During my Lower Sixth exams I decided to have a break from revision and make a rare visit to HMV to watch Snug play a short acoustic set to promote their debut, self-titled album. There was a surprisingly large amount of people there, and the queue to have stuff signed stretched right out of the store. Anyway, whilst the band were signing my promo copy of their 'Caroline' single (because I couldn't afford the album) I asked them if they wanted to do an interview and they were really cool, because even though they were quite busy, they complied. So the interview took place outside the Friary Centre, opposite The Drink nightclub, with James Deane (vocals and guitar) and Ed Harcourt (bass and keyboards).
Tell me a bit about your debut album.
JAMES: We've spent quite a long time recording it because we've been recording it, then re-recording it, then re-recording it again. We've finally got the finished article which we're very proud of. It comes as a double CD, which is nice- there's an extra CD which is us just mucking around. The album's, like, straight and the second CD's us messing around a bit more, so it's a bit of both sides, you get a flip-side of the band!
Didn't you use to be on WEA?
ED: Yeah, we used to be on Warner Brothers, but the bastards got rid of us because we weren't like Cher or Rod Stewart or whatever. But it doesn't matter, we've started afresh, and we've got our own label, Howling Duck, which is quite cool. It's nice because we can do everything ourselves without a load of coke-snorting freaks trying to order us around.
What do you think is the best single you've released?
JAMES: Um... I think 'My Girl (Keith)' would've been quite cool if it had been the one on the album, but it wasn't, it was a bit crap. But I don't know really- Beatnik Girl probably.
Going a long way back, what did you think of the other bands on the 'Screecher Comforts' EP?
ED: Hmm... let me think. Er, Midget I thought were fucking shit, Symposium are shit anyway, and who else?
ED: Actually, Inter were quite good. Us and Inter at least had some melody! There was another band, Dragdoll, with a guy who sounded like he had piles when he was singing! What was the other band?
JAMES: Tampasm.
ED: Oh yeah, that was the shittest thing I've ever heard- it sounded like it was recorded in a toilet!
JAMES: *embarrassed laughter* It was quite good altogether as a package though!
Were you surprised, or did you suspect it, that despite all the hype and expectation, none of the bands on the EP have so far succeeded?
JAMES: I'll tell you why they never succeeded, and that was because they weren't really that good. I think when you try to build a music scene because the bands are young, then you get a load of really crap bands who are getting a lot of attention because they're young, not because of any other reason. So there were a couple of good, young bands, but there was no need to make a scene out of it.
ED: I'll tell you what, we have never been part of any 'scene'. They started to put us in the teen scene because we were young, whereas we've taken a more glamorous path. We're into all types of music, be it Queen or hip-hop or whatever. I'm into Cuban jazz and Tom Waits, stuff like that. So I don't think we ever wanted to be classed into that teeny-punky-pop genre. And the stuff we're doing now is more diverse and eclectic, kind of country-ish stuff and some heavier, bigger, louder rock songs as well, rather than fast Ramones style punk songs.
JAMES: I'd prefer to be remembered as not really making it at all, rather than making it as part of a scene that died after six months.
ED: It's the press. They love to create these little cliques, and they take you in and then spit you out. 'Build you up, then knock you down': it's a cliched thing but it happens all the time. We were also developing as a band, we still are.
What was touring with Catatonia like?
JAMES: It was... big! Big venues and big people, and it was relly cool! We want to do that kind of thing all the time. It was an experience anyway. It was our first tour with a big band. Other times we've played with big people, but only as one-off shows, so it was a chance to experience the buzz every night. It was definitely one of the best things we've done so far.
What do you think's the best gig you've ever played?
ED: I think the best gig we have ever played was supporting Catatonia in Southampton. It was amazing.
JAMES: We played a good gig at the Alleycat once..
ED: Actually, I think one of the best gigs we ever did was an acoustic gig at Christmas time in the Water Rats, and for me that was one of the best because it was totally different from what we'd done before. Ed (Groves, second guitar) was ill, and we did this song where I was on saxophone and James was on fuzz bass and we did this like, mad, weird thing... I can't explain what it was, sort of the Eels mixed with jazz..
JAMES: It was unexpected, but it was fun to do. We thought we might as well just go and do it because we weren't a full band, and so we made a weird noise, but a nice noise, and would see what people made of that. Otherwise we'd just give them an acoustic version of 'Beatnik Girl', not sounding like 'Beatnik Girl', which would've been a bit shit.
There was an old guy buying your album. Was that someone you know, or just a random old man?
JAMES: I know who that was, I know who you mean, that was Ed (Groves)'s grandad..
ED: I was going to say he was a fan because that would sound cooler!.
JAMES: Oh yeah, we don't know who he is, but he comes to every single gig. He's one of the most violent moshers as well. He pushes people around like shit... he even broke this guy's head open once!
What do you think of fanzines?
JAMES: It depends; some are shit, some are good. I'll read it. I like reading it if I've done a good interview in it and I sound cool..
ED: I hate fanzines where people talk about how they fancy the band, and know these bands. And all that glitter scene, like glittaah-woooo! Know what I mean?.
JAMES: I like it when they just say who are the new bands and stuff, but I don't like it when they go on about things that aren't really that interesting.
So what new music are you into?
JAMES: I got Wilco's new album a couple of days ago, and I know that all the press are going on about it, but I think it really is amazing. I want to be doing stuff like that..
ED: I've been listening to Jeff Buckley and the Bueno Vista Social Club, which is Cuban kinda stuff. I listen to Tom Waits every day and I like Public Enemy, the Flaming Lips, Neil Young, Velvet Underground....
JAMES: I want ot get the new Sebadoh album, but I don't know... I don't want to spend money on it! Pavement are becoming an influence on us. The idea of sounding like Pavement is a lovely concept.
You seem to like pretty diverse stuff.
ED: Hey, I'm pretty fly for a white guy!
How long can you see Snug going?
JAMES: Until we get crap, I guess. We're starting on another album, and hopefully forever..
ED: That album is going to be amazing by the way! But we'll probably split up when James gets a smack habit..
JAMES: I'll start making music that sounds really like the music off Dawson's Creek, like Jon Bon Jovi, and then eveyone will kick me out of the band!.
ED: Like Marti Pellow from Wet Wet Wet. He's been kicked out because he had a smack habit..
JAMES: I want a smack habit! It's unfair, everyone gets a smack habit except me!
Any final comments?
ED: I'd just like to say that I have an incredibly large penis..
JAMES: And I'd like to say that I don't.
I was a really hot June afternoon, and we were all getting pretty cooked in the sun, so we decided to end it there. Snug are trying really hard to promote their album as much as possible, so no doubt they'll be playing in a town near you soon. The album 'Snug' is out now, including all their amazingly tuneful singles, on Howling Duck. Thanks again to James and Ed for being so helpful.
Fanzine Reviews
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Issue 4 Summer '99 © Tim Bragger