Sleaford Mods are a post-punk duo from Nottingham. They’ve been causing a bit of a stir over the past few years, and I think because of the general situation we currently find ourselves in as a species, we need them now more than ever.
Sleaford Mods are made up of Jason Williamson (vocals) and Andrew Fern (music), who are both in their 40s. The two met at small Nottingham venue The Chameleon back in 2009, Fern was DJing at the club and Williamson playing a live spoken word gig. The two got talking afterwards and subsequently Sleaford Mods were born. They have released unfalteringly humorous, honest and interesting albums at a steady rate since then – with the last three gaining widespread critical acclaim.
The music they produce isn’t really like anything else on the market at the minute. This itself is extremely significant as the amount of rising acts that are essentially souped up recycled versions of 2000’s indie bands is stifling. Fern’s music is dirty and grimy, with loud, thudding drum machine beats and bass lines, as well as contrasting cheap sounding keys and very occasionally a snippet of a guitar riff. The music clearly takes a lot of influence from classic hip-hop and rap music as well as sounds from the more current UK grime scene, something which they speak about regularly. All of this lies underneath a barrage of well founded anger, put forward in a very broad East Midlands accent. In the words of the band themselves they are “electronic munt minimalist punk-hop rants for the working class”.
I think it’s fair to say that they are one of the only bands (not really sure if “band” is the best word) in the country that actually bother to say anything of substance. Most of the lyrics within their tracks are inspired by Williamson’s heavy anti-austerity views and opinions. Whether you agree with his opinions or not, just the fact that they’re willing to make a statement is something to admire seeing as many current bands and artists seem to be afraid of voicing their opinions on important matters in case they offend someone. This attitude does tend to forge very strong opinions surrounding the duo. People seem to either dislike them intensely or think they’re the best thing to happen to UK music since the Sex Pistols (the latter may be a little extreme but I actually heard that outside of one of their shows), this in itself is important. What’s the point in producing music if it doesn’t cause discussion?
I suppose some people could have a valid argument when they say Sleaford Mods go about certain things the wrong way. Maybe they do sometimes pick one fight too many online, and maybe they do say harsh things about up and coming indie bands on occasion. But to be fair, Blossoms are fucking awful.
It isn’t only their recorded music that makes them so significant, everything about the duo’s live shows is compelling. Their stage setup is something I find extremely refreshing: it’s minimalist to the extreme, Fern’s laptop sits on a solitary table (or barrel) and a single microphone stands on the stage. No backdrop, no confetti, just a laptop and two middle aged men. This is the case no matter the venue they’re playing. I’ve seen them perform to a few hundred people at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club and I’ve witnessed them take to the stage of London’s O2 area as support for The Libertines. Both times it was exactly the same, but of course it was more satisfying (albeit strange) to see them on one of the biggest stages in the country.
They have a total of eight full length albums. The latest album, 2015’s Key Markets was their most successful yet, gaining them their first ever top ten release and a 7.5 rating from Pitchfork. Their 2014 album Divide and Exit is currently my favoutire album of theirs, but this is likely to change as each of their albums have many unique and redeeming features. But with tracks such as Tied Up In Notts and Tweet Tweet Tweet, I was transformed into a fan from about 30 seconds into the album. Despite this, if you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to them yet I would recommend giving their 2014 singles collection album Chubbed Up+ a listen. The group also feature in an underground anti-establishment documentary titled Invisible Britain and you can watch the trailer here.
If for whatever reason you just can’t bring yourself to listen to them, I think it is only fair to acknowledge and understand their importance both musically and socially. Along with The Fat White Family and a small group of other artists, they’re actually real, they cannot be replicated and they say what they believe.
Words by Liam Navey