widely circulated profile of Lush
up to 1996, it
provides a good, if brief, overview.
All Music Guide
Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Meshing dreamy, feedback-drenched guitars with airy, catchy
melodies, Lush were one of the most prominent shoegazing bands of the early
'90s. Led by guitarists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, the British band earned
a cult following within the British and American undergrounds with its first
EPs, yet the group never quite attained the critical respect given to its peers
My Bloody Valentine and Ride. Even so, Lush lasted longer than any other of
their contemporaries (with the exception of the Boo Radleys), developing sharp
pop skills as their career progressed. By the time of their final album, 1996's
Lovelife, they had converted themselves into a power pop band with dream pop
overtones, which resulted in the greatest chart success of their career. Their
success was dealt a blow when drummer Chris Acland committed suicide in the fall
of 1996, effectively bringing the band to an end.
Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, Chris Acland, Steve Rippon
(bass), and Meriel Barham (guitar) formed Lush in 1988 in London, England. Prior
to the group's formation, school friends Berenyi and Anderson had collaborated
on a fanzine together, as well as played in a number of other bands
individually. Anderson, who had been working as a DHSS clerical assistant, had
played bass with the Rover Girls, while Berenyi had been a member of I-Goat,
Fuhrer Five, and the Lillies. Berenyi's then-boyfriend, Acland had previous
played with several other groups as well, including Panik, Infection, and A
Touch of Hysteria. Barham left Lush soon after the band's formation to form the
Pale Saints, and the remaining members began playing around London, quickly
earning a number of fans, including Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Guthrie
helped the band secure a contract with 4AD Records, and they released their
acclaimed debut EP, Scar, in 1989. Lush supported the EP with opening tours for
Loop and the Darling Buds, and by 1990, they had graduated to headlining tours
of their own.
Throughout 1990, the band's reputation in the British music
press began to grow as they released the acclaimed EPs Mad Love and Sweetness
and Light, played high-profile gigs like the Glastonbury Festival, and became
favorites of the music weeklies' gossip columns. Gala, an album compiling their
three EPs, became the band's first American release at the end of 1990. Lush
spent most of 1991 recording their debut album, releasing the Black Spring EP in
the spring. Rippon left the band during the sessions, and was replaced by Philip
King, a former picture researcher for NME and a previous member of Felt,
Servants, and Biff Bang Pow. Lush finally released their delayed debut album,
Spooky, in the spring of 1992. While the album sold well, reaching the British
Top Ten and topping the U.K. indie charts, it was criticized in the press for
Guthrie's heavy-handed production. The band supported the album in America by
appearing on the second Lollapalooza tour, but their dream pop wasn't
well-received by an audience hungry for metal. Lush released their second album,
Split, in the summer of 1994 to mixed reviews. Split was lost in the twin waves
of Brit-pop and American post-grunge, even through the band's songwriting was
more pop-oriented than ever.
After regrouping during 1995, Lush returned in early 1996 with
Lovelife, an album that showcased a debt to the pop-single ideals of Brit-pop.
The musical changeover paid off as "Single Girl" and "Ladykiller" became their
two biggest hit singles, and the album became a British Top 20 hit; in America,
it was their highest-charting album, even if it just scraped the charts at 189.
Lush had completed their supporting tours and summer festival appearances when
Chris Acland unexpectedly hanged himself in his parent's house on October 17,
1996. Devastated by his death, the remaining members of Lush went into a long
period of mourning, eventually disbanding.
~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
excellent in-depth profile,
it was written in 1994 so it does not cover the last 2 years of the
Members include Christopher Acland (born September 7, 1966, in Lancaster,
England), drums; Emma Anderson (born June 10, 1967, in London, England), guitar,
backing vocals; Meriel Barham, vocals; Miki Berenyi (born March 18, 1967, in
London, England; replaced Barham, 1988), vocals, guitar; Philip King (born April
28, 1960, in London, England; replaced Rippon, c. 1992), bass guitar; Steve
Rippon, bass guitar.
Band formed in London, England, 1988; signed with 4AD Records in the U.K., 1989;
released two EPs before licensing for U.S. distribution with Reprise Records,
1990; released debut LP, Gala, 1990; embarked on U.S. tour, 1991; performed on
Lollapalooza tour, 1992.
