Sleaford Mods are a two piece minimalist punk/Hip Hop act who produce aggro punk poetry from the council estate, Jason Williamson spouts expletives that are underpinned by the beats and tunes conjured by his partner in crime Andrew Fearn.
It was in early 2014 that I heard of Sleaford Mods, I had been told of a new act on the scene that sounded literally like no other act out there, it appears that Jason Williamson IS the bastard child of Mark E Smith and John Cooper-Clarke! I was soon in possession of their 2014 release ‘Austerity Dogs’ and after the first listen, I sat in awe, wondering what the hell had just happened. I like to think that this was the same shock that people felt after hearing the legendary Sex Pistols in the mid 70’s, in a scene awash with disco and glam, they burst onto the scene, ready to educate and cleanse the souls of the followers of an underground movement called punk rock, it must have been quite a thing to see and hear!
What I particularly enjoy about Sleaford Mods' output is the sheer 'rawness' of it all, so basic, the lyrics so true, clearly based on personal experience and circumstance, littered with expletives, they really do a great job of taking a subject and ramming it down your throat, not in a violent way, just a way that says “This is what REAL life is about, it's not all perma tans, bleached teeth and chiselled abs, take it or leave it….cunt”.
We were invited along to check out Seaford Mods at the Cavern in Exeter on April 1st (yes, we were worried that they may not even show 'April Fools'...), having read rave reviews of their recent live shows, we were excited, it’s not every day you get to witness a band who have taken the ‘how to be a band’ handbook, shredded it, pissed on it and then set it alight, warming their hands over the flames whilst sipping cheap, warm vodka from Bargain Booze. Tickets had sold out weeks ago, fuelling speculation that this was going to be a show to remember, a chance to say, "I saw Sleaford Mods in 2015 at the Cavern in Exeter".
We arrived at the venue 30 minutes before the doors open (you never know when the doors are going to open at the Cavern sometimes, so best to be safe…) we waited in the light drizzle that was falling and made small talk with fans that had come from as far as Grimsby to be at the show. When the doors opened, we got set up and I could see Andrew Fearn wandering about the venue, I thought it would be a great opportunity to have a quick chat with him, sort of an impromptu interview without him really knowing about it and without me being able to record it as I normally do, so, in a list of bullet points, here’s what we discussed in the space of about 10 minutes;
· How German fans don’t expect you on stage until around midnight
· How German fans are all completely fucking crazy (and wasted most of the time!)
· Ditto for fans in Belgium
· Looking forward to supporting The Who at Hyde Park on June 30th
· Playing on the same bill as Paul Weller
· Recently being called ‘a pair of cunts’ by Paul Weller
· Playing the John Peel stage at Glastonbury Festival
· Playing a small number of dates in Australia in December
· Being on the road since the start of March
· Looking forward to sleeping in his own bed again
· Last gig of the tour at Tunbridge Wells on April 2nd
Opening for Sleaford Mods were a band called Animals & Men, I watched their set with interest, I hadn’t heard of the band before but there was something about them that kept me engaged, to all intents and purposes, they were a band of 4 people, stood on the stage knocking out post punk songs lasting around 2 minutes each, it wasn’t until they had wrapped up their set that I learnt that they formed way back in 1979 and achieved some success in their heyday after releasing a small number of singles and appearing on some early post punk compilations.
Their sound blended a mix of driving bass, insistent drums and simple but powerful guitar, all gelled together with Susan Wells’ vocals. They played a hefty set, consisting of 16 tracks, the standouts for me included their opened ‘We Are Machines’, ‘Easy Riding’ and their classic ‘Don’t Misbehave in the New Age’.
You could hear bands from the late 70’s in their music, at one stage, I was listening to Joy Division being fused with classic punk, their output dripping with attitude and swagger, this really was a chance to be warped back to the late 70’s and enjoy the songs form the era, timeless, raw and energetic, just as they were.
After a short break, the decks were cleared, Andrew Fearn bobbed up onto the stage and set his laptop up stripped to his ‘RUN DMC' T-Shirt and then it was a case of waiting for Jason Williamson to join him so that the merriment could proceed.
By this time, the Cavern was PACKED, I’ve been there a few times recently and it hasn’t been as busy as this, a wet Wednesday night in Exeter, just goes to show that people are willing to come out and support local music when the right acts are booked!
Jason Williamson walked onto the stage, wound up like a spinning top and launched into their opening track, the very family friendly 'Bunch of Cunts’, this set the scene perfectly for what was to become the most intriguing 90 minutes of my life. You see, the world of Sleaford Mods isn’t fairy dust and princesses, it’s a baron landscape of piss, puke, used condoms and discarded kebab wrappers, yes, they speak the truth, their songs ring loudly of issues that blight the UK, unemployment, the under privileged and just about anything else Jason can get his nails under, but they do this in such a way that you can’t help but get involved.
Andrew Fearn hits play on his laptop and stands back, swaying to the driving beat whilst Williamson winds himself up into a stupor, frequently tapping his head and spouting expletive ridden poetry that sums up the sorry state of the UK, some may say that he’s just an angry Northerner, hell bent on using his soapbox to vent his frustrations. How surprised was I that after the show, I spent a good 5 minutes chatting to him at the merchandise table where he came across as one of the politest, grateful and appreciative people I have met in a long while.
During their set, there wasn’t much ‘between song banter’, instead, Williamson circled the stage like an unsettled animal, waiting for the beats to drop and his cue to unleash a scathing attack on whichever subject was up next. Midway through, Williamson did taunt the crowd somewhat with some rather ‘camp’ gestures and mannerisms, this only goaded the front rows which pushed harder, forming a mosh pit that forced our photographer to duck for cover having achieved his task of grabbing some close up action shots of the daring duo in action.
Highlights of the evening for me included the beat driven frenzy which is ‘McFlurry’, the visceral hate laden expletive laden outbursts of ‘Fizzy’ and a track that “even the shit in his arse knows the words to", 'Tweet Tweet Tweet‘. Sleaford Mods are also available for childrens parties, weddings and any other festivities you can muster.
At the end of their set, the sell out crowd roared, Williamson mouthed a big ‘Thank You’, took a bow and left the stage, leaving Andrew Fearn to meet some of the audience before debunking to the ‘green room’ to freshen up.
As I said earlier, Andrew and Jason attended the merchandise table where they happily chatted to fans, signed albums and generally ‘shot the shit’, I thanked them for what I referred to as one of the most important gigs of this decade and wished them every success in the future, something tells me that they won’t need my wishes as they appear to be doing very well on their own! I only hope that when they support The Who at Hyde Park in June, their dressing room is situated a safe distance from Mr Weller’s….
For loads more photos from the gig, please check out the galleries using the links below;
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by 241Photography