Interview: Q+A with SLONK
Get to know SLONK aka Joe Sherrin, one of the most enigmatic, esoteric and talkative members of Bristol’s DIY music scene.
Bristol is a hive of activity for DIY indie at the moment, with so many record labels popping up releasing homegrown talent it's definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled. SLONK aka Joe Sherrin is at the centre of it with his own lo-fi brand of indie pop. SLONK began as a vehicle for Sherrins' poppier songs. After his pals at Breakfast Records offered to release his music, so long as he recorded it, SLONK was born to the world and they've been teasing lo-fi gems ever since. With plenty of exciting plans in the bag, like the forthcoming SLONK 7" EP due out in January via Breakfast Records and a U.S east coast tour with Fenne Lily supporting Andy Shauf at the end of this month, we thought it was high time we got to know a bit more about SLONK. Check out lead single and EP title track 'Holidays' and read what SLONK aka Joe Sherrin has to say below.
GigList: Hey! How would you describe the SLONK sound?
SLONK: Ummmmm I guess fairly lo-fi, indie pop would sum it up aptly. Quite wordy. Quite dense, instrumentally. Bit emo. Bit folky or country at times. Lots of it.
GL:How did SLONK come about?
SLONK: SLONK was (and still basically is) just me having fun writing and recording songs in my room. After my bands Let's Kill Janice and Me, You & Thomas broke up a few years ago I started focussing more on SLONK so it’s become my sole vessel for poppier songs. On the whole I have Milo’s Planes for the more feral part of me that wants to scream a lot and the pop songs will be SLONKs, though there's still a lot of room for the weird and shouty in SLONK also!
GL: SLONK has a more 80’s indie sound than your other bands, was this a conscious decision or something that happened organically?
SLONK: I can see what you mean and am (perhaps v obviously) hugely influenced by lots of 80s indie: Husker Du, Replacements, DinosaurJr/ all those Our Band Could Be Your Life bands, the underground punk/hardcore stuff, as well as The Clean and Flying Nun bands. But it's not something I've ever tried to intentionally achieve. The bulk of my main Influences for SLONK are DIY/indie bands - stuff like Pavement, Bright Eyes, Superchunk, Neutral Milk Hotel etc in addition to the aforementioned. That's what I like. So I guess that's gonna spill into the sound a smidge.
GL: Where did the name SLONK come from?
SLONK: I have a tendency to use a lot of nonsense/made-up words (this is my Nans influence and maybe one day we'll write a family dictionary for outsiders). I used to say "SLONK" as in "could you SLONK that over here please, Chris?" I found myself saying it all the time and needed a name for the project so called it SLONK because it sounds funny and I like the way it looks written down. It doesn’t mean anything. If you Google it there’s a few funny Urban Dictionary definitions for it but as far as a name for the project goes it’s pure nonsense, straight up mumbo jumbo!
GL: Ahead of the upcoming 7" you have coming out on Breakfast Records, you've just released the brilliant lead single and title track, 'Holidays'. What are the main themes on this track?
SLONK: I use the word fine quite a lot in my lyrics. Though generally it’s defined to mean something of a high quality, it has a bluntness and comedic pessimism I’ve always found nicely describes the feeling of a shrug. Not 100% what you really wanted but it’s not bad enough to call “rubbish”; it’ll reluctantly do: People feel fine often, I’ve started to feel fine quite often and 'Holidays' is about that feeling. It uses a scenario where I am being berated by my potential, successful future selves for being too complacent, for settling for what is only adequate and not achieving anything much at all. As I've started to encroach on my late 20s I've noticed myself unlocking new levels of pessimism brought on by a niggling self-awareness/general bitterness. I like to cloak/soften the blow of this as best I can by trying to depict sarcastic humour & irony in the language/lyrics… Christ, I'm really unbearable.
GL: There appears to be a record label renaissance going on with Bristol. There's your own label Breakfast Records and then Howling Owl, Leisure, Fuck Punk to name a few. How important was it to you to be on a local label?
