Electro-pop icons Erasure have sold 25 million albums and counting and played three Irish gigs last weekend as they tour their best album in years. Singer Andy Bell talks to Brian CampbellERASURE might be about to celebrate their 30th anniversary but the synth-pop duo are back with their best album in years. The double-act - Andy Bell and Vince Clarke - played a sold-out gig in Belfast last weekend and then two in Dublin and it seems that they're truly on the up again.
Their heyday was between 1985 and 1995, when they had hits with Sometimes, A Little Respect, Ship of Fools, Blue Savannah, Oh l'amour and a host of others.
While they sold 25 million albums and achieved more than 40 hit singles, Erasure's profile inevitably took a dip but their new album The Violet Flame contains a string of brilliant tunes, among them Promises, Elevation, Under the Wave, Dead of Night and forthcoming single Reason.
Their 16th studio album, it was recorded in New York and London and produced by Richard X and it became their first top 20 offering since Other People's Songs in 2003.
Speaking to Scene, frontman Andy Bell admits that it's nice to be creating a buzz again. "Yeah, it's been good. We had a good 10-year run and then, after we put out our 1995 album Erasure, we almost had to reinvent ourselves from scratch and that's a hard thing to do. I suppose we broke through again with Nightbird (in 2005) and then took it from there.
"Songwriting is like painting or writing or whatever, so you have your bleak periods. I like some of the darker material. The idea with this was to write on synths and make a dance record and that was it."
He says it was easy to choose Reason as the next single. "I do love that one. It's a very simple track and it kind of reminds me of New Order," he says. "Vince's intro riff is great and it just reminds me of some Northern Soul classics. I think some of the best Erasure songs have been Motown-inspired and that's one of them."
Andy has said that The Violet Flame is 'one of our most exhilarating records that we've done since The Innocents' and says he was influenced by Donna Summer and musical transformations by Annie Lennox and Kylie. "I like old retro stuff like DJ Hell and Giorgio Moroder," he says. "And Donna Summer was amazing. I love her effortless vocals against Giorgio's pulsating bass. It's still effective to this day."
Erasure's current tour started in Miami - where the new album was written - and took them across America, Europe, Ireland and Britain; it ends in London in mid-December. They then play two shows in New York on
December 30 and 31. "My partner's from Florida and Vince lives in New York, so that should be good. We'll add some Christmas songs, so hopefully people will know them. We'll do a couple from Snow Globe [their festive 2013 album]. "In the States we've had quite mixed audiences, old and young, and I was pretty amazed at how many people knew the new stuff. In the UK it seems that the further north we go, the madder the crowds are."
He says they had a great time in Belfast and Dublin. "It was brilliant. We had a really good time. We were over in Dublin on the last tour in 2011. We don't always manage to get to Ireland but we do love going there. "I'm really surprised at how Belfast has changed. I don't think we'd been there for nine years. That was our first time using the PA system in the UK [after touring America] and it broke down after 30 seconds but then they fixed it. A few people did complain about the sound, but they were just teething problems." Over the summer, Andy was in Edinburgh for the one-man show Torsten The Bareback Saint at the Edinburgh Fringe. He has said that his narration in the show was influenced by the late Irish comic Dave Allen. "I don't think there's anyone like him," he says. "Doing that show was great. I'm hoping to do more of that next year and then maybe doing 'part two' of it. It's very different to the music but I loved doing it. "
Andy, who turned 50 this year, ended up in Erasure after answering Vince Clarke's advert in Melody Maker in 1985 when the former Depeche Mode and Yazoo musician was looking for a singer. Andy's job at the time was selling ladies' shoes in Debenhams.
Now, after all Erasure's success and almost 30 years as a band, he says there are no special anniversary plans for next year. "We haven't thought about anything. Maybe [1989 album] Wild will get reissued, but I'm not sure."
The Peterborough native says he never really thinks about the fact that Erasure have sold 25 million records all over the world. "I suppose you get used to a certain lifestyle or whatever and you go on tour - even though we don't really have to - but it's nice to go out there and see that people are still interested in coming to see you. It's in the blood and I can't think of anything else that I'd want to do."
The Violet Flame is out now (ErasureInfo.com); the single Reason is released on November 24.