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Interview with The Subways frontman Billy Lunn & drummer Josh Morgan

Somewhere at 1 PM. Actually, by somewhere I mean the Rivoli on Queen Street. We’re in the back of the bar, where the bands go on stage, amongst stacked tables and chairs. Fluorescent lights flood the room and the environment is nothing like what it will be later tonight, when the lights go down and another band takes the stage. Charlotte is off somewhere else, and I…



Somewhere at 1 PM. Actually, by somewhere I mean the Rivoli on Queen Street. We’re in the back of the bar, where the bands go on stage, amongst stacked tables and chairs. Fluorescent lights flood the room and the environment is nothing like what it will be later tonight, when the lights go down and another band takes the stage. Charlotte is off somewhere else, and I sit with Billy and Josh to talk about their recently released album, Young for Eternity. Billy is sharp as a tack, ready to talk his mouth off about anything and everything, while Josh sits serenely with a cup of coffee and looks on.

How do you feel about talking about your music with people in general? Some bands have lots to say, and others just like to let their songs speak for themselves.
Billy: Well, I love talking about music. You know, you’ll probably find that I just ramble on and on and on all the time. [laughs]…. [to Josh] You like the idea of just kind of letting the music speak for itself, don’t ya?

Josh: Yeah, we all just have different opinions.

Billy: Yeah, cuz we all have different perspectives on the songs, and you know, Rock n Roll Queen means something completely different to Charlotte and completely different to Josh as it does to me. But I’m very vocal about how I feel about music, and certain bands, and certain styles of music, and the way the music industry fluctuates… it’s very cyclical, cuz you know it always goes round in circles. It always comes back on itself, which you know is healthy, and it’s good, and I think that’s what makes it what it is. But you know, I just love talking about why I’m here and the reasons why I do what I do. So yeah, I think it’s really important for us to talk about what we think and what we believe in and the kind of music that we love, so any interview that we do, you know we take, and straight away, we take any chance we’re given because we just like the opportunity to just kind of air, you know, how we feel. And this is something that we really really do love, and we’re not taking this for granted, and we’re gonna work hard and we’re gonna play loads of shows and I think getting your voice out there and getting it known and talking to people is a real important aspect of building the community which is what we’re intent on doing.

How does it feel to create music, which in your case must be personal to a degree, and then release it to the public? How do you feel once a new song has hit the air or your album has just come out?
Billy: [pauses to think] Well you know, songs are our lives, and I think when we wake up in the morning it’s about writing songs, and playing shows, that gives us purpose and reason, and I think we’ve always had this urge to be understood. You know, we were never, like, great talkers. I don’t think we were ever in a clique, or group, we’re all just three individuals just thrust together and brought together and just making music. So it’s really important for us when we put songs out, whenever we make songs, but obviously I think when you’re on the eve of releasing a single you’re always kinda nervous, man. And when it starts going to radio and they start playing it, and the TV starts playing the video, it’s always kind of a nervous time… cuz it’s all about the people, I mean you can go and get great reviews, and you know this guy at this radio station can say this, and this guy at the TV station can say that, but at the end of the day it’s all about the people, you know they’re the real… you know, if they feel they can associate with it and they dig it and it’s got a groove then they’ll say it. If they don’t like it, they just won’t listen to it, you know? So that’s our real test, if we know that we’ve made a good song, when we put it out to the people and they respond to it. And they seem to, cuz you know we’ve played loads of shows, and people come along and have a great time and jump and clap….

Can you describe your creative process? Is there even a specific process?
Josh: Each song’s different.

Billy: Yeah, there’s no real kinda formula that we, you know, stick to.

Josh: “Somewhere at 1 AM”, which is the jam, the encore of our album….

Billy: Yeah that was just like us being stuck in a rehearsal room….

Josh: Not stuck, you know, but….

Billy: That was us just being a in a rehearsal room and just turning our amps up really loud and having a great time, and that’s where the song came from.

Do you mean the second part that comes after that sort of silent part on the album?
Billy: That’s right, yeah

That’s really cool, I love that one….
Billy: Aw, cool….

Josh: [laughs] Cheers!

Billy: They’re all pretty much the same; it’s all feeling and energy. Um, “Lines of Light” was written on an acoustic guitar in my bedroom one night, you know it was like 3 am and I knew that I had work the next morning, and you know, I was just kinda like ‘oh I can’t be bothered…’ [laughs] So that’s how I came up with that song. I Wanna Hear “What You’ve Got To Say”… I can’t even remember coming up with that song.

Josh: “Holiday” was on tour….

Billy: “Holiday”, we made that one up in sound check. We just jammed… I played the riff and then we just went into the song, and it became, you know, a song!

It just comes together…
Billy: Yeah, um, I think that’s the general feel… is that it does just come together, because we’re all really close, you know Josh is my brother and Charlotte’s my girlfriend. So I think we have this real, kind of… anticipation. We almost know where we’re going to go with something, and we all kind of flow, like a river or something, and it just joins up together and you know I think that’s really what the band it all about, it’s that connection and unity.