SLONK: To be honest it's not that important that Breakfast are local at all, it's more that those guys are some of my best friends, they're passionate about what they do, I've been involved with them since they started, we worked together on my first album last year and the amount of work they put into releasing the album how I wanted (as a cassette housed in a handmade matchbox accompanied with a bound photo album/lyrics book) was staggering. They loved the single and wanted to put it out. Actually, Josh came up to me after one of the first times I played it live and said if I recorded it they'd release it so I just did as I was told really- I didn't even consider doing anything else with it.... shit maybe I could've got a huge record deal... ah well it's done now.
GL: What is going on in the Bristol music scene at the moment?
SLONK: Lots I’d imagine. There is a lot of stuff I really love and a lot of stuff that makes me want to punch myself in the eyes until I can’t see it anymore. My tactic is to put all my efforts into wholeheartedly supporting the stuff I love and simply avoid punching myself in the eyes. At the moment my favourite Bristol music is two demos my friend Kane (from Radiators) sent to me which I like so much I going to do a DIY release for at some point, then there’s SANS, everyone on Breakfast Records, Scalping & LICE. Loads more. I haven’t seen GORK play yet but I’ve heard lots of good things and understand it will be very much up my alley - potentially even make me want to shake what my mother gave me (booty). Outside of particular bands there’s an awful lot of terrific shows being booked – Rich Walsh who does 1% of 1 has been unstoppable recently and just booked Black Midi who are a current favourite of mine – Miles/Gravy Train is a machine also. The Exchange has been saved too which is excellent news! What I’m most excited about is Built To Spill playing Thekla next year and Sharon Van Etten playing SWX. That’s really gonna rock the house.
GL: Bristol legend Oliver Wilde plays on the single. How did this come about?
SLONK: I love him. He's my favourite ever Bristol artist and one of my favourites of all time in general. I wanted his lovely voice on the song so asked him if he would and he kindly obliged.
GL: What do the next 18 months hold for you?
SLONK: Probably a whole lot of gazing idly into space, waiting for the next Oliver Wilde album. I'm heading to the U.S. at the end of this month with Fenne Lily, we're supporting Andy Shauf around the east coast, I'm insanely excited for that as have never been to America, or on a plane for long enough to warrant films on the seats so that'll be mental! Obviously got the single coming out end of Jan 2019 ON A VINYL WHICH IS EXCITING AS HECK! I just had the test pressing back and can confirm is all sounds better on the wrong speed. Gonna do a joint tour in support of it with my best buds Cagework. After that, I'm gonna work on new albums (for both SLONK and Milo's Planes). The SLONK one is about 2/3rds written. Other than that I’d imagine lots of LOVELY STUFF will happen to me over the next 18 months, for no other reason other than I probably deserve it and really like lovely stuff. Maybe I'll have a wife, child and shed. Maybe I'll have set up a new life for myself in a far and distant land. Maybe that's where I met my wife and shed. Maybe we'll call the child Bernard. Maybe I get a job as a postman. Maybe I'll be touring the world on the back of Holidays being a total smash mega-hit. Maybe I'll finally get some furniture for the bedroom I moved into 7 months ago. There's simply no way of knowing.
GL: What are you currently listening to?
SLONK: An awful lot of really nerdy music podcasts - interviews with musicians/discussions on particular albums. I am also big into mid-90s hip hop again at the mo, specifically anything RZA produced around that time. And then Adrienne Lenker (who along with Alex G, is my favourite songwriter around at the mo) I love the new Hop Along album too - it's kind of bizarre and a bit Disney but I absolutely love it. So much stuff has come out this year that I've been really into, I have my "2018" playlist on a loop: Pinegrove, BODEGA, Stephen Malkmus, Cloud Nothings, Cagework, Frankie Cosmos, Kate Stapley, Hot Snakes, Free Cake For Every Creature, RADIATORS, Hayley Hendricks, Ovlov, LICE, Lucy Dacus, Big Ups, Langkamer, Zander Sharp, Lala Lala... Also, there's the ever-steady measures of Jawbreaker, Weezer, Bowie, Alex G, Faraquet, early Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, Fugazi, Wire and so forth.
Photo courtesy of press.