Since 2018, The Speedways have serenaded rock n’ rollers blinded by the lure of hopeless romanticism. These anthems of youthful heartache are inspired by Matthew Julian’s experience with a “beautiful girl.” Subsequently, this music is brought to life by with the infectious nature of a late 1970’s punk sound twisting into the warm embrace of the forever longing and an ever personal power pop style. This masterful composition approach falls directly in line with groups like Protex, The Nerves, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and even The Ronettes.
The Speedways were originally envisioned as a one off solo project. Their first record Just Another Regular Summer was written and recorded by Matthew Julian, with the help of Dec Burns. The definitive power pop sounds that came from Just Another Regular Summer (released May 27, 2018) quickly gained notoriety. Matt was soon asked by Mauro Venegas to perform for his Some Weird Sin’s special event Power Pop Weekender in 2018.
To make the performance a reality, Mauro, Adrian Savio and Kris Hood joined the band. Over the last couple years The Speedways have performed countless gigs, toured and recorded new material. They have released three singles and the highly anticipated follow up to Just Another Regular Summer, Radio Sounds, on June 29, 2020.
While Radio Sounds was well received critically, The Speedways were unfortunately unable to celebrate the release because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Despite the setback, The Speedways remain vigilant and have enjoyed popular attention to their records.
On October 17, 2020, The Speedways made a special appearance for Some Weird Sin’s 8th Anniversary Party at Paper Dress Vintage. However, after a lockdown order was put in place, that performance may be their last for 2020. To find more about how The Speedways are doing, I chatted with them about releasing a record during the Coronavirus Pandemic, the evolution from Just Another Regular Summer into Radio Sounds, playing their possible last performance of 2020 and more.
NixBeat: The Speedways were originally envisioned as a one off solo project. In the bands bio on Facebook The Speedways sound is suggested to be a more personal take on Power Pop, blending elements of Tom Petty, Phil Spector and The Exploding Hearts. What inspired you to write, record and release Just Another Regular Summer?
Matthew: The entire Just Another Regular Summer album (and most of Radio Sounds) was inspired by a beautiful girl. If you take someone on a date to Joe Meeks flat it’s gonna end up in a song (even if “they wouldn’t let us go inside”) But then I got a bit carried away and wrote enough songs about her to make an album (well, two albums). My mate has a little home studio in Nottingham and I recorded it there with him. There were no plans to release it but after I put it on bandcamp I had a few labels contact me. The Diana Dors LP artwork (by my mate Josh) was the icing on the cake. I really love the album.
NixBeat: I understand that the Speedways first concert was to perform at the London club night Some Weird Sin. After accepting Some Weird Sin cofounder Mauro Venegas (The Godfathers, Johnny Cola and The A Grades, Miscalculations) along with Adrian Alfonso (Dead Meat) and Kris Hood (More Kicks, Los Pepes) joined the band. What has it been like to collaborate with this all star cast?
Matthew: It’s been brilliant. I think we’re really well suited and compliment one another in a way that a band should. Of course everyone can play but there’s also a great attitude towards it. We’re all on the same page with the music and presentation which is important. As Mauro once said, the line-up kinda picked itself really, the obvious choices all came onboard. We’ve done a lot in the relatively short time we’ve been going. I reckon we’re a great little band. And yep, the very first gig was for the ‘Some Weird Sin – Power Pop Weekender 2018’ .. off the back of one and a half rehearsals.
NixBeat: Matt, in an interview with Veglam.com published on July 7th 2020 you mentioned that years ago you frequently visited Some Weird Sin. While attending you had “found your people” after hearing groups like Protex, Hanoi Rocks and The Ronettes. Would you expand on why Some Weird Sin had that impact on you?
Matthew: Five years or so back I was feeling pretty stale and fed up so I began hopping on a train down to London on a regular basis. I’m a record collector and ended up making a few pals who worked in the record shops in Camden. I knew a bit about the scene and had seen the Ten O Sevens a couple of times but I didn’t really know anyone. Anyway, I ended up at Some Weird Sin one night and I met Mauro and Simon who I got on really well with. They were DJ’ing great tunes and the live bands were cool so I went again the following month, and then again the next etc.. Everyone seemed really sound and would get you a beer in. Some of the first people I got to know were Kris, Liam and Bobby from the band Scraps. Liam was at a Shannon & The Clams show in Hackney and he asked me “when are you next in town?” and I said, I’m gonna go to the Crazy Squeeze gig in Camden and he was like “mate, I’m putting that gig on. I’ll list you” ..and that ended up being the first time I met Adrian. The seeds of a power pop fairytale had been well and truly sown.
NixBeat: The Speedways have performed with many notable acts, such as The Briefs, Protex, Baby Shakes and Nikki Corvette. What has been your favorite band to play with and why?
