Stephen Duffy has played a major part in many different projects during his thirty-year musical career. A founder member of Duran Duran before making a mark on the charts as Tin Tin, solo recordings, the short lived Me Me Me, displaying an experimental side with Dr. Calculus, writing with Robbie Williams and the Barenaked Ladies, Duffy seemed restless flitting from one musical style to another.

But one constant has been his work under the Lilac Time banner. Combining Duffy’s obvious love for perfect pop and his deep understanding of folk music has made for some beautiful music through the years released under the Lilac Time name.

‘No Sad Songs’ is the latest album from the Lilac Time, and, even though the album was only recently released, it has already proven to be the finest collection of songs that Duffy and the other Lilac Timers have issued so far. While there has never been any question that Duffy can write melodies that although instantly attractive refuse to lose their appeal even after multiple plays and while lyrically Duffy is always interesting to say the least, the songs on ‘No Sad Songs’ appear to feature a revitalised Lilac Time.

That’s not to undervalue any of the previous Lilac Time albums, they all had their moments and Duffy hasn’t been a songwriter-for-hire for no reason, but there’s a feeling that surrounds the songs on ‘No Sad Songs’, a vibe if you like, that makes this the most complete and satisfying set of songs to appear under the Lilac Time name to date.

The band is now made up of four Duffys. Stephen’s wife Claire’s angelic vocals add so much to the songs and Claire also adds keyboards and strings, brother Nick lends banjo, bouzouki and accordion and wrote one of the most beautiful tracks on the album in ‘Rag Tag & Bobtail’ while the unrelated Melvin Duffy’s pedal steel guitar almost defines the Lilac Time sound.

We had the opportunity to put a few questions to Stephen recently and thank him for his response for the information about ‘No Sad Songs’ ; it’s good to have the Lilac Time back again.

PB: It’s been over seven years since the last Lilac Time album, ‘Runout Groove. Why so long and what inspired you to record as The Lilac Time again?

SD: I like being in a group and we are a group. The Lilac Time is the perfect name for "Britain's Greatest Band". I really screwed up the last album by believing the music business could be a cottage industry. We sold one record. So, we moved to Cornwall and decided to play for ourselves. And then that dreadful feeling of needing to share came over me. So here we are sharing.

PB: Did the move to Cornwall influence and help your songwriting? Do you feel the change of surroundings had an effect on your music?

SD: We are so laid back now we make Fleetwood Mac sound like GBH. And I suppose in the past I would've sped things up, but this time I recognised a slow groove and a softness was the thing, and there was no point trying to pretend otherwise. Artists and hippies have always been drawn to Cornwall. Where else would the drummer of The International Submarine Band choose to live? Clive's Original Band? Only in Cornwall. D.H.Lawrence got thrown out for being married to a German. The same can't be said for Nigel Farage. But we're all for shouting, “Newlyn School! Bernard Leach! Barbara Hepworth! Bohemia forever!

PB: The Lilac Time, for ‘No Sad Songs’, is a four-piece. Is that now a settled line-up? Can you give us a little background information on the other three musicians for those whose introduction to the music of Stephen Duffy and The Lilac Time is the new album?

SD: Nick, Claire, Melvin and I have been the Lilac Time since 1999. Melvin is off with First Aid Kit so we will be playing as an acoustic trio at our only show this year at the Port Eliot Festival on August 2nd.

Nick and I started the band in 1986, and we made three albums for Fontana before Nick left just as we signed with Creation. Then I made three solo albums before we got back together in '99 with Melvin and Claire.

PB: Apart from a co-write with Clare and the instrumental, ‘Rag Tag & Bobtail’, which Nick Duffy wrote, all the songs were written by you. How much influence did the other Lilac Timers have on the final sound and development of the songs?

SD: I let them do what they want and they have their say. It's not a dictatorship because we all play what we want. But I may change everything if the words and melody take the piece in another direction. Which happened a lot on this record. ‘The Dream That Woke Me’ was a mandolin instrumental with congas played with beaters.

PB: ‘No Sad Songs’ is aptly titled. There is a happy vibe floating through most of the album. It’s quite uplifting. You’ve made no secret of the fact that you were depressed for a while. Given that the new album has this positive feeling do you feel that the process of writing this album helped with your depression or had it begun to lift before you started work on it?

SD: Many things. Leonard Cohen went up the mountain and fed his guru. He came down and found he wasn't depressed. I got married and had a baby girl which isn't what you do if you wish to remain in the doldrums. Self-obsession doesn't become a father, and I know depression isn't in anyway related to self-obsession. I was self- obsessed though. Added to which I was found to be almost without Vitamin D, and after being administered healthy doses of Vitamin D I felt a lift in spirits. I don't know where depression comes from and I'm not really sure how it leaves. I'm just thankful to be out of it. Depression is torture for the depressed and for those around.

PB: There seems to be a theme running through the album, were you aiming for this?

SD: I chose the ten songs I thought could be finished without self-immolation. But then found a theme within them - Our journey to where we are and also a symmetry to the first album and our early work. I wanted to mirror some of that definition.

PB: In the ‘Bohemia Forever!’ booklet that comes with ‘No Sad Songs’ you mention that the album was intended as a twenty-song double set. Are there plans for the other ten songs to be released in the future?

SD: I love the way what I imagined to be a press release has been interpreted or presented as a poem. The other ten songs will be released in August 2016. And before that in January 2016 we will release a rarities and live box.

PB: Despite the producing and songwriting for other artists, the solo albums and other collaborations you always seem to go back to the Lilac Time. Do you feel that’s your real musical home and where you express your musical vision most accurately?

SD: Yes, the Lilac Time is my home where all the good stuff lives.

PB: With every artist seemingly receiving the box-set treatment these days, and bearing in mind that you’ve nearly clocked up 35 years making music, are there any plans for a comprehensive anthology of your work? I guess having your music spread over a number of labels it would cause a few headaches but it would make for an interesting musical journey, tracing how your music has developed.

SD: Well we have a few records lined up to come out but I'd love a twenty CD slipcased box set. And with the way the worth of intellectual property are falling off a cliff I can see it being possible. The guardians of the greatest gift to the twentieth century - pop music - gave the rights to iTunes and Spotify and they are still picking up six figure salaries, whilst musicians who perhaps were relying on the residual royalties are going to die poor. The bankers who destroyed the economy are free, and the bastards who gave away our art are also free. Borng back the guillotine!

PB: We’ve only seen and heard a CD of ‘No Sad Songs’ and it’s beautifully packaged, is a vinyl version going to be available?

SD: Yes, it is out now on Tapete. It sounds the best baby. I don't think digital really exists.

PB: Thank you.

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