The Vaselines in the City of Their Second Birth

“If Nirvana hadn’t covered our songs, we’d just be another band that put out a vinyl release, got some press, and disappeared.”

Destined for near-obscurity until Kurt Cobain championed their material, Scottish pop duo the Vaselines now find themselves in the unexpected position of touring the States 20 years after breaking up. As Eugene Kelly explained to SW from Scotland last week, the band (which started as a duo and eventually expanded to a five-piece) has sprouted an American following seemingly out of nowhere. The band arrives in Seattle just in time for Sub Pop's deluxe, expanded reissue package, Enter the Vaselines. An edited transcript of our conversation follows:SW: You got to play in the States for the first time in 2008. When the band was active, how much did you hope to play here?Kelly: I thought there'd be absolutely no chance of us playing America. At the time we were together, America seemed like another planet. It was just so far away, and the chances of us even getting there in the '80s to play music wasn't possible. We just put our record out and pressed 1,000 copies and that was it. We never thought it was possible to travel anywhere. We barely played any shows outside of Glasgow.What's your impression of the States so far?The shows last year were great. We couldn't believe how into it the audiences were. We recorded one of the New York shows. I was scared that it would be terrible, but the crowd, from the moment we walk on, they're there with us. I think we're appreciated more in America than in Britain.Looking back, why did the band break up in the first place?Frances [McKee] and I were a couple and we split up. We talked about keeping the band together, but then didn't think we could write together the way we'd written. The writing was a result of us spending lots of time together and hanging out almost daily. I thought the songs wouldn't come the same way.How much do you look back and think there was more you wanted to do as the Vaselines?I don't know what we could have done next. I've jokingly said "I think the best thing the Vaselines ever did was split up." Because there's an audience there now that was never there before.What do you miss about writing with a romantic partner?Well, Frances and I have started writing together again and it's just the same. Maybe I was mistaken 20 years ago. Maybe it was just too soon after breaking up.How much had you and Frances kept in touch?Quite a bit. Because Sub Pop has released our records for so long, every few years we'd have to talk about it again. It's kinda like a divorced couple talking about what school their child is gonna go to [laughs]. Now the baby's grown up and we're putting it back into the world. And maybe the kid goes away and provides for the parents now.What are your thoughts on being associated so strongly with Kurt Cobain? How difficult has that ever been for you?It's never been difficult. In every interview, I'm quite happy to talk about Nirvana. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here still making music. If Nirvana hadn't covered our songs, we'd just be another band that put out a vinyl release, got some press, and disappeared.They were always good for that. They did the same thing with the Boredoms, Flipper, the Melvins, etc. What about that one show you did with them in Edinburgh after you'd already broken up?I think it was a year and a half after we split, and we'd read about how Nirvana and Mudhoney were fans. We'd been asked to support Mudhoney, but we couldn't do it. Then Nirvana came to Edinburgh and their agent asked us, and I thought "I want to meet these people." America seemed so far away, and how did they even get our records? I wanted to hang out with them and see what they were like. I can't remember if I was thinking "Was this the start of the band getting back together again?". I think we were both happy to see it as a one-off. By that point, Frances didn't want to be involved in music. She was training to be a teacher, so it was just one night for her.If someone had told you in 1989 that the Vaselines would be playing the States to enthusiastic crowds in 2009, what would you have said to them?I don't think it's printable!

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