Supergrass were an English rock band from Oxford. The band consisted of brothers Gaz (guitar and lead vocals) and Rob Coombes (keyboards and backing vocals), Mick Quinn (bass and backing vocals) and Danny Goffey (drums and backing vocals).
Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn and Danny Goffey formed Supergrass in 1993 in Oxford with Gaz's brother Rob Coombes officially joining the band in 2002. The band signed to Parlophone records in 1994 and produced I Should Coco (1995), the biggest selling debut album for the label since the Beatles' Please Please Me. Their first album's fourth single "Alright" was a huge international hit that established the band's reputation. Since then the band have released five albums: In It for the Money (1997), Supergrass (1999), Life on Other Planets (2002), Road to Rouen (2005) and Diamond Hoo Ha (2008), as well as a decade-ending compilation called Supergrass is 10 (2004).
In August 2009 the band signed to Cooking Vinyl and began work on their seventh studio album Release the Drones. The album remained unreleased and unfinished as, on 12 April 2010, the band announced that they were splitting up due to musical and creative differences. The group disbanded after four farewell gigs, the final one at La Cigale, Paris on 11 June 2010.
The Jennifers and formation (1990–1993)
At the age of 16 and 18 respectively, Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey were members of shoegaze band The Jennifers along with Nick Goffey and Andy Davis. The band played gigs at various venues around Oxfordshire, often public houses and clubs. One pub the band played at was the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. The band enjoyed enough success to release one single in 1992, "Just Got Back Today", on Nude Records before they disbanded.
When Coombes began working at the local Harvester he befriended co-worker Mick Quinn. The two realised they had common music interests and Coombes invited Quinn to come and jam with himself and Goffey. In February 1993 they formed Theodore Supergrass, "for about two months" Quinn explains, "then we realized that Theodore was a bit rubbish so we took that off."
Goffey claims that the name was his idea and says; "Although the others will dispute it, it was me. We were Theodore Supergrass and the idea was the band would be a little black character, and we wouldn't ever have to do interviews. We'd get the questions in advance, script the answers and then animate Theodore Supergrass answering them. But it cost too much money."
Gaz's brother, Rob Coombes, played flute for the band's début gig at the Co-Op Hall, Oxford in 1993. In January 1995 he first performed as keyboardist with the band for a live Radio 1 John Peel session. His role in the band progressed over the years, post I Should Coco material is credited to "Supergrass and Rob Coombes", however, he wasn't introduced as a band member until almost a decade later.
Britpop years and stardom (1994–1998)
In mid-1994, Supergrass issued their debut single "Caught by the Fuzz" on the small independent local label Backbeat Records. The song recounts lead singer and guitarist Gaz Coombes's experience of being arrested by the police for possession of cannabis. The limited release of vinyl copies sold out quickly, thanks in part to support from John Peel on his Radio One show. The Parlophone label signed the band and re-released the single in the autumn of the same year. It achieved the rare feat of both NME and Melody Maker "Single Of The Week" status in the same week.
"Mansize Rooster", released in February 1995, peaked at number 20 in the UK Single Charts and "Lenny", the band's first top 10 single. "Lenny" was followed soon afterwards by the band's debut album, I Should Coco (May 1995), which entered the UK Album Charts at number one. It achieved a half-a-million sales in the UK and over a million worldwide. NME reviewer Steve Sutherland gave the album a nine out of ten rating, writing, "These freaks shall inherit the earth." The album's fourth single, the double A-side release "Alright"/"Time", stayed in British Top Three for a month, peaking at number two.
Supergrass followed I Should Coco with 18 months of heavy touring, appearing at festivals such as Scotland's T In The Park and the Glastonbury Festival. After Performing in Rio's Hollywood Rock Festival in April 1996, Supergrass met the infamous train robber Ronnie Biggs, and apparently said to him, "I was frightened for my life when I heard there was a supergrass in the area." A photograph of Ronnie Biggs and Gaz together was subsequently included in the music video for their 1996 single "Going Out". Recorded at Great Linford Manor the single peaked at number five in the UK charts, but was the last song produced by Sam Williams. Supergrass returned to Sawmills Studio to co-produce follow up album, In It For The Money (released April 1997), with John Cornfield. The album was a huge success and went platinum in the UK, but confused some fans expecting something similar to I Should Coco. The single, "Richard III" reached number two. Subsequent releases, "Sun Hits the Sky" and "Late In The Day" reached numbers 10 and 18 respectively.