Record company--4AD, 8533 Melrose Ave., Suite B, Los Angeles, CA 90069; Reprise
Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
Lush presents a vision that is sometimes pure stratospheric waltzing, sometimes
ethereal thrash-core, and sometimes (as on the band's version of Abba's 'Hey Hey
Helen') just plain absurd," remarked David Quantick in Spin. Ethereal, moody,
and spooky are certainly often-used terms in describing the British group, but
vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi insisted in Spin, "There is rocking out."
Enigmatic in interviews, Lush bandmembers usually let the songs speak for
themselves and do not mind that they don't get the club play that fellow Brit
dance bands command, instead asserting that they just want respect for what
Quantick called their "tiny-pearl-dropped-into-the-milky-ocean-of-serenity
At the age of 14, Berenyi met future bandmate Emma Anderson at Queen's College
in England. They found they had a common bond: their parents had bounced them
both from school to school depending on family finances at the time. Two years
later, the two teenagers wrote and produced a fanzine called Alphabet Soup,
which only lasted for five issues. In 1988 Berenyi studied English literature at
London's Polytechnic University, where she met drummer Christopher Acland,
bassist Steve Rippon, and singer Meriel Barham. Along with Anderson, they
decided to form their own band. Anderson's friend Kevin Pickering told her he
thought Lush would be a perfect name for a band. Anderson agreed, suggested the
name to the band, and they started writing and rehearsing. After that
conversation, Anderson never saw Pickering again.
On March 6, 1988, Lush played their very first performance at Camden Falcon in
London. Not long after the band's first show, the U.K. press started to take
notice with favorable reviews. But Barham decided he didn't want to stay with
the band and later went on to join Lush's 4AD labelmates, the Pale Saints. The
remaining members of Lush placed ads in local papers looking for Barham's
replacement, but they couldn't find the singer they wanted. Berenyi took over
the vocals, and the band continued to perform in clubs around London.
In January of 1989 Chris Roberts in Melody Maker wrote a rave review of Lush,
describing them as "a delta," "irresistible" and "monstrously wonderful." Once
the magazine hit the street, Lush received nonstop phone calls from record
companies interested in the band. By the summer, 4AD Records had sent them into
the studio with producer John Fryer to record a three-song demo called Etheriel.
Those three songs became the first side of Lush's debut mini-album, titled Scar,
which they released that fall.
When Chris Roberts interviewed Lush for Melody Maker following his original
review, he wrote his impression of the band off the stage: "Lush apologize a
lot, whine a lot, fall silent a lot and say, 'I dunno' a lot." The members of
the band apologized for any flaws they saw in themselves as a brand-new,
still-growing band before any music critic could knock them. But the reviews
remained favorable. Lush became their own worst critics. Though their success
came relatively quickly, they strived to adapt while continuing to improve their
songs and their performances. "I remember when I couldn't play, I wasn't in a
band, didn't know anyone else who could play, and now we've got a record out on
4AD. I sometimes find it impossible to come to terms with what's happening,"
Anderson told Everett True in Melody Maker.
On February 26, 1990, Lush released their next EP, Mad Love, and its first
single, "Sweetness and Light." Produced by Cocteau Twins' guitarist Robin
Guthrie, Mad Love provided another step in their musical growth and got the
attention of Warner/Reprise Records, who licensed the band's releases in the
United States. Lush didn't set out on a certain plan in their career from this
point; they put aside ambition and decided to take things one step at a time.
Anderson and Berenyi continued to write all Lush's material from a "female"
rather than "feminist" point of view, and they immediately became the focal
point of the band. Annie Liebowitz, the world-famous photographer, saw their
picture in a magazine and wanted to set them up as models for the "look of the
'90s" in advertising campaigns for companies like the Gap. But the band
continued to put all their energy into their music. In December of 1990
4AD/Reprise compiled and released Lush's two preceding EPs as Gala, their first
release in the United States. The group named the album after Salvador Dali's
Gala also included a version of the Abba song "Hey Hey Helen," which brought an
onslaught of comparisons between Lush and the Swedish pop/disco group, which
also consisted of two women and two men. Lush received positive initial response
in the United States and moved a little further along the success continuum.
