Having reformed in 2010, UK indie legends Suede are traversing uncharted territory.
While a lot of reunited acts barely make it through the first burst of hype and nostalgia a reunion brings, let alone the recording and release of a new album, Suede have now progressed to another phase: the release of their second post-reformation album, Night Thoughts. For Suede’s bass player, Mat Osman, the group’s follow-up to 2013’s Bloodsports comes out of a combination of hard graft and the need to push themselves artistically.
“It’s really hard. There’s something really seductive about coming back. What happens is, you play your best songs from the last 20 years, everyone goes crazy and jumps up and down and you think, ‘Wow, fantastic, we’ll just do ten more of them,’ forgetting the hassle you went through to get to that point,” he says.
“We wrote 40 songs for [Bloodsports] and then threw 30 of them away. It was a slog, and it gets harder, as you get older, to find the places where the band can be interesting where they’re not repeating themselves. If you go into the studio for two weeks and release the first ten things that you write, then it’s not going to be very good. I think a lot of these reformed bands don’t really care, though. It’s just a souvenir so they can do their festival appearances.
“The first record you make after you come back, it’s almost like a debut record. You’re trying to do the things that you’ve always done well. Bloodsports was very much like a debut record; we wanted it to be the sound of the five of us in the room, capturing that chemistry. The minute that’s out there, it immediately clicks you to do something better, wilder and stranger.”
Indeed, Night Thoughts finds a Suede intent on presenting a work that is a holistic piece, as opposed to simply a collection of songs. To help achieve this, they teamed up with director Roger Sargent to make a feature film that accompanies the record. As Osman points out, though, it’s not a concept album.
“It’s not like we’ve made a record about Henry VIII or something. It’s got themes to it. The funny thing is, if we’d done it 15 to 20 years ago, you’d just say it’s an album. It’s no different from, say, [Kate Bush’s] Hounds Of Love or [David Bowie’s] Low or something like that; a record that has a very definite mood to it, where pieces kind of run into each other. That wasn’t a particularly groundbreaking idea even 15 to 20 years ago, it’s just that the idea of an album has become so debased with the idea that everything can be chopped up and recombined.
“A couple of people have said to me, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t really get it till the second or third listen,’ and that’s a luxury that most people don’t get in 2016. Most people get a cursory listen on the internet and if it doesn’t grab you straight away, that’s it. There’s something really sad about that, because it means that the kind of slow, meandering, theatrical album like we’ve made is kind of dying out. We’re very lucky to have the kind of people who love the band and are interested in the band who’ll give up the time for it.”
To launch Night Thoughts, Suede played the album in full at two shows at the Roundhouse in London last November. As they performed, the film was shown on a screen in front of the band.
Osman explains: “It was kind of a weird idea that seemed to work really well. We’d show the film and every now and then we’d be lit. For example, Richard [Oakes] would be lit for guitar pieces or Brett [Anderson] would be lit for little bits of vocal, so you’d just catch glimpses of us through the screen. It’s a very unplayed show; it’s very slow and thoughtful. We wanted to do something that was completely different, something that flowed and didn’t stop. It was an attempt to do something that was completely un-Suede. Then we came back on and did another half an hour with a normal set-up. It went really well. Surprisingly well, to be honest.”
Suede plan on doing further Night Thoughts shows during 2016 but will likely also revert back to their normal set-up for other dates. “It’s the kind of show that only works in a really particular place. It has to feel cinematic but at the same time it has to be all-standing,” says Osman. “If we come across an interesting festival or an interesting venue that wants to do it, I’m sure we’ll do it.”
One other thing Suede might also do this year is return to Australia, a place they’ve yet to visit since reuniting. While nothing is confirmed yet, Osman is optimistic.
“The reason we haven’t come there is no-one’s offered us a practical way of doing it. It’s nothing to do with not wanting to come; I love the place. I’ve been back separately from the band. I think there’s a really good chance this year. There’s lots of things happening. We want to play places we didn’t go last time. I love playing somewhere you haven’t been for a long time; it just ups the ante.”
He adds: “We don’t do big, long tours. We try and change the set every night. We don’t even do a tonne of festivals. I know what it’s like [for shows] to feel ordinary, and it never should.”
Suede’s Night Thoughts is out now through Warner.
Originally published in The Brag.