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SOFT PLAY on ‘Punk’s Dead’ and their return: ‘We didn’t want to argue about a name anymore’

As Soft Play return with new track 'Punk's Dead', the duo FKA Slaves tell Rolling Stone UK about why they're addressing the haters head on, a very special mystery guest, and the start of a fresh new chapter.

By Nick Reilly

Soft Play (Picture: Tommy Davies)

As SOFT PLAY launch a new era of their career with ‘Punk’s Dead’, the duo have opened on why their comeback track sees them addressing their haters head on as well as the identity of a mystery voice that features on the song.

The Kent duo – Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman – were previously known as Slaves but notably changed their name in late 2022 after acknowledging the historical baggage associated with it.

At the time, they said it “doesn’t represent who we are as people”, while offering an apology to “anyone we’ve offended”.

Now, the Mercury Prize-nominated duo have returned with ‘Punk’s Dead’, a three-minute slice of riotous guitar rock that reflects on the name change and even features direct quotes from detractors who objected to the name change. At one point, Holman sings: “What the fuck’s with the new name anyway? Soft play? More like soft c****.”

“We put that post up about our name change and the one thing we hadn’t prepared ourselves for was the idea of pissing off people that thought we shouldn’t change the name,” Laurie Vincent told Rolling Stone UK.

“That hadn’t even crossed our minds. We’re sat there reading the comments just thinking ‘this is insane’. But Isaac started to realise that those comments could be lyrics if we pull them together. It was like the song just fell out of thin air and we were there laughing our heads off while making it.”

He added: “We wanted to show that we’re willing to take on board how people are feeling, how we can change and set that example. It was hard because you have so much identity wrapped up in these things and we looked at our albums and wondered if we would be the same band if we changed our name. But I just had this really clear moment when I realised I didn’t want to arguing with people about a name anymore. I want to be in a band that makes music and that’s more important to me.”

There is also a curious bridge melody on the song, when Holman’s snarling vocals make way for a mysterious yet recognisable voice who sings: “Snowflake, snowflake, cherries on the woke cake.”

Today, Rolling Stone UK can exclusively reveal that it’s none other than Robbie Williams. The duo managed to secure his services after the pop icon began messaging Vincent on Instagram.

“Robbie Williams was probably the most played artist of my childhood, so I’m actually a massive fan,” said Vincent.

“But fast forward to last year. It was 6AM one morning and I’d woken up to see my phone had a video message from Robbie Williams where he basically said ‘Hi Laurie, hope you don’t mind that I’ve got your number but I want to make music like you guys’. I just rolled over to my partner and said ‘what the fuck!’

“She was annoyed that I’d woken her up, but I showed the video and we both couldn’t believe it. I’ve had a nice casual WhatsApp friendship with Robbie since then and I floated the idea of getting him on the song to Isaac after we’d tried to get a choir of children to sing the middle-eight, but soon realised that the swear words would be a problem.

“He was up for it and the rest is just history. He recorded it in his own studio but we’ve got some amazing videos of him recording the vocal and listening to our song. Hopefully we’ll put them online at some point if we get his permission.”

The new name also marks the start of a fresh chapter for Holman and Vincent’s personal relationship too.

“It got difficult towards the end last time, maybe we weren’t even aware of it, but we weren’t as close as we were before. We were just going through the motions and weren’t in a very good place mentally,” said Holman.

“Me and Laurie were quite fortunate in that we cut it off at a point where we were able to save our friendship and I feel like if we’d have just carried on doing that it could have got ugly. We were just on the brink of not being mates and I didn’t want to be there, in a place where we could be going on stage every night and not talking before or after.”

Holman has also been vocal about his mental struggles in recent years, while Vincent’s girlfriend – the mother of his two children – died from cancer in 2020.

“I’m a completely different person from when we last did this five years ago,” said Vincent.

“My life is different in almost every single way. Going to therapy has taught me how to separate the ‘I’ from the self and being aware that you can almost zoom out and ask why you’re feeling a certain way. Going through such a massive loss and having to rebuild has taught me that the music industry isn’t real. The only thing that’s real is your family and day to day life. It’s changed everything but I can now cope with situations a lot better because of what I’ve learned through it.”

Now, re-energised and with their friendship as stronger than ever, they’re both buzzing for the next chapter of the band.

“After all the shit that’s happened in the world and in both of our lives, it’s amazing to come back to this place of loving what we do. I just loving watching what Isaac does, like to witness him piecing words together. We’ve got a newfound appreciation for this and, fucking hell, it’s amazing that we get another chance to do this.”