"We're a very selfish band," laughs Slow Club's Rebecca Taylor down the phone to me. She and her bandmate Charles Watson are on their way to record a session with BBC 6 Music's Marc Riley, and they're stuck in traffic.
But the self-centredness to which she refers is not to do with hogging vocals on stage (they both sing), or one of them steering the songwriting (they both contribute). She's explaining the duo's decision to play mostly new tracks from their upcoming record, Complete Surrender, when they perform next weekend at Latitude Festival. "We'll play those songs because we want to; it's loads more exciting for us. It's our first main-stage appearance, too, so it should be amazing."
And why wouldn't they want to focus on new material? Their third album, out on Monday, marks another change of direction for the Sheffield-formed band, who now call London home. After the jangly, cutesy folk-pop of their 2009 debut, Yeah So (the video for their first single, "Because We're Dead", actually spelled the band's name out in cupcakes), came the acclaimed - and more experimental - Paradise in 2011. It was an entirely different-sounding band: mature, confident, with a seductive hint of darkness.
For Complete Surrender, it's all-change again. Indebted to 1960s and 1970s soul and Motown, yet managing to sound entirely modern, with lashings of heartache, it's their most dramatic record to date. The title track is a sensuous, soulful affair; all rousing strings and breathy vocals. Taylor has even swapped her thrift-store knits for a beaded evening gown. These guys mean business. "Charles and I were both listening to some old, classic pop, and we were both getting into brass and strings, and we happened upon this decision at the same time, miraculously," recalls Taylor.
"We wanted to make a record that was simple, more than anything," adds Watson. "Seventies production is all very spacious, it's all about the words and harmonies. It was about trying not to chuck in everything but the kitchen sink, which is perhaps what we did a bit last time."
They also asked Richard Hawley's producer Colin Elliot to work on the record because the Sheffield crooner was "such a perfect reference point". They were thrilled - and slightly amazed - when he said yes.
Taylor's voice has bloomed. Although she has always been able to hold a note, this time she has the sort of vocals that will stop you in your tracks. Check out "The Queen's Nose" and "Suffering You, Suffering Me" for some Supremes-esque warbling. When Watson takes lead vocals on the hushed ballad "Number One", the resulting harmonies are equally spine-tingling.
They are now joined live by a bassist and drummer (previously, Watson would have to play guitar and bass, while Taylor had to sing and drum at the same time). It's a small change that has afforded the duo huge freedom onstage.
"It feels like a totally different band," observes Watson. "And it's so fun having three-part harmonies. We've always been a fan of bands that are vocal-heavy live. That's one of the main things we love about having other people on stage."
But with such sonic leaps and bounds, what is their relationship with their earlier work like now? "I don't mind that it's there and I appreciate the people that liked it but we always wanted to move forward," says Taylor. "I'm glad we're not pigeon-holed, and that we haven't been made to make the same record again and again. It's exciting."Reuse content