Levitation Q&A: Slowdive

UK shoegazers lift off at Carson Creek Ranch on Friday

Rachel Goswell killed no time after Slowdive’s 1995 split. Just 23, the band’s singer/guitarist swiftly crafted dream-folk outfit Mojave 3 with former bandmate Neil Halstead. Last year, she put together Minor Victories, a quintet featuring Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and Editors’ Justin Lockey. Their debut LP drops June 3 on Fat Possum.

Vintage Slowdive

Austin Chronicle: How did you feel about the “shoegaze” label back in the early Nineties?

Rachel Goswell: Well, first, it wasn’t any band’s idea. The term was phrased by a journalist during a Moose gig, because the singer was staring at his shoes. So, it wasn’t Lush’s idea, or Ride’s idea, or ours. I know we all had elements in common, but I personally thought the bands were all different. Like Lush, for example. Aside from their very early stuff, they were Britpop – or, just pop, really. 

AC: Lush and Ride – also recently reunited British bands.

RG: Right! We toured with Ride a lot back in the day. I used to watch them every night. I loved them. And Lush were good. I just always thought Slowdive had the penchant for far more ambience.

AC: How do you feel about the “shoegaze” term now?

RG: I don’t hate the term now. It’s taken me a long time, but now I even love it, in a way. It’s quite all right now, isn’t it? [Laughs.] Back in the early Nineties, I’d rely on publications like Melody Maker as my Bible. I’d read them cover-to-cover.

But, within a year of being in Slowdive and meeting with these journalists, I thought most of those guys were wankers [laughs]. Eventually, I stopped reading press and grew disenchanted with the industry as a whole. I met a lot of sycophants, who disenchanted me with everything besides just making the music.

AC: Last year, I saw Ride at Fun Fun Fun Fest and Jesus & Mary Chain at Levitation. This year I get to see you and Lush. Throwback-type acts, in general, are soaring on the festival circuit, really. Brian Wilson’s playing Pet Sounds at Levitation.

RG: I’m really excited to see him! We were actually going to fly home Saturday, but the costs of flights were astronomical, so we figured, “Let’s stay another day and see Brian Wilson.”

AC: Were you guys influenced by the Beach Boys?

RG: Not really. With Mojave 3, definitely. But not with Slowdive.

AC: There’s been word of a new Slowdive album.

RG: Yes! We’ve been working on it off and on the past year. We’re hoping to finish everything by summer, so I’d expect it to come out the beginning of next year.

AC: What’s it been like to hang with your old bandmates again, after so long?

RG: Well, I never lost touch with Neil. We go back an incredibly long way, to primary school. Our parents still live around the corner in the same village [laughs]. But, we didn’t really know what to expect. We’d spent a lot of time in each other’s company in the months leading up to us playing live again – rehearsing, getting reacquainted. It’s been nice reconnecting much older, with very different life experiences, and finding out we do actually all get on really well.

AC: And the band went from being 20 years dormant to co-headlining huge fests like Pitchfork and Primavera.

RG: There’s definitely been moments at gigs, or when we come offstage, where we just get emotional. Sometimes it’s a bit like, “Fuck, did that really just happen?” [Laughs.] I remember we came offstage in Portugal, and right after our amps were cut, we heard the crowd just erupt. Neil and I looked at each other and went, “Shit!” It was incredible to hear. There’s usually been some moment at each gig where it becomes emotional. It’s usually me. Maybe it’s the “soft woman” role, who knows?

AC: Now that y’all are all parents, I imagine touring feels a little different this go-round. You have a son, right?

RG: I do. My son, Jesse, is 5, nearly 6. He’s deaf, and has special needs, so I don’t think his understanding is the same as other kids. Like, I can’t tell him, “Mommy’s going on a plane to this country.” He wouldn’t understand it.

AC: I would imagine that’s been a challenge, particularly considering your profession.

RG: I literally didn’t listen to music for two years after he was diagnosed. I kind of lost faith in a lot of stuff. It took me a long time to come to terms with it. I suppose there will always be an element where I’ll never be fully at peace with it, but, you know, you have to accept things and make the most of situations in life. Jesse’s registered as deaf-blind, and he’s got CHARGE — a multi-sensory syndrome — so he needs a lot of sensory stimulation every couple hours. It can be quite challenging, but he’s a bit of a miracle, really.

AC: Has Jesse seen you play?

RG: He did come to a Slowdive rehearsal once. He stuck his head in the bass drum while [drummer] Simon [Scott] was kicking it. Jesse was just howling with laughter! He thought it was the funniest thing.

AC: That’s precious!

RG: It was a beautiful moment. But also a sad moment for me, like a pulling thing. Like God, he simply cannot hear things. But, he feels music’s vibrations. We have vibrating speakers, and he dances around. It’s the funniest thing. He lives a full and happy life given his obstacles.

AC: It must be hard leaving him for tours.

RG: Oh, it is. But we all have children now. In fact, I’m the only one with “just” one child. So, there’s an amount of sacrifice for us all. The day this re-formation becomes unenjoyable is the day I stop. But, with the new album in the works, and our last tour having been so successful ....

I think the coming year will be quite good for Slowdive. I’m so glad we’re finally doing this.

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Slowdive, Levitation 2016, Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead, Mojave 3, Lush, Ride, Jesus & Mary Chain, Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds

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