Eugene Kelly drew inspiration for the Vaselines' third album, 'V for Vaselines' after enjoying a Ramones cover band performing in his native Glasgow at a local club. The tunes he witnessed were upbeat, visceral and no-nonsense. His band mate, Frances McKee, noticed that her nieces and nephews held the same kind of fascination for this style of music. They knew immediately how they wanted their new album to sound and executed the plan. It’s a record which celebrates new love and nurses old wounds against a backdrop of unforgettable beats and unabandoned electric sounds that sear psychedelia, Americana and rock.

'Number One Crush' is a delightful song that rekindles the pop of the earlier Vaselines’ canon. The new album seems to balance this kind of playful sentiment with the gauzy intrigue of songs like 'Single Spies'. It is a tribute to the legacy of the Vaselines that the album brought together in the studio a crew of creatives, whose guesting made the catchy songs really zip. Where else could you hear members of Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian and Paul Foley, of Mandrake Shepherd, in one solid sitting?

The album was co-produced by Tony Doogan at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom Studio in Glasgow. Their debut 'Dum Dum' had been recorded with Scottish Label, 53rd & 3rd in the summer of 1989. And although McKee and Kelly went their separate ways shortly after the album was released and would not pair up until Sub-Pop drew them back together again, their original songwriting would inspire Kurt Cobain from Nirvana and a long list of contemporary American and British bands.

In 2010, the Vaselines recorded 'Sex With an X', an album on which they experimented with mood and texture. To support 'V For Vaselines', they plan on touring the US in mid-January for a fortnight starting in Washington, D.C. and then hitting the east coast and then Canada, Detroit and Chicago. They’ll then make it to Vancouver and the American west coast. In November, the Vaselines completed a tour all across the UK and Western Europe, ending in Glasgow.

Pennyblackmusic had the pleasure of catching up with Eugene Kelly about five years ago, but this is the first Pennyblackmusic interview with his longtime singer/songwriter partner, Frances McKee. She frankly discussed life on the road again and their latest joint projects.

PB: 'Sex With an X' had a fairly self-explanatory theme. How would you describe 'V for Vaselines' overall theme?

FM: It’s short, snappy and to the point if there ever is a theme…

PB: You’ve worked with some of the guest artists such as Stevie Jackson from Belle and Sebastian before. What other artists did you work with this time around and what were their contributions?

FM: Scott Paterson from Sons & Daughters appears on guitar, Michael McGaughrin from the 1990s on drums, and Graeme Smillie from the Olympic Swimmers on bass.

PB: Producer Jamie Watson produced the Vaselines previous two albums. Why did you decide to self-produce 'V for Vaselines'?

FM: Because we couldn’t afford Phil Spector.

PB: Back in 1989, you must have experienced some hills and valleys. The band broke up the same week that your debut 'Dum Dum' was released. Do you have any regrets about that decision?

FM: Never look back. Always forward or you might trip up.

PB: Kurt Cobain was a huge Vaselines fan. He arranged your early songs, 'Molly’s Lips' and 'Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam' for Nirvana’s 'Incesticide' album . Do you feel that Kurt’s arrangements helped define your overall sense of style?

FM: He did our songs his way. We do our songs our way. I think the sound is very different. We had already established our sound.

PB: In 2006, after a spell in which you and Eugene had recorded solo albums and performed independently since 1990, you performed at the 20th anniversary festival for the Sub Pop Label and various other engagements. You made the decision to get back together. That being the case, did you feel that your creativity might be compromised? You had already shown that you could create solo albums outside of the partnership.

FM: Why would that happen? I’m still the same person and I still write independently.

PB: How would you describe the partnership, which began in 1992, that you have with Sub Pop?

FM: They are like a benevolent uncle.

PB: Back to the new album. Who came up for the concept of the 'Crazy Lady' video and where was it filmed?

FM: That idea came from Eugene, myself and the director Jim Lang and it was filmed in Vienna, Moscow and the East End of Glasgow.

PB: 'Inky Lies' has the lyric, ”…nation that poisons minds and ruins lives.” What nation are you referring to here?

FM: A drug for the nation can mean any place where you live.

PB: On 'One Lost Year' there is some really innovative instrumentation. Was the intention to zero in on a particular era? Did you use a Theremin in the album to give that song and some of the other songs that eerie veneer? The Vaselines are famous for creating compositions with unique sounds like bicycle horns. How much discussion do you, Eugene, Michael, Scott and Graeme have about your arrangements before you enter the studio?

FM: It all happens quite naturally. There is no Theremin - that's Scott doing his bonkers thing. We wouldn't know how to play a Theremin, but I have used it with Julie McLarnon, who I work with on my solo stuff.

PB: How has your songwriting partnership with Eugene evolved over the years?

FM: Can't you tell that it hasn't?

PB: You sing in the chorus of 'Last Half Hour': “Switch on/Dim the lights low/Final Curtain/End of the show.” The message hearkens to the dark side, the drudgery of touring, doesn’t it?

FM: Yes, but also that it's not all the glamour that people think it is. Touring is like taking a break from reality but you still work very hard; just not in the usual way.

PB: Wasn’t the album title, 'V for Vaselines', inspired by the victory sign that Winston Churchill flashed in a particular photo?

FM: Yes, that was Eugene's idea. I wanted 'Swinging with the Vaselines'.

PB: Your touring schedule is ambitious: first Europe and then North America early next year with few days off between cities. What are you looking forward to the most presently and this coming year?

FM: No cooking and no cleaning.

PB: Thank you.

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