Like The Jam before them, The Subways are a punk-pop trio that plays clever, socially conscious tunes at maximum volume and speed. But unlike The Jam, who had a bass player named Bruce, The Subways’ bringer of four-string fury is a cool chick named Charlotte Cooper.
After an eight-year absence from touring in the U.S., the band, which features Billy Lunn (guitar/vocals,) Josh Morgan (drums) and Miss Cooper on bass and vocals is hitting the road stateside for a string of gigs in support of their fourth CD, the self-titled “The Subways.” The tour kicks off at the District’s Rock and Roll Hotel April 12.
In advance of coming to the colonies, Miss Cooper checked in from across the pond to discuss the long lag between American tours, what keeps The Subways rocking’ and why she would be lost without a good pair of running shoes.
Question: Has it really been eight years since The Subways last played in America?
Answer: Yeah, I know. It’s crazy, right? I can’t believe that much time has passed. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long ago. We are pleased that we were finally able to make the tour happen, and we can’t wait to come back.
Q: Why did it take so long to come back?
A: It’s kind of difficult for a UK band to get over to the States. The costsinvolved with that are kinda quite difficult to take on. We’ve always toured quite a lot across Europe and were trying to find a time period where we could make it work time-wise and financially.
Q: What were you guys up to in that time?
A: We spent a lot of time in Germany playing festivals. We played Austria, Switzerland and Czech Republic and other Eastern European countries. We have played so many great festivals, and it has been awesome for us to be involved and play those.
Q: When you play the European festivals you play larger stages. What adjustments do you have to make for the club dates?
A: There is less space. But for us we have always had a fairly simple setup. There has always been very little production involved. We just can’t run around as much. [laughs] There are other ways you can kind of move around. We get to sort of thrash around and headbang, which is fun too. [laughs]
Q: What is the one thing you need on the road?
A: For me probably it’s my running shoes. It’s the one thing that keeps me sane. It’s very easy to go from tour bus, or van, straight into the venue and go back outside again at night without ever having seen daylight. I’ve got my running shoes with me. Even if I’ve only got 20 minutes, I can sort of zip out, see some of the city we’re in and get some fresh air.
Q: How has the touring changed for The Subways?
A: I think in many ways it has stayed kind of the same for us. The crew has been with us for 10 years. The family aspect of us all being together is what keeps it fun. The live shows have changed because we have new songs from new albums in there. But the core sort of energy and the songs we like to play live has always stayed with us.
Q: Your fourth CD is out. Why did you decide to have it be self-titled?
A: This time out is the first time we produced everything ourselves. Billy was leading the production. It is something we’ve been interested in. We have been lucky enough to have three amazing producers for the previous three albums: Ian Broudie, Stephen Street and Butch Vig. We learned a lot from them. Taking advice from them. This time we felt ready to do it ourselves.
At the time we didn’t have a label really; the only outside influence was our manager, who has been with us since the start. We had a fan do the artwork, a girl called Zash Ore from Hungary. It really kind of felt like a real indie Subways kind of team effort. We thought the self title would work.
Q: What can people who have never seen The Subways live expect to see?
A: Because it’s the first show of the U.S. tour, we’re just going to be incredibly excited. It feels like a real celebration and achievement for us to make this tour happen. The first show is going to be a massive explosion of energy. And we really hope the Washington people take that on and jump in there with us.
Q: Will you have any downtime in D.C.? If so, what will you do while here?
A: Certainly gonna try to. There is a lot of travel between the shows, driving us around in a van. It’s gonna be fairly tight time-wise.
You’ve got to make the most of this. Who knows how long the band eventually is gonna last for. How many time do you get to go to Washington, D.C.? I’ve never seen any of the big sites. We’ve always been so in and out in Washington. This time I want to see everything. I will have my running shoes with me, so I’m planning on taking a bit of a tourist run so I can take in as much as I can.
Q: For over a decade the lineup has remained the three of you. What is the secret to keeping the band together?
A: It’s just the pure love of it. We genuinely love being on tour and being onstage. Of course we’ve had ups and downs and tumultuous times, but the thought of never being able to play again is something too horrible to think of. You always work through things to make the next tour happen. And get back on the road because, that’s what we really love.
The Subways perform at the Rock and Roll Hotel Tuesday. Tickets are $18 by going to RockandRollHotelDC.com.