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Louise Wener This Life Interview
posted Sep 5, 2016, 9:45 AM by Vu Nguyen

Ebury Publishing

As front woman of 1990s band Sleeper, Louise Wener was the cool girl we all wanted to be. She tells Anna Pursglove how she went from sex, drugs and rock n' roll to writing books in Brighton.

Being a lonely, asthmatic child made me crave fame. I was an ugly, short-sighted kid with chronic asthma, so I spent a lot of time off school and in my own company. I got very good at watching and listening – and inventing: I had a big imaginary landscape. People from the part of Essex where I grew up seemed to me to have this incredibly static, slightly claustrophobic existence, and I wanted my life to have colour and magic.

I had no rock ’n’ roll credentials. So when I went to Manchester (University, where Wener studied politics and English) and suddenly there was an ad for a singer or a guitarist on every notice board, it was all a bit of a revelation. I’d come from a sleepy little suburb, brought up mostly on pop music. I just wanted to be famous, like Blondie or Bananarama. Of course, once Sleeper got big, I had to pretend to be all indie and earnest but, in truth, everything I learnt about bands was done on the job.

There was no camaraderie among the women of Britpop.
In fact, the competition was fierce. It definitely felt like there was only room for a few of us, and that made for a very bitchy atmosphere. If there was any sense of shared experience during that era, it was around drugs. You hung out with the ‘drunkards’, or the ‘cokey’ ones, or the ‘heroiney’ ones – or all of the above.

People still recognise me in the street,
which feels bizarre now I’m 44. I also get a few people on Twitter saying, ‘Wow, I was in love with you in 1995.’ I’m not sure how to respond to that other than to point out that it’s 2011 and possibly time to move on.

I’m very grateful that Andy (Sleeper drummer turned music lecturer and Louise’s partner of 16 years) and I made it through the Britpop years unscathed.
Because everything you’ve been told about the moral bankruptcy of that time is sadly true: two men having sex with one groupie on the tour bus, or female fans lining up after gigs offering blow jobs. Some people did lose themselves in it all. Luckily, I'’ve always had a good bullshit detector and I was aware that although fame was exciting, it was also fragile and would end one day.

Britpop didn'’t make me rich
. We got about £12,000 for a six-album deal! This fact still makes me want to weep.

I’'ve heard some great rumours about myself.
It’'s true that Graham Coxon [Blur’s guitarist] proposed to me repeatedly when we toured together, although, he proposed to just about everybody. Sadly, it’'s not true that I play one of the ZingZillas on CBeebies. I haven’t countered that myth before because I wish I did.

I came to motherhood late.
I had Iris (now five) when I was 39 and Frank two years later. Iris’ birth was very traumatic. An inexperienced midwife made some very bad mistakes and it ended up with me having a blood transfusion. Despite that, it never affected my bond with Iris. It felt to me from the start as though it was the two of us versus the rest of the world.

Being a parent means a constant sense of incompletion.
When you’re with them, there’s always that little bit of the old you, nagging about what you’re missing, and yet, when you’re away from them, you don’t feel whole.

It also makes you examine your own childhood. Looking back, I think my dad had a depressive illness, although he would never have described it like that. His lack of fulfilment was certainly the elephant in the room for me and my brother and sister when we were growing up. The sad thing is he finally started studying law – his great passion – after retiring, but died soon afterwards. I think my willingness to throw myself into things that attract me is probably a reaction to his missed opportunities.

Writing my first novel was about regaining some autonomy.
While I was in Sleeper, there were always people to please – the rest of the band and the record label. Once I was alone with my little electric typewriter, it just felt the right thing to do. I wrote two half-novels and junked them before I started to understand structure, pacing, timing and character. I was about 10 chapters into what would become my first novel, Goodnight Steve McQueen, when I knew it was good enough to send to a publisher.

I draw on people I know when I’m writing. But I don’t think friends would recognise themselves in any of my novels. It’s more facets of people I use, rather than faithful copies. The trick is to embellish your own experience…to bring a character to life.

Sometimes the work/life balance thing doesn'’t work at all.
Find me any mum who doesn'’t say that. At the moment, Iris is at school and Frank goes to nursery two days a week. Even without Andy and me having to do massive London commutes, there are days when the jigsaw just will not fit together.

I worry about role models for Iris.
There is something deeply unsettling about what’s passing for female empowerment at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot wrong for women back when I was considered a role model, but, back then, nobody was getting their boobs out – not in the music business, anyway. I don’t, for example, get why Cheryl Cole is such an idol for women. We have taken a step backwards as far as feminism is concerned and not many people appear to be questioning that. As the mother of a daughter, that’s worrying.

I’'ve suddenly got a yen to get married.
Having had no particular inclination for it before – I’m not religious and I certainly don’t need the government to approve my relationship – I now have a little germ of a fantasy to do it. Maybe in a year or so when the kids are both old enough to join in and to remember it. I’m not interested in the frock or any of that stuff, but the idea of a big old knees-up for my friends and everyone I love is getting more and more attractive.

