The brand new sounds of Supergrass’ fifth record might frighten the horses. But only if the horses are timid, unadventurous types who think Supergrass should still be doing buzzsaw pop, ten years after they (re)invented the form with I Should Coco.
Yes, they have been through the most difficult period of their decade-plus existence. There was personal upheaval and professional wobbles; life happening, in other words.
For a minute there the Supergrass we know and cherish didn’t even exist. But being the plucky, hardcore, music-living band of brothers that they are, they got a grip and soldiered on. And they have made a record that is utterly, intriguingly, brilliantly different…hiding in a barn in Normandy.
We chit-chat with Rob Coombes (keyboards)!
I know you were just in France—how has the tour been?
We’ve been doing some really exciting things on the tour lately. The album lends itself to more acoustic stuff—there wasn’t much electric guitar on the album—it’s more piano and acoustic guitar oriented so the natural thing was an acoustic tour. We never did that before. That was really cool and a totally new experience for us. You have to be more on the ball and can’t hide behind a wall of sound. It was a really good experience. I think those were the best shows.
What was the dynamic like with the fans?
It really was pretty cool. I remember when we went to the States and played at the Troubadour. It was fantastic.
I felt like the new album Road To Rouen was more intimate—how did you come to that place as a band? It didn’t sound like the Supergrass we know.
To be honest one of the reasons we sounded like that was Gaz. He had more of an input. Albums are a give or take where one of us puts more in—but this came from Gaz’s demos and that is the way it happened. I talked to Gaz—and everyone has been to a point where someone’s songs weren’t working but here it was like Gaz’s were really working. We are all slightly different songwriters. Danny has a particularly type of song, all four of us have a style of writing but the backbone of this album came from Gaz. There was other stuff on there but in the past most were weighted in different ways and this was weighted with his songs.
Was the songs atmosphere created electronically or…
…We try not to be aided—I don’t know a better word for it. We didn’t need Pro Tools to start. I think it’s got a place but I also see why it’s great to work in a more natural way. We wanted to use natural pianos—not necessarily a Steinway piano either. The piano featured on the album is an old Chinese repo piano that has nothing special about it except it has character. We didn’t go into this as a professional band spending thousands of pounds a day. We tried to do it—someone asked us what it is like to be a band starting out and we started out in a run down cottage taking six months to record the album and there was no pressure then and we didn’t spend thousands of pounds then. So we went to a house in Normandy for three months and we set it up into a studio. So we were able to make a record with no real pressure.
How is life on the road now?
It is different that is for sure. I for one appreciate it more now than I used to. Going out to a nice restaurant trying to find a good steak in Paris is wonderful. I really enjoy the cities now and try to get around and see them. In the early day you hardly left the bus or hotel room. I think we find things more exciting now.
Is it harder to be away from home now?
Definitely. I kind of wish I could work nine-to-five because I’d love to see my kids everyday. My kids are at a great age now but my dad didn’t work nine-to-five so I’m not doing anything different really.
I heard you were coming to the States.
Yeah, we’re coming in February. I’m looking forward to it. We are going to Japan in January. 2006 is going to be pretty cool. Touring Europe is pretty cool but touring Japan and America is more memorable. I’ve toured Europe a dozen times and can’t remember one from the other. I remember every time we were in America. I don’t know why really.
It might be because you may play a new city or new venue every time.
That is a really good point. Let’s face it… America is a massive spectrum for us. When we first played in Dallas eight years ago there were hardly any people at all. When we played at the Troubadour a couple of months ago it was one of the best shows I’ve ever played. There is a massive spectrum of things that go on in America. England is fantastic and we can be confident that people will be on our side. It’s exciting to play in America because you feel like you are performing as an unknown act.
+ Charlie Craine