Suede's Brett Anderson Explains How Parenthood and Fighting the Zeitgeist Shaped 'Night Thoughts'
Published Jan 19, 2016After successfully reuniting in 2010 and releasing a comeback album three years later, debonair English rockers Suede have returned with their seventh full-length. Due out January 22 via Warner, Night Thoughts is more than just an album, though — it's also a film directed by NME photographer Richard Sargent that runs the same length of time. The band performed the album alongside the visual accompaniment at select gigs toward the end of 2015; the film will also be included on DVD in the deluxe CD edition of the album.
"The film is by a friend of ours," singer Brett Anderson tells Exclaim! "I sat down with him and went through the themes of the album, which he took and worked out a narrative, his own story. The album is about birth, death, life, decaying, youth and parenthood. And sometimes the [film's] narrative meets the themes of the record and sometimes it veers off into his own interpretation. It's about a man who loses his son and then his life falls apart. It's actually quite bleak."
The same can be said for the album. Following the sexually charged nature of 2013's Bloodsports, Suede completely changed the narrative for its follow-up. Night Thoughts is a contemplative trip into Anderson's thoughts on mortality. Becoming a father weighed heavily on his mind when writing the album, but not in the way most songwriters express the emotions surrounding parenthood.
"I wanted to write about parenthood, but I didn't want to write about it from a sentimental angle," he explains. "I didn't want it to be this, 'Oh look at me going to the zoo with my son' kind of thing. It would be forced for me to ignore the huge changes that have happened in my life in the last three years. It would be ridiculous. To ignore that would be crazy of me. I wanted to sort of do it in a Suede way, and Suede don't do happy-clappy or jolly very well. We sometimes do, but we get it wrong. I wanted to do it in a thoughtful, slightly neurotic way.
"They don't tell you about the terror before you become a parent. It's explained to you that it will be challenging and life-changing and wonderful, all of these things, but they never say the fucking terror of being responsible for this vulnerable person. None of it is thoughts like that, and that is what the Night Thoughts are. Lots of the album is about mortality and that fear of death. Because I don't give a shit about my death for my own sake. I give a shit about it for the people I'm not going to be there for. If I was a single person, I kind of wouldn't give a shit about it. But now I have to look after myself. I've got other people that depend on me."
In the planning stages of the album, Suede sought to make something that demanded the listener's attention. And so the intention behind Night Thoughts was to make one piece of music that is to be consumed from beginning to end. In the age of iTunes and short attention spans, Anderson recognizes that it might be a bit of a risk, but he doesn't care if the album goes against the grain.
"I think everyone is telling us now that no one has an attention span and that people listen to songs then disappear off and listen to something else," Anderson says. "There is an assumption that everyone listens to music the way the mainstream music buyers [do], and I don't think that's how it is. There are armies of people that want depth, that want to commit to it, that want a fuller experience. And I wanted to appeal to those people rather than the mainstream. There is a pressure to do things in a certain way because that is how the zeitgeist is going, but I want to go completely against the zeitgeist."