The Vaselines' Eugene Kelly reflects on returning to the stage
The Vaselines released just one album and a couple of short, scrappy EPs before calling it quits in 1989. Though at the time they were largely ignored, their slight back catalog proved influential (Kurt Cobain cited them as an influence and covered three of their songs at different points in Nirvana's career) and important enough to generate significant buzz when the band reunited for Sub Pop's 20th anniversary in 2008. After a nearly 20-year breakup the Vaselines are back together and on tour in support of their new album Sex with an X.
Prior to their show tomorrow night at the Varsity, Gimme Noise spoke with male half of the band Eugene Kelly over the phone to talk about what it's like to return after so long.
How did this reunion originally come about? Had you talked about doing this in the past?
We never discussed it until Sub Pop asked us to play for their anniversary party in New York. I had thought about it before, but I maybe didn't want to ask Frances to do it. Then in New York, there were all these really enthusiastic fans that took us by surprise. It made us realize that there was an audience that wasn't there 20 years ago. So that really gave us a spark to do it again, to tour the world and play for our fans.
Did you have to relearn the songs?
Frances and I hadn't even played most of those songs because we split up almost immediately after the one album. I knew a few of the songs because I'd played them with other bands but Frances really hadn't played them in 20 years. Luckily we got some of the guys from Belle and Sebastian to play with us. They were really good at learning things instantly.
How did you get the guys from Belle and Sebastian to help? We're they fans?
I had met them about 10 years ago in Glasgow, where we're both from, at one of their shows. Afterwards we went back to a friend's flat and stayed up playing tunes and we started drinking together. A friendship sort of blossomed.
What has the tour been like?
I've often tried to think of shows we did the first time around. You know it probably wasn't more than 20 or 25. Now we're at 30 so this is the longest tour we've ever done.
You're reuniting after 20 years in an era that's seen a complete sea change for musicians. What do you like about this era? What do you miss about the past?
I think it goes hand in hand. Many fans discovered us through the Internet and that's part of the reason we're able to do this tour. On the other side of that though, I think it's taken a lot of the mystery away, and that was what was fun about discovering music in the first place. For instance, before we got back together there was hardly any pictures of us even. Now there is a video of us the night after we play. You used to have to dig to find music and that was part of how you connected to it.
In contrast to the slacker attitude of the '80s counterculture, do you think bands today take themselves too seriously?
Yeah, I think that's true. It's supposed to be rock and roll and it's supposed to be fun and entertaining. You're supposed to leave the club feeling better after you see the show. A lot of bands just stand there. Also, a lot of people take so long making records it just takes the fun out of it.
How long did you spend making your record?
We recorded our album in two weeks. We wanted to keep the excitement there ... get it made quick so we could get out and get back on the road. We always make things up on the go, like we didn't plan on getting back together but we did. Everything's got to be fast and furious and fun for us and for the audience.
Will there be more Vaselines music in the future?
We haven't even discussed it. We've just got to wait and see. I don't hold out any hope for a new Vaselines record. It's fun and we're enjoying it but we just don't know. The big worry is that we could screw it up. We were really worried we were going to screw [Sex with an X] up. 20 years of Vaseline's fans down the drain if we make a crap record and it didn't have good enough songs. I'd be worried about going that again, even.
THE VASELINES play on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, at the VARSITY THEATER. 18+. $18. 8 p.m.
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