Suede have never been to Brazil and as their car meandered slowly through the Pinheiros district of São Paulo towards the Queens Head pub this morning, they might have wondered why they are here now. The area is being extensively upgraded, with new roads and facilities on the way, but right now the entire area looks like a construction site.
The pub feels like a beacon of sanity amongst the pneumatic drills and provided the band with an opportunity to meet both journalists and fans at a special event today. The fans had all won the right to be there through a competition organised by the British consular team responsible for the UKBrasil season - a series of events riding on the wave of goodwill generated by the Olympic games.
Suede fans surrounded a side entrance to the pub, causing the band to sneak in through the front door. Some of these Brazilian fans have waited twenty years for an opportunity to see Suede and tomorrow they will finally have their wish granted when the band play the main stage at the enormous Planeta Terra rock festival.
One of the first questions from the fans was about their hiatus - from the breakup in 2003 to the 2010 Royal Albert Hall reunion. Just what had they all been up to during that time?
Keyboard player Neil Codling summarised it: "We are musicians and can't really do anything else, except for Mat who has been doing well in journalism." Bass player Mat Osman was editing the UK version of the Le Cool guides until the band activity picked up again after the reunion.
Lead singer, Brett Anderson, has released four solo albums during the break in activity with Suede and he lamented how much the industry has changed over this past decade: "There is no real market for small to medium [record] releases now. It's really hard for an artist to make money on a small release if it gets very little promotion. My solo work only just breaks even and I have bills to pay and a family to feed."
Anderson's comment is a familiar refrain, artists don't all live in golden palaces. Getting paid to write and perform original music is a business that many struggle to succeed in and commercial success has nothing to do with the quality of the music. Great music also needs great promotion so artists can get their music in front of the people who might care about it.
The biggest change is that fans just don't buy records today. It's up to the artists to tour and earn from the sale of tickets and merchandise, but if you don't have the marketing clout of a major label and your songs don't really get on the radio then the tours are not going to be taking in large arenas.
But Suede was always a big brand - one of the biggest British acts of the nineties and they just finished recording a new album the day before leaving for this tour of South America. They are not touring the heritage circuit for ageing fans, they are keen to pick up where they left off - openly warning fans that this might be their last chance to hear some of the old songs live because they are moving on.
Anderson explains: "We split because we just felt that we were not saying anything interesting at that time. We are back together now and writing new material that is really exciting." Mat Osman added: "Even after the split, we always remained close. It wasn't the kind of split where everyone hated each other. It was harder to see Simon [Gilbert, drummer] because he moved to Thailand, but the rest of us saw each other quite regularly."
With a renewed sense of purpose and a new album recorded and ready for mixing Suede appear to be a band on the up. Their dangerous, erotic, glam may even fit better in a world where the Rolling Stones are still touring yet David Bowie is retired - and Suede are still far from retirement. For them to be releasing new material feels relevant and current.
The fans in the pub asked when Suede will return to Brazil for a full headline tour, Mat Osman responded by saying: "It depends how the festival goes. We would love to return, but that's really all up to you!"
An enormous cheer filled the pub as these fans - who had waited two decades to meet their idols - were suddenly reminded by one of the band members that they were the really important people in the room. If the fans don't come to the shows, there is no new music. I sincerely hope that Planeta Terra goes well for Suede because the world needs more artists like this.
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