The Press Article
Ever since their first single made him dance spastically around the CD player, Supergrass have done it for EVERETT TRUE....
I first heard Supergrass way back then. In the offices of Melody Maker, sorting through records for that week's singles column, someone pressed a copy of Caught By the Fuzz into my sweaty palms.
It didn't impress me immediately - well it did, but only in a very throwaway sense. Blur, I thought. Blur done by a bunch of Oxford lads with way too much enthusiasm and disregard for convention.
Play it 11 times, lose it down the back of the sofa, rediscover it in five years and think: "What the hell is this?", put it back on, dance spastically around the CD player in unadulterated joy at such happenstance, then promptly forget about it all over again. It was so brilliantly of its time that it somehow seemed contrived.
I made it Single of the Week anyway. Such infectious joyfulness, such free spirit and youthful exuberance should always be encouraged, especially tales of teenage drug excursions gone wrong. The boys done gone got busted.
"Here come my mum," the one with the ridiculous, wiggy sideburns yelled, "She knows what I've done."
"Yeah, I know we were seen as Britpop's boy band," Mick Quinn (bass) tells me on the phone. "How did we feel about being seen like that? We treated it with the seriousness it deserved. It didn't worry us too much. I dunno. That's a bit of a loose term, because boy-band isn't a very good description of what we were at the time. What were we? Just a band. We didn't have too much of an opinion at the time."
Flip back a few years and forward a couple of months, to a tiny back-room bar at a university in Glasgow, Scotland, where the Maker is on tour with the Bluetones (that year's Stone Roses). Sweat is dripping off the walls, the ceiling, from our brows, our backs. On stage are Bluetones support Supergrass. The boys - Gaz Coombes, Quinn and Danny Goffey (this year's Keith Moon on drums) - may only know about eight songs, but what eight songs! We haven't witnessed infectious pop matched with sheer energy like this since the heyday of the Undertones, more than 18 years before. Probably before Supergrass were born, as a matter of fact. Our hearts were pounding, our throats are a welter of sores from yelling so loud, our mouths are a grin THIS wide.
This is the greatest live band we've seen since ... Mudhoney!
"So you reckon our first single was a bit of a Blur rip-off?" Quinn queries. "But that by the time of Mansize rooster we'd mutated into a great pop band, and when you saw us live, we were as great as the Undertones. Yeah, I'd go along with that. Which one description? All three. It's difficult to comment for me, being in the band. We were just into having a good time.
Oh yes. Mansize Rooster. THAT single. THAT second single.
"Put them on the cover! Put them on the cover!" we screamed, no sooner had the press agent departed the office with the tape placed back smugly within his bag, the sounds of the summer still ringing in our ears. "Dress them up in mascara, smear lipstick all over their faces, turn them into pop tarts, besmirch their reputation as simplistic, fun-loving, girl-chasing, sex symbols - we don't care what you do - but put them on the cover!"
So our editors did.
Supergrass spent years trying to live down the reputation they gained from the resulting interview. Mind you, what did they expect after hitting No.1 in the UK with the summer-defining Alright, with its catch-all opening lines: "We are young/We run green/We like(?) teeth/Nice and Clean." And what did they expect if they released memorable videos, such as that one of them racing through the countryside on an open-topped bed near where cult '60s TV show The Prisoner was filmed on, and that one where they all have ridiculously elongated limbs?
Still. Even after releasing albums of such quality and distinction as last year's Supergrass, with its genius central track, Jesus Came From Outta Space, some folk STILL think of them as juvenile-delinquent pop stars.
Er, sorry lads.
Quinn doesn't seem too concerned, though.
"I'd like to see Supergrass as a band that's grown up," he tells me. "But I don't think we have. We probably do the same things as before, but a bit more cautiously. We still go on about being in a band the same way, play in the same way, write songs the same way. We enjoy it for the same reasons; we're just more conscious of what we say in interviews now. I don't know if mature is the right word. It makes us sound really boring. No, that's right. We are! What do you reckon?"
There was a definite change between the release of your first two albums, I Should Coco and In It For The Money. There again, I Should Coco was mostly a (superior) collection of singles. It was the sort of thing Madness made a career out of; also the sort of music that bands often seem ashamed of retrospectively, as if there's something somehow denigrating about making instant, wonderful POP music. Look at Blondie. Wasn't the latter half of their first career simply an apology for the sheer wonderfulness of hits such as Atomic and Heart of Glass. Don't be ashamed of having the ability to write hit singles, it'll disappear sooner than you think. Oasis have one thing right: if you have a formula, stick to it. Otherwise, everything will almost certainly turn to crap.
