After more than thirty years of their careers and with – now, at least – nine albums to their name, it would be easy to assume that Suede might find themselves at ease during the motions on their latest “Autofiction” show. However, this could not be far from the case.
Having decided to go back to basics and channel some energy from their early days, the full-length 9th band takes an approach that doesn’t rely on bells and whistles, and according to Brett Anderson himself, “This band has a natural freshness, where you want to be.”
We said in our review of the album, “There’s not a lot of luxurious harmony or dark luster that underpins the construction of ‘Autofction,'” but Suede maintains its volume through emotional lettering — the song “15 Again” is the perfect microcosm for the “self-narrative ups and downs, and its cheerful chorus.” Built on painstaking regret. At its core, ‘Autofiction’ finds suede still moves too hard.”
To celebrate the release of “Autofiction,” the band – Brett, Neil Codling, Mat Osman, and Richard Oakes give us a spin-off of the record, giving us some of their thoughts and opinions on each of their eleven tracks.
She is still driving me
Brett Anderson: This is my favorite song on the album and the accompanying piece for Life is Golden from our previous album The Blue Hour. While the latter is a parent-to-child song, this is a child-to-parent song. I find writing about family the thing that motivates me the most these days — poor knife edge, anxiety, the many ways it can go wrong.
Neil Codling: Once Brett and Richard wrote this, we all thought it had to be a single track on the new album, and their first single. The working title was Caspar’s elbow.
Brett Anderson: If I were asked directly what this song really is, I would have a hard time answering, but I don’t apologize for that. Sometimes songs take years to reveal themselves, even to the writer. I obviously play with weakness, complex, and cracks in the psyche, but much of it is drawn with broad brushstrokes, and images and sounds take precedence over the narration.
I wanted this album to be raw both musically and emotionally, I suppose if there’s anything this song tries to reveal the most broken person behind the character.
Osman died: There was talk that this was the first thing people heard of “Autofiction” because he had such an evil spirit. Backing vocals 69 similar to the proper Sham.
Osman died: This is a real sound, it has a kind of new wave feel.
Brett Anderson: Great guitar music. This is probably the most fun thing ever. There is a deliberate lightness in it that is supposed to reflect the cheerful nature of youth. But it’s not necessarily about nostalgia.
Those wonderful and joyful moments can come at any time in your life. The theme was built before – I think you can see it as a modern version of something like “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Sinatra.
Richard Oakes: There was a very strange home demo of this song, light and complex, inspired by Gary Nauman’s song We Are Glass. Once the sound was written, we knew we needed to make it beat more, so I added the opening guitar tone.
The only way I can love you
Osman died: It’s the first thing on the recording that I’ve felt could fit into almost any Suede album since we formed.
Brett Anderson: Perhaps it is the poppy in this record. A little weird about jurisdiction, but sometimes following concepts in bondage can be a fool’s errand.
That boy on stage
Brett Anderson: This is arguably the most autobiographical thing I have ever written. However, this isn’t really a song about me, it’s a song about my personality.
The interaction between person and character is something that has gripped me for a while, that feeling that we all wear masks, that stage character is just an enlarged, more overt version of that whole process.
Osman died: This is the fan chant for “Shut up and hit that metal”. We originally planned to have people in the studio as we recorded, but COVID paid for it. Instead, we had people sing on their phones at home and Neil spent many hours mixing them in a chorus.
driving myself home
Richard Oakes: We started working on the demo in March of 2020. It started as a slow-motion funerary story on Warsaw, but has evolved into something more comprehensive and traditional suede. Once Neil finished recording orchestral parts, he had a spot on the album.
Richard Oakes: This song is based on the bass guitar I wrote at MasterRockStudios in 1998, when we were recording Head Music. Brett sang lyrics to her, something like “We’re just celebrating time until we die.” Revived 21 years later, it fits the album’s aesthetic perfectly.
Brett Anderson: This is probably my favorite track behind the song She Still Leads Me On. I love Matt’s rudimentary distorted sound, Simon’s harsh drumming, and the tense and paranoid guitar. I think it’s a song about control. About how letting go of a relationship can sometimes be a kind of freedom.
Richard Oakes: This was a late rival, written in March 2021 as an experiment in something a bit rougher and less chord-reliant. Once Brett’s part was written, we decided that this was what a “broken kid” looked like.
Brett Anderson: It was really important for Richard to make this album his own and I have to say it really progressed. With this track, he made another great piece of music that I knew I couldn’t fail at. In a way, I think “Autofiction” is the sound of Richard liberating himself from the burdens of his origin story and early relationship with the band and truly becoming himself as a musician. That’s why this recording sounds new to me, because we’re not referring to our past, like we’re definitely into something like “Bloodsports,” for example, but we’re looking at different ways to rock rock.
It’s always calm
Brett Anderson: This was Neil’s baby. We wrote something together a long time ago and he suggested I look at it again. I came up with this chorus based on that. Knowing that there is something good in it but not quite right yet, he went tirelessly trying to fit different verses to balance out the entire song. Sometimes songwriting is all about graft and hard work. Of course there are magical moments when things “happen” but it’s often difficult. Everything is worth it in the end Of course, nothing easy in life is worth it.
What am I without you?
Brett Anderson: This is a love song, but it is a love song for the audience. It begs the simple question that all artists and performers have to face at some point. I think it is almost impossible for art to exist in a vacuum. In a way it is an act of communication that requires a response and it is the audience that provides that response. So much of what we do about getting involved in one way or another and that whole symbiotic relationship fascinates me.
Osman died: I love these songs that seem like traditional love songs but with something else swimming under the ice. She still drives me and she does too.
Turn off your brain and scream
Richard Oakes: This song came from an experimental piece written in Sweden. We wrote the song and then decided to turn it into a slow-build, punchy menace that eventually exploded and could finish the album on the right note.
Brett Anderson: This was the last song we wrote for the album, only we were able to muster it before the deadline. I love the slow build, the ice sheets of the sound, the fact that this is the first suede record that doesn’t end with a song. “Turn Off Your Brain And Yell” would have been an alternative title for the album, it kind of epitomizes the feeling of initial abandonment I wanted to get off the record.
“Autofiction” is now published via BMG.
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