Letting go is good to do.
When Sleeper broke up, I felt like I’d been demobbed but, at the same time, knew that I would never start up a solo career. I accepted that that phase of my life was over (my mum helpfully told me that I could ‘always go and work in a shop’). If I could go back now and talk to that younger me who was leaving the band, I would tell her, ‘Don’t regret it. You’ve done something hardly anybody else gets to do. You'’ve lived the dream, it was fun, and now it’s time to move on. It’s all right and it’s going to get better.’

 Just For One Day: Adventures In Britpop, by Louise Wener (Ebury Press, £7.99), is published on June 9th

Story, character and truth: Louise Wener's writing tips
posted Sep 5, 2016, 9:32 AM by Vu Nguyen

Thanks to Troy for sending this in.

Story, character and truth: Louise Wener’s writing tips
by Louise Wener / 07 July 2016

When I teach a new creative-writing class, the first thing I do is ask students to tell me their endings. This may sound counter-intuitive but if you know where your novel ends, there’s a good chance you know how to get there. With an end point there’s a journey. With journey comes story. And story is everything.

We aim to sharpen your dialogue on this course. We aim to light up your powers of description. To take a scythe to your adverbs, make you tight and precise, help you edit and structure, and find voice. But story is king. If we can turn out storytellers by the end of six months, I feel as though we’re getting it right.

Before you set out on your novel, see if you can summarise your plot in a sentence. Keep in mind that good stories need conflict. Very often there is something at stake for your central character. Ask yourself three questions. What does my character want? What are the obstacles in his/her way? What are the consequences for my character if he/she doesn’t succeed? If you have good answers to these questions, the chances are you’re on your way to a story that people will want to read.

To plot we’ll ask you to add character. To character I want you to add truth. A common problem for new writers is creating believable characters. How do we make them live and breathe? How do we make them sing from the page? First attempts can be generic. Characters read like something out of central casting. The bland wife. The ordinary husband. The identikit detective who drinks too much.

Consider this. Think about the moment you first became close to someone. The moment they crossed over from acquaintance to friend. Chances are it happened when the other person told you something. They opened up. They let you see the ‘real’ them. That’s what you need to do with characters. Fast-forward the acquaintance stage; in fact skip it altogether. Take us straight to the heart of who they are. What they feel. What their secrets might be.

In the office, on the school run, people you see every day can merge into archetypes. And then you talk. You speak to them at a moment of crisis or hope; fear or elation and you see who they really are. They surprise you. They tell you stories about their lives you never imagined. They expose insecurities that make you connect with them because you’ve felt that way too.

Human beings are complex. If you want your characters to live, let us see them. In all their vivid imperfection.

Story. Character. Truth. The three pillars that will make you a better writer. And while you’re at it, cut 50 per cent of your adverbs. It will generally, probably, help.

For more information or to apply for the Six-Month Novel-Writing Course with Louise Wener, please click here. Applications for this course close on Tuesday 12 July.

For more information or to apply for other Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing courses, please click here.

Sleeper Archive on Tumblr

posted May 14, 2016, 10:06 AM by Vu Nguyen

Guy writes:

I've started scanning my Sleeper Archive into Tumblr about a 3rd of the way through, though you might like to see. 

Britpop Now: Lush, Sleeper, Space, SFA, and more

posted Feb 7, 2016, 11:12 PM by Vu Nguyen



When I first heard the news that Lush reformed in September 2015, I was super excited. I had heard the rumors as far as 2013 or 2014 when singer Miki Berenyi granted interviews with Under the Radar and other magazines, so I can’t say I was completely surprised.

Just for the record, in case you aren’t a Lush fan or keep track of these things, but the Shoegazing-turned-Britpop band broke up after their drummer Chris Acland’s suicide in 1996. We caught the band in 1994 and noted, “vivid memories of watching drummer Chris Acland with his mouth wide open throughout the set (and I thought that was really strange).”

I’ve said this before, but these shows are very special because not only are we getting Lush again with the original members (Miki, Emma Anderson, and Phillip King... and filling in for Acland will be Justin Welch, formerly of Elastica), but this will also be a nice reunion for the fans. Trust me, you’ll see plenty of people you haven’t seen in the last twenty years... and it’ll be great!

Lush tour dates are:

4/14/16 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
4/16/16 Indio, CA @ Coachella
4/17/16 San Francisco, CA @ Warfield
4/19/16 Portland, OR @ Crystal Room
4/20/16 Seattle, WA @ Showbox
4/21/16 Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
4/23/16 Indio, CA @ Coachella
9/14/16 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
9/15/16 Boston, MA @ Royale
9/18/16 Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
9/21/16 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
9/22/16 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer


Guitarist Jon Stewart (not to be confused with actor/comedian/show host Jon Stewart), was on The StageLeft Podcast last month. As a big Sleeper fan, obviously I wanted to bring this to your attention.

