Second chance Suede taking nothing for granted
- 25 March 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
"There's nothing more depressing than music that's just a soundtrack or just a souvenir."
Suede bassist Mat Osman strikes an emphatic tone when we meet to talk about the band's new album, Bloodsports - their first in 11 years.
"What you want is 60% loving it and 40% hating it, because then you know you're getting under people's skin.
"It's supposed to niggle at you and get into your life," adds Osman. "If it's not doing those things it wouldn't be a Suede record."
The band have held on to their fondness for polarising opinion.
But they're "excited" at being back together again, making new music. And, this time round, it seems they're taking nothing for granted.
"We were relentless about making sure it was a good record, not resting on our laurels and assuming that because we'd made it, that it was going to be great," says frontman Brett Anderson.
"The last thing we would have ever done was release something that was half finished or not good enough. We've learned from doing that in the past and it would have been the death of the band again."
Lauded as the best new band in Britain shortly after they emerged on to the music scene in the early 90s, Suede's self-titled debut album became the fastest-selling in UK history, topping the charts and winning the coveted Mercury prize in 1993.
Despite in-fighting and the departure of songwriter and guitarist Bernard Butler the band enjoyed further commercial success with Coming Up in 1996.
It produced five top 10 singles, becoming the band's biggest-selling album and bringing international success.
However, by 1999 and their fourth studio album, Head Music, the cracks were beginning to show.
Few would have predicted that after the band's split in 2003 following the underwhelming fifth album, A New Morning, that they'd be back with a sound that has several echoes of their glory days.
"We didn't split up for personal reasons," explains Osman. "We split up for musical reasons, so as a personal thing it was ridiculously easy [to re-form].
'Cycle of pain'
"But musically it was hard. We had to learn to be a band again. We wrote a ton of stuff, it wasn't good enough so we wrote some more. I think it shows. It was hard work but good things are normally."
Suede's second chance came in 2010 with a rousing comeback gig at London's Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
"We went into it without any sense of entitlement," recalls Anderson. "We just wanted to play again and sing those songs again."
But two years on the circuit playing songs from 20 years ago became tiring for a group that feels the "point of being a band is to make records".
"Eventually, you're faced with the choice - you either make a new record or you have to stop. We thought we'd try and make a new record."
The new record, Bloodsports, is "a comment on relationships," says Anderson, conceived as a journey through a relationship, beginning with the chase and playing out the various stages of suspicion, jealousy, obsession and co-dependency, until a couple breaks up.
"It's about the cycle of pain," he adds.
Now in their 40s, Anderson and his four bandmates are older and wiser. But the frontman admits he "didn't want to make a record that sounded middle-aged".
"We wanted to have the same sensibility as a new band starting."
Suede seem to have turned the clock back to rekindle at least some of the passion and intensity they were famous for as twenty-somethings.
Today, they are a successful post-1995 line-up - that is without Bernard Butler - but none of the new tracks quite captures the magic of early hits such as Animal Nitrate or Beautiful Ones.
Still, the album - opening with the rousing Barriers - is undeniably Suede, with dramatic key changes and Anderson's unmistakable flamboyant vocals.
Their chart-friendly guitar music is part of the reason they earned the label of the founding fathers of Britpop, a movement that spawned the likes of Oasis, Blur and Pulp. But the tag did not sit comfortably with them then, and still doesn't two decades later.
"Most bands don't want to be told they are part of something bigger than them," reveals Osman.
"Most bands and musicians are egotistical enough to think they are entirely unique.
"It's not something that I look on particularly fondly, he adds. "I look back on the band and what we were doing pretty fondly, but we didn't really hang out and I never really felt part of it."
"We just did what we did," adds Anderson.
"The media projected things on to us. The things we were singing about in 1991 before anyone had heard of Britpop or any bands had decided to ape what we did, were framed in a British framework because that's where we came from.
"We were just trying to be honest about who we were. I didn't want to pretend to be from LA or from somewhere glamorous. We just sung about our lives. We certainly weren't flying flags," he adds.
"If Suede had been from Tokyo we would have been singing about ordinary life in Tokyo," adds Osman.
London is no longer the only source of inspiration. Growing up - Anderson, now clean from drugs, is married with a child - has given them lots of other experiences from which to draw.
Ultimately, though, they say they just wanted to make a record "that connects with people".
"I'm not thinking about six weeks ahead, let alone another record," says Osman. "And it's nice being in that situation.
"Nowadays we are entirely in control of our destiny. If we make a record we pay for it, if we want to release it, we do it.
"Back in the day it wasn't like that. You were on a schedule and it seems silly now to have got caught up in all of that.
"We've got this new record, I'm really liking it. We'll go and play it to some people and we'll worry about the future after that."
Bloodsports is out now on Warner Music.