We’ve been fans of Sleemo since first hearing standout single ‘Dog’ back in 2022. It's a beast! The band’s recent album ‘Call to the Void’ doesn't hold back either and is well worth pouring in your ears.
Generically hard to pigeonhole, Sleemo’s sound is raw, authentic and captivating. They’re proggy, punky, grungy, doomy and more than a little shoegazey, and their music continues to evolve.
Hailing from Norwich, this alt rock three-piece has Billy Utting on guitar and vocals, Jack Andrews on bass and vocals, and Jacob Brooks on drums. Together, they’ve been delivering energetic guitar riffs, pounding drums and powerful bass lines since 2019.
Sleemo: Jacob Brooks, Billy Utting, Jack Andrews
In the years since, the guys have put out a succession of impressive EPs and singles, including latest barnstorming track 'Head Full of Lead', along the way garnering a devoted fanbase that grows with each new release.
We’ve been trying to get an interview with the Sleemo boys for months. Either they really didn’t want to talk to us, or this is a sign of how things have taken off for the band since they released the critically lauded ‘Call to the Void’ in November 2023. We like to think it’s the latter.
More persistent than whooping cough and not easily deterred, we finally cornered bassist Jack Andrews for a nice long chat about the album, the band’s journey, musical influences, songwriting, Star Wars and more.
May the Force be with you as you get to know Sleemo ♣︎
Please describe Sleemo for anyone who hasn’t heard you before.
We always find this tough. We take a ton of influences from all over the place: psychedelic and progressive rock, grunge, sludge and doom metal, as well as influences from shoegaze and industrial. We often just call it alternative.
We just aim to be as loud as possible, with huge riffs and lush breaks. But we’re also quite relaxed and just love to have a great time, both on and off stage.
How did you guys get together?
Billy started the band with Jacob around mid 2019. I joined later. I was an old pal of Jacob’s and a big fan of the band. I met Billy properly at a Black Flag concert in November 2019 and we became pals. Then Jacob told me the original bassist had left and they wanted me to join the band. That’s the way it’s been since then: three of us making a ton of noise!
Tell us about your first gig together.
It was supporting Gaffa Tape Sandy at Norwich Waterfront. I’d only been in the band for a week by that point. I had to learn the full set in that time. The show went really well though; it definitely showed the great chemistry between the three of us.
Have you had gigs that didn’t go quite so well?
We’ve had a couple of stinkers, for sure. We played a venue on our tour where the ownership had changed since we were first booked and they didn’t know we were coming. We ended up playing a full set to two people!
What’s Sleemo’s secret sauce?
Guinness, definitely! But what sets us apart, we think, is the bond that all three of us share and our willingness to try anything musically. We don’t follow any set rules. No idea is a bad idea, not the weirdest sounding guitar line or drum fill. We just go with what we think sounds good.
Describe the personalities in the band. Who’s the worrywart? Who’s the diva?
I’m definitely the punctual, organised, neat freak. I can sometimes act a bit like a disgruntled parent. Billy is definitely the worrywart who gets a bit quiet and internal sometimes. That’s where Jacob and I come in, to pick him up.
Jacob is absolutely the diva, for sure! Whatever he says goes. But all three of us are like brothers. There’s a great dynamic between us. We all keep ourselves laughing through everything.
Please tell us something surprising about your bandmates.
Billy is a fantastic dancer, especially when he’s drunk. He won’t like to admit it but he’s brilliant when he’s let loose and Rammstein’s ‘Du Hast’ is playing at the bar!
Jacob has been my mate for over a decade, There’s literally nothing I don’t know about him. But what a lot of people won’t realise is that he’s actually missing half his index finger on his left hand. He lost it in a work accident.
Naming a band is famously the most difficult thing in the world. Tell us about yours.
It from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, where young Anakin Skywalker has an argument with the alien Sebulba before the big podrace. He calls him ‘sleemo’ which means slime ball or jerk on Tatooine. Billy and I are big Star Wars nerds.
Describe your songwriting process for us. How does the magic happen?
Billy and I usually come up with guitar riffs or weird sounding chord progressions, which we’ll share with each other as videos over Facebook Messenger. There’s also a big folder in the band Google Drive that’s rammed with ideas that we’ve all come up with.
We’ll bring ideas to the rehearsal room, where all three of us will thrash them out, building the basic song structure but still keeping things quite fluid. Billy or I will come in with vocal ideas, after getting a feel for the song, and we’ll put lyrics to it. Everything is written by all three of us in the rehearsal room.
What inspired ‘Call to the Void’?
We wanted to make a statement that shows everyone what we’re really about and what makes us us, as well as what we’re capable of with our songwriting.
Lyrically we tend to get a bit psychological and philosophical, so a lot of the album is about emotional experiences we’ve had, like dealing with breakups, or being torn apart by our own duality and feeling like our heads are about to explore.
When and how did you record it?
We started recording it at the end of May 2023 at Bomb Store Studios, with Dave Vickers from A Horse Called War and Berenice.
We want to give a huge shoutout to Dave for all his hard work in making us sound lovely, and for hanging out with us for that long period of time. He’s a great guy, a true friend, and he made us feel incredibly comfortable.
Dave also recorded our last two singles and we love his approach, focussing loads on the raw live sound we make and how to capture that.
We spent nearly two weeks in the studio trying to get the guitar, bass and drum sounds to be as you would hear them live. We wanted to have as little post-production colour added to the sound as possible.
Anyone else you’d like to thank?
Yes, Jake Day from Brave Liaison for mixing and mastering the album. He did a great job at making the recordings sound massive and crispy. He’s a really lovely guy too.
Also, a big shout out to our friend Kris Wymer from Swing And A Miss for coming into the studio with us and documenting the full recording process with his camera. We hugely appreciate him coming in on his own time to help us out with that.
