It’s hard to think of the past three decades of pop music without the name ERASURE not appearing somewhere along the line. The duo may have already celebrated its 30th anniversary, but it is not thinking about quitting the business anytime soon. Instead, Andy Bell and Vince Clark are back with a new album called World Be Gone and the title already indicates that this is not the typical dance album the band has been famous for.
We met singer Andy Bell in Berlin recently to talk about the new songs that are influenced by the current political climate and deal with more serious subjects. The result shows the reflective and thoughtful side of the band that is still embedded in a pop music context. When a band has been around for over three decades, it’s fair to say that it’s the perfect time to think about all the accomplishments which Andy Bell does with a lot of pride:
‘When we had the 30th box set last year, it was like a closing chapter. I couldn’t believe the amount of things we’ve done. It was like starting over I suppose.’
Starting over somehow seemed inevitable for the dup. So they did it in their own way by approaching more politically charged subjects instead of writing another love song wrapped around a catchy melody which wasn’t exactly easy as Andy Bell admits: ‘We write mostly love songs because I can’t think of anything else to write about. I suppose I’m an old hopeless romantic really which is kinda hard to put it into political things.’
However, this time around Andy Bell felt there was a need for something else. There is frustration in his voice when he talks about the entertainment industry today: ‘I was quite depressed before this album and I thought maybe I should give it all up because I hate show business. Nobody is saying anything really. It’s all nonsense. There are only a few political programmes. You don’t see documentaries anymore. I just carried on writing with Vince and fortunately all this came out. I mean, it took a while, but I think it’s really good it all came out.’
‘We are all capable to cruelty. We all are. But all that wildness, tame it. We are animals, but if we keep acting like savages and keep blowing each other up all the time not giving a fuck for other human life, it’s not going to end very well.’
In the past, pop music has pretty much neglected to be political. That was mainly left to folk and rock music while pop songs were used for entertainment only. It’s a development Bell has been struggling with as he confirms. Besides, being in his early 50s, he was craving for more than that: ‘I don’t like entertainment for entertainment’s sake. I was thinking I was over with pop, there are still aspects that I love about pop music though. It’s kind of a safe place. At the same time it’s like a 3-minute-soap-opera which is often very teenage. But I’m not a teenager anymore. You’re 50 and doing pop just keeps you young, but after a while you just realize how the industry works mostly.’
And the industry can be as cruel as the political climate that has given Andy Bell newly found inspiration for his songs: ‘I think we’re pretty much in this dystopian vision with all the lying going on. I can understand the context because we’ve only been told one side of history and it’s always from our own perspective. That’s one thing that gets on my nerves in the UK. This whole Rule, Britannia! thing. I would hate to see the country break up, but in some ways I think maybe it needs to be in order to learn something.’
‘I wouldn’t say that I’m manic depressive or I’m worrying all the time for the world, but I think you have to have a conscience and be aware of things.’
As a pop singer, people usually don’t expect you to have much of a political opinion these days. A misconception that Bell finds very annoying to say the least: ‘I think I’ve always been wearing my heart on my sleeve whether I’m onstage or not. However, it’s so easy to be controversial for the sake of a headline today. At the Oscar’s people say all these actors should shut up and keep their political opinions to themselves. I mean, politicians don’t even talk about politics so who is going to?’
In recent months, people all over the world have shown a particular outrage about the system and political affairs by marching together and being more active and louder. It’s a form of protest Andy Bell has a lot of respect for: ‘I wouldn’t say I’ve become more active. I mean, it’s easy to sign petitions which I do a lot I suppose and I like giving money helping people, but I haven’t been on demonstrations for 10 years or so. Even gay pride. I love seeing it though like the Women’s Marches for example. I think these people are so brave.’
Protests and bravery
The lack of bravery is an aspect of Bell’s past that he openly talks about during our conversation: ‘When I did go to gay pride marches way back, I never liked being up front in the march to hide myself because I hate confrontation and I hated the idea of being arrested by the police. I suppose I was quite cowardly, but I just wanted to be there.’
‘I think I care about people and I care about what happens to people. It doesn’t matter where they are from. I love living in London. I live in a muslim area and I feel very safe there.’
The future is not as doomed as it seems, though, at least when you hear Andy Bell’s prognoses towards the end of our insightful chat: ‘I stopped going on Facebook because I thought it was just mindless, but then I came across one group called Collective Evolution which is going on about how people are waking up which I love.’
Even though Bell is aware of the fact that dance music and political statements may not be for everyone, it’s an interesting and a brave change of perspective that ERASURE are offering on WORLD BE GONE.