REFORMED bands seldom recapture past glories but the return of 1990s pop icons Suede has been about much more than nostalgia.
The band who helped define Britop and who won the Mercury Prize for their eponymous debut album spluttered to a halt in the early 2000s looking like they had run out of ideas.
Their return after a ten-year absence might have proved an unnecessary coda; a quick cash-in greatest hits album and tour before they finally faded away.
But rapturous receptions for their live performances and a new album, Bloodsports, that was better than we ever had a right to expect, made this a welcome return with both fans and the band rediscovering what had been lost.
With an autumn tour now in front of them, the band are buzzing and enjoying their new lease of life.
So are they now older and wiser?
We are definitely older – maybe older and wider,” laughs bassist Mat Osman
“There’s nothing like losing something to make you realise what’s great about it. There came a point where we were a bit bored of it and it’s the most ridiculous thing on earth to get bored with. It’s one of the most privileged, exciting ways you can spend your days.
“This time around, just knowing it’s that fragile and that you can lose your passion for it, it ups the ante a little bit.
“We are certainly more focused than we have ever been, it’s not a party with 10 gigs interspersed. We live like monks apart from the 90 minutes we are on stage. They are the things you can’t replicate – those great shows.”
Mat admits that after a decade in the limelight Suede had run out of creative energy by the time they released A New Morning in 2002.
He says: “The last record wasn’t very good and I spent the best part of 10 years thinking that no-one really cared about the band anymore. It was of a time and that was that.
“But standing on the stage at the Albert Hall at our first gig back, hearing the applause, seeing the crowd throw themselves around and sing was a wonderful experience.
“We have been a soundtrack to a lot of what has happened in their lives. It wasn’t background noise, it was intertwined with first loves, losses all that. The idea that we are woven into people’s lives is a great one.”
So how and why did Suede decide to get back together?
“It was quite odd really,” says Mat. “I think even if I had been offered the chance the year before I would have said ‘no’. I have never really been a fan of reformed bands.
“It came about quit randomly. Roger Daltrey, of The Who, does these Teenage Cancer Trust gigs at the Royal Albert Hall and he bumped into Brett (Anderson, Suede’s front man) and asked if Suede would do it. Brett rang us all up and said ‘this really sounds like a nice idea’.
“I think in all of our minds we thought that if it was horrible and no-one wanted to go on then that would have been it and at least we would have finished on something good – a gig, a place we love and a cause close to our hearts. We would have bowed out gracefully.
“But half way through that gig everyone was looking at each other and thinking ‘we have to do this again’.”
The enthusiasm for the reformed Suede took the band by surprise.
“The minute we reformed we got lots of offers but we turned them all down,” says Mat. “We just did the one gig and then sat down and discussed whether we enjoyed it and whether we thought we were any good.”
What was never on the cards was just doing greatest hits tours whilst the sun was shining on the band again.
“That just gnawed at us straight away,” says Mat. “I love playing live and it was great playing those songs again but the measure of a band is your records. You can’t do a year of gigs playing the same songs without thinking you want to make more like that.
“It has to be new for it not to turn into a nostalgia thing.
“The band has to be sharp and moving forward. Otherwise it dies.”
The result was Bloodsports, featuring 10 new songs that successfully married the best of the old Suede with a contemporary voice.
“Generally reformed bands’ albums are awful,” says Mat. “It’s almost a truism. One of the things we found, like a lot of people before us, is that we thought it would be really easy but it was incredibly hard.
“You spend a year playing the best songs you have written over 20 years and getting plaudits for it … great audiences and travelling the world.
“So you just think ‘we will write 10 more songs like that and it will be great’. A lot of reformed bands then release the first 10 things they do and it’s not very good.
“To get back into that intensively creative area, especially when you are older, is incredibly hard. We wrote more than 50 songs, threw away more than 40. We had a whole album kind of ready to go and started playing live and realised it didn’t work. So this was as hard a record as we have ever made.
“As you get older, just finding those magic moments that sound like Suede but at the same time sounds ‘now’ gets harder and harder. It was a strain but anything worth doing is hard.”
Suede have rediscovered their passion for the band but does that mean they are back for good?
“I don’t think we can say,” says Mat. “It’s a strange thing being in a band of five people, you have to put it first.
“One of the reasons I never fell out with any of the band was that I felt that everyone put what was best for Suede first. It’s the strange lumbering sixth person in all our relationships.
“But the last time we made the mistake of running out of steam and running out of passion and keeping on going. We had things mapped out two years ahead. I could literally tell you which city I would be in on a particular day 18 months in advance.
“The minute it becomes that organised it kills something. That’s not something we would do now.
“The touring is going really well, we are playing places we have never been before. But the minute I don’t think we are living up to the legacy of the band we will just stop and go and do something else.”
Suede are currently on tour and can be seen on Thursday, October 31, at the O2 Academy 1, Birmingham
Go to www.suede.co.uk/shop for more information and to buy tickets.