Over the last two years The Speedways have continued to blaze a trail of power pop excellence. On June 29, 2020 The Speedways shined a light through the darkness of the Covid 19 Pandemic by releasing Radio Sounds. Musically, Radio Sounds expanded upon The Speedways captivating pop sensibilities, catchy melodies and longing love songs. This is brilliantly done by reviving an attitude found in late 1970’s rock n’ roll but with a spirit of ’79 punk infused power pop sound. It’s the kind of music meant for the romanticism of youthful idealism and nostalgic yearnings.
Furthermore, while the previous album Just Another Regular Summer was the sole manifestation of Matt Julian, Radio Sounds introduced more collaborative approach from all the members of the band. Continuing on this note in 2021, The Speedways released of Borrowed and Blue. This 10” record celebrated their take on songs like Abba’s “SOS,” and the very sentimental Hanoi Rock’s “11th Street Kids.”
Continuing to show their versatility The Speedways hit the remainder of the year running. This was perfectly shown on September 25, 2021. The Speedways found themselves thrust into headlining Some Weird Sin’s Pump It Up Power Pop Weekender. This was unexpected, but ended up being a welcome performance. The Speedways took to the stage with a powerful energy that was in turn well received by their audience.
2022 has further seen The Speedways reach new heights. They recorded a new record Talk Of The Town and single “Shoulda Known”/”A Drop In The Ocean”that is due later this year. The Speedways toured both Sweden and Spain in May 2022. This was followed by a quick jaunt over to Germany in June 2022. All of this is setting he stage for a much anticipated return to Some Weird Sins Pump It Pump Power Pop Weekender on July 2, 2022.
It’s clear The Speedways have remained ever vigilant. To learn more about their developments during the last couple of years, I caught up with Adrian Alfonso, Mauro Venegas and Matt Julian. We chatted about their appreciation for Hanoi Rocks, touring Sweden fort the first time, Ronnie Specter, their new album Talk Of The Town and more…..
NixBeat: Last we spoke The Speedways had been in hibernation due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. However, in 2021 with the availability of vaccines and end to lockdowns, The Speedways were able to start performing again. How does it feel to be able to play gigs again?
Adrian Alfonso: Pretty great, we’re not alone in feeling like there’s a lot of time to make up for. Especially with our new songs it’s been great to play them live, though we didn’t really get much of a chance to play stuff off Radio Sounds. There’s a little anxiety as I know it can be overwhelming for people going to gigs with just the sheer volume of things happening. So far all the gigs we’ve played have been great and have had really good turnouts. I feel very grateful that people are supporting us.
Mauro Venegas: feels amazing!! Especially going abroad again, and especially playing the new material live.
NixBeat: In 2021 The Speedways released the Borrowed & Blue 10” via Snap Records. On this record you include of a cover of Hanoi Rock’s “11th Street Kids.” You also did a music video for it that was posted to youtube on May 12. 2021. What prompted you to cover this track?
Adrian Alfonso: They’re a band that at least Mauro, Matt and myself have all bonded over. I always felt like they were a band that often get dismissed for their image. When I first met Mauro a decade ago and saw him holding one of their records, I excitedly ran over and started chatting with him about them. I remember a couple years after that I was an extra in a video shoot for Mauro’s band at the time Jonny Cola and the A-Grades and was telling Mauro how I’d just started learning guitar and was finding it pretty tricky, then he spotted my Hanoi Rocks tattoo then started playing the intro to “11th Street Kids” to be a show off… They’re often a band we’ll play in the van when we’re on tour and I think it was after a gig in Spain, we were in the hotel without guitars and drunkenly suggested we covered “Until I get you.” We had a bit of a sing-song and figured nothing would come of that. But the pandemic happened and we couldn’t really get together. So, the covers EP came up and I think Mauro mentioned doing either one of those songs ,and I think we all agreed that “11th Street Kids” would be better for us as it’s a little more upbeat.
Mauro Venegas: Probably been covered by one of my bandmates, but Hanoi are a band that Matt and I (and Adrian and I) bonded over when we first got to know each other — only those who are really “in the know” appreciate them for what they were and know how significant they were. They don’t get the proper dues they deserve! So yeah, this was one we used to mess about with in hotel rooms on tour (we considered covering “Until I Get You” as well, but realised this would probably fit us better). I know he didn’t grow up with ’em like the rest of us did, so I was really chuffed when Kris was on board with the idea!
Matt Julian: As the guys say, we have a mutual love of Hanoi. “11th Street Kids” felt like the right choice. It’s got a punk rock nostalgia that resonates within us all!
NixBeat: Because it’s one of my favorites, and you did it so well, what prompted you to cover Abba’s “SOS?”
Adrian Alfonso: We like the song.