Adrian: I’d personally say Baby Shakes as they’ve been there since day one and it’s always a party with them.
Mauro: Let’s not forget Giuda! Hard to pick from any of the ones you’ve mentioned though, as they’ve all become lasting friendships, which is fantastic.
Matthew: It was nice to play with them all! Baby Shakes have been mates since they first visited the UK and we just hit it off. They’re a great band and great pals. Protex are a big influence on everyone who plays this style of music, I listened to them a lot when I made the first album so it was so cool when Aiden contacted me to say how much he loved it. The Briefs are one of the best live bands around for sure, Pascal booked our first mini tour of Germany and has been extremely supportive of our music. Nikki is a legend and it was a thrill to play guitar for her. I like to think the Speedways are now her fulltime UK Corvettes! She was great. on top of that, Tommy & The Commies were a personal fave and we’ve opened for The Zeros too who were ace.
NixBeat: What are some of your favourite London bands to play with?
Matthew: I’d have to say The Kinks.
Mauro: Haha that one’s even harder! I guess we’ve played with Lucy & the Rats a couple of times and they’re cool.
NixBeat: My favourite track off Just Another Regular Summer is “Reunion In The Rain” What influenced you to write this song?
Matthew: It’s my favourite too. It’s about hoping the day comes that you get to see her again in real life instead of just in your dreams. It rains during the reunion, because it would wouldn’t it? ..but who’d care? It’s influenced by longing. Musically it’s a kinda Ronettes meets Ramones thing. I can hear Ronnie singing it. I’d love her to sing it.
NixBeat: On July 12, 2019 The Speedways released the “Seen Better Days” single through Snap!! Records. The b-side was “They Don’t Know‘ originally done by Kirsty MacColl in 1979 via Stiff Records. What’s the story behind choosing this song for the b-side of that single?
Matthew: Mauro suggested it. We only had one album out at the time & we needed a cover for the live set to flesh things out a bit. We’d done “Back Of my Hand” by The Jags a couple of times and even though we did it really well it felt a bit obvious. “They Don’t Know” is a great choice because it’s a song we all love and it kinda fits with what we are as a band, but it’s also a little unexpected too. It ended up on the b-side because we needed one, and because we do a decent version. The plan was to do a video for the A and B side of the single, but Kris broke his wrist so we were unable to record the video for “Seen Better Days” ..hence why there’s a video for the B side and not the A side!
Mauro: I just thought it would suit us and be interesting to have it sung from a male perspective, as it’s a traditionally “female” song. I like how live it comes out a bit more Replacements-y.
NixBeat: What was the process like writing and recording Radio Sounds? How was it different than the work you did with Just Another Regular Summer?
Matthew: A fair few of the songs on Radio Sounds I’d already written around the time of Just Another Regular Summer. I also dug into my song book for older tunes like “This Aint A Radio Sound” and “Good Girls Don’t Break Hearts” ..then there were new songs that I wrote as a response to the first album – “In A World Without Love It’s Hard To Stay Young..,” “Daydreaming,” “Brown Eyes Look So Blue..,” “This Is About Girl Who Loves The Sun” etc.. So the writing process was more varied than the first record. Obviously with it being a full band this time there was a collaborative effort in terms of arrangement and individual parts which definitely gave the songs more of a band vibe than before. It’s much more satisfying as a song writer to hear other musicians play and interpret your stuff than to do everything yourself. It makes such a difference. Everyone contributed brilliantly in the studio too (including Jez who produced the album). I enjoyed making it & working with everyone. It turned out really well. A step up in quality for sure.
NixBeat: Radio Sounds was released in June 2020 in the midst of the Covid 19 Pandemic. How has Radio Sounds been received?
Matthew: It’s been received really well, but of course it’s been tough. Like all bands at our level you have your online sales and your gig sales, but there have been no gig sales this year for obvious reasons. I’d say we’ve definitely gone up a level in terms of interest in the band though. Our biggest market in physical record sales has been America again, which is a killer for the buyer because postage costs are insanity, but it’s so great to have fans over there. We’ve done good business in Spain, Scandinavia, UK, Japan and Australia too. People seem to really like it. The pandemic has delayed a few overseas orders of course, so there has been the odd refund and late arrival, but overall it’s gone pretty smooth considering. We’ve had a lot of radio, blog and magazine support which we appreciate so much. It really does help get the word out, especially during this time.
NixBeat: What were you drawing from whilst writing “Kisses Are History?” Tell me about the song.
