Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 | interviewZ, musiX, pdX
Like many, my introduction to The Vaselines came via Nirvana’s Incesticide record in 1992. “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” were cheery pop songs that sounded a little less Nirvana-like than the rest of the album. Of course, Nirvana would later cover “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” for its Unplugged album and, as with the brothers Meat (who incidentally have a new record out May 12), The Vaselines were soon on everybody’s cool-and-hip radar.
The Vaselines weren’t even a band by that point. Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee (for whom Cobain would name his daughter after) broke up—personally and professionally—in 1989, only three years after they formed. The band have only a pair of EPs and one full-length—Dum-Dum—released a few months before they called it a day. Ever since Mr. Cobain professed his undying love for the Scotland duo’s jangly garage pop, The Vaselines have maintained indie-rock cult status, and in 1992 Sub Pop re-released The Vaselines’ first two EPs and Dum-Dum as The Way of The Vaselines.
On May 5 Sub Pop re-released the re-release with a much more grandiose title Enter The Vaselines. And with that Kelly and McKee will also play a few U.S. dates, including one here in Portland at the Doug Fir on Wednesday, May 13. The show, no doubt, will be packed. Gee, imagine a world where Kurt Cobain didn’t endorse bands. Who could blame him? The Vaselines are everything I like about music: Sweet, catchy, naughty, ramshackle, strange, beautiful.
Eugene Kelly took some time to talk to TDoL about the upcoming tour and his first encounter with his biggest fan.
TDoL: When you formed The Vaselines in 1986, how did you think it would end up?
Eugene Kelly: We just wanted to write songs and play gigs. We were lucky that we released a single soon after we’d formed, but we didn’t have any plans. It was one day at a time and we were both at college so it wasn’t a full-time job being in The Vaselines.
Is it strange performing songs you wrote over 20 years ago, considering the fact that The Vaselines could have just as easily ended up long-gone and forgotten?
We could’ve been dead and gone and no one would’ve missed us if it wasn’t for Nirvana then Sub Pop introducing us to a new audience. It’s not strange to play these songs after 20 years at all. They feel new and fresh to us. We didn’t perform many of them live 20 years ago as we split soon after the Dum-Dum album was released.
Kurt Cobain asked you to reform in 1990 to perform with Nirvana in Edinburgh. It was obviously before Nirvana broke. What made you decide to do it?
I was interested in meeting these guys from far over the ocean who seemed to be fans of ours. It was a positive thing in my life at a time when—post-split, post-break up, post-college—I didn’t have much to be cheery about.
How did Kurt react to meeting you two?
We were introduced and chatted before the show; he seemed very shy and introverted.
You’ve both been involved in projects post-Vaselines. Does The Vaselines still satisfy a musical part of you that hasn’t been tapped into since?
I’ve played mostly folk-based acoustic music for the last few years and played solo shows, so playing electric guitar again is fantastic. I’ve missed making a racket.
What are you most looking forward to with the tour?
Simply getting to go to places that The Vaselines haven’t been before and seeing who is waiting to see us play. I can’t wait.
“Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” – The Vaselines
“Sex Sux (Amen)” – The Vaselines
“Molly’s Lips” – Nirvana