Matt Julian: I love how brooding and unsettling the verse is ,and how the chorus just explodes. I don’t remember what prompted it, but it had been a consideration for a little while. We all love ABBA. It was a popular choice.
NixBeat: Nambucca has recently closed it’s doors on May 14th 2022. As The Speedways have played this legendary club numerous times, how has it’s closure affected you and the music community in London?
Adrian Alfonso: It’s very sad news, it was always a great venue to play, and there are so few venues left in London already. In particular, Nambucca had a sense of home for us as it’s on Holloway Road which has always had a lot of significance for the band.
Mauro Venegas: Maybe affected me most actually, as I ran so many nights there for several years. Some of the best ‘Some Weird Sins’ were there. It had a great vibe and wasn’t like any of the other similar sized venues on the circuit. Things got a bit more out of control there at times! It’ll be sadly missed.
Matt Julian: I’ve met some of my best friends there so I’ll always remember it for that (among other things). We did our first headline gig there in 2018. It’s a shame to see it go. Holloway Road looms large in the Speedways legend. Eerily so.
NixBeat: On September 25, 2021 The Speedways played Some Weird Sin’s “Pump It Up Power Pop Weekender” at the Lexington in London, England. What was it like to perform for Pump It Up again?
Adrian Alfonso: We feel a bit like the house band at this point. The band was only ever supposed to play one gig at the first ever weekender in 2018. So it’s also felt a bit like our home. The atmosphere all weekend was great. There were some bands that unfortunately had to cancel due to the situation with Covid. Every band that did manage to come along were really excited to play ,and the crowds were great. We ended up headlining the Saturday, that had us all a bit nervous, but it was probably the best gig we’d ever played at that point, and it was fantastic that it was in our home city.
Mauro Venegas: Personally speaking, that was one of the (if not the) best Speedways show ever. It was very intense and it all poured out of us on the night. All the uncertainty and emotion that we’d been through over that summer (and probably over the whole lockdown period before that), and having such a hugely enthusiastic crowd response gave us a huge boost. Of course, we weren’t meant to headline at all, but ended up doing so, and it worked out pretty well for us atmosphere-wise!
Matt Julian: Yeah, we accidentally headlined the Saturday night due to a cancellation, so that was a bit stressful in the sense we hadn’t prepared a set list long enough to headline! But, we were all on our A-game that night and nailed the unrehearsed encores. Like Mauro says, there was something quite emotional about the weekend as a whole, but it turned out to be one of our best ever shows. One of those special ones where the audience and band are enjoying it as much as each other.
NixBeat: On November 10th 2021 it was announced on The Speedways Facebook page that you all would be up and running again in 2022. Was there some doubt about The Speedways continuing on as a group?
Matt Julian: For a time there was yeah. I had a setback and needed to hide away for a while. It was nothing to do with the Speedways, it was my own personal thing you know? Even at the level we play it can be tough to find the courage to get on stage or be creative if you’re doubting your value as a person. I know that sounds very deep haha, but we all have to deal with things in our own way at times. People say I take things to heart too much. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to write a song as pretty as “Empty Pages”— so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts. I’m glad I take things to heart. The band were really supportive and gave me the space to pull myself together (well, as pulled together as I ever get anyway). They were absolutely great. I listened to a lot of Lana Del Rey and took up smoking.
NixBeat: Matthew, I know The Ronnettes and Ronnie Spector are big influences for you. When Ronnie Spector passed away on January 12, 2022 you eulogized her via a Facebook post. Can you expand on how Ronnie Spector has influenced you and your music?
Matt Julian: I’ve just always loved her voice and the Phil Spector sound since I first heard “Be My Baby” She joins up the dots in my record collection. The first Speedways record in particular is hugely influenced by the romance of Ronnie Spector. “One Kiss Can Lead To Another” is built around the “Be My Baby” bass line and “Reunion In The Rain” was very much an attempt at a Ronettes style song. She’s now sadly missed like so many others.
NixBeat: So far 2022 has been busy for The Speedways. You all toured Sweden and Spain in May 2022. This was a first time playing in Sweden. What was your reception in Sweden like?
Adrian Alfonso: It’s always daunting to play somewhere new, but the people in Sweden were very welcoming and enthusiastic.
Matt Julian: It was really good. The hospitality and welcome we received in Malmo was amazing. We got to play a couple of cool shows and also check in with Trevor who runs Beluga Records—plus a little trip to the ABBA museum on a boat from Stockholm harbour. It’s a very beautiful place. Would love to go back.
NixBeat: How was it returning to play in Spain and what were some of the highlights?
Adrian Alfonso: Spain feels like our second home in many ways, so it felt like an overdue homecoming, though I wish it could have been a bit longer. The highlight for me is the people, they’re always really enthusiastic and really love power pop music and we always end up making new friends each time we go there.
Mauro Venegas: Playing the new stuff! Haha!
