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January 13, 2015
The Vaselines on their Decades-Long Hiatus and Getting Back to the Mindset of "An Immature 20-year-old"


Many bands take a hiatus, needing time away from the demanding lifestyle of a touring musician to tend to other creative and personal endeavors. For The Vaselines, though, this hiatus lasted for twenty years. In fact, fame and success had not even come until after they were broken up. Spurred by praise and covering from Nirvana, The Vaselines carved themselves a powerful niche in the early indie rock scene without even being together as a band.

2010 saw their first record in 20 years, Sex with an X. Not missing a single beat, The Vaselines followed that up this past fall with V for Vaselines. We talked with Eugene Kelly of the group to learn more about coming back after 20 years, channeling the Ramones, and just being yourself as an artist.

StageBuddy: Your last two albums really picked up from where you left off twenty years ago. Was it hard to jump back in after being apart so long?

Eugene Kelley: It was actually pretty easy. We had played some shows by that point and toured a bit, so we knew what The Vaselines should sound like. Once we started writing songs, it was easy to get back into mindset of an immature 20-year-old. Even with the last album, it’s very natural to write that type of music.

Was is more that you were harkening back into that mindset or bringing it into the modern age?

I think it was about not straying too far from what a Vaselines record should be like. We had to try not to expand our chords into elaborate progressions, but rather keep it basic and not too fancy.

You’ve always maintained that everything about The Vaselines is generally unplanned, but it seems like you had bit of a plan with V for Vaselines in your Ramones-inspired approach. Is that true or does is still feel unplanned?

It was pretty planned in that we had an idea of what we wanted the record to sound like. I think we learned a lot from Sex with an X, like when songs were four minutes and they should have been edited to shorter lengths. I saw this Ramones tribute band and I thought those songs were great, that we should do something like that. It was just an idea to do something short and snappy that didn’t hang around too long.

Did you have to employ a lot of self-control though to not fall into those patterns and complicated chords you wished to avoid?

I think we can’t play any other chords (laughs). We’re self-taught so we don’t really know what we’re doing. We just try to find our way through it and keep it intuitive. For us, we just pick up a guitar, play a song, and see what comes out of it.

For V for Vaselines you brought in some musicians from other Glasgow based bands. How did that change the process?

It was great because it was the first time we’ve recorded an album in Glasgow. Naturally it was a chance to get some friends down to help, and we’ve had guests on our records even from the start. We can play to a certain level, but we need someone else to put a little fairy dust on top.

With both of you sharing vocals, is the songwriting process collaborative or more individual?

We come up with tunes separately and then send them to each other. We then decided which ones we’re going to work on and get together to write lyrics. On this record I was pretty stuck for lyrics, but Frances [McKee] just got on with it. Some songs she wrote the bulk of the lyrics, but then there are some that I did. That’s why it’s great writing with someone else, because if you’re stuck, the other person can just kind of get on with it. You’re not sitting there scratching your chin looking at the clouds, because someone else is saying “Oh well I’ve got an idea”.

You two have created a sound that so many bands today claim lineage from. Your response to that has been along the lines of, “well, we were that band once ourselves.” What artists do you claim to be descendants of?

I think bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, The Buzzcocks, and even Pussy Galore. We really wanted to be like Pussy Galore but there was no way we could. Dinosaur Jr. is another, but again, we couldn’t be them. You always aspire to be someone, but you can’t help but be your own individual sound.

You have become almost a cult icon as a band. Did you ever see yourself back when you first started being in this position?

No (laughs), it was really just something to do for fun. The fact that someone released our records was a one in a million shot as is. And then having a band like Nirvana praise you is another one in a million chance. Sometimes we just look at each other and say, “How did we get here?” We easily could have been another indie band to release a couple of records and then just disappear.

Be sure to catch The Vaselines at The Bell House this Friday (1/16) at 8pm.

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