However, Lush continued to apologize and downplayed their progress. "I don't
think we're at all successful ... yet," Anderson told Ted Mico in Melody Maker.
"Are Lush going to be around in five years? Personally, I don't think so."
Despite their pessimism, the members of Lush proceeded with their musical quest.
In April of 1991 they returned to the United States for their second tour
co-headlining with Ride. Then, at the end of the year, bassist Steve Rippon left
the band to concentrate on writing novels full time. To replace him, Lush
approached Philip King, a former New Musical Express journalist, who had played
bass for many U.K. bands, including Felt, and Biff Bang Pow!
With their new lineup in place, Lush headed back into the studio and released
their next EP, For Love, in January of 1992. Later in the year, Lush arrived in
the record stores once again with their next album--also produced by Robin
Guthrie--called Spooky. Although it debuted at Number Seven on the U.K. charts,
it received a negative reaction from the press. Some critics berated the band
for bad songwriting, and others accused Guthrie of subduing the band's talents.
But Lush ignored the press. They toured Great Britain, the United States, and
Europe, then returned to the States to join the second annual Lollapalooza tour
with Pearl Jam, Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, the Jesus and Mary
Chain, and Ice Cube. At the end of the summer, the band took their tour to Japan
Lush spent most of 1993 recording their next album at Rockfield Studios in
Wales, but they did take a break to perform at some special events. Lush played
in 4AD's "13 Year Itch" celebration at England's Institute of Contemporary Art
and joined Rage Against the Machine for a special benefit concert for the
Anti-Nazi League at the Brixton Academy.
On June 14, 1994, Lush released Split, produced by Mike Hedges. In Great
Britain, 4AD simultaneously released two EPs along with the album--Hypocrite and
Desire Lines. Berenyi wrote four of the album's songs, and Anderson wrote the
other eight. Chris Gill in Guitar Player commented, "Split shares moments of
hypnotic, resplendent pleasure-punk and hard, lardy angst-pop" and added that
the album was "easily the British dream-pop band's most varied, cocksure, and
After six years, Lush elaborated more on the concepts behind their songwriting.
"I think the theme on this album is about relationships gone wrong," Anderson
said in the band's press biography. "In some way, it's about parental-childhood
things that happened when you were small. Some of the things will be really
obvious." Berenyi added, "We don't graphically describe everything. They are
about specific events, some of them, but we just sort of poeticize them a bit.
Thoughts and memories, you know."
Scar, 4AD, 1989. Mad Love, 4AD, 1990. Gala, 4AD/Reprise, 1990. For Love, 4AD,
1992. Spooky, 4AD/Reprise, 1992. Split, 4AD/Reprise, 1994. Hypocrite, 4AD, 1994.
Desire Lines, 4AD, 1994.
Books The Trouser Press Record Guide, edited by Ira A. Robbins, Collier Books,
1991. Periodicals Billboard, August 29, 1992; May 7, 1994. Entertainment Weekly,
July 15, 1994. Guitar Player, February 1991; June 1991; September 1994. Melody
Maker, January 28, 1989; March 18, 1989; March 25, 1989; October 14, 1989;
October 21, 1989; February 17, 1990; March 3, 1990; March 24, 1990; November 3,
1990; December 1, 1990; December 15, 1990; April 20, 1991; October 5, 1991;
October 12, 1991; December 21, 1991; January 11, 1992; January 25, 1992;
February 15, 1992; May 23, 1992; February 13, 1993; July 24, 1993. Musician,
June 1992. New Musical Express, June 4, 1994: June 11, 1994. Rolling Stone,
April 16, 1992. Spin, April 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from 4AD/Reprise press
- Sonya Shelton
|Another excellent profile,
up to 1998, by someone who
clearly appreciated Lush. It includes many fascinating details,
however it is also a bit subjective (opinionated?) and contains
some factual errors such as the reason Steve left the band.
