Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey wanted to throw a wild party a few weeks ago, so he called up an adult entertainment service in London and ordered a couple of strippers. But he didn't want the kinds of girls who get rolls of money stuffed in their G-strings. Instead, he asked the agency to provide him with the skankiest bunch of ladies they could find.
"They were repulsive," he said, laughing. "I had to pay [the agency] 20 pounds (roughly $30) extra to get [them] to stop [sending girls over]. In the end, [the women] wouldn't let me pay them properly. They had me in a headlock with one of those feather boa thingies wrapped around my neck. It was a bit like a scene from 'Goodfellas.' "
Supergrass don't take very much seriously. Their second album may have been called In It for the Money, but in reality the bandmembers are mostly in it for kicks and giggles. Their fourth disc, Life on Other Planets, due in the U.S. on February 11, is packed with ebullient rhythms and classic English pop melodies that pay homage to David Bowie, T. Rex and the Kinks. But it's also filled with inside jokes and tongue-in-cheek humor. The band even pays tribute to Spinal Tap's "All the Way Home" on "Evening of the Day" with the line "If she's not on that 3:15 then I'm gonna know what sorrow means."
"I think we've found life quite amusing from an early age," Goffey explained. "When we were 8 or 9 we would write songs, and I think we were more happy writing comedy songs. We haven't changed that much, and I think it's quite healthy. Life's quite absurd, really. And it's quite short. You just should try to enjoy it as much as you can."
There's one thing Supergrass are dead serious about — their music. The bandmembers — Gaz Coombes, Goffey and bassist Mickey Quinn — are determined not to regress or coast, so they've pushed themselves with each release to write energetic songs that are emotionally resonant and structurally pristine. On their last album they occasionally overdid it, obsessing over arrangements, dynamics and mixes to the point where they lost some of the urgency that made their first two albums, I Should Coco and In It for the Money, so enjoyable. That's why Supergrass hired an outside producer, Tony Hoffer, to help them work on Life on Other Planets.
"He helped us keep the takes quite short and sweet," Goffey explained. "We really didn't mess around because he kept us moving. If we had done it on our own again, we'd just get really analytical and start crying and trying to mend things that weren't broken."
The group named the album Life on Other Planets because while they were writing and recording they became obsessed with the TV program "Carl Sagan's Cosmos."
"We're doing a gig tonight, and we've put loads of Carl Sagan voiceovers in between songs," Goffey said. "While we were working, we bought a telescope, and we'd get drunk and sit there looking at the stars. So we just thought it was a good name for the album, and we could abbreviate it and just call it 'L.O.O.P.' But there's no massive astrological thing going on."
The first single from L.O.O.P. is "Rush Hour Soul," a punk-driven pop song informed by '70s rock.
"It's about losing reality and just being really off your head," Goffey said. "You could be really drugged up or stricken by madness, and then it's about just needing an escape to get out of that. That's why the verses are quite intense and the chorus is more reflective about the place you'd rather be in."
Supergrass, who gained mainstream exposure in 1999 with their quirky, puppet-filled video for the song "Pumping on Your Stereo," are about to shoot a video for "Rush Hour Soul." They'll film the clip with Goffey's brother Nic and his partner Dom, who did most of the past Supergrass videos and have also worked with Oasis, Robbie Williams and others. But Goffey said he couldn't reveal the plot of the video without facing some pretty serious consequences.
"It's a deadly secret. I can't even give you a little whiff. My brother will come after me and break my knees," he deadpanned.
The band already has new videos for Life on Other Planets tracks "Grace" and "Seen the Light," both of which were released in England. "Grace" is a performance video enhanced with shots of a 10-year-old girl in the band's rehearsal room who tries to produce the group as they play. "Seen the Light" is even stranger.
"We're not actually in it," Goffey said. "It's all really old footage of religious preachers mixed in with old footage of rock and roll audiences, and what's interesting is they react in the same way. They both go into these convulsions and pull their hair out and stuff. It's quite mad."