It’s a massive understatement to say that The London Suede doesn’t come around these parts all that often.
The amazing Britpop act has played exactly one U.S. date over the last 25 years — when it appeared at the 2011 Coachella festival.
Beyond that, one has to go all the way back to 1997 for the last time the group toured North America.
No wonder fans on this side of the Pond are so excited about seeing London Suede (the band goes by Suede in Britain) on its co-headlining trek with Manic Street Preachers. The tour touches down Nov. 7 at the Warfield in San Francisco. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $45-$99.95, axs.com.
The group is touring in support of its newly released ninth album, the energetic and feisty “Autofiction,” which stands tall among the best albums of 2022.
I recently had the chance to talk with bassist and founding member Mat Osman about the band’s long overdue return to the Bay Area. Well, at least the person I talked with claimed to be Mat Osman … .
Q: OK, how do I know this is really Mat and not (London Suede vocalist) Brett Anderson pretending to be Mat? Say something that Mat would say that Brett definitely would never say.
A: (Laughs) The bass is the most important instrument in any band.
Q: And the bassist is the most attractive member in any band as well, right?
A: Exactly. You are entirely right.
Q: You know I’m just goofing around here — because you use to do some of Brett’s interviews back in the day, right? You would pretend you were Brett.
A: I have done that in the past. Not so much now that people know what we sound like. But, yeah, I have done that. I sat there and had to listen to them talk about how great he is.
Q: What are your thoughts about finally heading back to the U.S.?
A: Actually, I’m really excited. It feels like a brand new country for us in a way — it’s been so long.
It feels weirdly exotic. There are loads of cities on (the itinerary) that we have never been to before.
I don’t really know what American audiences are going to be like this time around. So, it feels genuinely quite strange and exciting.
Q: Why has it taken so long for the band to America? I mean, you’ve certainly been playing a lot of gigs in other places.
A: We just could never really make it work in a sensible way. One of the things about playing the states is that, to do it properly, you have to virtually live there. You have to come over and do your six months there, you know, if you want to do the U2, Depeche Mode kind of thing. We just didn’t really want to. We never really wanted to do those massive tours.
Q: Yeah, those must really be tough on a band.
A: After kind of 1996 — when we toured and we toured and we toured and it kind of killed us — we’ve tried since to be a bit more discriminating.
Then things kind of took off in Asia. We spent a lot of time in Japan and China and places like that.
Every time we tour, we talk about (playing the U.S.) and we’ve never been able to make it work — put on the kind of show we wanted to do — until this year.
Q: You sure you aren’t just mad at the U.S. since your gear got stolen in Boston toward the end of your last tour in 1997?
A: Yeah, it was very disappointing — because we never got it back. But to be honest, the two shows we did acoustically, while we were kind of like desperately trying to buy new gear, were two of my favorite ever American gigs.
The one we did in L.A., we said, “Anybody who wants their money back can have it.” No one did. I remember (that show) incredibly fondly.
In those situations, you need a little love from the audience and a little bit of them helping you along. And I remember that night being a really special night — the crowd was so great.
Q: Do you have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the U.S. given that Boston incident as well as the need to go by the name London Suede here?
A: Not with the audiences there. The audiences were always great. But, yeah, it felt really strange. It’s one of those things that happens sometimes. It never seemed to fit, really.
Q: Do you have any regrets about how the whole U.S. name change thing went down? Would you do anything different?
A: I don’t know what we could do. Our hands were incredibly tied. I don’t really want to talk about it in any detail.
Q: If you would have gone by Suede UK, as opposed to London Suede, at least it would have been easier to find you in the record store for people looking for Suede. Plus, you’d be right by Stone Roses, as opposed to Loggins and Messina.
A: That’s so true. We never thought of that. That was really dumb of us.
Q: The new album is fantastic. And it feels very different than the two previous ones. What was the goal this time around?
A: We just made two kind of like cerebral, kind of quite complicated studio albums. We just wanted to make something that felt a bit more live.
We always work out the songs live on the road — after we’ve released them — and suddenly it’s kind of like (we figure out) how they could’ve been more aggressive and more direct.
And we just wanted to try and capture that. I think we are a very different beast live. There is a kind of an aggression there and a spirit that I’m not sure we’ve ever really captured on record. It was an attempt to do that.
Q: But this wasn’t the album that you originally thought you’d release. Didn’t you have a bunch of material that you ended up shelving?
A: We always do. As you get older, the danger is always repeating yourself. There were tons of stuff that we wrote that was really good, and we were excited about, but at the end of the day you go, “Yeah, but did we do this better on ‘Dog Man Star?’ Did we do this better on ‘Bloodsports’?” And if the answer is yes, then we just scrap it.
We had the album kind of finished. It was a slightly more varied album — a couple more ballads and stuff. But because we knew we didn’t want to release it until we could properly play live, we started writing another record.
I think (the earlier batch of material) would have still been a good record. But it wouldn’t have been quite as focused as this one is. It almost sounds like a brand new Suede.
Q: What will happen to the other material?
A: We’ll never go back to it. We do this all the time. You just have to keep moving forward all the time. It’s a good thing to throw stuff away.
In my heart of hearts, I still feel like our perfect record — the best record — is still ahead of us.
Q: What are your thoughts about touring with the Manic Street Preachers?
A: It’s going to be great. The last time we played with them — ’94, was it? I’ve got nothing but love for them. To have gone on this long and still just be making great music and still putting on great live shows. I know how hard it is. I mean, it broke us. We had to take a break from it.
Q: This double bill probably plays the O2 and other big arenas in the U.K, right? But it’s playing theaters in the U.S. Is that fun for you?
A: You know what? I really don’t care where we play. It’s all about the crowd. It really is.
It doesn’t really matter whether there are 100 or 30,000 of them. If people are getting into it then I’m having a good time. A good gig is always about the audience.
I’m pretty agnostic about venues. It’s the people who make it, rather than the place.
Q: Suede’s first album turns 30 next year. Does it feel like it’s been that long to you?
A: It really doesn’t. Partly because we still play those songs. They are just part of me.
Those songs — they have a spirit to them and a heart to them that I think still makes sense today. It doesn’t feel like a generation ago at all.
Q: Well, Mat — if, indeed, this is Matt and not Brett pretending to be Mat — I just want to say thank you and I’m looking forward to seeing the band in San Francisco.
A: (Laughs) I’m really looking forward to it. I love San Francisco so much. We always have such good time there. It’s such a music city and it’s so anglophile.