Britpop favorites hit the road with a new tour and a new album
Like so many indie acts in the 90s, Sleeper became indelibly associated with Britpop. Their effervescent guitar pop was rooted in grunge but with an added bright and shiny edge provided by Louise Wener's sharp, funny and insightful lyrics and knowing knack for melody.
Tracks like 'Inbetweener' (featuring a memorable video starring Dale Winton), 'Nice Guy Eddie', 'What Do I Do Now?' and 'Sale of the Century' all went top forty and the band also appeared on the soundtrack to Trainspotting (with a cover of Blondie's 'Atomic'), a defining moment for any 90s UK indie act.
They split in 1998 as the Cool Britannia bubble burst but the band are back once again with a brand new album (The Modern Age) and a UK tour. We caught up with Wener to find out more about the return of Sleeper.
How did Sleeper get back together? We came back in the summer of 2017 just to do four gigs, to see how we worked as a band, if we could still get on stage. We had such a good time doing it we just decided to carry on.
How did it feel getting back on stage after such a long break? It was so nerve wracking and so exciting at the same time. I'd never had stage fright or any kind of anxiety before, I was always so excited about it, but I felt so nervous. I think it was because I hadn't done it for so long. But it's like all those things, you get out there and do it and it feels natural. There was an incredible sense of warmth and camaraderie from the community.
And how did that lead to your new album? I thought that if we were going to carry on doing it, we had to add new music to the mix. I just wanted to see if I could still write a song. In the same way as it was a challenge getting back on stage, I wanted to see if I could still write a melody that I liked.
Now some time has passed, how do you look back on the Britpop era? I only ever really cared about the songs we were writing. When you are going through it you don't really think about the cultural resonance, what it means or represents. I mean, there were a bunch of bands making good guitar pop all at once for a short period. It was probably the last hurrah for record companies I suppose, and that feeling of tribalism in music. I think now the whole concept is massively over analysed.
After an 18 year break, do you find it depressing that people are still asking why there are so few women in bands? I do, I do. We're playing a lot of festivals this year and people have been sending me line-ups highlighting how few women are playing. It's strange to still be asked those questions, I don't think there's ever been a man alive in a band who has been asked a question about music related to his gender. It's probably the question I've been asked most; 'what's it like being a woman in a band?' But there was a huge amount of sexism in the music industry in the 90s and it was unexpected. I thought it would be a place full of liberalism but I found it quite conservative.
Why did Sleeper break up in 1998? A combination of things. The last album wasn't selling well, the relationships within the band weren't great, we hated our record company by that time. My love affair with the record industry had died long since, it was almost like a release to get out of it by that stage.
Was there any awkwardness getting back on stage together again? Thankfully there wasn't. Andy [Maclure], who's the drummer and co-writer, is my husband so that was cool and Jon [Stewart] who's been our long-time guitarist works with Andy and we hang out and have been friends for years. It was strange to alter those relationships and go back to playing and become a music thing but you know it works. It was quite a joyous thing to do that with old mates.
What's next for Sleeper? I wish I did have long term plans but [getting back together] was very much a spur of the moment thing. Someone very close to me was very sick and that spurred me on because I thought I might never get the chance to be on stage again. We just did it without a plan and we're just stumbling through it until it stops feeling enjoyable I guess.
Sleeper tour the UK including Glasgow, Garage, Fri 21 Mar and Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Sat 23 Mar.