The Press Article
In It For The Money
SUPERGRASS Second LP features a more mature sound
Two years ago, Supergrass BMX'd into the nation's hearts. Buoyed by a handful of superbly catchy singles and the cartoon sideburns of singer Gaz Coombes, the suspicion remained, however, that they were destined for a brief stay in everyone's hearts.
They have maintained a low profile at home for the past year, with just one release, the February single Going Out, which reached number five and sold more than 100,000 units. But the Oxford band are now back, with a follow-up to their chart-topping album I Should Coco, which achieved a respectable half-a-million sales in the UK and 990,000 worldwide. The album, In It For The Money, comes out on April 21, preceded by a new single, Richard III, on March 31.
Parlophone managing director Tony Wadsworth remains confident that absence has only added to the band's mystique. "Conventional wisdom would say that the album should have come out last year and that the band should have done more last year than release one single, but I don't think conventional wisdom applies with Supergrass," he says. "Some bands go away and people forget about them because they don't care about them any more. If anything, with this band the anticipation for their return has been heightened."
Supergrass themselves wish they could have got the album together sooner. "We had to go off and do loads of touring," says bass player Mick Quinn. "Brazil came up last year and it sort of cocked up the timing."
The plan was to release the album in September, but there was a further delay when drummer Danny Goffey and keyboard player Rob Coombes (brother of Gaz) both had children.
Between festival commitments and nappy duties, Supergrass moved to the Sawmills studio in Cornwall where they'd recorded their first demos - and began producing themselves with John Cornfield, the engineer on I Should Coco.
The band dynamic was also altered by having Rob Coombes contributing to the writing process, previously shared by the three band members, despite the popular misconception that Gaz was the chief songwriter. "Rather than us having written parts and bringing them in and him playing them, he jammed with us," says Gaz Coombes. "All of a sudden, there was a lot more depth and room to make the sound bigger."
"It wasn't much of a move from Going Out, really," says Quinn. "We worried that it wouldn't fit with the rest of the album but it does." The suggestion that Going Out may have been deliberately written to dampen the enthusiasm of the younger end of their audience is denied by the band, who talk about natural development rather than cynical manipulation. "Before Alright you had Lenny and that was pretty much a Zeppelin rock- out," says Goffey. "Every single is going to be different. Richard III is sort of a Stooges/hardcore Sonic Youth sort of thing and the single after that is really poncey."
That poncey song, Sun Hits The Sky, an immediate psychedelic pop sweetener, is destined to be the ace up the sleeve of In It For The Money. Like Alright, the third single which propelled I Should Coco to the top slot, it will be released after the initial flurry of activity on the album, probably in May. Keith Wozencroft, Parlophone's head of A&R, made the occasional fleeting visit to Sawmills but was confident enough to leave the band to their own devices.
Like kids in a sweet shop, Supergrass were soon trying out all sort of new instruments, coaching belchy electro sounds from an old Roland synth, using a Fender Rhodes, clavinets and "the trendy old theremin". "The clavinets were amazing," says Coombes, "really Stevie Wonder."
They also experimented with Joe Meek compressors and the The Q Sound, as well as recording themselves by the creek outside the studio. "When the tide comes in, it alters the echoes from the far side of the creek so you get a rebound effect," says Goffey. "Also, you get the wild geese flying overhead. We built a massive teepee with my drums in it. It was like a free festival by the end."
Whereas the lasting impression of I Should Coco was a frenetic buzz of punky pop, In It For The Money is a far more composed rock album, with more complex arrangements and a slightly slower tempo. "It's slowed down because I can't play live any more at that speed," says Goffey.
Another distinctive change is that Coombes's vocals are layered within the mix rather than over the top. "At one point while we were mixing, we stuck on I Should Coco to compare it with what we were doing," says Coombes. "The first thing I noticed were the vocals were way up there and really dry."
"And the whole band was in a little box," adds Quinn.
For Parlophone, it was clear that Supergrass had matured on record. "I've always thought of Supergrass as a long-term rock band," says Wozencroft. "The first album had leanings towards that anyway - it was quite different and there were pop songs on it." "I was really chuffed at how well developed the musicianship seemed to be," adds Wadsworth. "They were very precocious on the first album, I felt, but it's now become quite mature very, very quickly. They look like pop stars and play like old rock stars, but in the nicest possible way. What we've got is a really strong rock album with great pop songs, which is what the real traditional Great British bands were always known for," Wadsworth adds. "The Who and the Stones were rock bands but they wrote great pop songs and I think Supergrass bear a similarity."
Comparisons with The Monkees, however, have been firmly dismissed by the Supergrass camp. Last year, the band met up with Steven Spielberg, who had seen Supergrass on MTV and came up with an idea for a TV series about the group. Parlophone is keen to point out it was "nothing like The Monkees" in the first place, adding that the band are not getting involved, for the time being at least. Instead, we'll have to content ourselves with the band monkeying around on Top Of The Pops and in those breezy videos.