Supergrass are the exception that prove the rule. They managed to mature and move on from their initial three-minute spurts of enthusiasm, without losing any of their craft. In It For the Money was a fully realised, thrashing beast of a rock album that managed to simultaneously loosen the Britpop connections and recall some of singer-songwriter Coombes' favourite '70s bands (such as Mungo Jerry and Dr John), without losing any of the spark that defined them. And didn't it have that most monstrous riff of a single, Richard III, on it?
"What are you asking me for? Quinn says, surprised. "I'm only the bloody bass player. Yeah, Richard III is my favourite single we've ever made. There are definitely other singles on that album, too. There was a quote at the time saying that any of the 12 tracks from I Should Coco could have been a single, but that was bollocks. It would have been rubbish if they'd all been singles."
How important is a keen sense of humour to making good music?
"I dunno," replies the band's oldest, most serious member. Coombes is the stoner sex symbol who moved down to Brighton a few years back so he could be closer to The Source. Or something. The other two refer to him as lukewarm water, for reasons best known to themselves. Goffey is the wild, impetuous jetsetter who lives in Camden on the rare occasions he's back in England. But good ol' Quinn is still in Oxford, with his family and collection of underwear.
"I'm not displaying much of a sense of humour at the moment," he continues.
Oh, get along with you.
"It's probably pretty important," he relents. "But many bands get away without having one and do pretty well. In some ways, it undermines us as a band. Without it, we'd probably make a lot more money. Personally, I don't mind having the piss taken out of me by the other two. I wouldn't swap our sense of humour for more money, definitely not. Or would I?"
Quinn pauses, pretending to consider the question.
"No, definitely not."
As your albums mature, your record sales and profile tend to be slightly slipping. How do you feel about this? "Really?" he asks surprised. "I don't know if that's entirely true. If you want to compare it to how big we were after Alright or something ... It's difficult for me to say, 'cos I'm in the band. If we were slipping, I'm sure we'd be more worried. I'm not too worried about it at the moment."
I have an Australian friend who's an unrequited punk - you're the only English band he likes. "That's great! But he's got about two million to choose from. You mean, from the ones the English press write about? Fair enough, but there are some good English bands out there. Super Furry Animals are good - OK I know they're Welsh. Ultrasound are good. We got them to support us on two dates just so we could watch them. Add N to X, they're superb. There are some interesting things out there, but there's also a lot of shit. Let's face it, it doesn't look too good."
I kind of lost faith after I heard Gay Dad - all that hype (which I love incidentally). But Gay Dad sound like a generic indie Manchester band from 10 years ago - Ned's Atomic Dustbin or someone.
"Gay Dad don't worry me too much," Mick says with a laugh, "because usually the truth will win out. If they're any good they'll hang around for a long time.
"They did ride a massive wave of hype, like Sigue Sigue Sputnik. If you ride that it will fall over. I don't know whether to feel sorry for them or if I couldn't care less. Certainly, we've suffered a little from hype in our time, but we rode it out."
What records do you listen to nowadays?
"Not many. Er, Add N to X, Ultrasound, that's about it. And old English bands. A lot of Gong, actually. I listen to horrible daytime Radio One, Britney Spears and whatever else is happening in the charts. My stepdaughter is really into it. I listen to music like that in a totally different way. I know it sounds really elitist, but it works for me that way. Ace of Base are a great pop band you say? I don't know if I can stretch that far."
What do you take with you on the road?
"Nothing interesting," the bassist says with a sigh. "Socks, that sort of thing. Deodorant. Somebody's got to. You don't have your mum on tour, you have to look after yourself. Pictures of the kids and missus. Travelling Monopoly, that sort of stuff."
What drugs do you take to write music?
"Alcohol figures pretty heavily. That's about it for writing. Sleep deprivation is an amazing catalyst. We were in Japan and I had an enormous amount of jetlag and woke at five in the morning and put the Beta Band album on, and it made perfect sense! It didn't when I played it later on."
One final question. Last time I saw you, at a festival in my hometown of Chelmsford, Essex, you were in full-on That '70s Show mode; not as frantic as before, more concerned with creating an impression. A taste of what's to come or a momentary aberration? What's the vibe like on stage nowadays?
"The same as when you saw us on that tour with the Bluetones," the bassist says with a laugh." Are we still as frantic? Yeah, we try to be. Sometimes we get pissed off if we're in the middle of a long tour, but that was true even in the early days. It depends on what's happening. Danny is slightly more controlled than he used to be. He's probably even better, because he's still very entertaining to watch. I do tend to stand with my back to the audience, watching him. Wouldn't you? We're even better than the last time you saw us."
He laughs then adds one final kicker. "At least, that's what people tell us."
Everett True, The Age (Melbourne Newspaper) - 18 February 2000