Q&A: The Vaselines' Eugene Kelly On Nirvana Covering Their Songs, Loving Mudhoney, Eugenius And New Tunes
The twosome formed The Vaselines in 1986, and along with fellow pop- purveyors Glasgowians The Pastels, perfected infectious tunes bulging with adolescent hormones and candy-coated in sonic damage. But just prior to Nirvana making The Vaselines household names, Kelly and McKee's relationship fizzled out and so did The Vaselines. Sub Pop Records swept in to rescue their entire catalog, bringing them a widespread appeal and critical acclaim.
Meanwhile, Kelly formed the supremely underrated Captain America, released one of the best singles of the '90s, and toured briefly with Nirvanaand were promptly sued by Marvel Comics and ultimately forced to change their name, fittingly, to Eugenius.
Eugenius disbanded shortly after releasing its second album; Kelly and McKee dropped out of sight until 2008, when the duo reformed The Vaselines and performed at Maxwell's and at the now-defunct Park Slope space Southpaw. Sex with an X, their first LP in two decades, followed, and the pair's infectiously catchy pop sensibility remained.
Sound of the City spoke to Kelly from his home in Scotland.
You're playing in Brooklyn tonight. When did you first play New York with the Vaselines? Where did you play?
It was in 2008. It was only our third show after we reformed. We played in Hoboken and then we played in Brooklyn.
So you and Frances never toured the States when The Vaselines were active in the 1980's?
No, no, we never even left Britain because you got England... and we never even left the islands!
But you then toured here with your post-Vaselines band, Eugenius?
Yeah, we're looking at the early 90's'92, '93 and '94.
So the first time you came to New York was with Eugenius?
Yeah, it must have been.
Do you remember anything about it?
Um... just a hell of a good time! [Laughing] We played CBGB twice so that was quite an experience. It's a real legendary place for people from Britain to play. We headlined but I can't remember [who we played with], to be honest. I guess like a bunch of 60 year-old guys. I can't remember the name.
Being from Glasgow, were you into the American punk that came from New York?
Oh, yeah. We knew all the groups and knew the history of it so if you get a chance to play there, you do... Television and Ramones and Talking Heads, everything that came out of that scene. That's where it all began, where punk starts.
The Vaselines are embarking on a short tour. Are you and Frances working on new material?
Well, Sub Pop asked us to play the Sub Pop stage at Bumbershoot in Seattle, so we just said yes to that then we thought we'd put a tour together and play some gigs. First, we were gonna play a few more than four shows; we tried to do seven or eight. But that didn't quite work out.
It's quick turnaround for you to come back and play. The last time was the Vaselines played here was just a couple of years ago?
Yeah, it was 2009, I think. We were there [on tour] for a month. That was great and we'd love to come back and play another long tour but I think we have to wait until we have another record.
Are you and Frances getting together to write some new songs?
We haven't yet but we're gonna throw some ideas together, come up with some tunes and then once we got enough of them, we'll get together and try to see if anything is worth to finish off.
How often do you and Frances see each other to jam out new tunes?
We haven't done anything since the last record but we did play a lot of shows this year. We just come back from Japan and that was quite an amazing experience. I think we're just thinking that by the end of the year we'll try to write some tunes and we'll see what happens.