In the time that you’ve been signed to a label, what have you learned about balancing what people require of you with what you want to do as artists? There’s bound to be conflict between what people expect of you and what you feel like doing. Or am I wrong?
Billy: Yeah, yeah there’s always conflict. You know, we’ve got our artistic integrity to think about, and we’ve got our art to think about, and label have got, you know, recouping sales… [both laugh] So they’re like ‘Yeah yeah yeah, you’ve got like… let’s stick these four rocky songs at the beginning of the album, and then after that you can do what you want’. And we’re like ‘Fuck that… no way.’ [laughs] ‘The album’s gonna start with this song and then this is gonna be the next song, and you know we’ve kind of already had it planned, we know exactly how we want the album to flow. “I Want To Hear What You’ve Got To Say” had to start the album, because for us that’s like waking up in the morning and opening the curtains and getting ready for school or work or college or whatever you do….

It’s just supposed to be the first one.
Billy: Exactly, it’s just meant to be there. And I think the way we deal with it is we say, you know, ‘C’mon guys, this is our life. It’s not just us trying to get an extra buck in the pocket and run off with the money, this is us doing what we love. This album has got to mean the world to us, and we listen to it we’ve got to be proud of it, and we’re not gonna have you stick four singles at the beginning of our album, just cuz you think, you know, you think radio’s gonna play it more…. It’s gotta feel like it’s a journey, like you’re getting somewhere, like you’re kinda finding things out about us. And, you know, I think the album is kinda peppered with these great songs, but it’s also these kinda poignant moments which we really wanted in there, they’re really important to us as people and as a band. And it’s really just compromise, you know, they compromise that we’ll have the album tracklisted our way, and we make the compromise that we’ll do it our way, or you know, we’ll put a different record out! [laughs]

If you could go back in time, can you imagine a place or an event you’d like to have gone to? Why?
Billy: Hmmm… oh that’s a tough one. [to Josh] I know yours….

Josh: Yeah, Jimi Hendrix… that huge 500,000 capacity festival he done… what’s it called?

Josh: Woodstock. Jimi Hendrix Woodstock, definitely.

Billy: Yeah…

Josh: Or T-Rex…

Billy: Yeah you just got the DVD didn’t you?

Josh: Yeah, it’s like 8 in the morning and you know he’s so in outer space….

Billy: Yeah, that guy’s in outer space. For me, it would have to be… [thinks for a minute] Nirvana… Reading… 1991, which is before Nevermind hit the stores, and you know, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was on the radio, and everyone was kinda feeling it, and they played the famous Reading Festival in 1991. I’ve seen pictures of it, and I just wish I was there at that time, and on the edge of something just phenomenal.

What’s the first album you ever remember owning? Does it mean anything to you now?
Billy: Yeah, absolutely. It was “What’s the Story Morning Glory” by Oasis and you know, that’s really the album that got me playing guitar… [pauses] it got me loving the idea of playing guitar, loving the idea of being able to create something so moving and something so fucking powerful… with a piece of wood! [laughs] And you know you can kind of form and identity with just that guitar and you become something else, um, well you become more of something. And I just love that. I love the notion of just kind of being able to reach people… it really is a phenomenon. For me, when I got the album, it was like… owning music, having just a bit of yourself on CD, I don’t know, it’s just really cool.

[to Josh] How about you?
Josh: Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream… when I first started listening to it… it’s still as amazing as the first time I heard it. It’s mental, it’s really cool.

Young for Eternity is a fucking awesome song. It’s my favourite one on the album. What song or artist gets your blood pumping more than any other?
Billy: Oh awesome! Awesome… thanks. Um…

Josh: Cheers… That’s a toughie. [laughs]

Billy: That’s well hard… um… “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes. For me that’s the beginning of brilliant pop music… brilliant, brilliant, astounding pop music. The dynamics, the production, the vocals, the melody, everything… the string arrangements, you know, it sounds kinda like a rock song, kinda like a classical song, kinda like an R&B/Motown song, um, kinda like this stoner session with Phil Spector. [laughs] It’s got everything! And, yeah yeah, just… every time I hear that it’s something I aspire to, something I just wish I was a part of.

Josh: Mine’s, uh… the remix of “Voodoo People”, on the singles album from The Prodigy. [laughs] Sooo phenomenal! Magic people! Voodoo People! [starts hammering on his knees, and Billy starts rocking out] …mental, it’s mental, that remix.

At this point the band’s manager pops his head in to ask us to wrap it up. Off to the next interview. There’s a camera from Sun TV outside and the band is already running a little behind…

OK, well I’m gonna just skip to my favourite question of the interview. Well, it’s not really a question, but anyway, this is what I wrote: This last question isn’t really a question. Just say anything you want. The spotlight is yours.
Billy: You know I just, you know we just love playing music. Every morning we wake up and we look forward to this moment, this connection with the audience which we just adore, and this mutual respect, this kinda adoration for the crowd. We love to communicate ideas, and we love the idea of building a community as well. Which is why, you know, we tour all the time. Touring is what we do, and it’s absolutely kinda… I dunno, it’s almost to the point where you can’t quite grasp how you feel about it. But yeah, what I really just wanna say it that, you know… we love what we do, and we’re gonna work really really hard.

Well I guess they want me to wrap it up, so thanks a lot guys.
Billy: Cool, thanks.

Josh: Thanks.  [ END ]

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