Belgium (Promotor) Steven Thomassen
Autumn Falls - Cactus Club - Brugge (be)
Formed in Glasgow in 1987, The Vaselines released two singles and one album, Dum Dum, on the 53rd & 3rd label. Splitting up in 1989 (in the same week their album was released), they might have faded into obscurity but for the intervention of a certain band from Seattle. Nirvana covered three Vaselines songs, helping to fuel a growing after-the-fact appreciation of their seedy, two-and-a-half chord, garage pop manifesto.
Founding members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee remained musically active throughout the intervening years: the former with Captain America aka Eugenius and finally as a solo artist; McKee with Painkillers and Suckle.
Eugene and Frances collaborated intermittently in the intervening years. They toured jointly and played a few of the old songs together in the wake of their respective solo project releases in 2006. But an acclaimed, unannounced appearance at a fundraiser in Glasgow’s Mono for Malawi Orphan Support in 2008 was the real catalyst for their latest, exciting bout of creativity.
Ensuing tours of America (including a stand-out appearance at Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary festival, SP20), Brazil, Japan and some UK festival dates saw The Vaselines “re-connect” with wildly appreciative audiences who had blinked and missed them the first time round. Buoyed by the success of their live return, the two punk rock chums decided to go back into the studio.
There’s that sound again, that Vaselines sound: a winsome sweetness, a touch of melancholy and a lithe, libidinous drive that recalls all the best, coolest rock & roll. Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee’s voices intertwine in that ineffable way they have, a sort of highland Nancy ‘n’ Lee. And those songs: joyous slices of classic pop songwriting brimming with heart and wit. But on their new album V for Vaselines, the guitars are bigger and fuzzier, the beats hit harder and tighter, and the whole affair bursts with punky energy. “We wanted the whole record to be upbeat,” says Eugene. “It’s as in-your-face exciting as we could possibly make it.”
It all started a couple of years ago, when Eugene chanced upon a Ramones cover band at a club in the band’s hometown of Glasgow. “After that,” he says, “I just wanted to write some really short punk rock songs, just get into people’s ear straight away and then get out as quickly as possible.” At the same time, Frances’ kids were discovering the Ramones, and she, too, got the itch to write songs that were “rough and ready” and “quite punchy.”
A batch of songs spilled out quickly, including “Earth Is Speeding.” “It’s about letting go of things and not being too precious,” says Frances. “If you get too attached to what’s supposed to come out of it, then it’s going to be counterproductive.” And that’s the whole approach of V for Vaselines: “We didn’t want to write these songs and then tinker with them forever,” Frances adds. “We wrote and recorded them quickly, in a punk way.”
Very soon, they were recording at Mogwai’s Glasgow studio, Castle of Doom, with noted producer-engineer Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Delgados, Belle & Sebastian). Things were very spontaneous — often, they didn’t even decide who was going to sing each song until shortly before they recorded it. They’d simply bang out a track and move on to the next one. “It was a great experience,” Eugene says. “We made a lot of progress, rather than going back to what we’d done 20 years ago.”