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Squeeze’s Got Its Groove Back

Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 18:04


Courtesy of Squeeze

In 1973, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Jools Holland, Harry Kakouli and Paul Gunn formed a rag-tag band called Squeeze that found a place in the English new wave scene.

They recorded their debut EP with Velvet Underground’s John Cale, which was a strong start to a legendary career that included critically acclaimed albums such as Argybargy and the Elvis Costello-produced East Side Story.

Squeeze disbanded in 1984 and again in 1999 after attempting to rekindle, but the band’s been back as of 2007 and is on top of its game.

Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook was still in his home in London when College Times chatted with him on the phone. The band was rehearsing and gearing up for their North American tour, which include stops at Coachella and the Ellen Degeneres Show on April 17.

Tilbrook has a booming laugh and a giant personality and the spirit of a teenager. He is also able to look back at his career and see that at times he got “comfortable” with Squeeze. These days however, they are revitalized and continuously moving forward. 

College Times: How are you?

Glenn Tilbrook: I’m really good, thank you. [I’m] taking in the late afternoon sunshine here in London. We’ve had some nice weather for the last few days so I’m treasuring it while it lasts. It’s gonna turn tomorrow.

What are you most looking forward to with this tour?

Firstly, playing with the band. Playing with squeeze again has been absolutely amazing. There’s an amazing amount of energy now. We’re really enjoying it. Being together, out on the road, meeting people, making people laugh and cry [laughs] the whole thing about being on tour is lovely.

How is it playing with the current lineup?

Really good! Stephen Large and Simon Hanson, who are keyboard and drums, I’ve been playing with for 11 years now. Chris Difford and John Bently and I go much further than that so there’s good chemistry in the band. I recognize that you have to work it really properly in order to get it working. Every time we go on tour we got to be absolutely ready. I think the last Squeeze lineup got a little complacent, and I really don’t want that happening again.

How has your relationship with them changed over the years?

As we’ve got older, it’s a cliché, but we have mellowed. Chris Difford and I, who I think were, even though we wrote together, were the furthest apart. That period of time was gone now, and it’s really nice to have a new period where everything is positive for us. I didn’t think it was going to happen again, nor was I looking for it to happen again, but now that it has I’m really happy.

What made you decide to give the band another go?

We were doing some interviews for Universal because we re-mastered some records. We’re really proud of our legacy, as it were. Chris and I got together to talk about it and all through the interview processes we were constantly, like “No, we’re not getting back together. No, no, no, no no.” People have been asking us for years to do that and I always felt it would be a mistake to do that.

I realized something else in that time and that is that the spark that I had with The Fluffers, my band, was really great. I did a lot of touring with them and it was much better than Squeeze had ended up being, and I wondered why that was. There was an energy and a commitment level in that band that wasn’t in Squeeze toward the end.

The only way that getting Squeeze back together [would work] was if we had that spark. We sound totally fresh now, and we didn’t for a lot of the ‘90s I think. We got a bit tired, and it’s very difficult to spot because it happened so slowly. It’s like sitting down and watching a flower grow.

Plenty of artists (The Shins’ James Mercer, Mark Ronson, Lily Allen, Kasabian) have said they’re big fans of Squeeze, but what do you think of them?

You know it’s amazing. It’s amazing the amount of respect we have. There’s a record now with a lot of people who come up with tribute songs to Squeeze, all sorts of people who you would never believe in a million years expect love Squeeze: Erykah Badu, The Roots…Its’ one of the biggest compliments when your fellow musicians tip their hat back to you.

Squeeze, Crescent Ballroom, April 15, 7:30 p.m., $41

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