It was a foggy morning in Glasgow when Metropolis talked to Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines. But he had every reason to be cheery: V for Vaselines, the band’s new album, just came out—and the road to their third LP was a long one.
The band, comprising of Kelly and Frances McKee, had split just after their first album, Dum-Dum, was released in 1989—three years after their formation. Despite a very limited pressing, a copy found its way to Kurt Cobain, prompting Nirvana to cover three Vaselines songs; the defunct band was then elevated to cult status.
Kelly and McKee found themselves playing together again and enjoying it. They toured, re-released their old work and recorded their second album, Sex with an X—which closed with a track entitled “Say Goodbye to the Vaselines,” suggesting the band’s amazing story was drawing to a close.
When asked how a third album came out, Kelly replies, “We just kept touring and playing together. As songwriters, we felt we had at least one more album in us.”
The product, V, is a rowdy 35 minutes filled with the band’s signature happy melodies and dark humor. “We didn’t want to make a concept album; we just want to make short pop songs,” the Vaselines frontman states. “We’ve got short attention spans and we want to get it over with quickly.”
And the new release has been garnering positive response. “I think people like the record,” says Kelly. “It’s going to make them want to come see us live.”
Short attention spans aside, Kelly and McKee have kept the current incarnation of The Vaselines together for twice as long as the initial run.
“The band wasn’t initially seen as something that would last. There was no real audience there. We mostly played as support; we never thought we’d end up on TV, having hit singles.”
While The Vaselines couldn’t compete with the Duran Durans of the world back then, they have gotten their due, and for Kelly, The Vaselines’s first Japan gig was an example of that: “We played Summer Sonic and it was the biggest stage we’d ever seen in our life. It was mind-blowing. We never thought when we reformed we’d reach that level or share a stage with Sonic Youth and Flaming Lips. It made us feel wanted.”
The Vaselines will be returning to Japan on November 2 and 3 for the Hostess Club Weekender. (*Updated; see below.)
Longtime fans will hear both new songs and a new lineup: Scott Patterson and Graeme Smillie replace Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson and Bobby Kildea. “The new guys have a much more punchy and direct sound,” raves Kelly. “The guys from Belle & Sebastian were great, but Steve and Graeme are more aggressive, and that’s something The Vaselines were missing.”
Eugene promises Japanese fans will get “a good, exciting show”—but what is he looking forward to is food. “I like to eat! Sushi, sashimi … anything.
“I love the culture in Japan. You have a show then you go out after, have a beer, have a sake, have some conversation—and you’re still in bed by 12.”
That is, if you don’t count karaoke. “After we played the British Anthems show, we sung lots of duets,” recounts Kelly, which have bled into their concerts. “‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ worked so well, we thought we ought to put it in our set.”
The line “final curtain, end of the show” closes V for Vaselines—but it’s probably just the band being mischievous; they seem to be having too good a time to call it quits.
“There’s more of an audience for us now. We get to travel the world and we’re having more fun. Back in the ‘80s … it was quite grim traveling in beat-up vans and staying at terrible hotels. Now it’s a bit more comfortable. Now, it’s just good fun. It’s something to do that makes us smile.”
V for Vaselines is available digitally on Amazon and iTunes. Signed copies are available directly from the band at www.thevaselines.co.uk.
*The Vaselines’ Nov 2-3 appearance at Hostess Club Weekender has been canceled. http://ynos.tv/hostessclub/