The Slow Readers Club’s urgent and uncompromising sixth LP ‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ shines with a radiant, palpable energy as the Manchester band seize the moment with a slew of stunning alt-rock anthems and eruptions.
“Knowledge Freedom Power” – The Slow Readers Club
I wanted to explore more positive themes; I’m very conscious that we are living through really tough times, and bleak dystopian visions feel a little indulgent.
A fever burns bold and bright on The Slow Readers Club’s highly anticipated new album.
Jagged, jarring synths pulse and provoke a response deep down inside as glistening guitars sear and soar around the ears; fervent drums beat a dynamic rhythm, and vocals ring out full of raw passion and soul-stirring charisma. It’s an uplifting and wholly inspiring experience – one driven as much by the music itself, as by the invisible, but indelible emotions that brought each song to life in the first place. Urgent and uncompromising, Knowledge Freedom Power shines with a radiant, palpable energy as The Slow Readers Club seize the moment through a slew of stunning alt-rock anthems and eruptions.
A world full of beauty and wonder is waiting
out there, tomorrow has come around.
The future is yours to discover, you’re walking
on air and nothing can bring you down.
Knowledge. Freedom. Power.
All this is yours.
Knowledge. Freedom. Power.
Tear down the walls.
A world full of wisdom and culture is waiting
out there,keep walking on through the crowd.
A path walked by you and no other, just know
that one day, they’re bringing the curtain down.
Released February 24 via Velveteen Records, Knowledge Freedom Power is a powerhouse ready and waiting to be unleashed. For Aaron Starkie, Kurtis Starkie, James Ryan, and David Whitworth, The Slow Readers Club’s new album is like the celebration after the hard-won fight, or the rainbow at the end of a heavy, destructive storm. After releasing their highly anticipated fourth LP The Joy of the Return on March 20, 2020 – literally right as the world was closing – the band found their hopes and plans dashed. That record still broke into the Top 10 on the UK charts, making it their most successful LP to date. 91 Days In Isolation, a self-released album made virtually via WhatsApp and Google Drive during the height of pandemic-fueled lockdowns and quarantines, came out later that same year.
Arriving two and a half years later, Knowledge Freedom Power is, for all intents and purposes, The Slow Readers Club’s new rallying cry.
“Our previous album 91 Days in Isolation was written completely remotely during lockdown, which forced us explore new ways of writing,” frontman Aaron Starkie tells Atwood Magazine. “Where before most writing was done together in practice this new approach allowed us to focus more on our individual parts and build layers of musical ideas which isn’t always possible when you are jamming tunes out. Knowledge Freedom Power was more of a hybrid approach with some ideas being demoed at home and some starting life in the rehearsal room through jamming. We worked with a new producer (Joe Cross) on this record and spent a week or so in pre production to look at arrangements and establish a different sonic signature to what we have done before. This involved leaning into more aggressive synth sounds and the general treatment of all sounds being more punchy and powerful. The biggest changes vs. previous records come through the aggressive acidic synths on tracks like “Modernise” and “Knowledge Freedom Power,” and the more positive lyrical themes. We try and move things forward with each record while remaining true to what has served us well in the past and the music we enjoy making.”
“I’m not sure we had a musical vision for the record when we started out writing it,” he adds. “We tend to work song by song and the musical treatment of it which basically tends toward guitar vs synth led tends to work itself out naturally. As the songs began to stack up I guess you could say we have leaned more into synths and keys on this one, where 91 Days and The Joy Of The Return were more guitar led. Lyrically, I did have a definite idea that I wanted to explore more positive themes; I’m very conscious that we are living through really tough times, and bleak dystopian visions feel a little indulgent. That said there’s a lot of that in there still – I can’t help it. A few of the songs focus on time running out with a message of to seize opportunities and take action. I guess that feeling has been felt more acutely because we had a couple of years effectively stolen from us by the pandemic.”
