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Suede Britpop Revisited By Chris Martin


uede never liked to think of themselves as the pioneers of Britpop. Brett Anderson’s nasal wail and the glam rock guitars of his band’s maiden single, ‘The Drowners’, wouldn’t be seen bowing at the same altar as Oasis’s ’60s revivalism or the art-pop nationalism of Blur and Pulp. And yet in 1992 – long before the infamously ravenous UK music press got a hold of the B-word; that catch-all term for populist and patriotic culture – Suede were there. “The Next Big Thing,” they were labelled. “The Best New Band in Britain.” Mat Osman is used to fans and interviewers reminding him of Britpop. “I kind of cringe about it, to be honest,” says the Suede co-founder and bassist. “I feel as if we were there before it and things were taken from the kind of band we were; the kind of band who wanted to sing about our lives and the lives of people around us. I have total respect for someone like Morrissey, who’s singing about Manchester and working class kids in Manchester. It was a shock to the system for me to hear someone singing like that – not singing about Americana and not singing in the abstract, [but] singing in the concrete. But it gets turned into a cartoon. It gets taken up by chancers and people on the lookout for a quick buck, and it gets turned into this bleary, nationalistic cartoon.” Often, the members of Suede are criticised for mouthing bitterly about the Britpop juggernaut leaving them behind. When Osman talks like this, you can see where the disdain arises. But in truth, the band is more concerned about keeping its own house in order. Down the phone line at least, Osman sounds not so much bitter as reluctant; mildly amused by what Britpop became, but satisfied enough with his experiences as the plane took off to not be jealous of those who came crashing down to earth at the

journey’s end. Actually, Suede outlasted most of their contemporaries – it’s just that A New Morning finished the band off in 2002 with a whimper, not a bang. Ten years later, there’s a new offering, Bloodsports, and Osman puts it down, in part, to revisionism. “One of the things that was good was if we’d gone out on a high, you’d always be terrified of coming back and trashing your legacy. But we’d kind of already trashed our legacy with the last record [laughs]. There was a feeling that…it had been a band of extremes and ups and downs and constant crises, and the way the story ended was unsatisfying.” Sure enough, this time Suede has it right. “I’m really proud of it,” says Osman of Bloodsports. “It was really, really hard work – I was always surprised that when bands got back together to go on tour and stuff, they didn’t make records … I couldn’t work out why, because I love making records and for me it’s what a band does. And about halfway through it, we realised the reason bands don’t do it is it’s hard. The thing about playing old songs is, you play the best songs that you’ve ever written to people who haven’t seen them for ten years. It’s going to be great, you know what I mean? As long as you’re there and you get involved and you give it your best, it’s going to be great. “And then you go to write an album and you go, ‘Oh, it’ll be the same. We’ll just write ten songs like the best things we’ve ever written. Why don’t we just write ten ‘Wild Ones’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’s and ‘She’s in Fashion’s?’ It doesn’t work. I think we discarded the first 20 songs we wrote … they were interesting, but they didn’t sound like Suede at all.” In Osman’s view, the best thing about making Bloodsports was the freedom the band had

“Britpop gets taken up by chancers and turned into this bleary, nationalistic cartoon.”

to take the time to get things wrong. “That’s one of the nice things about it being 2013. We’re not a young band, we don’t have to be a phenomenon – we’re not going to be. That’s a job for 19-year-olds.” Suede, these days, are far removed from the pressure of an omnipresent media, demanding excellence from them at every turn and slaying them for anything less. It’s a long way from 1993. “That one year was absolutely insane,” says Osman. “It was probably 50-50 between adoration and hate. I’d be spat at in the streets by musicians and stuff, all these kinds of things – and at the same time, especially travelling abroad, it was kind of Beatlemania. Thousands of people turning up at airports and stuff. It was a storm in a teacup – but it was a big storm.”

Vampire Weekend

Through all the highs and lows of Suede, Osman has had Anderson by his side; the singer he met as a teenager in London. “[My friends] were all goths and stuff, and he was there in his mustard yellow suit and tie pins,” says Osman. “He’s always been…he just commits himself to something and takes it as far as it can go. And I think it shows in the music, in his lyrics and his singing. He always pushes it too far, and that’s where it gets interesting. His voice – one of the reasons I think lots of people hate his voice is that he just pushes it, nags away; it’s not comfortable, it’s not easy listening, and it’s part of his personality – but I think it’s what makes Suede the kind of band that people care about.” What: Bloodsports out now on Warner

“By the time we started on this record, a lot of those young band anxieties had started to recede”

Thoroughly Modern Vampires By Samantha Clode

really had a ton of piano on our albums before, but suddenly there was something so attractive about that sound – well-played piano with gospel-type harmonies. That song certainly helped to clarify the sounds we were getting into; it definitely set a tone.” You and Rostam travelled to Martha’s Vineyard to start writing this record, how fruitful was that period? “It felt like a breakthrough in a few ways. One was the time of year – we weren’t working through a typical dark, cold, New York winter, and working in the same places. There was something nice about it, the beginning of spring – it wasn’t warm, but there was a thaw. We went to a place we’d never been before, and in some ways is the polar opposite of New York: emptiness, quiet, the lack of people. There was excitement to get away. We were already working on songs we felt solid about, trying different exercises to come up with new tunes, like rapid-fire lightning writing sessions to force ourselves to do stuff. Getting out of town gave us the sense that we had a whole record’s worth of songs – a feeling we hadn’t had before.”


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“Especially in this era, you know. We had all these ideas we wanted to show people after our first album, so we had a lot of reasons to make sure we didn’t prolong the process with Contra. Whereas by the time we started on this record, a lot of those anxieties a young band has started to recede – you don’t have to worry too much about things disappearing overnight. You can never be too comfortable as a musician, but you don’t have this existential worry. On Modern Vampires... we had challenges, but it was cooler ‘cause it was more internal, creative challenges. We

really just had to create music we felt excited about.” What’s the earliest song on the record? “One of the first songs that we worked on is [opener] ‘Obvious Bicycle’. It’s funny, we always knew it was going to be track one. It just had a feeling of a beginning. That started around the time we were finishing Contra – Rostam [Batmanglij] sent me an instrumental demo with these really nice piano chords, all these crazy drums. There was immediately something about it that felt fresh. We’d never

Wheat: Modern Vampires of the City out May 10 on Remote Control

xxx photo by xxx

o-produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (Cass McCombs, Glasser), the third effort from preppy New Yorkers Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City is, dare we say it, a more mature beast. With songwriting kicking off during a sabbatical at Martha’s Vineyard, and recording taking place in Los Angeles, songs like ‘Hannah Hunt’ and ‘Hudson’ read like a love letter to the band’s hometown. According to frontman Ezra Koenig, the group felt more freedom to take chances – without feeling the pressure to quickly capitalise on their previous discs.

If a record is a document of a band in a particular space and time, what does Modern Vampires of the City say about Vampire Weekend in 2013? “I love that idea, of it being a snapshot in time. Because that’s what an album should provide – a memory of how things felt for you. I think this album certainly shows us changing – new emotions, new moods. But there are also more reflective moments. I’d hate to say it’s grown up, as we really don’t feel grown up at all (laughs). But definitely growing up – that’s a theme. So maybe it is a snapshot of this reflective beginning of adulthood period? I don’t think we’re ever going to be ‘mature’.”

The Brag #511  
The Brag #511  

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