Suede recently dropped a follow up to 2013’s Bloodsports in the ambitious Night Thoughts, released today. The album features some of Suede’s most focused material yet, with the entire record jumping up at the listener, beckoning you to listen to its material almost as a suite of music as opposed to 12 standalone tracks. According to bass player Mat Osman, this musical journey Night Thoughts evokes was an intentional creative direction the band decided to embark upon during their 2014 writing sessions.
“We’d been told that in 2015/2016,” he explains. “What you have to do is have playlists because ‘the album is dead’ and you have to have a tonne of standalone tracks – each one has to have it own content to go with it. You leak it one by one and you have to keep it short in case people get bored. I hated it. The minute we went, ‘Okay, well what’s the opposite of that?’, it’s a 45 minute record that you have to sit down and listen to from start to finish. ‘We won’t do any videos, instead, we’ll make a film to go with it.’ I love stuff like that and I’m not convinced by this thing that we’re sold that in the 21st century, people can’t handle stuff like that. I don’t think it’s true. People are devouring three hour films and 30 hour box sets, stuff like that. To decide what music’s going to be like, based on its delivery, is just madness. I think people love something they can get lost in, that’s the wonderful thing for me. That was deliberate right from the start.”
Recorded between London and Brussels, Suede once again teamed up with producer Ed Buller for the making of Night Thoughts and in going further in expanding the music’s overall scope, the band became involved with filmmaker Roger Sargent, who directed an accompanying feature film.
“He’s just one of the family.” Osman says of Buller’s presence. “As much as anything, he’s one of the few people who can say no to us. We’re a pretty tight bunch and we do pretty much everything ourselves, so you do need someone there to just say, ‘This isn’t good enough,’. He was there when we made Coming Up and he was there when we made Dogmanstar, so if he says, ‘You can do better than this,’ – he knows. When he’s not producing us, he works in film music, so he has the knowledge of those things I think you need if you’re going to make a record that can flow from the beginning to end. We talked a lot about film music and soundtrack music and we talked a lot about classical music when we were putting the record together; that idea of themes appearing and reappearing and things flowing into other things. It was at the forefront even before we put a note down. He’s great with stuff like that. He understands it totally.”
“The album was finished before we did the film,” Osman says of his feelings towards the film, mainly in how the visuals have affected his perceptions of the songs. “Different songs mean different things for people and that’s one of the joys of it. There are a couple of visuals from the film that I think are so arresting that now, it’s all tangled up in the songs for me and that’s great. Then there are a couple that aren’t, because they were so automatically about something to me when I first heard them, that someone else’s idea doesn’t make any difference.”
“I’m always quite jealous of filmmakers,” he furthers. “I love that moment in the cinema when the lights go down; I love that feeling of 500 people saying, ‘Here we go – we’re here for two hours,’ or whatever. I’m always quite jealous of that.”
So while this feeling of escapism through the music was a clear intent Suede maintained throughout the making of Night Thoughts, Osman admits that the band’s seventh studio record does contain some hark backs to their earlier material. Reflecting on the making of Bloodsports more recently, Osman opens up about the moment Suede collectively realised they could be operating within in the industry however they wanted, not purely releasing albums to pander to radio stations or the current rock/pop demographic.
“Bloodsports felt like such a debut record, you know?” he says. “I think it has a lot in common with the debut and with Coming Up, in that we really wanted it to be just the sound of the five of us in a room; no extra musicians, no strings, nothing like that. It was just supposed to be a reminder of what we were good at. We were pretty ruthless about editing it and making it full of the things that would be singles back when singles existed. I think the fact that people liked it and lots of people came to see us, it gave us a real freedom with this one just to stretch our wings a little bit.”
“In a way it [Night Thoughts] does hark back to something like Dogmanstar,” he agrees. “Once you know you have the attention of people you care about, you can have instrumental passages and you can have meandering songs and you can have melodies that aren’t immediate. We realised that we didn’t have to play the hit singles game any more, we’re too old. It’s a young person’s game. Suddenly, it was like, ‘Fuck! We don’t have to videos if we don’t want to!’ We didn’t have to try and get on national radio because, quite rightly, it’s for 20 year olds. That’s the deal. It’s like, ‘Right – we can make something a bit different’. It’s just been really, really pleasurable that we weren’t the only ones who wanted something with a bit more depth. I’m totally proud of it.”
Night Thoughts is out now through Warner Music Australia.