Originally published on MegBondMoments.
The slightly awkward MegBond article.
What feels to be the smallest student bar in Manchester is filled with the heaviest basslines and drum kit avalanches of the sound of Sleemo, but no one actually seems to know who they are; a trio with four faces, 29 ½ fingers and a questionable tolerance for O’Donnell Moonshine.
It’s the 8th of April and Sleemo, a three-piece band from Norwich, climb onto the stage of The Retro Bar. Billy George Utting on vocals, Jack Andrews on bass and Jacob Brooks on drums are clearly engulfed in the muse of the performance, pounding their instruments as if it was their last. This was the first gig the band have done on Manchester soil and they’ve clearly left an imprint with the promise to return in the summer. As Mark Armor, the creative director of The Retro Bar enthused:
“Sleemo would be very welcome to come back and perform! Great band and we will be in touch with their agent about further bookings.”
The Retro Bar is a petite student hotspot for live and new emerging music and the perfect scene for this trio. The alternative rock band Sleemo performed alongside the headline act Perfect Parachute Picture, on their whirlwind tour around the cities of Hull, Manchester, Lancaster and Stoke. Their appearance at The Retro Bar Weekender was anything but short and sweet. The three of them can make a whole lot of noise that lingers in the ringing of your ears for days. This definitely won’t be the first and last time Sleemo capture the attention of the North. I needed to find out more about this band.
I’d tried to grab an interview with the band before they rushed off to Stoke, but the band were short on time, as you would be when you’re on tour. Unable to stick around too long in one place, I was left with the next best thing; a zoom call, my only option, coming with a handful of complications… a shitstorm of glitches. But I just had to steal some insight into what could be the next British rock icons of the decade. Although Jacob was on holiday, I was lucky enough to catch up with the rest of the band.
During the three years the band has been active (even through a pandemic that killed off live music for just over a year) the band have had a 2021 NMG nomination in the Alternative category and performed alongside acts they look up to; like Jamie Lenmon at the Waterfront in Norwich in December 2021.
Sleemo kickstarted back in September 2019 and attributes its name to one of the greatest trilogies of all time: Star Wars. This Huttese insult is pronounced slay-mo and translated as “slimeball,” a rude insult.
When questioned about the band’s name, singer Billy George explains:
We aren’t the coolest bunch of people. Obviously, we are Star Wars fans. It’s a Star Wars reference. We thought fairly recently should we scrap it? But people have started chanting it at gigs.
When discussing the comparison between the alien slang and the concept of the bands branding, Billy described:
It means different slurs, like insults in one word…so it fits as well [with what we are], he giggles.
The trio draw inspiration for their music from a variety of Sci-Fi films. Jack Andrews comments:
Lyrically we’re a little bit abstract, like the song Mind Bender, that we did on Degradation, [which] was based on the French film ‘A Fantastic Planet’.
Their latest EP Degradation, released back in September 2021, binds together four wild and bass driven tracks with accelerating, electric and sharp sounds. Mind Bender begins with a powerful 45 second intro of Jack Andrews on bass guitar. Its beautifully enticing lyrics:
‘If you want it,
You can have it,
The collection really forces the audience into the hot seat of the protagonist of any action movie car chase or naturally any one of the action scenes from Star Wars. Once you listen to Sleemo, that’s it, there’s no going back, you’re hooked on their unique sound.
Degradation metaphorically reflects the mental battles the band faced through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve delivered on the concept of deterioration” Jack adds. As Billy and Jack emphasise, “all the songwriting is pretty split up, and that’s the same with Jacob, he’ll come up with these really strange beats and we will have it in a bank to see what we can do with it and then one day something will click and it’s sweet.”
A trio with four faces
These guys come together and live on the edge; figuratively and literally on the edge of the stage doing what they do best. They are much deeper friends than appear on the surface and are fiercely proud of their friendship. Jack especially has taken his love for tattoos and his friendship to a whole new level.
“Jack do you have a tattoo of Jacob? I think I’ve seen it on the Instagram.” I asked, and at this point the lads took over the interview.
“Have you got one of Billy?” I pipe in.
“Not yet, it’s on the cards. The one of Jacob’s face is to celebrate the 10 years that I’ve known him. So, it’s a very long time but Billy’s face is also on the cards, I’m keeping space for it.”
“How long have I got, how many years have I got?”
“You’ve got about six years left Billy in total.” Jack clarifies, “For me, Jacob and I have known each other, what? 10 years? It was very sort of natural. When you’re playing in a rock band and stuff for so long with the same guy; it’s just wow this is fun.”
Evidently, these guys are more like brothers and this as a lifelong journey together.
29 ½ fingers
With the absence of Jacob, it seemed the two band members had all the freedom to spill all the core memories of Jacob’s clumsiness in the band. There is no doubt these lads are wild and incredibly dedicated to their music and appear to be the ‘jack-asses’ of the rock scene.
Jack laughs. “Jacob [me, and him] went out. It was the night before. I don’t remember which show it was, but he fell over and landed on his hand, his whole hand was like swollen up from the way that he’d fallen over whilst eating a kabab or something and the next day we were playing- I can’t remember which show it was-.”
Billy intervenes. “It was our headliner in Norwich!”
Jack: “Oh god, yeah that was it, he had to play the whole show, he felt awful about it he was like ‘ooohhhhh’ my hand. Again, through our adversity somehow because he had physical damage on his hand, and he played one of the best shows he’s ever played.”
“It was, yeah! Jacob just needs to break his hand and then he will be great!” Billy jokes.
“His hand wasn’t good for a while.”
It was at this moment, Jack explains that Jacob, who balances his full-time job in construction with his role in the band, is missing a large portion of his index finger, due to an incident with a wood cutter. Perhaps this band member may benefit being constantly wrapped in bubble wrap for his own safety.
Despite the rising popularity of Sleemo, the band do not let their busy schedule stop them having a good time off stage. Perhaps not the most brainstorming decisions are made in the afterthought of the next day when drinking on tour.
After the success of ticking Manchester off the list of the stops on tour, the band went out for a few bevvies before making the move to Stoke.
Jack “oh gosh…”
Billy “we were pretty useless, we were in the hostel area in Manchester, [and] we were heading back, Jack in the morning looked like absolute crap.”
Jack: “It was so bad.”
“one of the lowest moments of my life, having to chuck up in the service station toilet, oh god that was horrible’ yeah it wasn’t exactly my finest moment but we played a good show at Stoke.”
Billy: “[our show at Stoke] it was weirdly good, I had to keep running to the toilet, I was being useless that night.”
Jack: “that’s the life.”
One of their favourite nights out, was Billy completely forgetting all knowledge of who was in his band.
“Moonshine is some strong stuff.” Billy nervously laughs.
Jack: “I can’t remember which show it was, we went out afterwards?”
Billy: “oh, was this when we went to ‘spoons’ before and then Waterfront?”
“Ahaha yeah, it was such a bad night. We were just ruined, I remember at one point Billy coming up to me fully wasted, shaking his head ‘oh oh oh you’re in my band!”
Billy: “I kind of, at one point forgot that Jack was in the band because I was very intoxicated, so I went up to him ‘you, you’re in my band’
Jack: “I just kept on telling him ‘I know I know.”
Jack: “Drinking Wrey and Nephew rum and Moonshine whiskey– we really went for it I remember that much.”
To listen to the latest EP, you can click the link below to their Spotify. These guys are going to put Norwich on the map for all the right reasons. If you want to find out more and find out the upcoming tour dates you can find this on their official website.