Singer Says Supergrass’ Latest LP Shows Growth, Not Maturity
Reports of Supergrass' newfound maturity have been greatly exaggerated.
Listening closely to the lyrics of "Pumping on Your Stereo," the bouncy first single from the Brit-pop trio's self-titled third album, reveals that singer/guitarist Gaz Coombes and his bandmates, bassist Mick Quinn and drummer Danny Goffey, are actually singing "humping on your stereo." So much for maturity.
"I think we've developed a bit, although I don't really like that sort of term," Coombes said of the "M" word. Still, he grudgingly admits that Supergrass aren't as juvenile as they were in 1995, when they debuted with I Should Coco. "It's a bit obvious, isn't it?" he said. "Everyone grows up."
Supergrass was released in the UK in September and Stateside on April 4. For Coombes, Quinn and Goffey, the new album represents not just a follow-up to 1998's million-selling In It for the Money but also a more lighthearted approach to songwriting. "There's a bit more groove in there," Coombes, 24, said. "It's got a little more soul."
That soul is evident on songs such as the Bowie-esque "Pumping on Your Stereo" and "Mary", a funky romp that recalls Let It Be-era Beatles in its use of organ. "I got a girl and her name is Mary," Coombes sings over a head-bobbing rhythm. "I like to shock her on a basis daily."
Aiming For 'Something Different'
John Cornfield, who co-produced Supergrass and In It for the Money and who engineered I Should Coco, said Supergrass have stayed true to their earlier sound. "Basically the band are still doing what they've always done," Cornfield said from London. "Obviously, the first record was kind of naive. But I think they still just kind of do what they want to."
However, while Supergrass exhibits the band's patented bouncing rhythms and Coombes' often humorous lyrics, the album also contains a selection of more subdued material. "Shotover Hill", "Born Again" and "Mama and Papa" are a far cry from the brash and bratty Coco, which featured such pogo-inducing tracks as "Alright" and "Caught by the Fuzz."
As for the band's exploration of a new sound, Coombes deadpanned, "Well, we're getting tired, aren't we?" He said it's not the band's goal to rehash previous albums. "The thing is, we don't want to repeat ourselves. We don't want to do another I Should Coco or In It for the Money. We want to do something different."
It was the desire not to be pigeonholed that led Coombes and his bandmates to decline an offer from director Steven Spielberg to create a television show based on the band. Spielberg, best known for directing such films as "E.T." and "Saving Private Ryan," envisioned a sitcom similar to the 1960s "Monkees" series, Coombes said.
"Although it was really mad to go and meet him — he took the families over and we went to Universal Studios and stuff — we just weren't really into it," he said. "We didn't want to turn into Steven Spielberg's band."
A Nice Change Of Pace
Morgan Ray, a 19-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, who runs the "A Silly Tribute to Supergrass" Web site, said he had mixed thoughts on Supergrass' attempt to branch out. "Musically, [the new album] is very relaxed, a bit soulful," Ray said. "It's a nice change of pace, but I don't think it will ever be considered their magnum opus. Perhaps a stepping stone toward it."
About 570,000 copies of Supergrass have been sold worldwide, according to a band spokesperson. The album has sold 19,000 copies in the United States.
Tricia Halloran, a DJ at Los Angeles' KCRW-FM, said that figure would increase considerably if the band were to make it onto commercial radio in the States. "Travis has all this buzz here now," she said, referring to the critically acclaimed Scottish quartet that recently toured America in support of Oasis. "There's no reason that [American listeners] wouldn't grab onto Supergrass if they were exposed to them," she said.
Coombes said he and his bandmates had been working to expose their music to U.S. audiences via touring, including a stint opening for Foo Fighters. "The people that come to the shows [in the U.S.] seem a bit more open to what they're going to hear," he said. "In England, you've got the Melody Makers and the NMEs telling everyone, 'This is the next big thing.' It seems a bit more honest here."
The band now is on a headlining North American tour. They'll open for Pearl Jam on 18 North American dates, beginning Oct. 4 in Montreal, Quebec.