1. Jubel by Klingande | 2. I See Fire (Kygo Remix) by Ed Sheeran | 3. Stay High (Habits remix) by Tove Lo | 4. A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay | 5. Sunny (Mercury edit) by Marvin Gaye | 6. Boom Clap by Charli XCX | 7. Sometimes by Miami Horror | 8. Hideaway by Keszia | 9. Lovefool by The Cardigans | 10. Riptide by Vance Joy | 11. Classy Girls by The Lumineers | 12. Luna by Bombay Bicycle Club | 13. Mykonos by Fleet Foxes | 14. Shuffle by Bombay Bicycle Club | 15. Jump on My Shoulders by AWOLNATION | 16. Red Lipstick by Skint and Demoralised.
Interview: Matt Abbott / Skint and Demoralised, part three. (Kris De Souza)
In the final part of our feature with Skint and Demoralised’s Matt Abbott we talk about starting from scratch again and coming back with a new album backed by new label Heist or Hit.
How did you turn things around and get the career back on track?
By going back to my roots, partly through sheer luck at being asked to perform, I must say, and did a few spoken word gigs. However, instead of the short two or three minute bursts that I’d done before I was asked to perform a thirty-minute set in the Poetry Arena at Latitude Festival. I realise that I had to blend my poetry with stand-up material in order to fill the time slot. Miraculously, somehow, it worked. To this day I have no idea how I managed to get on stage with nothing but a microphone for a full half-an-hour and keep people entertained. But I did, and slowly I began to get some confidence back (I don’t think it needed saying that my confidence had taken an absolute battering in the last nine months or so). Clearly my performance impressed the promoters and Festival Republic then asked me to do the same set again on the Alternative Stage at Leeds Festival. It felt like I’d really achieved something; no manager, no booking agent and no active promotion. People were still interested in me, and I was managing to keep Skint & Demoralised alive even in this period of helpless inactivity. And so I stood on stage at Leeds Festival, exactly one year and one day after I’d stood there in front of 4,500 people, and I performed to a very responsive crowd. I was on at 11:15am on the Sunday, so there can’t have been more than around 1,000 there, but for me it was a bigger achievement that last year’s performance. In 2009, I was at our highest ever point, but the vultures were circling. In 2010, I was at our lowest ever point, but suddenly there was hope - something to build on. Without asking for it, I’d been given reassurance and a vote of confidence from complete strangers in a crowd. People wanted Skint & Demoralised – end of.
That must have buoyed you somewhat and given you the confidence to move upwards, what was next?
After telling MiNI dOG about Leeds Festival and my renewed optimism, he decided to pick his guitar up once more. We reworked one of the ‘solo’ tracks to make a new version of ’43 Degrees’. I read ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce and ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ by Alan Sillitoe for lyrical inspiration, as well as collecting other scraps of lyrics that I’d written over the past year or so. Around this time, we were told that Mercury would grant us the rights to release our debut album. I cannot possibly stress enough how rare this is, but somehow we managed it. The rights to the album were ours once more. We decided that we were going to write this second record for nobody but ourselves – after years of having to gain approval from managers and record labels – and realistically we knew that we wouldn’t get signed again, and so the plan was just to release it ourselves. Our manager (in contract but not in activity) had his own label, and had expressed a desire to give the debut a digital release. Over the autumn and early winter months of 2010, we wrote and recorded ‘This Sporting Life’. All of the recording, mixing and mastering was done in MiNI dOG’s home studio (6x7 in Sheffield) in the same way that our original sessions, and I wrote lyrics whenever I wasn’t completing my second stint as a Christmas temp at HMV Wakefield. We’d created this album with no involvement or interference from anybody whatsoever, and as it turns out it’s an album that we’re both incredibly proud of.
So you’ve made an album but you’re still not signed, how do you get back out there, how did you end up with a great independent like Heist or Hit?