Matthew: I wrote an early version of it for Just Another Regular Summer ..I had the phrase “once you were a mystery but now your kisses are history” – but the verse lyrics were a bit too self pitying and I couldn’t get beyond that. I wanted it to build gradually to a crescendo like “Running Scared” by Roy Orbison, which I absolutely love (I might steal that technique in the future tbh). Also, I already had a song with the word kiss in the title (“One Kiss Can Lead To Another”) so I shelved it. A few years later when I was writing for Radio Sounds I thought I’d give it another go, so I made it a bit more self confident this time around – “I should have been the one.” I also added some bitterness at the end of the chorus – “if all this was meant to be then so much for love.” It ended up being the first single from the album. Mauro wrote a beautiful guitar solo for it. Never give up on songs that aren’t working out!
NixBeat: What’s the story behind the track “In A World Without Love It’s Hard To Stay Young”?
Matthew: It’s partly fictional and partly real. The main ‘story’ in the song is wondering if the interesting new person you’ve met could be “something” but then you see her on the 29 bus with her significant other. It’s disappointing but it doesn’t really matter because you’re still in love with the girl in silver shoes in any case. “In a world without love it’s hard to stay young” means it’s hard to have the optimism and positivity of youth if you don’t have love and companionship. It was the last song I wrote for the album and it took ages to finish. The original chorus was really wordy “I fell in love with a girl that I used to know, I was Johnny Ramone and she was Brigitte Bardot, then they all lined up to steal her heart away, a kiss off the back of a few stolen words is a drop in the ocean for bees & for birds, now maybe the bad times will do me some good but in a world without love it’s hard to stay young” I changed it to “I fell in love with a girl wearing silver shoes” repeat x3! Much more impact and less corny! I find lyrics really tough but I’m better at self editing than I used to be. I really like this song. It’s great to play live and it’s the perfect album closer.
NixBeat: The Covid 19 Pandemic has seen much of the music world stop in it’s tracks. With bands halting tours and performances, and even many venues closing their doors, how has life been during this for The Speedways?
Mauro: I reckon we’ve taken the bull by the horns in some ways – we’ve kept busy in as much as we’ve been physically able to (even harder with Matt living in a different town to the rest of us), but we’ve been productive lately, shooting videos, recording sessions and even playing live, of course.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s tough in the sense I live up in the Midlands and the rest of the lads are down in London, but we’ve done as much as we possibly can under the circumstances. We went over five months without seeing each other or doing anything, but in August we had a rehearsal, then in September we filmed a couple of videos and recorded a live set for radio, in October we played a show and in November we’ve got a day booked in the studio.. so that’s a decent run. It’s been a fucking rotten year for everyone though of course.
NixBeat: During the Covid 19 Pandemic Bandcamp has had an all sales go directly to artists on the first Friday of the month. What do you think of Bandcamp’s event and has it benefited sales of Speedways records and merchandise?
Matthew: We’ve done ok from it. A few people have been kind enough to order stuff on those particular Fridays. We still need to get some more merchandise done actually. There isn’t any Radio Sounds stuff because obviously we haven’t been able to tour or anything.
NixBeat: On October 17th 2020 The Speedways performed their first show since the onset of Covid 19 in March 2020. The show was to celebrate Some Weird Sin’s 8th birthday party at Paper Dress Vintage. The show emphasized certain restrictions like social distancing and being seated. What was performing this show like in the era of Covid 19?
Mauro: It was GREAT to play live again! I think we’d all really missed that buzz. We only managed to get together to rehearse once, but it seems like we all know the songs still, so that’s something! I found I got used to the audience being seated pretty quick, to be honest they were still more lively than some of the London crowds we’d played to before all this anyway, haha!
Adrian: It was a bit stressful given the recent lockdown coming into place, but playing was fun. It was nerve racking to see the seats but once the stage lights go on and the drunk audience start hollering it’s pretty familiar.
Matthew: I really enjoyed it. I mean, obviously the restrictions and limitations were frustrating but after a few beers it didn’t really matter! It was cool to play with the guys again and great to see friends who we hadn’t seen since at least March ffs! We played “Empty Pages” for the first time live which was something I’d been looking forward to. I liked playing two sets in one night actually. Very old school!
NixBeat: What does the future hold for The Speedways?
Matthew: What does the future hold for anyone right now? It’s a tough one to answer. We plan to put one last single out from the Radio Sounds LP pretty soon. Long term of course it’s difficult to say, I mean in theory we’d wanna tour and gig as much as possible, but we’ll have to wait & see. I’ve struggled to write during Covid. Rather than being inspired by the dead time I’ve been stifled and disillusioned by it. My songs are about feelings and personal experiences. Those things have been in short supply during 2020. I probably shouldn’t end on a negative! ..so with my glass half full I’ll say 2021 will be our year and we’ll be able to get back to doing what we love.