A collaborative Web-based community
Walking up the seaside
This is not a joyride
Tell me in the meantime
Lush was originally formed on Halloween, 1988, in London, England, just as
the shoegazer music trend was coming into being. The first of relatively few
different lineups looked like this:
Miki Berenyi, guitar and lead vocals
Emma Anderson, lead guitar and backing vocals
Meriel Barham, guitar and lead vocals
Steve Rippon, bass guitar
Chris Acland, drums
Before recording anything or getting any gigs under their belts, Meriel Barham
left to form The Pale Saints with Chris Cooper, Graeme Naysmith, and Ian
Masters, leaving Miki to take on full lead vocals duties. Meriel's departure
helped the band solidify and before long they'd released their first EP, the
bright yet menacing Scar, in October of 1989. Gigging followed and soon they
were playing all over the UK, and due to the favour that shoegazing held with
music critics at the time, they were all over music industry magazines like
Melody Maker, NME, and others, as well. Like many of the shoegazer bands from
this era, Lush issued an impressive catalogue of EP releases before actually
releasing a full album. In this case, Lush took it a step further and combined
three of their early EPs into their first album, entitled Gala, which was
released in late 1990. It took their first three EPs, Scar, Mad Love, and
Sweetness & Light, threw the tracklists into a blender, and came out as an
album. Multiple versions of two separate songs ("Thoughtforms" and "Scarlet")
appear on Gala, adding to the air of "this is our first album made from EPs"
that the band was exuding at the time.
Enter the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. He'd heard Gala and been mighty
impressed, so he took it upon himself to become the band's producer, and given
his clout in the British music scene, helped them land a record deal with 4AD,
run by his good friend Ivo Watts-Russell. As Guthrie and the band finished up
the recording of Spooky, bassist Steve Rippon left the band, reportedly because
he couldn't endure Guthrie's ego any longer. He was replaced by one-time NME
columnist/full-time bassist Philip King, then most recently of Biff Bang Pow.
Spooky took nearly two years to record, in true Guthrie/Cocteau Twins fashion,
though it turned out to be worth the wait. Upon its release in January 1992,
Lush was one of the biggest draws in the UK. Spooky briefly held the top spot on
the British Indie chart, as well as the non-indie British Top 10. Before long,
Lush was making music videos and touring Europe and North America. Listening to
the album, you can almost hear Robin Guthrie's eyes turning into £ symbols as he
grins like a dog in the booth as the idyllic, layered songs made their way onto
tape and eventually, onto the world. (The best example of Guthrie's influence
during production is probably the song "Nothing Natural.")
Lush was eagerly added to the inaugural Lollapalooza roster in 1992 by its
organizer, Perry Ferrell, the Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman, who
personally requested Lush for his new tour program. Though they were given main
stage status (can you imagine that? Lush, RHCP, Soundgarden, and Ice Cube
sharing a stage? Must've been wild.), they received a rather tepid reception on
that tour due to the huge popularity of grunge metal in the United States at the
time -- Indeed, it isn't difficult to imagine an early 1990s-era American Joe
Average metal fan jamming his hands into his pockets and yelling to his mates:
"Who wants to stand around and listen to this swirly girly shit when The
Screaming Trees are on the next stage over, dude?!" The other non-metal acts on
that tour, like Siouxsie & The Banshees, received similar receptions, but got
along on the tour mostly due to rabid Banshees fans turning up at many of the
tour stops and drowning out the detractors during stage time.
Undaunted, Lush returned home to the UK and began working on material for
their third album, which turned out to be the definitive Split, released in
mid-1994. Split, as it has been described, is where Emma and Miki finally click
and come into their own, emerging from rock band infancy to writing extremely
complex and lyrically stimulating songs, some of which neared the 10-minute
mark. Split was pure dreampop. It wasn't a complete departure from their
previous albums, though the fact that the band had parted ways with Robin
Guthrie allowed them a much greater degree of musical freedom and room to
experiment. Mike Hedges, who had previously produced The Cure, Siouxsie & The
Banshees, and Everything But The Girl, to name a few, was brought in to produce,
and he didn't stand in the band's way. His subtle production allowed for
masterpieces like the eight-minute long opus "Never-never" to come into being.
Guthrie had been producing the band with something of a heavy hand, and his
absence is starkly noticeable here. Split is the most evenly produced of the four
Lush hit the road again in support of Split, touring North America with
Slowdive and Ride during the spring and early summer of 1994. Between stops on
the tour they recorded a video for Split's lead single, "Hypocrite," at a
carnival up the road from one of the tour venues, in a few days.
