Soft Play on their name change and new music: “We can be aggressive, but we can also have a little cuddle”

Soft Play have spoken to NME about their nu-metal inspired single ‘Mirror Muscles’ and what fans can expect from their first album in six years – as well as their decision to ditch the name ‘Slaves’ name and the chances of another collab with Robbie Williams.

The punk duo kickstarted a new chapter of their career back in August with snooty comeback track ‘Punk’s Dead’ and last week, they followed it up with the ferocious ‘Mirror Muscles’.

“We’ve just really embraced what we were about when we first started this band,” said guitarist Laurie Vincent. “On the last two records (2016’s ‘Take Control’ and 2018’s ‘Acts Of Fear And Love’) we had veered off course accidentally trying to be something we weren’t. Now, we’ve re-embraced what first inspired us and people seem really happy about it”

Originally written by drummer and vocalist Isaac Holman for his solo project Baby Dave, the tongue-in-cheek ‘Mirror Muscles’ was inspired by people-watching at the gym while he worked out. “I’m just fascinated by gym culture,” he told NME.

Before it was properly released though, Holman showed it to Vincent who immediately told him “we’re having this for Soft Play”.

“The band just has a bigger platform and it’s too good a song not to share,” explained Vincent, who helped reimagine the track by taking influence from ‘00s nu-metal artists like Limp Bizkit, Korn, Alien Ant Farm and System Of A Down alongside pop-punk icons like Avril Lavigne.

“‘Mirror Muscles’ is a real homage to those ’00s bands,” explained Vincent. “I stopped trying to be this cool person that only liked Radiohead and started owning who I really was. As a kid, I loved Linkin Park and I wanted to embrace that. I just really got over myself.”

Adding that macho nu-metal influence also helped the band twist the conversation about masculinity even further. “Not everyone understands that [‘Mirror Muscles’] is satire,” said Holman.

Vincent added: “If you only see a snapshot of what we do, you might not get it but it’s all very tongue in cheek. It’s deadly serious and a joke at the same time. That was always the premise of this band but we’ve really embraced that with this record. It feels like we’ve sort of grown into Soft Play. We understand who we are and what we’re here to do.

“At the end of the day, it’s meant to be fun. The more you overthink it, the less you’ll get it.”

Despite the snarling music they make, Soft Play have also been open about their mental health and their current profile picture on social media sees the pair in a tender embrace.

“We want this band to be as real as possible and as people, we are all things,” explained Holman. “We can be aggressive and make high energy music, but we can also be chill and have a little cuddle. This feels like the most authentic we’ve ever been.”

While Soft Play don’t want to give too much away about their upcoming fourth album, they confirmed it will be released this year and features a track written from the perspective of mega-assassin John Wick. “If Keanu Reeves reads this, we need you for a video mate,” said Vincent.

“The album is more accomplished than what we’ve done before,” he continued. “It’s frantic, frenetic, intense and still sounds really raw in places, but that’s not a mistake this time. I want to say it’s more mature, but there are some absolutely ridiculous songs on it. We’ve just captured the aggression and the humour perfectly this time.”

Vincent went on to praise Holman’s lyrics as the best he’s ever written, while Holman said he was inspired by his bandmate. “There was something about his riffs that made me want to scream from somewhere deep inside myself,” he offered. “It all felt so natural and so easy, which is when we’re at our best.”

Soft Play on the set of the ‘Mirror Muscles’ video. CREDIT: Thomas Davis

Vincent also found himself toying around with a mandolin after listening to a lot of The Pogues and Irish folk – as well as taking inspiration from the ever-shifting world of hardcore.

Gallows’ first album ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ and the song ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ was one of the reasons we even started this band,” he said, “but then watching a band like Turnstile and the world they’ve created [with 2021’s breakout album ‘Glow On’] was also really inspiring. There was also a lot of Kacey Musgraves and Maggie Rogers/”

According to Vincent, music has gotten a lot less tribal since the band formed in 2012.

“People are definitely embracing artists for being individuals, rather than trying to fit them into certain scenes,” he said. “If I’m telling a taxi driver what style of music we make, I’d say punk but I also don’t ever want to have a conversation with someone about what punk is, because that’s just boring.”

He continued: “I feel like we’ve finally found our own lane [with this new era]. We’re not really looking to the left and right anymore. We’re just doing our own thing and it feels really good.”

Yungblud announces new festival BludFest – check out the line-up poster. Credit: Press

Earlier this week (March 18) Soft Play were confirmed to be playing Milton Keynes Bowl in August as part of Yungblud’s inaugural BLUDFEST, alongside Lil Yachty, Lola Young and The Damned.

“I’ve got so much respect for Yungblud and what he’s done. He seems like a lovely bloke as well, so I’m just gassed we’ve been asked to be a part of it,” said Holman while Vincent revealed that Yungblud had been trying to get Soft Play to support him for a while. “It’s nice we can finally make it happen,” he said. “I’d quite like Lil Yachty to see us play. I feel like that could be a good colla.”

It wouldn’t be the most surprising collaboration Soft Play have been a part of, either. Comeback single ‘Punk’s Dead’ featured an appearance from Robbie Williams after he reached out, wanting advice on how to make Soft Play-inspired music.

“It’s an ongoing conversation,” said Vincent. “His schedule is so busy but we have plans to see him this summer. We Whatsapp each other and he likes to keep updated on what we’re doing, which is a bit mental, isn’t it?”

‘Punk’s Dead’ was written in response to the backlash Soft Play got for changing their name from Slaves. They made the announcement in December 2022, with an apologetic statement that said the original name was supposed to reflect “the grind of day to day life,” but the pair also acknowledged that the intent “doesn’t change the fact that the name Slaves is an issue”.

The decision was partly inspired by a conversation the band had with Bob Vylan vocalist Bobby due to perceived racial insensitivity of the name. “He basically said we were one of his favourite bands but he wouldn’t wear our merch,” explained Holman.

“If he felt uncomfortable about liking us, there must be others who feel the same way,” offered Vincent.

In their statement, the band wrote that they had previously “responded to criticism of the name from a place of fear and defensiveness” and they were “scared” of what would happen if they changed it because of how much their their identity was tied to the name. “It took years of therapy to see past that,” Vincent told NME.

“In the end, it just became tiring,” he continued. “I didn’t want to build a life around a name that clearly made people uncomfortable. It took a lot of growing up but now we’ve done it, it feels right.”

Going forward, Soft Play are returning to their ethos of “personal politics” with their music.

“It’s about trying to find things that are worth talking about, without having to be this politically-driven band,” said Vincent.

“With [2015’s debut album] ‘Are You Satisfied?’ we were talking about everyday topics that people could control in their own world. It’s important that artists address global issues, but that’s never been our thing. You can’t comprehend those big topics if you can’t even tie your shoelace in the morning anyway, so we’re more interested in making music that feels like a comforting arm around you.”

Soft Play are set to play Bludfest on Sunday August 11. Tickets are on sale now and available here.

The post Soft Play on their name change and new music: “We can be aggressive, but we can also have a little cuddle” appeared first on NME.

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