FORMER Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes’ “amazing memories” of Ireland include “a few incredible Trinity Ball shows and a brilliant gig in Belfast”.
The singer, now solo since the band parted citing “musical differences” in 2010, comes to Limerick to play his debut show this Friday.
Coombes, from Oxford, will likely add to his positive memory bank of Irish shows with his experience of Dolan’s Warehouse.
“I really am looking forward to it, it has been a while since I have been there,” he says of Ireland, via phone from the rehearsal room.
“I have got so many good memories, so many great shows we have done over the years and great audiences, so it has been right at the top of the list for a while.”
Gaz, responsible for some ten Top 20 hits and six Top 20 albums with the monster Britpop band, released his second solo record, the excellent Matador, earlier this year and will play just a handful of dates in these parts, chief among them this week’s Limerick show, a date in Belfast and a support slot to Paoli Nutini in Marlay Park in July.
Coombes says he is confident both in the new material and the live band he has assembled around himself, perhaps more confident than he was on 2012’s debut solo offering Here Come the Bombs.
“Yeah, pretty much,” he agrees. “In many ways, part of my head might have been in the break-up of Supergrass. It is inevitable that there would be an element of transition on that first record - and yeah, I do feel pretty comfortable with the direction that I am in and working and performing on my own, it is feeling really great.”
The album has been hailed as Coombes’ ‘masterpiece’, one that pushes him to new, darker territory, echoes - we think - of Radiohead-era In Rainbows or Arcade Fire’s shimmering Reflektor in parts, leaning heavily on electronica and eclectic, two step rhythms. It is diverse, dream-like at times and atmospheric, one he poured his heart into.
“I think that it would be a rubbish record if you didn’t pour your whole self into it - that is kind of the way it has got to be,” he says.
“And whether it is emotional stuff or just energy and enthusiasm, you have to pour your heart and soul into it. I find it easier to express through music than through conversation a lot of the time.”
He says being a solo artist can be “sort of double edged”.
“It can be very isolating and there can be moments where you are banging your head against a wall and at times when you are in a band, you can delegate responsibilities. But it is all on my shoulders if it is a dodgy review, I have to shoulder that. I feel love for the record and it is great to feel that on my own, I guess.”
Asked to reflect on his time with Supergrass, which began when he was 16 and encompassed some 17 years, he says: “It doesn’t feel like a burden, I wouldn’t be doing this right now if I hadn’t had those adventures with Supergrass and all that time, since I was 16 years old, and it was a really special time.
“The more I go on, the more I keep in mind those great times and not focus on the end, not focus the split which is counter productive, I have a lot of good memories.
“We were just riding the wave as it were, I remember it being a very fast time, just going from one tour to the studio and then back on tour, and that is where our lives were for nearly 20 years.”
Gaz says he spoke to “all of the guys recently” in Supergrass, as the 20th anniversary of debut I Should Coco cranks up for a re-mastering and re-release. It was Parlophone’s fastest selling debut since the Beatles Please Please Me, a fact that may or not have been made up, Coombes laughs. But it was “a defining moment for us,” he stresses.
For now, the focus is on Matador and the upcoming tour. Does he feel a greater sense of pride to receive a completed solo album into his hands rather than one produced by a group?
“In many ways it can be a tough journey,” he admits. “You swing between self-doubt and confidence about what you are doing, but when it is all done...I don’t know when that moment was that I realised it was a cool record, but I did feel proud when I finally got it out there, and people seem to be digging it, which is cool.”
Gaz Coombes plays Dolan’s Warehouse this Friday, May 8. Playing support is musician Laurence Fox, who is a well known actor in the UK. See here for tickets