Further musical growth (1999–2004)
The band again took a short break before returning in 1999 with the single "Pumping on Your Stereo". The promo video, produced in conjunction with the Jim Henson's Creature Shop, featured the band with comical "muppet" bodies. The single generated welcome publicity following their time out of the limelight, as did a small sold-out tour scheduled around the single release, the final night of which was at Shepherds Bush Empire as part of MTV's "Five Night Stand" festival. The single and the tour were followed by their third LP Supergrass (1999). The following spring the record was released in the U.S. Once more, the album was recorded at Sawmills Studio with longtime associate Cornfield producing. Supergrass was well received critically and commercially and it has since gone platinum in the UK, but did not reap the same level of success as its predecessors. Critics claimed the album was "hit and miss" which showed up particularly as the "also-rans are surrounded by songs that are as great as anything Supergrass has ever recorded". Their next single, "Moving", proved popular and reached the Top Ten in the UK. And their third single, "Mary" entered the Top 40. There followed a long hiatus.
After three years out of the limelight, the band returned with Life on Other Planets (September 2002). Recorded at Heliocentric, Rockfield and Mayfair Studios and produced by Beck collaborator Tony Hoffer. The album was released in the UK on Parlophone but in US, on the Island Def Jam imprint. The record was not as commercially successful as Supergrass's first three albums, failing to make the Top Three in the UK album chart. However, the critical response to the album was generally very positive, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic claiming "The world is a better place for having Supergrass in it.". It has since gone gold in the UK. Life on Other Planets was also notable as it was the first Supergrass album to recognise Rob Coombes as an official member. For the band's first three albums, Supergrass officially consisted of Gaz Coombes, Goffey and Quinn although Rob Coombes contributed to many of the band's songs and videos, and toured with them. Tracks recorded before this were often credited to "Supergrass and Rob Coombes". The band followed Life on Other Planets with another extended three-year hiatus, devoting to touring and personal engagements.
In June 2004 the band's record company suggested the band release a singles compilation Supergrass is 10, spawning two new self-produced tracks: "Kiss of Life" and "Bullit". The companion DVD contained 'Home Movie', a humorous documentary charting the band's first 10 years achievements, made in collaboration with "Seen the Light" video director Simon Hilton. The record entered the UK album chart at number four and has since gone gold in the UK.
Development in recent years (2005–2008)
Recording of fifth studio album, Road to Rouen began in France in a studio built by the band in Normandy. Working with French engineer Pierre-Olivier Margerand it represented a significant change in direction and was perceived as a more mature body of work.
"St. Petersburg", the string laden first single, was released on 8 August 2005. The album followed a week later (released 27 September in North America) and reached No. 9 on the UK charts, going on to achieve silver status in the UK. Opinion at the time was divided, but the album garnered the band many new fans and a measure of creative respect, some even embraced it as "the sound of a band at last hitting their stride".
Second single, "Low C", featured a video by acclaimed "Pumping On Your Stereo" video director Garth Jennings, shot in Weeki Wachee Springs Florida. Third single "Fin" interpreted as a missive to the Coombes brothers recently deceased mother, received much critical praise; The Guardian referring to it as "so gorgeously light and airy that listening to it is like sleepwalking in space".
The band toured the songs in both acoustic and electric formats with percussionist Satin Singh joining the live band throughout. From August 2005 to September 2006 they performed in Japan, South America, USA, and Europe, finishing with a memorable gig at the Beijing Pop Festival.
The follow up album, Diamond Hoo Ha was recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, with producer Nick Launey and mixed at Seedy Underbelly Studios in Los Angeles. The band toured in the summer 2007, headlining Guilfest among others and debuting new material, with the youngest sibling of the Coombes brothers ex-22-20s keyboardist Charly on second guitar, percussion and backing vocals.
On 27 September 2007 bassist Mick Quinn sustained a broken heel bone and two spinal fractures in a sleepwalking accident whilst on holiday in France. During his recuperation, Gaz and Danny promoted first single "Diamond Hoo Ha Man" as the Diamond Hoo Ha Men, with a run of small club shows in December/January. To celebrate the single release, Mick Quinn appeared as Diamond Ho Ha Man "Biff Hymenn" at the Apple Store, Regent Street, London, marking his return to touring duties on 15 January. Charly directed Glange Fever (under pseudonym "Chas Harrison") a rockumentary which followed their exploites. The single was released as a limited edition, chocolate vinyl 7". The inner photo pictures a sign on a striped wall reading "ON A&R" were taken by fine art photographer (also responsible for the photography book ""), which documented the recording sessions in Hansa Studios.
