Spinning Platters Interview: Charlotte Cooper of The Subways

by Dakin Hardwick on April 22, 2016

“I think people still are crazy. I think definitely older. I’d say we’ve kept fans from the first record and they’ve grown up with us.”


Over a decade ago, British garage-rockers The Subways burst onto the US music scene with their 2005 hit “Rock & Roll Queen”, and followed it with a set of tours across the States, along with television appearances and an appearance at Lollapalooza. Despite the continued force with which the band kept moving in the years that followed, it took another 10 years before The Subways would come to the US again for another tour, hot on the heels of their self-titled fourth record that was released in 2015. We caught up with singer/bassist Charlotte Cooper to see what’s been happening with the band in the long time that they’ve spent away from this continent.

(Also: don’t miss The Subways’ upcoming show at The Chapel in SF on April 30th!)

Spinning Platters: When I first was prompted to do this interview, I was thinking, “The Subways. I haven’t thought about them in 10 years. Where have they been?” I notice that you’ve been putting out records regularly, but I haven’t seen you come to the US in a long time. Why the break from touring the States?

Charlotte: I think it’s been around eight years since we last played in the US, which is such a long time. I think we couldn’t quite believe that so much time has passed. We’ve had various tours planned and it’s not quite worked for whatever reason, so I’m really glad that we’ve finally made something happen this time around. It’s been quite exciting. We’ve been looking back on the last time we were in the States and looking at how we young we all look eight years ago. We did some amazing things on that first album, we’re really excited to be coming back. We have some really good memories of touring in the States.

I was noticing on your new record that you seem to be singing a lot more than in the past. Was this a conscious decision or was it just what felt right?

I think because we had a lot more time to work on this album because we recorded it ourselves, it’s the first one that we did record ourselves, gave us a bit more time to think about parts. I don’t think we ever really make conscious decisions on things. It just happens as it does in an organic way. With songs like “Taking All the Blame”, Billy had a rough verse and chorus that structures the song. He sent it to me and the first two was blank, so he said to me that I should just sing whatever I wanted on that, so I did. There wasn’t a huge amount of conscious thought into why I should sing. I guess I did end up singing just a little bit more.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but this is a fun game that I like to play for bands that I think should be bigger in the US than they really are. I like to go into Spotify and there’s a place where you can find the countries that people are listening to an artist most in.

That’s interesting. I should try that. Very cool.

It’s really fun. You’re number one was obviously England, because usually the home country is the winner. Your number two was Mexico.

That’s surprising. I thought you were going to say in Germany, because we play quite a lot in Germany. I do know from, I often look at Facebook stuff and I look at the stats quite a lot there and second is always Mexico on all what fans are engaging with comments and where fans are. That’s really interesting, isn’t it? Mexico. We need to go. Never been.

I’m amazed that it’s a country that you’ve never traveled to!

We really need to. We would absolutely love to. One of our missions is to play in South America, so I think we’ve got a lot of fans there because there’s a lot of social media interaction and we obviously try to go to Mexico because of that if we ever did get down to South America.

The kind of music you do, which is just really dirty and fuzzy and groovy plays so well in that area and I don’t really know why, but it works really nicely. It made sense to me. It’s good. Sorry. I was mostly just curious. I’m also noticing on this record that the singing style of your main singer, Billy Lunn, his voice is improving. Has he taken singing lessons or is this just with time?

He hasn’t taken singing lessons, but he’s definitely I would say more aware of his voice now. In between the first and second album, he had vocal surgery because he has nodules on his vocals, so now he has to really look after himself. He does a lot of warm us and he’ll warm down after a show. It’s a four day process around the gig, really. I think it’s definitely made him more aware of how he sings and how he uses his voice.

There definitely seems to be a lot less just sharp screaming, and it’s a little bit smoother and more melodic, but you still have that “oomph” for lack of a better word, that intensity behind the back beat that I really, really like about you guys.

That’s awesome. Thanks.