The album’s title comes from the track of the same name, which served as its lead single back in late 2022. An exhilarating, energizing anthem, “Knowledge Freedom Power” seeks to spread a little more light and love in the world. There’s hope in Starkie’s voice as he invites us to shine brighter and bolder than we ever thought possible: “Knowledge. Freedom. Power. All this is yours,” he declares in a captivating chorus. “Knowledge. Freedom. Power. Tear down the walls.”
“The overall message is to make the best of life,” the vocalist explains. “That there is beauty and opportunity out there whatever the social and economic circumstances you find yourself in and despite the bleak times we are living through.”
That’s just one of several highlights awaiting new listeners and longtime fans alike. From the hard-hitting synth-driven opener “Modernise” and the achingly visceral “Lay Your Troubles on Me,” to the cinematic “How Could You Know” and the dramatic, s weeping “No You Never,” Knowledge Freedom Power is a compelling, cathartic journey from start to finish.
“My personal favourites are probably ‘Modernise,’ ‘How Could You Know,’ ‘Sacred Song,’ and ‘What Might Have Been,’” Starkie muses, unintentionally citing nearly half the record. “I prefer our lighter side at the moment – [it’s] just where my head’s at.” As far as his favorite lyrics, the frontman cites two specific sets that stand out the most to him. “I like the chorus to ‘Sacred Song,’ the concept of a maternal savior – I recall reading that Freud said we all harbor a desire to return to the womb, the lyrics feel like an expression of that.”
And on that day, she sang a sacred song,
her melody, like distant stars would light the way.
Our darkest dreams our deepest fears all gone,
we’re born again like children of the golden age
“… And I like the opening verse of ‘Modernise,’ as I think it sets out the theme of the song pretty well within a few lines.”
It’s time to modernise. Now listen son you’ve got to
up your game, there’s a world of prying eyes.
Debt multiplies. Those winds of fortune never
blew my way, now I’m old before my time.
Whichever song happens to most strike your fancy, there’s no denying the pure passion and radiant energy lying at the core of The Slow Readers Club’s music. Knowledge Freedom Power is an uplifting, melodic, and danceable record – one ready to help us celebrate life’s best times and persevere through its darker moments – all while better connecting with the people who matter most to us.
This is the kind of music we deserve to have soundtracking the day after the storm, when the sun finally shines its light on us once more.
For Starkie and co., they’re just glad to be back and doing what they love the most. “We put a lot of work and care into the record over the past year,” he shares. “It’s always daunting putting stuff out into the world. I think it stands up well alongside our previous work, most of which are well loved by our fans, so I would hope this will have a similar reception; time will tell. We can’t wait to play it live and see people’s reactions firsthand!”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The Slow Readers Club’s Knowledge Freedom Power with Atwood Magazine as Aaron Starkie goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s latest album!
Knowledge Freedom Power is out now via Velveteen Records.
:: stream/purchase Knowledge Freedom Power here ::
‘Knowledge Freedom Power’ – The Slow Readers Club
:: Inside Knowledge Freedom Power ::
This is a technofear song about struggling to keep up with changes to the world of work, fear of the rise of AI, fear of losing financial security, fear of conformity and subjugation to the routine and conventions of modern life. It’s inspired by the constant feeling of economic and social turmoil that we are all living through at the moment.
Musically it’s built on an aggressive synth riff and pounding beat that’s designed to punch you in the face. “It’s time to modernise, now listen son you’ve got to up your game, there’s a world of prying eyes. Debt multiplies, those winds of fortune never blew my way now I’m old before my time…”
This is a guitar led anthem / ballad. Its got a great riff and I love the build into the chorus. It’s a song about the dying embers or a relationship – where everything feels hollow and there is no communication and imagining a future with / and without that person.
This one started with the riff from Kurt (guitars), he shared it over whats app and i wrote the vocal melody over the top – think we had just the verse to begin with. We then worked this into a full song in practice with Jim and David contributing their parts and ideas around structure and dynamics.
This was a lockdown guitar idea that didn’t make our previous album ‘91 Days in isolation’ , mainly because it lacked a chorus and needed jamming out in a rehearsal room! It was codenamed Lemon for a while because the feel of Kurts bubbling guitar riff reminded me of a band called Lemon Jelly. It also had a bit of a flaming lips energy to it while we were writing it although I don’t know if that comes through on the finished track.
