‘It’s a celebration of everything the band has done’: Mark Morriss of The Bluetones

The Bluetones
The Bluetones
The Darkness. Picture by

Simon Emmett

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Back in 2011 The Bluetones made a very conscious decision to call it a day. After a farewell tour that ended in Osaka, Japan, the band members went their separate ways.

However, earlier this year, the indie four-piece announced they would be playing a string of dates, dubbed the 20th Anniversary Jukebox Tour, including a date at The Pyramids Centre on September 23.

Despite being one of the more successful acts of the Britpop era – they racked up three top 10 albums and 13 top 40 singles, including Slight Return, Marblehead Johnson and If... – The Bluetones are often overlooked in retrospectives of the period in favour of the brasher, more outgoing acts.

So how did this tour come about?

‘I think it was kind of last year when I was promoting my last record,’ explains Mark Morriss, the band’s frontman who has carved himself a moderately successful solo career.

‘We did a handful of live gigs and I was doing them with a full band.

‘Independently of one another, all of the other ex-members of The Bluetones contacted me and said “if you’re looking for some help, think of me – I’d like to come out and play a few shows’’.

‘In the end I said: “Why don’t we go out and do it as the band?”

‘We went out and did five or six shows without announcing it. We didn’t play any old songs, we only did my songs and we didn’t advertise it as a Bluetones show. It was mainly just nice to be able to hang out again.

‘It was good to practice together, jam together, to catch up. In the intervening two or three years we hadn’t seen each other much – life has a tendency of getting in the way.

We are a bit apprehensive that people might think it’s a cynical move on our behalf, but it’s our thing, we just want to play some shows

Mark Morriss, The Bluetones’ frontman

‘We didn’t talk about reforming the band at the time, but we all had a good time hanging out.’

And when you were doing these shows, didn’t anyone clock it was actually a reformed Bluetones on the stage?

‘They did, of course. We would come out on stage, and I think people were a little bit bemused at first: But they’re playing Mark’s songs? Oh, that’s cool. There wasn’t much of people shouting out for the old songs – I think the audience was smart enough to know the show wasn’t about that.’

From there it didn’t take much for the band to decide to run it past their agents and float the idea of a tour, and they were pleasantly surprised to find there was quite a bit of interest out there.

However, Mark is aware that people might view this as a simple cashing-in.

‘We are a bit apprehensive that people might think it’s a cynical move on our behalf, but it’s our thing, we just want to play some shows.

‘We’re not promising we’ve got a new album and a new lease of life – it’s a celebration.’

And he adds with a laugh: ‘It’s our train set, we can play with it whenever we like.’

There’s no long-term plan either: ‘We’ll just see how it goes, there’s no great masterplan. We’ve all got different irons in the fire – it’s not like we can all just drop everything and go again.’

Since the band split it seems they’ve all kept busy – guitarist Adam Devlin plays in a band called the Concerned Citizens, which Mark describes as ‘pretty rocking.’ Ed Chesters drums with various friends’ bands – when he’s not busy with his practice as an osteopath, a profession he studied at night school when the band was still up and running. And Scott Morriss – Mark’s brother and band bassist – now works in animation and lives in Tokyo.

For the band to get back together feels as natural as it was for them to put an end to things in 2011.

‘It felt like a natural conclusion,’ says Mark. ‘We were just putting it to bed, It turns out it was just a nap rather than a proper Rip Van Winkle.

‘At that point in our lives, the band had been through a few knock-backs and had some difficulties with management. That had been going on for about four-five years and it got to the point where we couldn’t keep picking ourselves back up, so we decided to put it down and move on with the next chapter of our lives.

‘It’s that thing of 20th anniversary, it’s quite a significant number I suppose, and I guess we all sort of thought if we don’t celebrate it now, the moment will have gone.’

But Mark undercuts this as he deadpans: ‘If we had to wait for the next significant number – who knows if we would have all our hair by then? It’s a big gamble to take.’

He’s also resigned to the band being lumped in with Britpop – a movement the London-based quartet never felt part of.

‘There comes a point when you’ve got to stop fighting that battle. We don’t have to accept it ourselves, and I don’t think our audience does, but it’s easy for the media.

‘I don’t think of it as a catch-all term, it doesn’t quite put across what a diverse and creative time it was. It brings to mind about half a dozen pub-rocky bands that I don’t think had much to do with us.’

At least Mark’s return to the city will be more cheerful than his last visit. For the past few years he had put on an annual Christmas show at The Cellars in Eastney, which closed at the start of August. He put on one last show there on the venue’s final weekend.

‘It was awful news. I’d been going there since 2008 and been back every year at least once. It’s sad that’s come to an end. They’re such good people and that was such a lovely set-up that they had there.’

But as for The Bluetones, make the most of it as these shows are all they’re planning – for now.

The Bluetones 20th Anniversary Jukebox Tour, with support from The Standard Lamps and The Lost Boys is at The Pyramids on Wednesday. Doors 7.30pm. Tickets £23. Go to pyramids-live.co.uk

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS TO THE SHOW

We’re giving away a pair of tickets to The Bluetones show at The Pyramids Centre in Southsea on Thursday, September 23.

For a chance to win, simply answer this question:

What is the name of The Bluetones’ highest charting single?

Simply e-mail your answer to features@thenews.co.uk with your full name, address and daytime telephone number, or send your entry by post to:

The Bluetones Competition, The News, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Western Road, Portsmouth, PO6 3EN.

Entries must be received by 5pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.

Normal News competition rules apply.