Again, you guys have been doing this for 10 years. Are you seeing any changes in the kind of crowds? Are people still dancing ferociously and are they still big sweaty messes, or are they calming down?

I think it’s the coolest thing. We played an amazing show last night, a really small one, it’s only 160 people and it’s just absolutely exciting with fans flying everywhere, everyone is getting crazy down in the front. I think people still are crazy. I think definitely older. I’d say we’ve kept fans from the first record and they’ve grown up with us, I suppose, so people are perhaps 10 years older than they were when the first album came out, but still up for going back into their youth and having a good dance and going a little bit crazy down in front.

I know that this is the most generic and boring question any question gets asked, but I’m still going to throw it out at you.

That’s fair.

What are you listening to right now?

That’s not a boring question at all. That’s a good question. Today I got some new music that I play that, because we’re traveling and stuff, I like to have new music to listen to so that’s actually quite a relevant question for me. I got the new All Saints album, which I guess they made it over to the States. They’re a ’90s girl group. I like them and they released an album, so that I bought today.

I recently got into St. Vincent, and that’s actually really cool. I tend really like a lot of female fronted things because that’s so very inspirational to me and that’s just what I like to listen to. I think the best album from the last two years I think is the self-titled Paramore album. I think that’s amazing. I like CHVRCHES. They just did a Paraguay tour with Paramore, so I can’t believe I didn’t get to go to that. That would have been incredible.

All Saints… I think I am one of  about five people in the United States that knew who All Saints were.

The new album’s good. You should look it up.

I’m excited. I didn’t know they put something out again until this morning. I also didn’t know that one of them is married to Liam Gallagher.

I know. Crazy, right?

Super weird. I found All Saints on the radio here in the States. The local alternative rock station would do these Red Hot Chili Peppers free hours because the music exec really hated them. One time, the DJ, on the local alternative station, the DJ’s got one or two songs an hour that were their choice, so they actually dug up the All Saints cover of “Under the Bridge”.

Oh really!

It was in spite of it all and I thought that was a genius move.

Definitely. It’s a great cover, too. I like that cover.

I enjoy it. I was always sad that that band never broke, but I think they came just a little late. People were sick of the pop group at the time.

I think that’s probably true.

I blame the over-abundance of Spice Girls.

They saturated a bit.

You are the lone female in an all male band, which is becoming more and more common. Logistics while touring your first go around, what was it like having to share such an intense space with two basically boys at the time?

I think because we were so young when we first started. I think it feels like it’s always been my life. I’ve never really thought about it. Every now and again, people would say something like, “You don’t mind sharing a room, do you?” I share a bus with 10 men on a daily basis. I’ll sleep anywhere. That’s fine. We’ve got a great touring crew. They’re like our family now, as well. We just have lots of fun on the road. It’s what we love most about being a band.

What’s your favorite thing to do to pass the time while you’re in the van with 10 other people?

I’ve become a bit obsessed with triathlon in the last few years, so I’m always cycling and running on tour, which is actually a really great way to see places. If you’ve only an hour, you get an hour off after sound check or whatever, you can go for a quick run around the place and do a little bit of sight seeing and see the area. Just films. Late night when you can’t sleep, a good film or a good TV box set. All of us really like a good TV box set. They’re all things boys have on tour.

Excellent. I guess those seem to be the go-to. I’m amazed that you actually find time to do exercise on tour, because whenever I talk to bands, that’s the one thing that’s an issue is they don’t know where to fit in the whole being healthy on the road.

A lot of the other stuff isn’t healthy. Just the running for me is the healthy thing. I think sometimes it involves a bit less sleep, but it keeps me happy and it’s something that’s become a massive part of my life, so it doesn’t feel like it’s something I have to do, it’s something that I want to do. I really enjoy it and it’s a good way for me to see places. I’ve definitely got my running shoes on the tour.


(Once again: don’t miss The Subways’ upcoming show at The Chapel in SF on April 30th!)

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