NEW YORK -- David Rotheray may be thousands of miles from where
he was born, but right now, at least, he seems right at home, sitting at a bar in
big city America.
"You need another one?" asks Rotheray, guitarist/ songwriter for the Beautiful
South, motioning toward a nearly full glass of whiskey and soda.
Notorious drinkers, Rotheray, 34, and his songwriter partner Paul Heaton, 34, of
the Beautiful South, from Hull, England, are seated in a bar in the downtown
Soho Grand Hotel, as part of their American tour to talk about their new album,
Blue Is The Colour, released last month here.
"We don't get much opportunity to do things over here," said Rotheray of this
chance to spread the word on their new album to American press. But after the
success of their last album, Carry Up The Charts, a greatest hits
compilation that sold 2.2 million copies in Britain alone, the Beautiful South
know that expectations are high for this next release.
"I wanted this album to be more threadbare, to go down the Tom Waits/Neil
Young route rather than attempt to be more modern -- whatever that means,"
says Heaton, the band's blue-eyed, soft-spoken singer.
Produced by Jon Kelly, who has worked with artists such as Bob Dylan, Paul
McCartney, Tori Amos and Kate Bush, Blue Is The Colour is a departure
from the South's earlier, more popish work. Full of somber songs frequently
laced with sardonic humor, the new album leans toward folk and touches on the
sobering aspects of loneliness, depression and, of course, drinking.
On the song
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Beautiful_South,_The/Liar's_Bar.ram"> "Liar's Club"
"Liar's Club"(RealAudio excerpt), a tale of one man rationalizing his
decision to wile away his days in a pub, Heaton growls: "If you took me away
from this, I'd be different you see, 'cause I didn't choose the drink, the drink
In person, Heaton is as open about his drinking as he is in his music. Pubs are
a part of who he is, he says. They fascinate him and so have found their way into
his songs: "I started looking in the mirror, really," he said. "I like that sort of pub
logic, you know, people walking in with shopping bags, trying to think of an
excuse for having a drink."
"For a lot of folks," continues Heaton, "the pub is where they get some self-
identity and they are recognized... where they think they are important. I wanted
to touch on the sadness of it." Another frank tune that puts a new spin on
common stereotypes, "Don't Marry Her -- Fuck Me," tells the lonely tale of a
mistress. Sung by sometimes singer Jacqueline Abbott, it was banned on
English airways for its explicit lyrics; a cleaner version was released on the U.K.
CD, but the original song remains on the album in America.
"A lot of (these) women are just seen as marriage wreckers," explains Heaton.
"There's a real stereotype... I wanted to paint a more romantic picture."
One of the songs that has already received heavy airplay in England is
"Rotterdam (Or anywhere)," which ironically is among the most upbeat and
positive tunes on the album.
More popular in Britain than America, perhaps due to increased press coverage
and radio play, the six-member outfit nevertheless has a curious fascination
with the States that comes out of their ambitions as much as their desire to
explore the culture. Heaton and Rotheray say they're thrilled by the chance to
play in venues on this side of the Atlantic come next year.
"It's nice to have the luxury of both," says Rotheray of performing to crowds in
America. "I really like the West Coast, L.A.," he adds. "The main reason I like it is
I really expected to hate it. There's quite a prejudice in Britain about the West
Coast -- that it's unspeakably naf... you know, rich idiots. But I like the way they
A surprising comment from a Brit -- the Beautiful South may turn out to be rock
'n' roll ex-patriots, after all.
But for now, they're still finding their way around the bar.