Head over to, or click on the right.


Recorded at The Brighton Dome, The StageLeft Podcast is joined by our great influence, Senior Lecturer in Music Business Studies & Sleeper Guitarist - Jon Stewart.

Jon talks us through being centric to the whirlwind of Britpop, his role as Music Director on Kevin Spacey's Telstar: The Joe Meek Story and appearing on the Trainspotting soundtrack. Jon tells us the advice he gives the many musicians he's worked with in relation to dealing with the pressures of the public eye, the difficulties that arise when being in a band with a complex set of personal relationships and current projects Jon is embarking on in relation to helping recovering alcoholics.

- "The 'Fame' experience is a mental health condition... it's a form of mental illness"
- "The way I dealt with it was to drink and to take lots of drugs"
- "This feels like a bit of a therapy session..."

Jon also tells us about being on Richey Edwards final tour with the Manic Street Preachers, supporting REM & Radiohead, playing with KD Lang, and having his music covered by Elvis Costello.

Read More
Space was a short-lived band from Liverpool. The most interesting thing about the band is that singer, Tommy Scott sounds like he's trying to be Mexican. You can hear it in the way he rolls his "R"s. …


Look, I love Space, okay? They are a silly little band from Liverpool with silly songs like “Female of the Species” and “Me & You Vs the World”, etc. If you listen to Spiders, it’s clear that these guys love cinema, particularly American cinema. I think for their first US tour, we caught the band in Los Angeles in 1997 (?). It’s been a long time, but it was their first LA gig from what I can recall.

The band broke up for a while, but came back to the music scene in 2011. Last year, the band announced a new single “Strange World” (read all about it on, taken from their fifth studio album Give Me Your Future (Mulu Records).

Space dates:

7th April 2016 The Brook, Southampton
8th April 2016 Academy, Bournemouth
15th April 2016 Academy, Oxford
16th April 2016 The Haunt, Brighton
23rd April 2016 Bellfield Tavern, Kilmarnock
29th April 2016 Academy Newcastle
30th April 2016 Arc, Stockton
6th May 2016 Empire Music Hall, Belfast
7th May 2016 The Grand Social, Dublin
13th May 2016 Fruit, Hull
14th May 2016 Waterside Arts Centre, Manchester
21st May 2016 Academy Birmingham
28th May 2016 Academy, Leicester
29th May 2016 100 Club, London
3rd June 2016 Fox & Goose, Southport
June 9th 2016 The Box, Crewe
10th June 2016 The Citadel, St. Helens
11th June 2016 The Exchange, Stoke-on-Trent
9th-10th July 2016 Frodsham Summer Festival 16
23rd July 2016 PKD Festival, Fife


I have seen Super Furry Animals at Coachella before... the only thing I can remember was that they were on early on the bill and that they dedicated “Mountain People” to the mountains.

They’ve been around for a long time, but, of course, every time they play in Minneapolis, either with the full band or as solo Gruff Rhys, I have been busy with another show or not available. Unfortunately, at this point, I don’t think they’re coming back here as a full band. I see that demands for them in Los Angeles is go good, they’ve added an additional date.

SFA is currently in the US again, but not promoting a new album. Oddly enough their 15-year-old album Welsh-only Mwng album got reissued by Domino Records recently... so expect some of those classic songs to make their way to their setlist.

Tour dates:

2/09 San Francisco, CA @ Great American
2/10 San Jose, CA @ The Ritz
2/11 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
2/12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy
4/29 Austin, TX @ Levitation
4/30 Austin, TX @ Levitation
5/01 Austin, TX @ Levitation
5/03 Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
5/04 Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
5/05 New York, NY @ Webster Hall
5/06 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
5/07 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer


The lineup for Gigantic Indie All Dayer Vol 3: A Big, Big Love looks incredible. The music festival is taking place at Manchester Academy on 28 May 2016 and will feature headliner The Wonder Stuff... but personally, I am more interested in Bentley Rhythm Ace (aka “BRA”), S*M*A*S*H, and Frank and Walters.... oh and may Menswe@r (yes, they are still around!)


  • The Wonder Stuff
  • House of Love
  • Bentley Rhythm Ace
  • The Darling Buds
  • The Frank And Walters
  • BMX Bandits
  • Back To The Planet
  • Cud
  • S*M*A*S*H
  • The Telescopes
  • Menswe@r
  • Credit To The Nation
  • Bivouac & Jack Adaptor (The Family Cat)

    The after show will feature Mike Joyce (The Smiths), MCs & DJs Marc & Jason Jones (Indiecation & Planet X, Liverpool), and Andy Woods (Smile / Unknown Pleasures).

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