It’s early evening at a makeshift bar somewhere on the grounds of the Carling Weekend Festival in Leeds, England, and Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes looks miserable. He is suffering from a streaming cold and feels, he says, ”in the mood for nothing.” This is unfortunate, because later tonight the band — Coombes, his keyboardist brother Rob, bassist Mick Quinn, and drummer Danny Goffey — are a headliner at the event. Enthusiasm will be required.
”I’ll be fine,” he says, opening another can of lager. ”I just need some of this medicine.”
Despite current appearances to the contrary, Supergrass are one of Britain’s most vital bands, as their new greatest-hits, Supergrass Is 10; The Best of 94-04 (in stores Sept. 28), amply testifies. Provide them with some alcohol, and slowly — very slowly — they start to come alive…
Old Man Blues
L2T So, what does headlining a festival like this mean to you?
COOMBES, Carlsberg lager Well, it’s good but a little strange because we feel like veterans. There’s not so many of the old faces here, just a bunch of new ones [50 Cent, the Streets, the Stills]. Everyone’s a stranger.
GOFFEY, Carlsberg I’m just grateful we’re on at 10 o’clock at night instead of two in the morning. We always play in the middle of the night at European festivals, by which time, of course, we’re all completely pissed.
L2T Have you ever performed a show sober?
QUINN, mineral water We try to avoid it. [Holds up mineral water.] Don’t let this fool you. I’ll be moving on to the harder stuff later. I like playing drunk. It makes everything funnier.
Drinking alcohol is a bit like stretching an elastic band. It loosens you up a bit, which is good, but if you drink too much, you suddenly snap and lose it completely — which isn’t so good.
COOMBES, gin and tonic Drinking is a very important part of our day. It’s practically ritualistic. I like to start with a gin and tonic at six, move on to beer by nine-ish, and I do like a nice whiskey around midnight.
L2T It’s 8 p.m. and you’re back on the G&T. Why?
COOMBES It’s more medicinal, for my cold. I’ll hit the whiskey next…
L2T You’ll be touring America this fall. Looking forward to it?
COOMBES, Johnnie Walker Black Definitely. I love playing live in America. We always get a great reception.
GOFFEY, Carlsberg How do you know? All anybody ever does is clap. They may be clapping ironically…
COOMBES Well, when we toured with Pearl Jam in 1999, the college-oriented audience didn’t quite get us. But whenever we play with the Foo Fighters, the crowd goes crazy. We’ve toured with them five times now. I love Dave Grohl. The man’s a real gentleman.