Sleeper’s Louise Wener talks ‘The It Girl’ ahead of the 25th Anniversary Tour
Formed in London in 1992, Sleeper quickly became one of the biggest British bands of the nineties – with eight top 40 singles in the UK and three top 10 albums across the decade. After reforming in 2017, the group are now set to tour their 1996 platinum-selling album The It Girl, including a date at the O2 Academy here in Leeds on the 22nd of April. Ahead of the tour, I spoke to songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Louise Wener to get more of an insight into the history of the group and their current tour.
The tour is primarily to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the groups most successful album The It Girl, the follow-up to the incredibly successful debut Smart. Louise described how The It Girl differed to their debut, saying, “We’d had success with Smart and we loved that, but I think we felt like this the one that was really gonna break us through to a different level”. The album certainly did break the band through to the mainstream, achieving four Top 20 singles in ‘Statuesque’, ‘Sale of the Century’, ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ and ‘What Do I Do Now?’. The band, though, were seemingly unaware of the extent of their success at the time; Louise recalled, “We were very much living in the moment in those days, but it was great! When you get asked to go on Top of the Pops and stuff like that, that’s when your parents go ‘my kids doing something proper’, but even when you’re in the middle of it you’re always looking over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing – it was a very hypercompetitive environment”.
It is easy to see why that would have been the case, the mid-90s is viewed as a sort of golden age in British rock and indie music – with incredible bands like Pulp, Elastica, Oasis, Blur and Suede rising to prominence (among countless others). Asked about what that period in musical history was like to be a part of, Louise explained, “You have a much broader sense of that retrospectively but what was present was that feeling of…it felt very celebratory, like it was an explosion of guitar music and indie music – there was a feeling that anything could happen at that point – it was very joyful, I suppose”. Many music historians cite the rise of British guitar music, or what has been divisively referred to as ‘Britpop’, as a reaction to the grunge scene of the early 90s. “The demographic had shifted, people getting played on the radio that hadn’t previously”, Louise said of the rise in indie bands at the time, “Radio 1, specifically, opened up to guitar music. It’s the same with all movements, it’s just something that grows and catches and divides and becomes something”.
Due to the fact that Sleeper had supported Blur on their Parklife tour, as well as the fact they were making predominantly guitar music in the mid-90s, Sleeper have always been tagged with the Britpop label. The term ‘Britpop’ has divided opinions, with bands like Suede being quick to distance themselves from the term, “I couldn’t give a shit about it, it’s just something some journalist came up with”, said Louise of the ‘Britpop’ label, “I don’t know if like new romantic bands get asked the same question – how does it feel being new romantic? or how did it feel being grunge? It seems so specific to Britpop, it’s very strange to me. I don’t think any of us really care”.
One of the singles from The It Girl, ‘Statuesque’, in addition to a cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ featured on the soundtrack to the iconic film Trainspotting (1996). The soundtrack is often hailed as a gold standard for indie film soundtracks – featuring the likes of Lou Reed, New Order, Iggy Pop, Pulp and, of course, Sleeper. According to Louise, though, it didn’t feel like such a momentous occasion at the time: “It was just a bit of fun and then obviously became this sort of cultural moment, I guess”. The film undoubtedly brough more attention to the band, and the track ‘Statuesque’ peaked at number 17 in the UK singles chart in 1996.
Now, 26 years later, Sleeper are back performing tracks from The It Girl to audiences across the country, “They take on a new life and a different kind of meaning because of the intervening years – the interval has made it something different so that’s what makes it feel wonderful to play them again”, explained Louise.
Sleeper are set to perform at the O2 Academy in Leeds on the 22nd April, tickets are available for purchase here.