Dodgy bring their Homegrown hits to The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
When Dodgy released their second album, Homegrown, back in 1994, expectations were different for an indie band.
Their self-titled debut album, released 18 months earlier, had just scraped into the top 75 of the album charts.
But when Homegrown came out, the musical landscape was starting to shift, Britpop was on the rise, and the trio, armed with an album packed with memorable tunes, found themselves in the right place at the right time.
Singles So Let Me Go Far and Making The Most Of saw them make their way into the top 40 for the first time, and then there was the album’s opening track – Staying Out For The Summer, an infectious slice of sunny indie-pop that remains a radio staple today.
To mark its 25 anniversary, the band, now a four-piece, are playing the album in full. And they’ve found themselves enjoying one of the busiest periods of their career.
The Guide caught up with frontman Nigel Clark: ‘We never did the albums in their entirety before, even back in the ’90s. So going back to it, there’s a few songs we never played even then.
‘But it's been really enjoyable, quite tiring, a lot of driving. But it's been our busiest year this year, probably since the ’90s, we’ve done about 50 gigs this year. Morale is really good in the band as well.
‘We’ve really focused on this, I think it's one of the first times we’ve focused in our career,’ he laughs.
Playing the album in order though, has provided some unusual challenges – the album’s biggest song, Staying Out… is first up.
‘Yeah, it is, but we do end with Grassman, and as the album has progressed over time that’s become a lot of people’s favourite song, even though it wasn’t released as a single. So to fans, it will be a favourite.
‘It does kind of turn it on its head, but we start off acoustically, we play a couple of songs, maybe B-sides, just to get ourselves going before we start with the album.’
Playing the album has also seen the band looking back at those halcyon times.
‘It's a weird experience thinking back to what you were thinking in 1993, when we went about writing that album, and how much younger we were.
‘We made a decision way back then. The story of Dodgy came from me working in a factory and having a mortgage with my girlfriend and going: “You know what, I don't think I’m set out for this sort of life”.
‘What I wanted was music. I could retain some sort of youthful energy up until at least my mid-to late 20s. That’s why Staying Out For The Summer is like you're in the summer of your life when you're that age.
‘I took control of my life and here I am at 50 years old, I'm still living it – that's the life I chose as a 21 year old.
‘I made this decision that I wasn't going to go down a conventional route in the sense of what my career path, or non-career path,’ he laughs, ‘was going to be. ‘
‘You follow your heart and sometimes you get lucky if you work at it. When I look back at it, it feels like a success story. But at the time I never saw it as that, I just thought it was bloody hard work.
Nigel also feels they were in the vanguard of the guitar-driven wave indie bands that came to be known as Britpop
‘We were just in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, and it was part of something.
‘You felt like you’d paved a little bit of the way for it, not in a wanting credit for it or anything, sort of way. We started doing our Dodgy Club in 1990, and that was essentially a club night, where we DJed and then the band would play for half an hour.
‘And that's how we got signed, by setting ourselves out there and making ourselves seem different.’
After Homegrown, they reached even greater commercial success with the platinum-selling album Free Peace Suite which also contained their biggest single, Good Enough.
Nigel is proud of the diverse nature of the songs on their third album.
‘Writing the third album was quite eclectic. It’s like hitting random on a Spotify playlist or something.
‘At the time, in ’96, it wasn't quite as eclectic a time for bands – you had to stick more to a certain sound, and we were more like: “Do you?” You can practically hear the shrug down the phone.
‘We were quite proud of that. But I found it difficult to listen to that album for a few years because it took so much out of me as a writer and a performer and then obviously, with the demise of the band.
‘It took a few years, but recently because we are thinking of doing another anniversary tour in 2021, I’ve started listening to it again.
‘Now I can really appreciate the amount of work that we put in.’
Clark left the band in 1998, with the other two struggling on without him as a five-piece.
But he rejoined the fold a decade later.
‘Getting back together after 10 years, I told the guys, we can do the old songs, but I want to do new ones – and we’ve done two new albums.’
There’s been 2012’s Stand Upright In A Cool Place and What Are We Fighting For in 2016 – both have been well-received by fans and critics alike, but haven’t set the charts alight like in their hey day.
‘They’ve take, a lot of work, and they’ve not been marketed so well, but they're there, the albums exist.
‘Running a band these days, it is very much a live thing, so you've got to be out there.
‘Next year we'll just take on some festivals and hopefully do some writing, release a single at some point, which is in the pipeline.
‘The money’s not out there the way it was, not at this level, so you've got to do a lot yourself. ‘
But that’s not to say Nigel is pessimisstic – merely realistic about what it means to be Dodgy in 2019.
‘We’re a very different band now to what we were then – we've been together longer now than we were the first time and it's been a very interesting journey.
‘We've taken jobs and worked part time just so we can afford to be able to do this the right way, and it's worked this year it's been really successful.
‘We've had some really great gigs, we've managed to get through the year and go: “Okay, that's brilliant.”
‘We've made some money from it – enough to cover our costs at least. Just don’t think you’re going to be driving off att he end of the night in a Mercedes...
‘But we’re really good at this, and I’m really proud of everyone.’
And no-one can take away those enduring songs from them, which have become part of people’s lives.
‘That is essentially what it's about isn't it? That's essentially what you do it for – to capture that moment for yourself and as a band, getting that feeling right.
‘And when people cling on to that moment at that time with that song – it’s like a photograph, but in their heads, and it triggers things. I've got loads of songs which are like that for me.
‘That's what you aim for as a musician, to actually affect someone in that way.’
As the main songwriter, Clark is currently working on new material.
‘Onwards and upwards – you’ve got to do it at your own pace, and if you ever feel like you’re losing control of it, then it’s not fun, it’s the worst job in the world.
‘But if you feel like you've got some level of control over how you do it and you can make it work for everyone, and that's what we are doing, it’s great.’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Saturday, November 23