My Firsts: Louise Wener of Sleeper | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Firsts: Louise Wener of Sleeper

Riding for Miles

Mar 21, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Louise Wener of Sleeper.

This Friday the Britpop band are releasing their first album in 21 years, The Modern Age, via the band’s own label, Gorsky Records (no doubt named after their 1996 song “Good Luck Mr. Gorsky”). Sleeper were one of the notable artists in the 1990s Britpop scene (alongside Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Suede, Elastica, Supergrass, and several others). They had a devoted following, which led to eight Top 40 UK singles (including two that made the Top 10) and all three of their previous albums landing in the Top 10 in the UK, with their first two debuting at #5. They also covered Blondie’s “Atomic” for the Trainspotting soundtrack, one of the most iconic soundtracks of the 1990s (or really of all time).

The band split up in 1998 following the release of their 1997-released third album, Pleased to Meet You. Wener had a successful writing career post-Sleeper, writing four novels and a 2010 autobiography (Just for One Day: Adventures in Britpop). The band reformed in 2017 for some shows and another tour this year. Sleeper’s current lineup also features original members Jon Stewart (guitar) and Andy Maclure (drums), as well as Kieron Pepper, who joined on bass in 2017. The Modern Age easily picks up where their previous work left off.

Read on as Wener, who was born in London in 1966, talks about her first best friend, first kiss, her earliest experiences with music and movies, a childhood accident, and why she got fired for not wanting to smell stinky feet.

First best friend?

Bernice Cohen. We lived locally and met in the street. This was in the ‘70s, when kids played outside all day long without their parents watching or even knowing where they were. We were both around eight years old. We used to ride off on our bikes for miles and come home at dusk covered in mud. Looking back, it seems incredible we had that much freedom. We stayed great friends into our 20s. She had a better bike than mine. It still rankles.

First pet?

A cat called Kitty. Black and white. A bad value kind of cat in that she was scratchy and hissy and would hardly ever sit on you. She got run over but my mum didn’t tell me. She just said the cat had run away. I spent a lot of time searching for her on my bike with Bernice Cohen. Come to think of it, that was mostly what we were doing. The cat was buried in the garden the whole time. We got another cat. A better one.

First broken bone?

I broke my arm in a car crash aged 10. A huge lorry [truck] pushed our family car off the road, flipped it right over onto the roof and slammed it into a lamppost. The car looked like a crushed up can. I was pulled out of a window with blood streaming down my face. I remember the engine was still running and there was petrol everywhere: on our clothes, in our hair. I still can’t stand the smell of it. People were gathered round, rubbernecking, asking where the bodies were.

First person you kissed?

It was my first date: a boy called Elliot. He’d invited me round his house to watch a video: The Exorcist. I hadn’t planned on kissing him but the film was so scary I thought snogging would be the best way to divert attention. It was traumatizing. In every way. The awkwardness, the clank of teeth. A demented girl projectile vomiting on screen.

First movie you saw in the movie theater?

I went to tons of films as a kid, but the first film I remember having a big impression on me was Jaws. Me and my mates loved that shark. We hummed the theme music every time we went into the sea for most of the next decade. I still do it now, tbh.

First TV show you were obsessed with?

Dallas. Or Starsky and Hutch. I was a confused kid. I didn’t know if I wanted to live on a ranch or drive around LA in a Gran Torino, being a cop.

First record your parents played for you?

My mother never owned a record in her life. My dad played a lot of traditional jazz. Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, that kind of stuff. That’s how he spent his Sunday afternoons. Locked away with his records. I had an older brother who introduced me to Bowie and Dylan and The Jam.

First album you bought?

Human League, Dare. It was absolutely thrilling to save up and buy it.

First musician you had a crush on?

For reasons I can’t explain, I was madly in love with Holly Johnson [of Frankie Goes to Hollywood]. And, more traditionally, David Bowie. And Prince.

First concert you went to?

The Jam, at Wembley Arena. I’d been listening to Setting Sons on repeat for months on end, the way you do when an album feels like it was written exactly for you. The whole venue smelt of piss and cigarettes and I loved everything about it. The turnstiles, the litter, the push and shove, the plastic cups spilling puddles of larger. The roar when the band came on and them playing so hard, it felt like an act of aggression. Made me want to be in a band of my own.

First job you had.

I had a Saturday job in a shoe shop. I got fired for holding my nose when I slipped the shoes on people’s stinky feet. But honestly, people, personal hygiene is paramount!

First car you owed?

I have never owned a car. I could sell this to you as some eco warrior statement, but truth is I’ve never learned to drive. Maybe it’s the car crash I had when I was 10. More likely I’m just acutely mal-coordinated.

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