Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Sep 24th 2010 9:30AM by Chris Cottingham
Brian Sweeney, Getty Images
The first time round, the Vaselines were over before they'd even really started. After releasing their 1989 debut, 'Dum-Dum,' the Glaswegian indie-poppers promptly broke up. They might have faded into obscurity were it not for Kurt Cobain, who once described Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, the partnership at the heart of the band, as his "favourite songwriters in the whole world." Nirvana covered two Vaselines songs, 'Molly's Lips' and 'Son of a Gun', on their 1992 album, 'Insecticide;' they also played an acoustic version of 'Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam' at their landmark 'MTV Unplugged' performance. McKee and Kelly reformed the Vaselines in 2006. Last week they released their first album for 22 years, 'Sex With an X.' McKee talks to Spinner about nostalgia, astrological charts and hating the '80s. "It wasn't all good, you know," she says.
'Sex With An X' is out now. It's taken 22 years to make. Why now?
It's the right time. We had a 22-year plan. When we split up, we had our astrological charts read and it was foretold that in the year 2010 we would release another album.
You're pulling my leg, aren't you.
No! I'm completely serious. The stars aligned. It was Uranus meeting...
OK. Seriously, we'd started touring as the Vaselines again in 2006 and Eugene and I decided we had some songs that might sound good for the Vaselines, so we gave it a go.
Why did you get back together in 2006?
We both had solo records out in 2006 and we played some shows together. We sang a couple of Vaselines songs for a laugh. We were both surprised by how much we enjoyed it. And the crowd reacted better to the Vaselines songs than our solo stuff.
Why did you decide to record a new album?
We were confined to playing a 40 minute set, so we had to write some new songs.
What was it like writing together after such a long time?
It was amazing how we both slipped into it. It was as if we had never stopped writing together.
What do you think main difference between the new album and the old stuff is?
We were much more involved in the whole recording process this time. We knew what we wanted and we knew how to get it. Back then we were still in awe of the whole process and didn't really know our abilities or what our voices could do. The similarities are that we wanted to record the new album using analogue equipment so it has that warm sound. Plus it was quick. It took a couple of weeks and it was done. We kept things simple. That hasn't changed.
You've become a cult band over the years. Were you nervous about reforming?
That's why we avoided making new records to start with because we didn't want to have to deal with all that. But then we decided not to think about what went before because if you do you put yourself in a straitjacket.
There are lots of young bands citing '80s indie as an influence. What do you think about that?
Every decade has its time and '80s indie is having its time now. There was some great music that came out of that time.
But there's a song on the new album called 'I Hate the '80s'...
Well, everyone looks back at that as a great time, but there was a lot of bad stuff as well. We're just trying to highlight that it wasn't all great. It's like people growing up in the '60s. There was no Summer of Love for most of them.
Does that nostalgic view get on your nerves?
A wee bit. Not all the bands coming out of Glasgow at that time were great and not all indie bands at that time were great.
Why did you split up immediately after releasing your debut album, 'Dum-Dum,' in 1989?
We recorded the album and then it sat around for six months because the whole independent scene in Scotland imploded. Our record label, 53rd & 3rd, went bust. The album had nowhere to go. That was a huge disappointment for us. And music was changing. Guitars were dead. Long live acid house. It didn't feel like we had anywhere to take it.
It sounds like you didn't have any ambition for 'Dum-Dum.' Were you surprised when you became a cult band?
Absolutely. There was no expectation at all.
How did you feel when Kurt Cobain started championing you?
By that point in time I wasn't really into music any more -- I was a teacher -- so it didn't have any impact on me for a long time. Eugene was more aware of it, but I had no idea really. I only saw the 'MTV Unplugged' performance once Kurt Cobain had died. That's when I realised how important it was.
Are you bored of people asking about it?
No, because if it hadn't been for that the Vaselines would have faded into obscurity like a lot of Glasgow bands of the time. But I always feel like I disappoint people because I only met Kurt once, which was when Nirvana asked the Vaselines to support them when they played Edinburgh. We'd split up by then but we got back together for one last bash. I'm afraid I don't really have any Nirvana stories to tell.
What's the future for the Vaselines?
We're not really thinking about the future too much. We've got European and American tours coming up. We're playing the Bowlie 2 Weekender that Belle and Sebastian are curating. But I've got two kids and I'm a yoga teacher as well, so I've got that to think about as well.
What do your kids think about their mum being in a band?
They think it's great, although they do prefer the Nirvana versions of our songs. I suppose it is a bit disloyal, but at least they're honest about it. All the kids are in the video for 'Sex With An X' (see below). We had to pay them a tenner each to be in it. Going back to where we go from here, it depends how well this album is received. If everyone hates it there's no point doing another one, is there. But if there's an audience there then maybe. But that's all speculation. We're concentrating on this album for the moment. As a mum, when you've just given birth to a baby, you're not thinking about the next one, you keep your legs crossed and look after the one you've got.