Slowdive Guitarist Christian Savill Speaks About Their Breakup and Reunion

Christian Savill, center, with Slowdive.
Christian Savill, center, with Slowdive.
Ingrid Pop
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Slowdive will play Fortress Festival at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on April 30

The last and only time Slowdive passed through Dallas was August 1993 when they opened for Catherine Wheel at Trees. Back then, the UK shoegaze legends were touring behind their second album, Souvlaki. Now it's their self-titled fourth album, set to drop May 5, that's bringing them back to DFW for the first time in over two decades.

When Slowdive initially burst onto the scene in the early '90s, they joined a wave of bands heavily inspired by Sonic Youth, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, the latter of which was ground zero for the shoegaze movement.

The genre name shoegaze was originally an insult directed at bands who stared at their feet while they played. Oftentimes, what they were really looking at was a large number of effects pedals used to manipulate their sound.

At first My Bloody Valentine were the kings of this niche, but over the years shoegaze developed into a worldwide phenomenon and Slowdive’s albums became equally influential.

"When we started out we definitely knew they [My Bloody Valentine] were a huge huge influence on us, but as we became Slowdive we kind of stopped being influenced by them because we found our own sound,” Slowdive guitarist Christian Savill says.

That sound was established with the release of Souvlaki and deepened with their third album, '95's Pygmalion, which sent the band into temporary retirement. The album was not well received in the UK and left many of their fans scratching their heads. A week after Pygmalion was released, they were dropped by their label, Creation.

"[Vocalist and guitarist] Neil [Halstead] was really getting into warp bands back then, and I think perhaps at that time we were at the wrong home on Creation," Savill says. "Creation had been fantastic, but they were going in a different direction when Oasis had come along, and we kind of came along with this kind of minimalistic ambient kind of album.”

Although Pygmalion fell on deaf ears when it was released, it foreshadowed the coming post rock scene that dominated indie rock in the back half of the '90s. Musicians who owned My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive records found each other and started forming bands, and today Slowdive's influence can be felt in popular acts as diverse as Tame Impala, M83 and even Coldplay.

After a two-decade break, Slowdive reunited to hit the festival circuit in 2014. Much to their surprise, they were playing to bigger audiences than they ever had in their original lifespan, but they were not content with just being a nostalgia act.

“When we decided to come back in 2014, one of the main things that we said right from the start was we wanted to do new music so it wasn't just about doing gigs," Savill says.

The new album signals a triumphant return. On it, Slowdive sound less like a reunion band and more like a band getting back to the business of pushing their sound forward.

From the opening track “Stomo” – with its ethereal, cascading guitar melodies, hushed vocals, spacious soundscapes and propulsive rhythm – it's evident they're the originators of the genre.

Most of the album feels like a spiritual successor to their landmark second album Souvlaki, with the exception of album closer “Falling Ashes.” The subdued piano on that track makes it right at home with their Pygmalion material.

This time, there won't be any head scratching.

Slowdive, 8 p.m. Sunday, April 30, Fortress Festival, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St., $65 and up, fortressfestival.com.

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