Supergrass might have called their second album In It for the Money, but this time around, they’re gleefully committing commercial suicide — or at least they’re joking that they are.
The band trades in its trademark buzz-saw pop for a more esoteric sound on its fifth album, Road to Rouen — the title of which refers to the city in northern France where the album was recorded, as well as the Ramones’ 1978 LP Road to Ruin and the potential disaster in abandoning the Britpop formula that’s brought Supergrass much success over the last decade. Still, they hope fans dig it.
“Any kind of reaction is good,” singer Gaz Coombes said. “Silence and no movement should be a worry.”
“We’re hoping our fans will dance and look happy,” drummer Danny Goffey added.
The album, which contains just nine songs, runs the gamut from “Zappa and Jimi Hendrix riffs” to “weird elements of Eastern Europe,” from Talking Heads to country music, the band says. They used zithers, ukuleles, brass, strings and a drum machine, and although Supergrass’ new sound is all over the place, the bandmembers say they were much more focused in the studio: a converted barn with rudimentary recording equipment.
“It was a bit like when we were younger and used to make eight-track [recordings],” Goffey said.
“You get all these [crazy] drum sounds, which you just wouldn’t get in a [more advanced] studio, because everything’s mic’d up beautifully with an engineer that’s been there for years,” Coombes said.
Inspired by the rustic surroundings, Supergrass tried to reflect that feeling in the album: For instance, they recorded the album’s first single, “St. Petersburg,” in one take. “You wouldn’t be able to overdub,” Coombes said, “because the [instruments all blended together], there would have been guitar all over Danny’s drums, so basically all of you have to play the right thing at the same time.” When they took it to be mixed, the engineer couldn’t really mix it — rather than individual tracks, the song was one complete sound. All this, of course, goes against what’s usually considered commercially viable. Not that Supergrass care.
“When you get to a certain point, the expectations are really high,” Coombes said. “I think sometimes you lose sight of the fact that you could be working on tracks that were a bit more bizarre, that would mess with people’s heads a bit. I think we’ve got to a nice level where we can do as we please and keep the band interesting and not be pressured for the next song to be [the band's 1999 U.K. hit] ‘Pumping on Your Stereo.’ Because we’ve done that. And who knows what the next record is going to be like? It could be a return to punk rock.”
Or a soundtrack. “We could use our sensitive sides to do a really nice film score,” Goffey said. “So if anyone’s out there, give us a ring.”