By the time that 2011 came, I was determined to get a deal with the new album. Let’s face it – we had two finished albums ready to go with an existing fan-base from back in 2009. Surely it was an attractive enough proposition? Well, not quite, and for a few months it was horribly quiet. Hundreds of e-mails sent every day, all of which went unanswered. It was just me against the world – trying to pull in contacts, generate buzz via the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, desperately trying to find someone who’d show our project faith and release the albums. In March, we found a small German indie label called Firestation Records, who agreed to release the debut album on vinyl. We came to a third-party agreement, where they’d try and license our material to other labels around the globe for a cut, and through this made another agreement with Fastcut Records in Japan. They’d release both albums on CD. Things were looking up, and we considered releasing the album digitally ourselves in the UK through an online site called AWAL. And then Lady Luck arrived on the scene. Fastcut Records was the Japanese label for UK band The Answering Machine, who at the time were signed to Heist Or Hit Records over here. Whilst the two labels were chatting, S&D were mentioned and Heist Or Hit (who had been fans back in ‘08/09) contacted me via Facebook. They were interested. We met in Manchester – interest gathered and an agreement was reached. We’d done it. From nothing whatsoever (no money, no manager, no label) we’d managed to find something and forge a plan. Live shows with the new line-up were gathering momentum and suddenly Skint & Demoralised were a band again.
That must be a good feeling, what does this new album mean to you?
For us, ‘This Sporting Life’ is an act of defiance. We wrote and recorded it at a time when Skint & Demoralised seemed miles away from existence. The trips to New York, celebrity parties and television appearances were all a distant memory. Nobody cared about us anymore, to the point where even creating this album was probably a waste of time. But that’s the joy of creating art – there’s no such thing as a waste of time. We were doing it purely for enjoyment. Had we done a second record under the pressures of a major label, it probably wouldn’t be anywhere as good. In fact I’m certain it wouldn’t - a different producer, an expensive studio and the knowledge that there’s a watchful ear waiting to judge your every move. It would have felt forced and therefore contrived. Not having anyone else to answer to allowed us to explore new avenues, and lyrically I’ve grown from a teenage boy to a young man. I became obsessed with the British new wave of cinema; the kitchen-sink dramas such as ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, ‘A Taste of Honey’ and of course ‘Room at the Top’. These inspired me and influenced me far more than any other lyricists did. The record is incredibly simple in its production and instrumentation, and manages to be a development on the first album as well as being in many ways the antithesis. It feels like our little secret that we’d created in private, and therefore the sense of achievement feels much higher. There must have been a hundred people involved in the production and promotion of the first album. Up until we signed to Heist Or Hit Records, there was two people involved in this one. So who will triumph in the story of S&D – the global superpower that is Universal or the tiny indie Heist Or Hit? I’ll end with a quote from a great man – Kevin Keegan. “I would love it – LOVE IT – if we beat them.”
Having listened to the album, a lot, I can vouch that its well worth buying, not only is it a real testament to Matt and his determination but you can really hear the honesty in the lyrics. Musically it will get you tapping your foot for sure, in this day and age its hard pushed to find a more charismatic and intriguing front man than Matt Abbott, in fact, I recently went to see the band play in Camden and there were several people jiving at the front of the stage not wanting to feel left out Matt signalled down to join them, they were however oblivious to Matt’s intentions and just as he leapt from the stage the group decided to take a drink break leaving Abbott twisting to himself, but instead of embarrassing him it warmed him to the crowd.
After the show the entire band were happy to chat to fans about anything from music to football manager, all of them humble and genuinely pleased just to have had a stage for the evening.
The spoken word interludes Matt performs are well worth catching live as well. My particular favourite is a well observed piece about the BNP, their hypocrisy and the great British night out. The lyrics are delivered with passion and a sincere pride in this multicultural nation it is impossible not to be endeared to Skint and Demoralised.
Shamfrolic are also pleased to anounce that you would be able to catch Skint and Demoralised play at our November club night, details to be released soon!
This Sporting Life is out now grab your copy here.