Track-by-track Suede take us through their new album ‘Autofiction’

Brett Anderson and co give us a track-by-track rundown of their ninth studio album.

Over thirty years into their career and with - now, at least - nine albums to their name, it’d be easy to assume that Suede might find themselves comfortably going through the motions on their newest offering ‘Autofiction’. And yet that couldn’t be further from the case.

Deciding to go back to basics and channel some of the energy of their early days, the band’s ninth full-length takes a no bells-and-whistles approach, and, according to Brett Anderson himself, “has a natural freshness, it’s where we want to be.”

“There’s not so much luxurious orchestration or dark flamboyance underpinning ‘Autofiction’’s construction,” we said, in our review of the album, “but Suede maintain their magnitude through emotional craft - single ‘15 Again’ is the perfect microcosm of ‘Autofiction’’s ups and downs, its euphoric chorus built around painstaking regret. In essence, ‘Autofiction’ finds Suede still fiercely in motion.”

To celebrate the release of ‘Autofiction’, the band - Brett, Neil Codling, Mat Osman and Richard Oakes give us a track-by-track run-through of the record, and offer up some of their own thoughts and insights on each of its eleven tracks.

She Still Leads Me On

Brett Anderson: This is my favourite song on the album and the companion piece to Life is Golden, from our previous album, The Blue Hour. Whereas the latter is a song from the parent to the child, this is a song from the child to the parent. I find that writing about family is the thing that motivates me the most these days - the knife-edge frailty, the anxiety, the many ways it could go wrong.

Neil Codling: Almost as soon as Brett and Richard had written this, we all thought it should be track one on the new album, and the first single. The working title was Kaspar’s Elbow.

Personality Disorder

Brett Anderson: If I was asked directly what this song is really about I would struggle to answer, but I make no apology for that. Sometimes songs take years to reveal themselves, even to the writer. Clearly I’m playing around with vulnerability, complexes, cracks in the psyche, but lots of it is painted in broad brushstrokes, the imagery and the sounds taking precedence over the narrative.
I wanted this album to be raw both musically and emotionally, I suppose if anything this song is trying to reveal the more broken person behind the persona.

Mat Osman: There was talk of this being the first thing people heard from ‘Autofiction’ because it had that punk spirit. Proper Sham 69-style backing vocals.

15 Again

Mat Osman: This is a proper banger, it’s got a kind of new wave feel.

Brett Anderson: Great guitar riff. This is probably the most playful thing on the record. There’s a deliberate lightness to it that is supposed to echo the carefree nature of youth. But it’s not necessarily about nostalgia.
Those wonderful, joyous moments can come at any time in your life. The theme has been done before - I guess you could see it as a modernised version of something like Sinatra’s ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’.

Richard Oakes: There was a very odd first home demo for this song, light and synthy, inspired by Gary Numan’s ‘We Are Glass’. Once the vocal was written we knew we needed to make it poke more, so I added the opening guitar riff.

The Only Way I Can Love You

Mat Osman: This is the first thing on the record that felt like it could have fit on virtually any Suede album since we formed.

Brett Anderson: Maybe it’s the poppiest on this record. Slightly alien to the remit, but sometimes following concepts slavishly can be a fool’s errand.

That Boy On The Stage

Brett Anderson: Arguably this is the most autobiographical thing i’ve ever written. However, this isn’t really a song about me, it’s a song about my persona.
The interplay between person and persona is something that has obsessed me for a while, that sense that we are all wearing masks, and that a performer’s stage persona is just a magnified, more public version of that whole process.

Mat Osman: That’s fans singing the “Shut up and hit that metal” refrain. We originally planned to have people in the studio as we recorded, but COVID put paid to that. Instead we got people to sing into their phones at home and Neil spent many hours mixing them into a choir.

Drive Myself Home

Richard Oakes: We started working on the demo in March 2020. It started as a slow, funereal take on Warszawa, but evolved into something more sweeping and traditionally Suede. Once Neil finished recording the orchestral parts, it had a place on the album.

Black Ice

Richard Oakes: This song is based around a bass guitar riff I wrote at MasterRockStudios in 1998, when we were recording Head Music. Brett sang lyrics to it, something like “We’re only marking time until we die.” Resurrected 21 years later, it fitted the album aesthetic perfectly.

Brett Anderson: This is possibly my favourite track behind ‘She Still Leads Me On’. I love Mat’s primal, distorted bass, Simon’s rough-house drumming, the tense, paranoid guitar. It’s a song about control, I suppose. About how sometimes letting go in a relationship can be a kind of freedom.

Shadow Self

Richard Oakes: This was a late contender, written in March 2021 as an experiment in something a bit more jagged and less chord-based. Once Brett’s part was written, we decided this is what ‘Crushed Kid’ would sound like.

Brett Anderson: It was really important for Richard to make this album his own and I have to say he really stepped up. With this track he delivered another fantastic piece of music that I knew I just couldn’t fail with. In a way, I think ‘Autofiction’ is the sound of Richard breaking free of the baggage of his origin story and his early relationship with the band and really becoming himself as a musician. That’s why this record feels so fresh to me, because it’s not us referencing our past, like we definitely were on something like ‘Bloodsports’, for example, but looking for different ways to do rock music.

It’s Always The Quiet Ones

Brett Anderson: This was Neil’s baby. We wrote something together ages ago that he suggested I look at again. I came up with this chorus based on that. Knowing there was something good in it but not quite right yet, he tirelessly went about trying to fit different verses in to make the whole song balance. Sometimes song-writing is about graft and hard work. Of course there are magical moments when things just ‘happen’ but often it’s plain hard slog. All worth it in the end of course, nothing in life that’s worth having is easy.

What Am I Without You?

Brett Anderson: This is a love song, but a love song to the audience. It asks the simple question that must confront all artists and performers at some point. I think it’s almost impossible for art to exist in a vacuum. In a way it’s an act of communication which requires a response and it’s the audience which provides that response. So much of what we do is about engagement in one way or another and that whole symbiotic relationship fascinates me.

Mat Osman: I love these songs that on the surface look like traditional love songs but with something else swimming under the ice. She Still Leads Me On does it too.

Turn Off Your Brain And Yell

Richard Oakes: This song came from an experimental piece, written in Sweden. We wrote the song and then decided to turn it into a slow-building, lumbering menace that eventually exploded and could finish the album on the right note.

Brett Anderson: This was the last song we wrote for the album, just managing to cram it on before the deadline. I love the slow build, the icy slabs of sound, the fact that this is the first Suede record not to end with a ballad. ‘Turn Off Your Brain And Yell’ could have been an alternative title for the album, it kind of sums up the sense of primal abandon i wanted the record to have.

‘Autofiction’ is out now via BMG.


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