For nearly two decades with Supergrass, Gaz Coombes came to embody the oddball end of British indie and Britpop. But it is through his solo work that he has found himself.
With his 2015 album Matador, he presented a new musical identity: wide-screen, emotional, cinematic and full of artistic surprises. It earned him a Mercury Prize nomination. “With Matador I almost got it right…” he says. With World’s Strongest Man, Coombes brings that solo self into dazzling definition. There’s more space and light in the music, which takes its motorik drive from krautrock (first single, Deep Pockets, is surreal night-time car journey) and its subtle soundscapes from introspective West Coast hip hop.
Lyrically, he points the searchlight inwards to explore what it means to be free and doing life on your own terms. But this is an album more outgoing than its predecessor – with a greater variety of moods than we’ve heard from him before. “I loved every minute of Supergrass, apart from maybe the last few years…” he adds. “But I spent twenty years in that machine and for me it was an absolute joy to approach music a different way. Just to make some art that was not calculated to hit a certain market, or do a certain job.” You could say he’s followed the reverse trajectory of his many of his peers, finding the creative process easier now than ever before. “I feel like I am full of ideas,” he says. “It used to be much more of a struggle to write songs. I feel more connected to modern times than I ever used to, but I’m resistant to playing the game.” Writing and recording World’s Strongest Man, Coombes has finally felt a bit of that musical euphoria he first sensed at fourteen, listening to Abbey Road or Pet Sounds in his bedroom. It comes from music that is “Full of love. Experimental. Uncertain but confident. It believed in itself, but it wasn’t scared of being vulnerable.” World’s Strongest Man is released on 4th May 2018
This special solo performance is brought to you as part of the FOCUS Wales 2018 festival.
Photo Credit: Steve Keros