On the eve of the release of their new album, The Fly took Supergrass back to the venue at which they played their first ever sho to reminisce about the band's early days...
It's the evening of April 5th 1994. An indie kid rushes into Oxford's bustling music venue The Jericho Tavern. He spots a friend and grabs his attention. "Kurt Cobain's dead," he tells him. The news passes along the bar and reached three young men preparing to play their first show since finally deciding on a band name. They look at each other and head upstairs, where they disappear through a doro at the back of the stage. When the trio come out, the place is packed. 18 year old frontman Gaz Coombes dedicates the gig to Nirvana's singer and Supergrass is born.
14 years and ten top 20 singles later, we want to know how it felt for the band back then. Drummer Danny Goffey is outside The Jericho, waiting for it to open. Coombes drives into sight, his Fjord Blue 1972 BMW shimmering in the midday sunshine. he parks and emerges in boatman's hat and shades. From a distance, the Supergrass members may be part of the furniture, but up close they're proper rock stars. not that the man running the pub notices. As he opens up, Danny tells him, "We're here for an interview." "Who with?" the manager asks. Most people might have the wind taken out of their sails by such lack of recognition. Not Goeffy. "We're Supergrass," he says, sticking his chest out and entering the homely drinking den.
Downstairs, nothing's changed much since the early 90s, when Danny, Gaz and bassist Mick Quinn used to come here and watch the likes of Ride and The Wedding Present. "As a 16 year old," Goffey recalls, "the highlight was the Inspiral Carpets. I got right to the front half an hour before they started, and dueing one of their songs Tom Hingley put his hand on my head and went, 'This is for this little dude'. I was like 'Come on!That will be me one day!'"
Danny was here for Elastica too. "I jusr remember being a bit off my head. I was jumping aorund and trying to impress everyone. Damon (Albarn) was there and he told me to 'Slow down and take it easy' - 'Shut up' basically!"
It wasn't long before Supergrass came together. "What was so mad about the first gig we did here at Jericho's," Gaz says, "was that it was a really hectic crowd. It was rammed. I think a lot of that was due to The Jennifers (Goffey and Coombes' previous group). it was cool because it meant everyone was really up for it. Those first gigs were amazing - we couldn't wait to get on stage. We used to do speed and play everything twice as fast and forget parts. It was just three young dudes going mental."
It's not hard to imagine Supergrass at that age, whirling around the place at twice the pace of ordinary human beings. Today they may be fathers, on the verge of releasing their sixth album, 'Diamond Hoo Ha', but that old glint in their eyes has hardly faded. "Nothing's really changed that much," Gaz confides, "We still have a good time."
Enjoying life has always been a pastime synonymous with being in Supergrass, ever since the days when Mick and Danny lived at numbers 1 and 4 on the same street, and Gaz resided with his mum. "We'd get up," Coombes says, "play Donkey Kong for a few hours, get really stoned, then go into town."
Over a relatively short period, the situations may have changed but everyone was still having a brilliant time. "In '96 or '97," Goffey nods, "we were on an aeroplane with Robert Smith, having a right laugh with him, drinking and popping downers. it was quite a rick'n'roll thing but wuite beautiful as well."
The Cure frontman did well not to offer Supergrass, a band running on instinct, any pearls of wisdom. "I remember Samon Albarn giving me advice one time," Gaz says, "and I kind of walked away, it didn't mean anything to me."
"He was probably trying to be really helpful," Goffey chuckles, "But I think if you're on acid you don't really get it. We's be like, 'What the *uck, I'm just looking at your eyes mate!'"
"Yeah, I didn't think he was a *anker, it was more that I didn't really care."
It was that entusiastic youthfulness which stimulated the band's biggest hit. in 1995, 'Alright', with its immortal line 'We wake up, we go out, smoke a fag, put it out', took the airwaves by storm. Even now it's played regularly, and these days Supergrass are something of an institution. Entering The Jericho's live area for the first time in years, Gaz and Danny notice that a wall's been knocked down and a new bar set up. The door to the small room at the back of the stage has been sealed off, and there's a mural of the Supergrass boys themselves painted on the wall. Nonetheless, the place remains familiar. "I remember those stairs," Goffey laughs o nthe way out, and the image he conjures of two people holding an amp and trying to get it down to the exit makes Gaz laugh. Even all this time on, it's as if you can hear the young band shouting at each other. "It won't *ucking fit," one of them yells. "Left a bit, left a bit... Danny you never carry anything heavy!"
Johnny K, The Fly - March 2008