In 2008, Parlophone was taken over by venture capitalist group, Terra Firma and Supergrass ended their contract with the label. Rebel In You, final single from the Diamond Hoo Ha album, was released, under licence from Parlophone, on the band's own imprint, 'Supergrass Records'.
Independent career and split (2009–2010)
The band headlined Wychwood Festival on 30 May and also Sellindge Music Festival (6 June), Provinssirock Festival (13 June) and a short European trek in July at BBK Live (10 July) at Bilbao, Bikini Festival (11 July) in Toulouse, Festival Les Ardentes (12 July) in Liège (Belgium) and Paredes de Coura Festival (30 July) in Portugal. Also a co-headlining date at 2009's Truck Festival along with Ash, on 25 July and 26 at Hill Farm in Steventon, Oxfordshire.
On 18 November 2009, drummer Danny Goffey posted on Twitter "No Mick. You're the problem".
On 12 April 2010, the band announced they were to split up after a series of four farewell shows, with their final gig in Paris on 11 June 2010.
At the time of the split, Supergrass were working on their seventh studio album, tentatively titled Release the Drones. In early 2010, the band revealed that the album had been influenced by krautrock bands such as Can, and drone music, and that the members had swapped instruments on several tracks during its recording. Coombes said of the approach to the album: "This record's actually been very collaborative. It's been cool to try something different and chaotic." Coombes stated that the album was "nearly finished", and it was scheduled for release in May. The album remains unfinished and unreleased.
During 1998, Coombes and Quinn were invited to play on Dr John's Anutha Zone album (they appear on the track "Voices In My Head"), whilst Goffey contributed to the debut album by Lodger (which also featured his partner Pearl Lowe and members of the band Delicatessen).
Danny Goffey has also embarked on a solo project between Supergrass engagements called "Van Goffey" which saw tracks being released via MySpace in August 2006, the first three being "Crack House Blues", "I Feel so Gaye" and "Natalie Loves the F". He plays drums on the charity football song "Born In England" by a collective of musicians called Twisted X, which charted at number 8 in the UK Charts in 2004. Danny Goffey was also a drummer in the 2004 charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", along with members of Radiohead and The Darkness under the name Band Aid 20.
In 2007 and 2008, while Mick Quinn was still recuperating from his injury, Danny Goffey and Gaz Coombes were performing as the duo Diamond Hoo Ha Men, the name taken from the band's sixth album and its lead single (see above). They appeared in character as Duke Diamond and Randy Hoo Ha to play gigs at small venues. Gigs included an appearance at the Apple Store on London's Regent Street, which featured Mick Quinn's first appearance in the band since his injury. He appeared on stage introduced by Gaz as Biff Hymen.
Goffey and Coombes were members of side-project The Hotrats (originally The Hot Rats). They released an album of covers produced by Nigel Godrich called Turn Ons on 25 January 2010. A cover of "Drive My Car" by The Beatles appears in an advert for Orange, a fragrance by Hugo Boss. Since Supergrass announced they were to split, The Hotrats have joined with Air to perform The Virgin Suicides live for the first time, over several concert dates.
In May 2010 Mick Quinn formed the DB Band with former Shake Appeal bassist Fab Wilson. The band released their first EP "Stranger In The Alps" on 17 September 2011. They have toured the Netherlands, France and appeared at Oxford's Truck Festival in Steventon. The band plan to record a full-length LP for release in 2012.
Gaz Coombes completed his first solo album, Here Come the Bombs, at his home studio in Oxford. The album was recorded with Sam Williams, who produced 1995's I Should Coco for Supergrass, and released on 21 May 2012. Coombes' second album, Matador, was released 26 January 2015, charting at #18 on the UK Albums Chart and nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize.
- I Should Coco (1995)
- In It for the Money (1997)
- Supergrass (1999)
- Life on Other Planets (2002)
- Road to Rouen (2005)
- Diamond Hoo Ha (2008)
|1995||Ivor Novello Awards||Best Contemporary Song (Alright)||Won|
|1995||Mercury Prize||Best Album (I Should Coco)||Nominated|
|1995||NME Awards||Best New Band||Won|
|1995||Q Awards||Best New Act||Won|
|1996||BRIT Awards||British Breakthrough Act||Won|
|1996||Silver Clef Awards||New Music||Won|
|1998||BRIT Awards||Best British Video (Late In The Day)||Nominated|
|2000||BRIT Awards||Best British Video (Pumping on Your Stereo)||Nominated|
|2005||Muso Awards||Best Male Vocal (Gaz Coombes)||Won|
|2008||UK Music Video Awards||Best Rock Video (Bad Blood)||Won|