Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes keeps trying new things

Former Supergrass bandleader Gaz Coombes is delighted that his tour – promoting his second solo album “Matador” (nominated for a Mercury Prize in his native England) is wending through the Bay Area this week.

“I can’t believe it’s been over six years since I’ve actually been there. That is such a long time,” says the musician, who lived here for several formative years of his childhood. “So whenever I go back, I definitely feel like I’m home in some ways,” he says.

Supergrass — with its bratty 1994 breakthrough single “Alright” still being used in TV commercials today — was one of the bastions of the Britpop scene.

But some of Coombes’ fondest recollections are distinctly Californian. He was 6 when his food-scientist father accepted a San Francisco job offer, he says, “So I remember The City’s hot pavements, swimming pools, Denny’s, and the radio station that always played Fleetwood Mac. It was an American kind of magic, and it left such a strong imprint on my life. So every time I went back as an adult, I’d get these feelings again, just stepping off the plane into the sun.”

With Supergrass, the muttonchop-whiskered singer was a regular guest at The City’s musician-friendly hotels, where he was befriended by other artists.

“I remember hanging out with Beck at the Phoenix Hotel one tour, and he was really young then – I was maybe 17 and I think he was 21,” he says. A few years ago, before his two daughters Raya May and Tiger were born, he and his wife Jools decided to recapture his ephemeral youth. “So we went on a big trip through California, visiting places like Half Moon Bay,” he says. “More great experiences to imprint.”

But after Supergrass disbanded in 2010, Coombes, 40, went through an identity crisis. With the band, he had a punchy trademark sound.

How would he proceed alone, left to his own home-studio devices? He didn’t overthink his first album, 2012’s “Here Come the Bombs,” he says: “I just wanted to be myself and be instinctive, and I think that really came together on ‘Matador.’ I’d gotten into a rhythm by that point, so I was able to be really direct with my ideas.”

Textural “Matador” tracks like “Buffalo,” “Detroit” and “The English Ruse” are so sonically inventive, Coombes is starting to resemble another noted Californian, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, at his “Pet Sounds” peak.

“You just try new things,” he says. “Try to keep it moving, and don’t get stale or stuck in one place. That’s how I approach music these days.”


Gaz Coombes
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. April 1
Tickets: $26
Contact: (415) 522-0333,

Tom Lanham
Published by
Tom Lanham

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