Q&A: Suede’s Brett Anderson On Making Their ‘Third Debut’ Album, And How The Stone Roses Could Do The Same

Ahead of the release of Suede’s new album ‘Night Thoughts’, we caught up with frontman Brett Anderson for all the dirt on the record, as well its accompanying film – directed by Libertines collaborator Roger Sargent – which will play during the band’s shows at London’s Roundhouse on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 November. ‘Night Thoughts’, Suede’s seventh album, is out January 22.

What does the film involve?

Brett: “Instead of doing a series of videos to the singles for the album we wanted to make film that covers the whole record and glues it together. One of the purposes of making the record was that it was supposed to be a long piece and we wanted the film to reinforce that. It’s basically the story of a man whose life falls apart. It’s quite bleak but it’s got uplifting moments as well.”

And you’ll be playing inside the film?

“We’re going to be playing behind the screen so we’re not gonna be the focus of the first half of the set. We’ll be lit at certain points behind this translucent screen. We wanted the film to be in the foreground and to experience the music in a different way, for the band to be slightly more anonymous. We’ll do a second half of the set as a normal gig but we wanted the first half of the set to have a different feel.”

Will there be more shows with the film?

“We’re gonna do a few more in Europe and I think up in Manchester and Glasgow and Dublin, a couple of little UK shows.”

Was it time for a grand statement album to cement your second era?

“Yeah. What we’d done with ‘Bloodsports’ [2013] was come back and made a really strong record and I’m very proud of it, but it’s album like another debut, our third debut in a sense. With the second record of this period it was important to go somewhere else with it, to make something with a bit more scope. That’s how we approached the record. We recorded most of it in one session, we went over to Belgium for a few weeks and recorded all the music. We tried to do it as one piece, that was always the idea. That was the backbone of the record.”

If ‘Bloodsports’ was the ‘third debut’, will people relate ‘Night Thoughts’ to ‘Dog Man Star’, as the huge, glowering and ornate follow-up?

“I think there will, there’s echoes of it, but it’s a very different record. It’s a little bit harder to pin down than ‘Dog Man Star’, it doesn’t sit quite as comfortably. ‘Dog Man Star’ is this big, monumental emotional record and this has a different kind of tone. But people will make those comparisons and that’s fine with me.”

What’s inspired the darker atmosphere?

“Looking at the murky corners of life, for me, has always been where I’ve got it right as a songwriter, documenting the darker and more twisted things in life. There’s always friction, you can always find friction in any relationship and for me it’s about documenting those elements of friction. A lot of it is about decay and ageing but also parenthood as well, becoming a father and your relationship with your kids and how that mirrors your own relationship with your parents. Having a child myself made me think about my role as a son. Songs like ‘I Don’t Know How To Reach You’ are almost a comment on my and my own father’s relationship, how these relationships break down. Inevitably there’s an element of looking back at the past.”

The first single ‘Outsiders’ has a classic Suede theme of lost kids living for the moment…

“I was thinking about my parents when I was writing that, drifting away and trying to make a life for themselves in the early ’60s. I had a romantic vision of them.”

Is it difficult in 2015 to make a record with more depth and substance to it?

“That was the point of it, to be completely out-of-step, to make the kind of record you’re not supposed to make these days. I like the bloody-mindedness of it. The way music is being consumed, people don’t tend to sit down with a whole album, they dip in and out and get distracted because they get a message on their phone. We wanted this to be the kind of record that you invest in, you sit down with it and give it your time. Not everyone will want to do that and I totally respect that, but hopefully there will be some people that do. I like the idea that it goes against the zeitgeist. Regardless of the surface way that music is listened to these days, people still love music, it still does something really important to them and if you suggest that’s how you should listen to it, some people will want to listen to it like that. People that don’t just know a few singles that we’ve had out know that we’ve always made albums, we’ve always been an albums band that happen to make singles as well. I’ve always seen that as our art form. I’ve always loved people like Talk Talk and Kate Bush and Pink Floyd who think about the album as an art form rather than a few songs put together.”

The Stone Roses are returning for some live shows and there are rumours of a new album – do you have any advice for them on making a successful comeback record?

“It’s very hard. Haha! Making ‘Bloodsports’ was the hardest record I’ve ever made in my life, to make it feel fresh and at the same time you’ve got to reference classic work. It’s hard work, good luck to them. I couldn’t have come back without an album. After a couple of years doing greatest hits tours with Suede we got to a point where I was like ‘we can’t do this anymore unless we’ve got new music’. It just feels like you’re going round in circles. I failed to be able to look at myself in the mirror with any respect so it was very important for us to make ‘Bloodsports’ to justify carrying on. I don’t think we’d have carried on otherwise, we’d have called it a day again. It was a lovely thing to find out we could make great new music together and this has led on to ‘Night Thoughts’ and hopefully I’d like to think we could make another record after ‘Night Thoughts’. It feels very exciting being in Suede at the moment, it feels like we have a renaissance happening, creatively.”

Suede will play:

London, Roundhouse (November 13, 14)
Glasgow, Concert Hall (February 8, 2016)
Manchester, Albert Hall (February 9)
Dublin, Olympia (February 10)