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Bryan Powis interviews Billy Lunn from 'The Subways'

Billy live on stage at Cambridge, October 2005

On the 16th April I was lucky enough to speak to Billy Lunn from 'The Subways'. And speak we did, nearly for half an hour, Billy's fault as he is a self confessed 'yabber'.

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 It's been a long adventure for The Subways since the Welwyn Garden City trio emerged fresh-faced and exuberant with their 2005 debut album 'Young For Eternity'. Now their second album 'All Or Nothing' is scheduled for release. With their teenage days still relatively recently behind them, the band have already experienced more than most bands endure in an entire career.

The good times were endless. On the live circuit, The Subways earned praise from and subsequent guest slots to Oasis and Foo Fighters. Four consecutive years at the Reading festival along with appearances at Glastonbury, Leeds and T in the Park cemented their reputation as festival favourites. They hit the international circuit with particularly memorable dates in Japan, America, France and Australia, while back home, the venues seemed to get larger with every tour with almost every date sold-out in advance. Media praise came from all corners and they become a regular figure on Stateside television with appearances on the likes of Conan O'Brien and David Letterman.

In amidst such a phenomenal rise laid darker problems. Vocalist/guitarist Billy Lunn was forced to undergo surgery to cure nodules on his vocals chords, caused by strenuous touring. Suddenly the band's very existence was in doubt.

"I was told that if there was any trouble with the recovery, it wasn't that I wouldn't sing again, I might not be able to speak again," he says solemnly. "There was a lot of fear. But even when I couldn't speak, we went into a rehearsal room and the frustrations came out in all the songs we made in that period."

"I was purposefully ignorant" recalls drummer and Lunn's brother Josh Morgan. "I tried to ignore it as much as I could and to plan for the future of the band." Bassist Charlotte Cooper was particularly frustrated to be away from regular touring, so she embarked upon regular DJing treks. "It's a way of pretending to be on tour," she says. It also provided some light relief away from the bigger issues at hand. "You play songs for two hours and get drunk," she laughs. "It's brilliant."

When Lunn eventually made a full recovery, The Subways were re-energised. The combination of frustration and fresh influences from the likes of Refused, Death Cab For Cutie, Mclusky and Shellac provoked the vehement dynamics that are infused in the new album's most vitriolic moments.

The band opted to head to Los Angeles to record the album with producer extraordinaire Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth). Vig proved to be a powerful influence on the band with all three members eager to highlight his intelligence and musical prowess.

"Coming back to the UK was almost too comfortable for us," says Lunn of the band's decision to join Vig in Los Angeles when he had offered to come to England for the recording process. "We like to keep ourselves on our toes and we wanted to dive into this record and make it the best we could." He replicated this philosophy with his lyrics, adding, "I really wore my heart on my sleeve. All the trials and tribulations that we've been through, they're there. I haven't left anything to myself."

The result is that 'All Or Nothing' recalls the exuberance of 'Young For Eternity' while embarking up an adventurous sonic progression.

"We challenged ourselves cognitively, emotionally and musically," affirms Lunn. A spin of 'All Or Nothing' concludes that the struggle was richly rewarded.

'All Or Nothing' - Released June 2008

Current single 'Girls & Boys' is available as a free download from the bands official website

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