Slowdive celebrated the 25th anniversary today of their debut EP by posting a live track of Avalyn online and explaining the background to the EP, alongside announcing plans for a live album.
On Monday 5th November 1990, Slowdive after playing a couple of gigs supporting Ride in London released their debut EP on vinyl (CRE 093T) and CD (CRESCD 093). Both formats featured 3 tracks:
Avalyn I 4:55
Avalyn II 8:08
To mark the event the band posted a live version of Avalyn (see below) along with a lengthy Facebook post.
25 years ago today, we released our first ever record – the imaginatively titled “Slowdive EP”, on Creation Records. #SlowdiveEP25
We had recorded the songs early in 1990 at The White House studio near Weston-super-Mare, a seaside town in the south west of England. We picked that studio in part as another Reading band “The Colour Mary” had used it for their previous demo, and they had become a local band with a big sound and seemingly a big future as a result. We would go on to poach their drummer Neil Carter, who played on the subsequent “Morningrise” EP. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The band lineup at the time of the recording of Slowdive EP was – Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, Christian Savill, Nick Chaplin and Adrian Sell.
We had three complete songs to record at that session. “Take Me Down” was an MBV “You Made Me Realise” style track. It was often too fast to play properly, which will come as a surprise to anyone that knows Slowdive now. We liked it a lot – as a bunch of 19 year olds it didn’t matter that it was rather too derivative. The song was obviously never released for that reason, although it can be found online and on bootlegs. “Beach Song” was better. Again it had a faster tempo which would surprise fans of the band now. But it had something extra, a little glimpse of the style and space that we would try to perfect over the coming years. We played it at our first big London show, supporting Ride at The Town and Country Club (now The Forum) in Kentish Town. We got about half way through the song, and the guitars all cut out – leaving just Nick’s overdriven bass and Adrian’s manic drumming to carry the song. Somehow it seemed to work – and then whatever caused the guitar fault resolved itself and the noise crashed back in at exactly the right time and it all looked like it was deliberate. We still like Beach Song.
The third song was “Slowdive”. We can’t remember whether the song name or the band name came first. Legend has it that the name came from one of Nick’s dreams, so we won’t argue with that. We were certainly aware of the Siouxsie & The Banshees song, and perhaps that’s subconsciously how it happened, but it wasn’t a deliberate homage. Slowdive was a slower, more chilled out song. We had played around with slower tempos previously – there was one song we had much earlier called “You Make Me Feel” that was maybe the precursor to the Slowdive sound. It was a heavy JAMC “Darklands” era style track that we had before the band really got going properly. Slowdive was like that, but more graceful. We knew when we were recording it that it was the strongest song we had, and it was also different to what other bands were doing at the time. That ended up being crucial.
So what about “Avalyn”? We didn’t really have a structure for the song until we got to the studio. In fact, it was almost an afterthought. We had the bass part that was simply repeated all the way through, and Neil and Christian found that they could make weird noises with their guitars. One part almost sounds like a wind instrument. Otherwise it was really just composed on the spot, Rachel bringing the words and vocal melody – and we recorded it pretty much live, and possibly in a single take. We knew immediately that together with Slowdive, this was the direction the band was taking. Listening back to Avalyn at that time, we couldn’t really believe that we’d come up with something that sounded like that when a few months earlier we were being talked about as “Reading’s answer to The Primitives”.
When the band reformed for 2014, it seemed obvious to us to start our live shows by playing the Slowdive EP at the top of the set list. It sets out where we originally came from, and sets the scene for where we were going. And to celebrate that, we’d like to present a free live recording of Avalyn, performed during our USA / Canada tour last year. We are currently working on releasing the entire live set from that tour as a collection, so look out for news of that soon.
In other news, the band have announced their first gig of 2016 and it’s in Mexico. The poster including the full bill announced so far, which also boasts Deerhunter, Health and Low, is below.