Sleaford Mods, the UK post-punk duo comprised of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, are not optimists. And they have a lot of material to work with. Their homeland is mired in a cost of living crisis and instability in the government, with three different prime ministers having had the job since September. Their new album shares that worldview in its songs and its title, “UK Grim.”

We asked Williamson if the British-centric references he delivers in a ranting, hip-hop flow, go over the heads of US audiences, who they’ll be meeting on a tour that includes stop at Webster Hall on Friday, April 7 and Underground Arts in Philadelphia on April 11.

“A lot of people are not familiar with a lot of content, a lot of the names, etc., but it kind of doesn’t bother them,” he said. “I suppose it’s the equivalent of me listening to something by the Dead Kennedys, where [they] repeated politicians, California governors, whatever were talked about, but I knew who he was talking about in the sense of corrupt individuals or people that he deemed to be causing problems for humanity. So it doesn’t really bother me. It didn’t alienate me as such. I think the last US tour it occurred to me that people were starting to get it, probably in their own way, but even so, they were starting to get it, it was resonating with people.”

Williamson has been making music for decades and started Sleaford Mods in 2007. It took some time, but notice and success came, with milestones such as signing with Rough Trade, the label that has released legend-status records like The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead” and The Strokes’ “Is This It,” and recording songs with The Prodigy. North American dates this year include both weekends of Coachella.

Williamson, who also did a stint on the TV series “Peaky Blinders,” chatted with us in advance of the tour.

What inspired you to write the new album, “UK Grim?”

Yeah, lots of things. Personal things, there’s quite  a bit of introspection on it, childhood memories, awareness of my own failings as a person, my ongoing weaknesses, whatever that may be, and also obviously politics, all the people that I disagree with that I don’t like outside of politics, people in the music industry. Lots of things. In a way, they’re just albums where I’m trying to make sense of it all but at the same time criticizing a lot of people. That’s how it’s always been with Sleaford Mods, you know what I mean?

You’ve done a lot of collaborations with Sleaford Mods, and that has continued on “UK Grim.” Who are some of the guests on the album?

Perry Farrell got in touch and asked if we’d like to write a song with him, and we said yes straight away. We were gonna originally use it as promo for the US tour last year but it became quite apparent that the song would fit on the album. We’d done about 35 songs and that one kept coming up so we figured we’d put it on the album. Florence Shaw, a member of Dry Cleaning, big fans of Dry Cleaning, we got to know them a little bit in 2021 when they supported us on the UK tour. So when “Force 10 From Navarone” came up, I started working on it and became convinced that Florence would suit it.

What is the show on the US dates going to look and sound like?

I’m working on the setlist now. It’s gonna be an hour and a half, 25 songs, pretty relentless. It’s going to be harder than last year’s set, I think, so it’ll be interesting to see how that will carry on. It’s always a challenge. The shows are so full of energy that it’s quite immense, really. If you think about it too much, you start getting anxious (laughs). 

Who are some artists that had an impact on you and made you want to do this?

Wu-Tang clan, definitely. Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, all of ‘em really, they’re all brilliant. Loads of people. Paul Weller, John Lydon, people like that, The Exploited, English Dogs, Andrew Weatherall, Two Lone Swordsmen, Keith Tenniswood, the list goes on.

Success for you wasn’t immediate. Does that fact that you went through some ups and downs give you a different perspective – not that you can compare it to another perspective, because it’s the only one you have.

Sure, sure, I agree totally, and I have tried to compare it to another perspective, but you’re right, you can’t, because it’s the only one I’ve got. So I do regret a lot of the things that stalled me. I think that was behaviorisms, drugs and alcohol. I regret doing all that because I think I would’ve had a nicer life a lot earlier if I hadn’t have done so many drugs and drank so much beer, and I regret it. But without that life I wouldn’t have what I got now with Sleaford Mods but it’s debatable as to whether or not that’s worth it.

How do you feel about what’s going on in the UK? What would you want Americans to know?

It’s hopeless. I mean, your country I find is just full of hopelessness as well in many respects. It’s such a big country and I find many parts of America that are broken, just driving through it. It reminded me of England. We’re a smaller version, I think, in a lot of respects. So we haven’t got the gun thing over here, but the way violence is going in this country, it doesn’t really matter. I think a lot of Western countries are folding, aren’t they, and I think we’re just another one of them, and I just want to try to get that across in all of these albums, an observation that takes in all of that. And you know, we’ve done a good job with it, I think. It continues to be the main theme that we inject into the songs.

Photo by Ewen Spencer

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