Supergrass - Biography
With copious amounts of energy and excitement displayed on their first album, I Should Coco (1995 Capitol), Supergrass appeared as an insatnt hit in their English homeland.. Borrowing from The Beatles, The Jam, The Who, and various other representatives of British rock royalty, Supergrass wrote fast-paced, irresistible melodies that were, and still are, just plain fun. In their super-hyped beginning, which took place when the members had not even left their teenage years behind, the Supergrass songs were probably most reminiscent of British punks the Buzzcocks – all bratty naivety set to catchy hooks that flew by within a blink. But Supergrass refused to continue down that road and be pigeonholed; their second album was more memorable for its slower, almost melancholy songs than for its chugging, lightning-quick ones. Over the years, the band couldn’t help but mature, but they have retained their sense of humor, bringing some of that bratty punk energy to 2008's Diamond Hoo Ha (2008 EMI).
While students at Wheatley Park School in Holton, England, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey met and started playing together under the name The Jennifers, with Coombes on guitar and Goffey on drums. Mickey Quinn, an alumnus of Wheatley Park, soon joined them on bass and the basis of Supergrass was solidified by 1993. Once they were playing gigs locally in their native town of Oxford, it didn't take long for them to gain fans, press, and the interest of record labels. They changed their name to Theodore Supergrass, but dropped the “Theodore” shortly thereafter. Coombes enlisted his brother Rob to play keyboards, but Rob's membership within the band would not be seen as “official” until 2002.
Supergrass released their first single, “Caught by the Fuzz,” in 1994 on Backbeat, a local independent label. Whether the song was autobiographical or not is still up for debate, but the story of a young man arrested by police for possession of drugs was the most unimportant aspect of this song. The song’s energy seems almost hazardous; its impossible speed urges on the feeling that it could all fall apart at any second. This manic quality can’t be rehearsed, but Supergrass had it in droves. The band was signed by Parlophone (distributed through Capitol and was the label that released The Beatles first several albums) that fall and “Caught by the Fuzz” was reissued. John Peel played the song regularly on his show and popular acts of the day like Blur were singing the band's praises. The single made its way to number 43 on the UK charts. Two more singles followed before the band put out their full-length debut, and the band's place in the charts began to rise. First was “Mansize Rooster,” released the following spring, which hit the UK charts at number 20. “Lenny,” the third single, gave the band their first UK top ten hit.
I Should Coco (1995 Capitol) debuted in May of 1995. Reviews in UK publications were outstanding, and it quickly landed in the top ten. Another single off the album, a double A-side featuring both “Alright” and “Time” peaked at number two. For almost a month, the single remained within the top three, and I Should Coco steadily climbed to the number one position. Supergrass spent a subsequent year and a half touring and playing high-profile events such as the Glastonbury and T in the Park Festivals. In July of 1995, I Should Coco was released on Capitol Records in the US, and “Caught by the Fuzz” again caught the ears of listeners as MTV and alternative radio put the single into steady rotation. Once the video for “Alright” had received considerable attention in the US, Steven Spielberg reportedly approached the group about starring in a TV show reminiscent of The Monkees. Preferring to concentrate on their music, the band declined, which was a bold and admirable decision considering Gaz hadn’t even hit the age of 20 yet.
In it For the Money (1997 Capitol) followed in 1997. A songwriter's maturity was evidently growing in Gaz Coombes, as the album features acoustic numbers such as “Late in the Day,” a piano-driven ballad, and “It's Not Me,” which featured a shaker as its only percussive instrument. Their second album charted at number two in the UK and the single “Cheapskate” appeared in the U.S. charts at number 35 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. After a short break, the band returned in 1999 with “Pumping On Your Stereo,” a catchy single, which spawned a hit video featuring creative puppet wizardry from none other than Jim Henson. Supergrass (1999 Capitol), the band's third full-length, came out in 1999 in the UK, but arrived in America a year later in 2000. The band's American popularity widened with “Pumping on Your Stereo,” but aside from that single and the lovely opening track, “Moving,” Supergrass left many feeling slightly unfulfilled. Admittedly, it was an uneven album, as many critics were fast to point out. Nonetheless, Supergrass landed at number 13 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and at number three in the UK charts.
In 2002, Life on Other Planets (2002 Capitol) was released, and critics praised it, viewing it as the band's best set since their energetic debut. The infectiously catchy album charted at number nine in the UK, but only broke into the Billboard 200 at number 195 in America. Although Life on Other Planets made number ten in the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and the album did eventually earn Gold status, Supergrass' fame in the US never seems to match up to their fame in the UK, making for yet another glaring similarity to one of their major influences, The Jam.
In 2004, the band celebrated its 10-year anniversary with Supergrass is 10 (2004 EMI), a greatest hits package that also featured two new tracks, “Kiss of Life” and “Bullet.” The following year, the band released a more relaxed and sober effort, Road to Rouen (2005 Capitol). Gently floating by in just over 35 minutes, the album's subdued feel is misleading. Although these songs are often down-tempo, there is still an intense energy here, and the band proves that deliberately slow, thoughtful songs can still be a joy to make and to hear. The album reached number nine in the UK and 41 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers, but the only single to have any success was “St. Petersburg,” which reached number 22 in the UK.
The band's sixth album, Diamond Hoo-Ha (2008 EMI), was released in 2008. For most, the effort was a welcome return to the carefree, thrown-together feel of pre-Road to Rouen Supergrass. Quinn suffered a fall after the album's recording, breaking his heel and damaging his spine in the accident. To showcase the group's new material in concerts, a third Coombes brother, Charley, filled in on bass for Quinn. In 2010 the band announced their break up, as various memebers went onto side projects such as The Hotrats and The DB Band. Singer Gaz released his first solo LP, Here Come The Bombs, in 2012.