, a small Southern town. I moved out of Bristol prior to that. I was renting a cheap room in a student house with a mattress on the floor. Cheap because I wasn’t supposed to be living there & would have to dismantle my room/studio equip every 3 months for inspections. Don’t miss that! 

I'm currently living on the Isle of Wight, southern England. I moved into my dads small place here after losing so much income/pandemic shutting everything off. 

No” came out in March. I was so excited to have somethin finally head to radio. It went to radio just as lock down happened and fell through all the cracks, missed most djs and didn’t really make any mark. The radio here just playlisted reggae & safe nice music.  

It’s quite interesting all this because I’m by myself, my only instinct has been “Is everyone I care about ok?” Pretty much. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons a couple of years ago & works incredibly hard on his speech and movement. Watchin him makes me really take note of sounds and movement. The only thing I really need to protect is people around me, my mind & my music & make sure I can continue to do that in some way. I was working different little jobs to just make rent before. And so havin some space & being really just left to it (I still don’t know anyone on the island, try meeting new people in a pandemic...ugh.) I don’t go “ah I want a child or a big house.” I truly want to make some good music and connect with people that way.

The very first Billy Nomates show was only a year ago! This right here is a good conversation with her, and you can watch Jason and Tor interview each other here.