Matt Julian: Spain has always been very supportive of the Speedways. My usual highlights are the amount of people at the gigs who know the words, the variety of brilliant music we play in the Speedwaysmobile and eating pan con tomate for breakfast every morning with Kris. We’ll be back again in the autumn to play the Flamin’Go Beach Festival!
NixBeat: The Speedways are due to release a new album Talk Of The Town in November 2022. What can readers expect from your new album?
Adrian Alfonso: There’s a lot of familiar ground as we worked with Jez Leather again as he co-produced the album with us, but this time we went to Perry Vale Studios run by Pat Collier and had the luxury of playing together live. We all really had to push ourselves and really stepped up our playing. There’s more members of the band writing now. I’ve got a song on this one, and it’s the first time I’ve buckled down and written a full song by myself. I admittedly would often rely on whatever band I’m in to help beef up my ideas or get the singer to write the lyrics, so this is definitely a step up for me personally.
Mauro Venegas: Ooh yes! This album has some new twists and turns thrown in. There’s more variety, the performances are better and we’ve not been scared to draw from a much wider pool of influences. It’s harder, it’s poppier, it’s more soulful, it’s more adventurous, it’s the strongest one to date ,and I’m massively proud of it!
Matt Julian: It’s fun for all the family! We’ve collectively contributed songs, as well as arranging stuff more as a band. Mauro sings a couple of tunes this time as well. I was really struggling to write songs during the last two years so I mixed things up a bit and wrote a few songs on the keyboard or around drum machine beats. They didn’t all make the cut, but at least it meant I was writing again. We could have made a straight out “pop” record, and of course there are some power pop bangers on Talk Of The Town, but it was nice to try new things and show off on the guitar a bit. I’m really pleased with my vocals on this album too. Just for the record, I had a dream that the next Speedways album would be called Talk Of The Town. I made a note of it and around a year later I wrote the title song. It has nothing to do with the Pretenders and it has nothing to do with “oh we’re so great, we’re the talk of the town” It’s about paranoia and humiliation.
NixBeat: After getting a little preview from your new single “Shoulda Known”/”A Drop In The Ocean” to be released via Snap Records in September 2022. What are you drawing from for your new track “A Drop In The Ocean?”
Adrian Alfonso: It’s another ballad, and probably the best example of all three of our voices on record to date.
Matt Julian: Yep, another ballad! I originally wrote it in 2019. It’s quite an old one, but I knew it had potential. It’s the kind of thing we do really well and other bands don’t do at all. I’m drawing from all the same places and faces.
NixBeat: The A-side the new single is “Shoulda’ Known.” It seems to be a track about the follies of falling in love again and again. What inspired this song?
Mauro Venegas: I can’t speak for the lyrical side (though I gave Matt the title/chorus as a starting point). This was the first real co-write we’ve done in fact, where I had the music and he came up with lyrics for it, it was great working that way, hopefully we’ll do more of it next time, after all he’s a waaaay better lyricist than I am, haha!
Matt Julian: It was our first actual co-write. Mauro had a great riff and chorus, then I threw in the lyrics and vocal melody on the verse. I had a scrap of paper where I’d written “good things don’t come to those who wait, impatient hearts won’t hesitate to break in two tonight.” That was all I had, but I started singing it over Mauros riff and it fit really nice once I’d fleshed it out a bit. It’s inspired by The Speedways ..It’s a “love gone wrong” song. It’s our bread and butter!
NixBeat:The Speedways are due to perform Pump It UP Power Pop Weekender on July 2nd 2022. The Line up includes The Baby Shakes, The Yum Yums and more! What can readers expect from The Speedways at this festival?
Adrian Alfonso: It will be a step up from our set at 2021’s weekender, we’re hoping to bring the same energy, but with a load of new songs to play for everyone.
Mauro Venegas: We’re on form right now. Watch out!!
Matt Julian: We’ve only played one UK show this year so hopefully people will come out and see us. Really looking forward to catching up with Baby Shakes again. We’ll aim to steal the show and win over as many new fans as we can.
NixBeat: Are there any plans for a Speedways U.S Tour?
Matt Julian: There are no plans, but it remains a goal for the band. If we get concrete offers and a realistic (geographically) run of shows then absolutely we’d love to! We sell plenty of records to America and have friends over there, so that’s a good place to start. ‘Speedways – Talk Of The USA Tour 2023’ does have a certain ring to it.
NixBeat: What does the future hold for The Speedways?
Adrian Alfonso: Hopefully a lot more touring, and maybe more new music too..
Mauro Venegas: The new record’s on another level to the previous ones. I’m excited to see what people make of it!
Matt Julian: A new album, a single or two, a new video at some point, new t-shirts, Japanese tour, a Jägermeister sponsorship deal. Lot’s of good stuff.