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Slowdive: Shoegaze For the People

Three decades into their career and singer-guitarist Rachel Goswell is taking nothing for granted.

by Leslie Ken Chu

Photos by Ingrid Pop

When shoegaze legends Slowdive formed in 1989, most of its members were 19 years old. At that age, pressure to succeed can feel especially daunting. It didn’t help that they incurred scathing reviews as shoegaze fell out of fashion amid the grunge and Britpop booms. After releasing three albums, including shoegaze watershed Souvlaki, and five EPs, Slowdive disbanded in 1995.

Flash forward to 2014. Slowdive reunited at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival, released a self-titled LP on coveted indie label Dead Oceans, and are now on the heels of their fifth album, Everything is Alive (out Sept. 1). The band’s members—vocalists and guitarists Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead, guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Simon Scott—have all grown up. Not only can they handle reviews better, but they also no longer care about them.

Thus, the members of Slowdive don’t know how audience expectations of their music have shifted, but they have noticed a change in their audience. Seeing parents with their kids at their shows inspired Slowdive to make a sensible move that seems radical for a band of their stature.

“We’ve actually opened all our gigs up to all ages where we can,” Goswell tells RANGE. “Our manager’s had emails from 15-, 16-year-olds begging for all-ages shows. I remember being that age and really being into bands, but I wasn’t allowed to go to gigs.”

Wide-eyed wonder not unlike that of youth sparkles throughout everything is alive. Though largely inspired by familial loss, the album marvels at all the world’s beauty.

Director Noel Paul conjures this uplifting spirit in his clip for lead single “Kisses.” Set in Naples, the video follows young couples zipping through the Italian city on scooters. “That song is quite a youthful and uplifting song,” Goswell says. “I think he nailed it. It’s probably my favourite video we’ve done.”

Although Goswell’s never seen a city from the back of a scooter, she has her own favourite way to soak in her surroundings. “When I was 25, I got obsessed with gardening and horticulture,” she says. On Slowdive’s Australian tour, the week before we chatted, she made a point of visiting each city’s botanical gardens. “The one in Sydney was particularly fabulous.” 

Evidently, Goswell now prefers a little more peace and quiet and finds it residing in a small village. “I really need to be in nature in cities when I’m touring to feel grounded,” she says. “My lungs struggle with pollution. I’ve been asthmatic since I was 20, and I stopped smoking when I was 32. The damage was done. Any kids reading this, stop smoking! Just don’t do it! It fucks you up!”

After touring for 34 years, Goswell has collected her share of travel tips. On the same Australian tour, she switched from a hard suitcase to a softshell bag. “They weigh quite a lot. Every kilogram counts!” She also tries to pack lightly, but between street and stage clothes, Kindles, iPads, and earplugs, it’s a challenge. But she makes room for a recent essential: a sleep pillow. “I got one that has elasticated straps that hook around the headrest bit, so your neck won’t fall forward. That actually works, so I’d say get one of those,” she says.

Goswell also has a proclivity for random knick knacks. Last time Slowdive toured the US, she spotted a 1930s glass ornament of an outstretched black panther at a friend’s house in Joshua Tree. “I loved it. Then weirdly, somewhere else we wereI think DenverI randomly went into this old vintage shop, and there was another one. And it’s on my mantle,” she says. 

Like the glass panther, Slowdive fans should be so lucky that the band keeps finding their way back into their headphones. Don’t take them for granted—put everything is alive on your mantle and cherish it.