Sleeper: ‘It was almost shocking for us that those people came to those early reunion gigs’

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Sleeper singer Louise Wener talks to JAMES NUTTALL about re-awakening the Britpop band.

In the space of just a few years, between 1995 and 1997, they released three top ten albums, which spawned eight Top 40 singles.

Their second album, The It Girl, went platinum in 1996 and contained the band’s two biggest singles, Nice Guy Eddie and Sale of the Century.

However, like many 90s rock bands, they blazed like a comet before burning out.

When the Britpop movement disintegrated, so did Sleeper.

While the members of the group remained on friendly terms, the notion of a reunion remained thoroughly glossed over.

We were offered a gig and I just thought we should do something that is life-affirming and out of our comfort zone.

Louise Wener

In 2017, they surprised everyone, including themselves, by reforming.

This month sees the release of their first new album in more than 20 years, as well as a nationwide tour.

Speaking to frontwoman Louise Wener ahead of Sleeper’s headline gig at Church Leeds, she explains the reason behind their first split. “The industry had worn us down, the Britpop movement was falling apart. I just think it was the moment for us to stop; I think all of us wanted to go on and do other things at that point, as well.”

Aside from her music career, Wener is also an accomplished novelist and has written three novels to date.

She has been married to Sleeper’s drummer, Andy Maclure, for more than a decade and it was she who put the wheels in motion for a reunion.

Nonetheless, even Wener states this reunion was a very spur of the moment idea.

“We had zero plans to do it and we’d pretty much sworn it off completely. Every time one of us would get the email saying: ‘Does Sleeper want to come and do a gig?’, we’d say ‘no, I don’t think so’.

“Somebody very close to me got very sick in 2017 and one of those emails came through, which I would have usually deleted.

“But, we were offered a gig and I just thought we should do something that is life-affirming and out of our comfort zone.

“I think, every so often, one of us would mention it to the rest of us and we’d all go ‘oh yeah, that’d be nice. Then we’d never talk about it again”, she laughs.

“There was always a faint thought, but nobody really pursued it. I just kind of had this feeling that we should just try it and, in all honesty, our only plan was to come back and see if we could do four gigs.

“It was properly scary and I think that was part of the attraction.”

Adding to the attraction of the reunion for Sleeper fans is that the band has now recorded a brand new album, fittingly entitled The Modern Age.

Despite getting comfortable with each other on stage once again, Louise says the writing and recording process was just as much of a challenge.

“We did those four gigs, then we did another gig of our own at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

“We thought about trying to see if we could write some more music; I hadn’t written songs for a long time and I wanted to see if I could still do that.

“I’d been writing books for a long time and you spend a year wrestling with 100,000 words, trying to wrangle it into shape, whereas when you write a song it can happen in an hour.

“I’d forgotten how exciting that is.

So, where does the inspiration for writing a song differ from the inspiration for writing a novel?

“They are two completely different animals.

“In some senses, they all stem from the same moment; a creative impulse, whether that’s an idea for a plot line or a melody for a song.

“It’s just the length of time it takes to wrangle those two is very different.”

Tickets sold at a very brisk pace for Sleeper’s first UK tour in 20 years.

The group’s loyal followers were delighted to see their idols getting back together once again, but Wener insists that they were still overwhelmed by how many people turned up to their first gigs.

“It was extraordinary because you don’t know that exists.

“It was almost shocking for us that those people came to those early reunion gigs and were still interested; it was lovely.

“Literally, my legs were shaking, not that I was scared, but it was a visceral feeling to be part of that. We’ve really valued it.”
Fans of 90s music will be further delighted by the fact that Kieron Pepper, formerly of The Prodigy’s touring band, is joining the line-up.

“When we were getting the band back together, Kieron lived really close to us”, laughs Wener.
“We’re all in Brighton and we’ve all got kids, so the kids can hang out together while we rehearse in our attics.

“We just got him on board because we think he’s great.”

Sleeper play Church in Leeds on Saturday, March 30. For ticket information go to www.churchleeds.com or www.seetickets.com