Published Apr 27, 2009They say timing is everything, and there's no truer example than the return of the Vaselines (Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee). Originally existing for a mere four years at the tail end of the '80s, the Scots left us with only a snapshot of their influentially minimal yet noisy indie pop (an album and two EPs). Rising out of the Glaswegian underground scene, they found more popularity across the pond thanks to the fanaticism of one Kurt Cobain, who famously declared them his favourite songwriters.
Known best for Nirvana's adoration - Kurt Cobain named his daughter Frances after McKee - and covers Nirvana ("Molly's Lips," "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam," "Son of a Gun"), the Vaselines established a relationship with Sub Pop as a result, and issued a compilation called The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History in 1992.
Both Kelly and McKee moved on to various other projects shortly after the band fizzled; he started Captain America, which after a threat from Marvel Comics renamed themselves Eugenius, while she later began Suckle. But their hearts always remained in the Vaselines, and after 16 years of inactivity, they reunited for a reunion at the very time their influence can be heard in the sweet tunes of the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Los Campesinos! and Camera Obscura, among the many others.
With a new comprehensive two-disc compilation from Sub Pop, titled Enter the Vaselines out May 5 and a North American tour in May, Eugene Kelly took some time to answer some questions via email about the reunion, the new retrospective and of course, a little Nirvana.
What made the two of you decide to reform after 18 years?
In the best Vaselines tradition it just happened without any plan or idea of what we were doing. We were asked to play solo shows at a charity show by Frances's sister and I suggested playing a Vaselines set as I was a bit bored of playing acoustic guitar.
We'd been asked to play at Sub Pop's birthday festival and we decided that we wanted to play more shows so made the trip to Seattle.
Do you see this reunion as something that will go beyond playing shows? Say, writing and recording new material... or even old unrecorded stuff, if there is any?
We've already written four new songs. We're playing two of them on tour. We didn't want to be on a nostalgia trip just playing the old tunes. We want to be a contemporary band.
How have the reunion shows over the last while gone so far?
They've been going great and a lot fun. We're getting to play some of the old songs for the first time as we didn't play many shows after we recorded our album.
Tell me a little about Enter The Vaselines. How did the idea of it come up? How were you looking to make it special? What do you hope people take from it?
It's 22 years since we first released a record and 17 years since Sub Pop reissued our back catalogue so it was time to see what we could do to give our music a new life. We went back to the original tapes and remixed and remastered everything and found some live shows including our first gig and our first demos. I hope people like it again.
Why do you think your music has remained so relevant over these years considering you were only around for four years or so in your heyday?
I cant answer that. Maybe because the music has a simplicity to it. We were unaware that anyone out there in the world liked us so it's been a pleasant surprise to travel and play to all our lovely fans.
Do you hear a lot of what you were doing back then in some of today's bands?
People have said to us that they can hear us in other bands but I don't hear it myself. I just hear bands who have the same influences as us.
The Vaselines get associated a lot with Kurt Cobain, because he was such an obvious fan of your music. Are you thankful for that or do you find it tends to overshadow your music?
We 're grateful to Kurt, Krist and Dave for introducing us to a new audience and also for Sub Pop for keeping our records out there.
Do you find Nirvana seems to be the bridge for many new listeners discovering the Vaselines these days?
I think most of our fans will have first heard the Nirvana versions of our songs or by word of mouth. We only pressed a few thousand records on vinyl and the '80s. Luckily one copy got to Kurt.
A famous quote of yours was that you were "making it up as we went along." Knowing that, when you go back and listen to the music are there points where you would have done something different, be it a lyric, melody, production, etc?br /> I'd like to go back and write a different second verse for "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam."
What makes us individual is the way we wrote and recorded, I wouldn't change anything. Things happen the way they happen and you deal with it.
How would you say the band's popularity compares in Britain compared to North America?
I think we're more liked in America than Britain. We've played in Glasgow and London recently and the shows were great but the American audiences were more vocal in their appreciation
Are either of you still working on your own music at the moment?
I'm still writing songs for other projects but the Vaselines is keeping us busy.
Finally, does Eugene still keep in touch with Evan Dando? "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" was such a great collaboration.
I still speak to Evan every once in a while and he stays at my house with his wife when they're in Glasgow. I'd love to write some more songs with him.