Check out this great Documentary about Slowdive from Pitchfork Classic
Slowdive offers an oral history of Souvlaki, with intimate interviews examining the stories behind this modern classic.
The film follows the band as they come up in the flourishing Thames Valley shoegaze scene and chronicles the making of the album. It features interviews with all of the band members as well as Creation Records’ Alan McGee, producer Chris Hufford, and engineer Ed Buller.
Slowdive are an English rock band that formed in Reading, Berkshire in 1989. The band consists of Rachel Goswell on vocals and guitar, Simon Scott on drums, Neil Halstead on vocals and guitar, Nick Chaplin on bass and Christian Savill on guitar. Several other drummers also briefly played with the band, including Ian McCutcheon, Adrian Sell, and Neil Carter. Halstead was the band’s primary songwriter.
Goswell and Halstead had known each other since early childhood in Reading, Berkshire. Scott left in 1994 and when Savill and Chaplin left the band soon after the release of Pygmalion, the remaining members renamed the band Mojave 3. Slowdive reunited in 2014.
While they toured in early 1992, the band began writing songs for a follow-up album, but the negative coverage Slowdive received in the press affected their songwriting. “[It] did affect us as we were all teenagers at the time,” said Scott in a 2009 interview, “[We] couldn’t understand why people were so outraged by our sound that they had to tell the NME or whoever that they wanted us dead!” Approximately 40 songs were recorded and rerecorded as the group became very self-conscious of their writing and how it might be received. When McGee listened to the new material, he subsequently dismissed it, stating, “They’re all shit.” The band discarded all the music and started over. In a 2009 interview, Halstead vividly recalled the incident, “I remember going to start the record in a studio in Bath. Spiritualized had just been there and left a huge Scalextrix in the live room. I remember thinking this was the height of indulgence! Ironically we scrapped everything we recorded…we had to start the record again back in Oxfordshire. We should have just played with the Scalextrix for a month.”
When the band returned to the UK, they wrote a letter to ambient visionary Brian Eno and requested he produce their second album. Eno responded and told them he liked their music, but wanted to collaborate not produce.Halstead later called the recording session “one of the most surreal stoned experiences of [his] life.” “The first thing he did when he walked into the studio was to rip the clock off the wall and put it by the mixing desk,” Halstead remembered, “He then said ‘Okay, you’re going to play the guitar and I’m going to record it. I don’t care what you are going to play, just play something…'” Two songs from the collaboration arrived on the ensuing album: “Sing”, which was co-written with Eno, and “Here She Comes”, where Eno played keyboards.
Creation Records wanted Slowdive to produce a commercial sounding album. Halstead agreed, “We wanted to make a ‘pop’ record but it took a while to record.” At one point, Halstead suddenly left in summer 1992, seeking seclusion in a Welsh cottage. Savill, Chaplin and Scott were left in a recording studio in Weston-super-Mare, and while waiting for Halstead’s return, recorded some “joke songs”. To their misfortune, McGee acquired them and became despondent, by which time Halstead had arrived with new music. The band named their second album Souvlaki after a skit performed by the Jerky Boys, an American comedy duo that recorded prank phone calls.
Souvlaki was released in May 1993 alongside the Outside Your Room EP, a few months after Suede dropped their popular debut and the Britpop movement began. Critical reaction, as with their previous album, was generally negative. NME writer John Mulvey gave an ambivalent review. Despite noting their dated and “unfulfilling” sound, he did call it an “exemplary product”. Dave Simpson, writing for Melody Maker, declared, “[This] record is a soulless void […] I would rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge than ever listen to it again.” To make matters worse, Slowdive booked a tour with fellow shoegazers Catherine Wheel for a tour of the United States, only to find SBK had pushed the album’s US release date back eight months. The band recorded an EP, titled 5 EP, and started a modest tour through Europe with another shoegaze band, Cranes. Scott was unhappy with the gap between releases and quit the band in 1994.
A marketing campaign was started in early 1994 to promote Souvlaki in the United States, which Allmusic writer Andy Kellman said would “undoubtedly go down in industry history as one of the laziest ever”; SBK sent fans a release flyer and were told if they copied and posted 50 flyers around town they would receive a free copy of Souvlaki. Fans who participated had to document their progress with photographs to prove they actually performed the activity. Halfway through the Souvlaki US tour, SBK pulled their funding and left Slowdive to pay the rest themselves. In 1994, the band funded two small tours of the United States using money raised through the sale of a live tape and a tour program that mocked the record label.