Which are your favourite tracks on the album?
We love all the tracks equally. They each hold something special for us and showcase a part of us to our best ability. Our favourite riffs, however, are in ‘Head Full of Lead’, ‘For The Honest’ and ‘Doppelganger’. Those ones specifically show what we’re about and what we find exciting.
We also really love the chorus section in ‘Time Twisted’. That particular part has been a long time coming and has this really Type O Negative style lift that makes us feel warm.
The album came out in November . What’s the response been like?
Fantastic! Everyone has been supportive. We get messages from people saying how much they appreciate what we’ve done and how much they love our work, which we always love to hear.
What’s been your biggest highlight so far?
Pretty much every show is a highlight for us. We love performing and meeting new people on the road.
One of our biggest moments was supporting Jamie Lenman on his King of Clubs tour a couple of years back. That was really cool as we’re all massive Reuben fans and take a lot of influence from him and his body of work!
But the big one, for sure, is playing shows, particularly in our hometown, and having fans chant our band name back at us. We definitely feel the love every time and we’re really happy that people appreciate what we do.
What effect did Covid have on the band?
It messed up a lot of our plans for 2020. We had the ‘Mutation Of’ EP recorded and ready to go, and a load of dates and short tours lined up to hit the year hard, which all got cancelled. We released the EP in April 2020, during lockdown, and had a little release party on Teams.
We definitely struggled, but we tried our best to pick each other up and keep persevering. Billy and I wrote tons of riffs and exchanged ideas, most of which ended up on our ‘Degradation’ EP, which we managed to get recorded and released as soon as lockdown ended in 2021.
How did you get started in music?
I started really young, when I was around 8 or 9. I played trombone for a couple of years, but I was always asking to learn the guitar. I used to make guitars out of cardboard boxes and dance around, pretending to strum them, to Busted and McFly.
I finally got a guitar when I was 11 and played in school jazz bands and concerts. I played bass every so often in various bands, but I switched fully to bass guitar when I got into college, where I first met Jacob, specifically so I could play in any band as no one else wanted to play it!
I played in a couple of groups that never really went anywhere until Jacob and Billy asked me to join Sleemo. The rest is history.
Who are some of your favourite artists?
I have loads, but my number one is Lemmy from Motörhead. I saw them play at Ipswich Regent when I was 11. I was completely blown away! From then on I knew I wanted to play loud and heavy music like that.
I also love Matt Pike from Sleep and High on Fire. I went to Desertfest in London when I was younger and High on Fire were headlining. I met him offstage by chance and shook him by the hand and probably gushed to him a bit. He’s such a lovely dude.
Give us three albums everyone should own?
Failure’s ‘Fantastic Planet’ is a staple that anyone should have, I’ve never heard such a monstrous yet beautiful sound come out of one record before; the songwriting is so interesting; I doubt Sleemo would be what it is without that record.
There’s also King Crimson’s ‘Discipline’ which is such a perfect blend of pop song aesthetics with proggy overtones.
And then there’s Slint’s ‘Spiderland’. That album in particular had a huge influence on all of us in the band when we were younger and really shows how creative you can get with guitar sounds, build ups and weird rhythms.
What’s the best thing about being in a band?
Pretty much everything you can think of: friendship, creating music, playing shows and having the best time. It’s being able to just hang out with your friends all the time, whilst also doing something you love.
And what’s the worst thing?
What they don’t tell you about touring is that most of the time you are just sitting in traffic in a car or van, and then sleeping. I love playing shows and meeting new people, but you really don’t get much time for yourself, or much time to explore anywhere new.
If you could be in any band at any time, not including Sleemo, which would it be?
That’s a really tough one. It would probably be Car Bomb. The rhythms and riffs in that band are absolutely insane. They’re one of the bands I’ve come across in the last couple of years that have completely blown my mind. It’s super-interesting stuff. Greg Kubacki has got to be one of my favourite musicians and guitar players. I love his style.
What advice do you have for someone starting a career in music?
Music is a really hard industry to break into and it can be ruthless. But sometimes you have to get your arse kicked and take a bit of criticism to really hone your craft and get better.
It’s not about trying to be famous or trying to write the best pop tune, it’s about doing music for you and doing whatever it takes to succeed. It’s about embracing every challenge, casting your ego aside and always progressing.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is from an old college tutor I had, quoting Charles Bukowski: ‘Don’t Try.’ Don’t just try to do something, do it. I apply that to all aspects of my life, especially music.
As Yoda said, ’Do or not do, there is no try.’ Thanks for answering our questions, dude.
TEN OF CLUBS is a sick brand with some great clothing. We’re big fans of your Jaws Tee. It has a real hardcore look about it, which we love. It’s like it belongs on the front cover of an Unsane album.
We love the message behind the brand and how much work you’ve all put into making it what it is today. Big up to the lot of ya!
Thanks, Jack. What does Sleemo have in store for us in 2024?
Now that ‘Call to the Void’ has been released, we’re getting on the road and playing loads of shows and festivals. Keep your eyes peeled on our socials for dates.
We’re going to be supporting Pijn in our hometown in Norwich on February 25th, then on February 29th we’ll be hitting the road with our pals EL MOONO as a warm up before their album release.
We’re still writing too. We might have some plans for another release later in the year.
What’s your dream for the band?
We really want to tour Europe at some point. We’ve played a lot of the UK already, which has been fun, but we’d love to hit the road across the Channel and show everyone what we’re all about.
We’d love to be able to support a band like Biffy Clyro and join them on a lengthy tour to some big places around the world.
May it happen soon. Any final words?
Thanks to everybody who’s been streaming the album and bought themselves a copy. We really dig all the support you have given us. We wouldn’t be doing what we do if it wasn’t for you lot showing up!
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