The Soft Boys Once More With Feeling

The Soft Boys Once More With Feeling
Robyn Hitchcock can hardly believe it's been 22 years since the Soft Boys last recorded an album together — he insists it feels more like 30. "You could probably fit all four of us then into one pair of trousers that one of us is wearing now," says the famously eccentric guitarist/vocalist, on the phone from his home in London's West End. "And we're not even particularly overweight."

Last year, the seminal UK oddball art-rockers delighted fans across North America with a reunion tour that coincided with the CD reissue of the band's long out-of-print 1980 swansong album, Underwater Moonlight. Now, the quartet is setting out on the road again, this time in support of its brand new album, Nextdoorland, on Matador.

Although the chronology of events may suggest Nextdoorland was inspired by the band's successful comeback tour, Hitchcock says a new recording was part and parcel of the reunion effort from day one. "From my point of view what was going to be exciting about it was not just squeezing back into our old clothes to perform ‘Insanely Jealous' and ‘I Wanna Destroy You,' but to actually arrange some new songs and to have the Soft Boys as, if you like, a vintage streetcar that wasn't just sitting in a museum, but was actually grooving up and down the tin rails," he says. "I think it's nice when old things can still move around."

Most of the material on Nextdoorland was rehearsed prior to last year's tour, even though the album wasn't recorded until afterwards. Underwater Moonlight producer Pat Collier engineered the sessions and co-produced with the band at his South London studio.

Although the whole routine may smack of nostalgia trip, Hitchcock says heading out on the road with the Soft Boys is rather contrary to the band's modus operandi of yore. "We never did a real tour in our lifetime," he says. "We managed to get to New York in 1980 for a few gigs and then we disintegrated not long after. That was the only time we made it overseas at all. We hardly even played outside of London and Cambridge."

As far as future Soft Boys releases are concerned, Hitchcock encourages fans not to hold their breath. "There isn't a Soft Boys grand strategy," he says. "Whatever we do, we do, but it won't be on a career basis. I would liken it to a sort of lovely old piece of wood. If you don't stand on it too heavily it won't break. So I'm sure we'll do bits and pieces, but we're certainly not going to become an album, tour, album, tour kind of concern. It's not a matter of policy. This is the first one we've done for ages, so I would just say enjoy this one. We never thought we would get as far as this. We're just checking in with time, really. The way things are going, two shakes of a table cloth and we'll all vanish."