Reunited Bluetones back in Leeds

The Bluetones.
The Bluetones.
  • Four years after their farewell show in Leeds, the Bluetones have reformed and will be playing in the city this month. Duncan Seaman reports.
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Back in 2011 Britpop heroes The Bluetones bade farewell to Leeds with an emotional parting show at the city’s O2 Academy.

Singer Mark Morriss continued as a solo act but four years on it seems the lure of a full band reunion was too good to turn down.

Next month the Slight Return hitmakers – who include vocalist Morriss, his brother Scott on bass, Adam Devlin on guitar and Eds Chesters on drums – pick up where they left off, opening their 20th anniversary UK tour in Leeds.

“We just wanted to play together,” explains 43-year-old vocalist Morriss of the reason behind The Bluetones’ regrouping. “We missed the simple thing of just being in a room together and thought let’s just go and play some shows.”

Having spent the intervening years starting new careers, Morriss admits restarting the band has been a bit like a family reunion.

“I think there was this sense that we loved what we had together and if we don’t use it we’re going to lose it.”

Away from music Chesters set up in business as an osteopath, meanwhile Scott Morriss moved to Tokyo where he works for an animation company and also does freelance animation.

Devlin “kept his hand in” by playing with “a few other musicians and working with friends, making records and that sort of thing, helping out”.

In advance of their Jukebox Tour the band – who scored 13 top 40 singles and three top 10 albums in the 1990s and early 2000s – took to social media to invite fans to request songs to be played at their shows.

“We’ve asked people to get in touch with us via our Twitter feed and just let us know what songs they’d like,” Morriss says. “There’s someone who’s monitoring it all and compiling a list for us and we’re going to have a look at it before we go into the rehearsal rooms and it will shape what we deliver.”

Fans shouldn’t, however, hold out for new material at this stage, the singer warns.

“That hasn’t even entered into our conversation. We were just missing the chemistry of playing together, there’s the 20th anniversary [of The Bluetones’ first single, Slight Return] theme hanging around and it’s like if we don’t celebrate it now it’s gone and I don’t think any of us wanted it to pass by.”

Although The Bluetones will forever be associated in popular consciousness with Britpop, Morriss doesn’t feel especially nostalgic about the old times.

He does appreciate however that “there doesn’t seem to have been anything else that’s come along since in the last couple of decades that’s captured people’s imaginations quite the way that did”. He may not go as far as suggesting that guitar pop bands have died out entirely since the turn of the 21st century but he does note that “there certainly doesn’t seem to be any kind of thing you could consider a movement or a groundswell”.

“Everything’s sort of been bitty since,” he reflects. “I think something around that time caught the imagination of the general public though I think I’m too close to the centre of it to have any idea of what that was.”

As well as touring with his old band, Morriss has a new solo album out. The Taste of Mark Morriss comprises 
cover versions of songs by, among others, OMD, the Pet Shop Boys and The Stranglers.

“I didn’t have enough material together to start on a new album properly but I wanted to get back in the studio and do something different, just something slightly off the beaten track,” the singer explains.

“It’s not so much another album to be added into my canon, it’s more just a companion piece.

“I just went into the studio and recorded a dozen songs that I just wanted to sing.

“Everyone’s looking for some kind of personal association with the tracks that I picked for it but it’s more a case of I had my sort of Elvis Presley head on.

“I was picking the records in the way that The King would have done. It was like, ‘I just want to sing this song, I want to sing that song’.”

Perhaps most surprising of all is the Morriss’s choice of Lucretia (My Reflection), originally by Leeds goth band the Sisters of Mercy.

“I love the Sisters,” he reveals, adding that all the songs are records from his collection “but they’re not necessarily ones that I have to signpost particular points in my life.

“I’ve already done two solo albums so far but on each of them there are a couple of cover versions and I really enjoy the picking apart of other people’s songs. It was that exercise for this that I hoped would get the wheels turning again for me because I was experiencing a bit of a slow period creatively.

“Hopefully it’s a winner all around. Hopefully people will like it and it’s also proved a successful tool for me, back on the horse.”

As for whether he can envisage having a dual career with The Bluetones and as a solo artist, Morriss says: “Never say never but I don’t know when I’d fit it all in, to be honest.

“Something would have to give because I’ve got a lot of things on the go these days, which is very pleasing. I do a lot of book music for children’s talking books, the chapter music and the theme music for those, which I really enjoy and I’m also in [the comedian turned singer songwriter] Matt Berry’s band as well.

“He’s going to be quite busy next year touring. He’s a good guy to be in the company of.”

The Bluetones play at O2 Academy Leeds on September 16. For details visit www.bluetones.band