The Vaselines: Take Them In While There Is Time

vaselinesLegendary Scottish rock duo the Vaselines took 20 years to formally regroup with their second album, 2010’s Sex with an X. Thankfully, inspiration once again struck founding members Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly much, much sooner. Last fall they released V For Vaselines on their own Rosary Records. Largely inspired by the power of simplistic songwriting, specifically the music of the Ramones, the new album features the Vaselines at their punchiest and most concise yet. On January 23, one week into their upcoming North American tour, they will stop at the Rickshaw Theatre. Before they made the transatlantic journey, Vancouver Weekly spoke with Frances about the necessity of taking breaks, working at the band’s own pace, and how she and Eugene keep performance fresh for themselves.

Vancouver Weekly: Since the Vaselines broke up 25 years ago, you’ve taken up yoga. More than that, you teach it. How much does yoga help you get through touring, physically as well as mentally?

Frances McKee: It helps a lot! It’s hard being cooped up in a van all day and playing guitar at night, so it brings me back into balance physically and mentally. Otherwise, I would need to beat up Eugene every night to offload some tension.

VW: Eugene has said that if the Vaselines hadn’t broken up, the band probably would have run out of steam. Do you recommend that every band should take a break, even if the musicians are relatively early in their careers?

FM: I do recommend that bands take their time over their next record (okay, maybe not as long as we did). It is easy for bands to do the record [and] tour, but it takes a lot of the sparkle out of things.

VW: Speaking of more “youthful” spirits, you’ve said that despite having matured in every sense, the band still brings out the immaturity in both of you (however subtle the cheekiness has become on the new album). If the Vaselines ever write a completely “mature” album, do you think it will be time to stop?

FM: We have made a completely mature record! This is it. We are over!

VW: From what I understand, the Ramones tribute group that inspired V For Vaselines only played as a one-off at a birthday party Eugene went to in Glasgow. Was it all just musicians who lived in town? It could be fun if you manage to cobble them all together again and tour with each other!

FM: I have no idea. I wasn’t there, but what a fab idea. You should market that one.

VW: You self-released V For Vaselines largely because you wanted complete control. Do you think there will be a day when major labels (or labels in general) become a thing of the past, when all musicians manage, promote, and distribute themselves?

FM: I think alternative music is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to terrible program[s] like The X Factor, music as we know it is in its last gasps. Take it in while there is time.

VW: The band believes that song-writing should be as spontaneous as possible and not feel like work. Do you feel the same way about performing live? How do you apply these philosophies to your shows, if at all?

FM: Every show we do is unique as we like to engage with each other and also the audience. It is a performance as much as the music, and it keeps things alive for us

VW: I’m guessing you don’t agree with this line I once overheard at a party then? “If your songs are longer than three minutes, you’re not trying hard enough.”

FM: A song is as long as it ought to be. Sometimes it takes a lot of hindsight to edit your own song. Who said that anyway? What a dick. Who said anything about trying hard? You must never ever try hard. Promise me that won’t you?

Tickets for the Vaselines at the Rickshaw Theatre on January 23 are available at Red Cat, Zulu, Highlife, and TicketWeb.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu