Coming home is always a special occasion, especially when you live at the other end of the country – and your opportunities to head back have been severely hampered by a global pandemic.
So it’s no wonder that Charlotte Cooper, of alternative rockers The Subways, can’t wait to be back in Hertfordshire for next summer’s Standon Calling festival.
The popular family-friendly boutique festival in the grounds of Standon Lordship, near Ware, announced its first acts of 2022 recently.
Read more: Latest Standon Calling news
With an extra day of music for festival-goers to enjoy next year, The Subways will be among the acts to perform on the opening night, Thursday, July 21.
Formed in 2000 when Charlotte, bandmate Billy Lunn and original drummer Josh Morgan used to hang around in a subway underneath a roundabout in their home town of Welwyn Garden City, the band have four top 40 hits to their name and an enviable reputation on the live scene.
Charlotte lives in South Yorkshire these days, but she’s relishing the prospect of a trip back to Herts.
“Every band is excited to get back to the festival scene,” she said. “We didn’t do any this year and it’s quite a long break for most bands so we’re looking forward to getting back in the fields and playing high-energy shows.
“Standon Calling is going to be great. We’re playing on the Thursday when everyone is super-excited for a party to start off their weekend.
“I still come down to Essex and Hertfordshire quite a lot because that’s where I’ve got family and the band is still based there.
“Billy has his studio in Welwyn Garden City and that’s where we rehearse.
“The band is based in Hertfordshire so it’s our home festival, I guess.
“It’s always a nice thing to go back to where you’re from and do a local show.
“I’ve never been so I’m really looking forward to checking it out. I’m excited, for sure.”
The prospect of being out in the fields is even more appetising given the brutal effect the pandemic has had on the entertainment industry.
“Everything stopped so abruptly,” said Charlotte, “not just for us but for every band and every artist out there.
“Everyone who worked in the music industry had loads of plans and everything stopped all of a sudden.
“Then there was the uncertainty of not knowing when things were going to come back.”
Charlotte, Billy and new drummer Camille Phillips were finally able to get back on stage in the late summer – and everywhere they went their shows were permeated with a sense of overwhelming joy.
“We were on tour when everything started going a bit wild so we cut that short,” explained Charlotte.
“We rescheduled for the third time in the end and we eventually played those shows in September, and I know that’s the case for lots of other artists, just rescheduling things over and over again.
“It’s still quite an uncertain time at the moment – the past few weeks things have definitely changed again. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
“The great thing about festivals, of course, is that they’re outside and the general consensus is that that’s a safer place to be at the moment.
“We have so much love for what we do. We’ve always loved being on tour. We love being on stage, it’s such a huge part of being in this band for us so being back doing what we love was incredible.
“My overriding memory from those shows was everyone smiling.
“I think people always smiled before but it just seemed like the whole audience never stopped smiling. I’ve never seen so many happy faces because everyone was just so grateful to be part of something they love doing.
“I also really missed being with all our crew and everything hanging out. I really love what I do and I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to be there.”
Those dates were – belatedly for obvious reasons – celebrating 15 years since the release of The Subways’ first album, Young for Eternity, a collection of raw garage punk anthems.
A lot has happened for the band since then, both musically and personally. They were, after all, still teenagers at the time.
As its members grew and matured, so did the band.
“Things have changed wildly for us since that first album came out – for everyone between the ages of 18 and 25,” reflected Charlotte. “It’s what happens, isn’t it?
“Your outlook on life changes and so much has happened along the way since then.
“So playing those songs [from the band’s early days] will always be special and the great thing for us is that it was nice to play some of the, I guess, softer songs which we never really played when they first came out because we just wanted to thrash through a load of punk songs and playing as hard and fast as we possibly could so it’s nice to revisit that and give those songs the time of day and be played on stage.
“Those shows were really special – to celebrate that album, that kicked everything off for us, was amazing.”
A new album is on its way next year. It will be the band’s first new music for more than six years and both the end product and the approach to making it will reflect how times have changed.
“Things are quite different now,” explained Charlotte, “because when we wrote songs for that first album, a lot of it was done three of us in one room just making a load of noise, having a good time and all of us together because we were all living locally near each other.
“Now we all live in different places so the writing process is quite different, especially with the latest album because we were all stuck in our respective homes and towns for a lot of it because of lockdown and Covid, so it made it quite unique because we were working remotely.
“We were working together but separately – sending ideas backwards and forwards and getting everything to Billy in his central location in Welwyn. He’s the producer of the album so he’ll collect everything together and bring it together as a whole.
“I set up a mini-recording studio – I say that but it’s not that fancy, it’s just in the corner of my bedroom!
“It’s a microphone and a synthesiser and a few things so I could send a few things that were a bit raw down to Billy who could then import it and make it into a song.
“Having this set-up at home is going to be really useful for the future because I’ve got two kids and I can just go off and do stuff when they’re asleep and work around them.
“We maybe wouldn’t have done that if we’d not been pushed to by everything that’s happened.”
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When it comes out it’ll be the first time Subways fans have been able to get their hands on an album since 2015’s eponymous release.
It’s been a long wait, but that was always going to be the case. Just as they were always going to get back together.
“Billy decided he wanted to go to university,” said Charlotte. “He went to Cambridge to do English which was an incredible experience for him.
“I took that time to start a family so I’ve got two kids now.
“Even during that time we were still working on this album although since he finished university it was a bit more concentrated work – in the six months or so before Covid and the whole time.
“It was great while there was lockdown stuff going on because I had something positive to think about and to be creative with. It was something in the future that wasn’t all of us worrying about what was going on. So I definitely really appreciated that.
“Now we’re quite excited because the fifth album is coming. We’re doing artwork and everything like that at the moment, we’re shooting videos, so it’s all very exciting after such a long time.
“We’ve been in this band since we were teenagers. We love it, but it doesn’t give us much time for anything else.
“The synth element of it is a lot more apparent on certain songs” says Charlotte, and fans can expect to hear some new material at Standon Calling.
Despite the shift in direction, however, the band promise a rocking good set.
“We’re always going to do a high-energy show, but we want to reflect a bit for of this new material too,” said Charlotte.
“There’ll be a mix. The new album should be out by then so we’ll be playing some new songs from that – but we’ll be playing Rock and Roll Queen, Oh Yeah and hopefully the ones that people remember.”
Standon Calling returned this summer after being cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Madness, Gabrielle and The Skints are among the other acts confirmed for 2022’s opening night. For tickets, click here.
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