It’s one of the brightest songs on the album sonically and thematically, it’s a song about an imagined goddess saviour, a mother figure who sings a lullaby and takes the pain away.
LAY YOUR TROUBLES ON ME
This was born out of a jamming session in our rehearsal room. We were jamming around the verse idea at rehearsals and then went for a brew break. When we came back we started on another idea but soon realised it was the same notes but with a completely different groove and feel. We didn’t want to lose either version and we loved the idea of the tune getting progressively louder and intense so we combined them. Working on this one in pre-production Joe (our producer) helped us make the crescendo work well with a cool synth sound.
Lyrically its a song about recognising someone going through difficulties, reaching out and offering support. The vocal melody mostly came in the practice room but the high melody ‘hold on for dear life the ones you love’ over the crescendo came in the studio.
The vocal melody in the verses has a bit of a Radiohead feel, the lyrics in the verse were inspired by handmaids tale which I was binging at the time. “i see you wear the mask, we tunnel through the grass, come hide right here avoid the watchful eye”
HOW COULD YOU KNOW
This was a song built around a piano riff and verse idea I had at home, then we worked on the chorus together in practice. These kind of songs can be the hardest to get right in terms of how it builds and the general dynamics but it came together really well.
It’s a gentle song about ignorance, anger and lashing out – about someone thats good deep down but puts up lots of barriers and pushes people away.
KNOWLEDGE FREEDOM POWER
Lyrically an exercise in sloganeering, a mantra for education as a means of emancipation from social / psychological confinement. We were working on it around the same time as our stand alone single ‘Tell No Lies.’ It’s a bit out of my comfort zone lyrically as it’s such positive messaging but I wanted to try something different.
This one transformed a few times and it took a while to land on the right structure. The original idea was a drum and guitar loop but the synth and vocals I came up with took it in a different direction. The synth part originally mirrored the verse vocal melody, similar to what Blossoms do on a lot of their tunes but we moved away from that, mainly because Kurt wasn’t feeling it.
For a while we only had the synth intro, verse and chorus and we went around in circles with it. Once we got the middle section “won’t you say a little prayer” in place it just made so much more sense.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Verse and bridge came together very quickly and it had a great groove and interplay between the guitar and and bass riffs and the vocal melody goes off on a mad little journey, there’s a bit of a Morrissey / Smiths feel to it.
We couldn’t get the bridge vocal line out of our heads for weeks and it kinda blocked us for a period of time because we couldn’t think how it could get to the next level. So we tried minimising the chorus and the contrast works really well. its a song about a lost love – imagining how life might have panned out with your ex.
This was one I demoed at home and then brought intro practice to flesh out into a full tune. Might have been just the verse and bridge and we arrived at the chorus together – not sure. Lyrically it’s a song about watching the world go to shit and feeling powerless in the face of it, a theme we’ve touched on before with songs like ‘On the TV’ and ‘All I Hear’ it was written as troops were gathering on the borders of Ukraine though not specifically about that. it could equally be about financial and environmental collapse I guess.
FORGET ABOUT ME
The last song to be written on the record, we went in the studio with the track still in development. Joe our producer added the lead synth part in pre production. It’s a break up song with a few great hooks.
Kurt sent across a chord sequence over WhatsApp and we knew we needed one more track so this was going to be that track. We had a verse/bridge worked out but I got Covid a week before the studio so the track wasn’t finished before we started pre production. This meant we were writing this one in the studio and over whats app with me at home and it felt a bit more experimental.
NO YOU NEVER
When writing the lyrics I was remembering how it felt growing up on a council estate, where your horizon feels limited by social and financial conditions – “No you never did dare have those grand ideas”. It started out as a piano track but grew into a full band tune in rehearsal and the studio. Originally the piano part mirrored the vocal melody almost completely, we worked on simplifying this so there was more space in the track.
:: stream/purchase Knowledge Freedom Power here ::
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