After appearances at several of the annual music festivals across Europe,
Lush again returned to the UK to begin working on their fourth album, Lovelife,
which was produced by Pete Bartlett. The band spent the middle months of 1995 in
the studio laying down the vocals, guitars, drums, and so forth. The shoegazer
movement had died a violent death at the hands of the British music press, so
Lovelife found Lush adapting their sound for a new era, and as a result, the
album is more pop than anything else, particularly the singles. It was released
right on the heels of the then-new Britpop genre, and the band's new sound did
well based on that. Also notable about this album is a duet between Miki and
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, entitled "Ciao!"
We're both sick
But still you hold my hand
But I understand...
As Lush was making preparations for another tour following the release of
Lovelife in May 1996, everything came to an abrupt halt. The band's drummer,
Chris Acland, who had once been Miki's boyfriend, hanged himself on October 17,
1996. Understandably, this had a huge impact on the band and they ceased all
activity altogether. Bassist Philip King shortly thereafter moved on to play
bass for a small variety of obscure bands, such as De Dannan and August, more or
less becoming a session bassist. Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing in late 1998
with Lisa O'Neill, formerly of Locust.
Miki, devestated by Chris' death, removed herself from public life and
eventually went to work as an editorial assistant for the BBC. According to an
unidentified friend of hers that's still in the music business, "she just wants
to tend her garden, go to work, and move on with life." Though she did
contribute her voice to various songs by The Replacements and Moose, following
the end of Lush, we will probably never see the trademark fire-engine red hair
wildly whipping around as she stomps around the stage in a sequined mini-dress
while beating the hell out of her guitar and effects pedals, and belting out
You're going to die under the sun
And I'll be doomed to carry on
You have become like other men
But let me kiss you once again
You have the sun, I have the moon
Lush officially announced their breakup on February 23, 1998, nearly a year
and a half after Chris' suicide.
official Lush profile
from the 4AD website, covering up to 1996. Also found in the liner notes of the
best-of compilation (Ciao!). Extremely well written and it goes into
many details, but since it was written for
their record label it has a very definite spin.
In a sense, the beginning of Lush was as
inevitable as its ending was not. One of the Nineties' most
unusual, fascinating and confounding independent bands, they
sprang from a friendship formed, at 14, by Londoners Miki
Berenyi and Emma Anderson. In their own words "music was it" -
closer involvement was imperative. They ran a fanzine, attended
a catholic variety of gigs nightly at the likes of Fulham
Greyhound and Hammersmith Clarendon (all rough, all gone). It'd
be ABC one day, then Xmal Deutschland, then Gang Of Four. And
they were learning the ropes in other people's bands - Berenyi
in The Bugs, Anderson in The Rover Girls - working to make "our
band" a reality. Eventually, along with the absurdly good-humoured
Lancastrian punk drummer Chris Acland, and bassist Steve Rippon,
they went out on their own.
For music, the late Eighties were a vibrant
and volatile time. There was acid house, US art-core, death
metal, fledgling industrial and European sampledelia, a rising
Madchester and the shimmering punk pop of The Primitives, plus
the delicate oceanics of The Sundays. Having much in common with
these last two and, attitude-wise, at least three of the others,
Lush were quickly hot property. One review in Melody Maker
brought 12 major labels to see them play at London's ULU. None
called again, but 4AD's Ivo Watts-Russell was interested, soon
putting the band in Blackwing Studios with John Fryer.
"We were kind of punk rock in one way", says
Anderson. "We did think 'Well, if they can do it, why the fuck
can't we?' Basically, our idea was to have extremely loud
guitars with much weaker vocals. And, really the vocals were
weaker due to nervousness - we'd always be going 'Turn them
down! Turn them down!'."
"We weren't good enough musicians to just
jam," continues Berenyi, "so the songs had to come first. We had
to go for good melodies, so I guess we drew on any music we
heard in our youth, anything from The Beatles to Carly Simon,
any pop music. The great swathes of sound, the effects came
after the song, and were probably born of our incompetence and
lack of confidence. We just didn't think we were good enough to
do anything more complicated."
"It made us more open-minded when working with
producers," she adds. "There wasn't this 'Well, we do it this
way' attitude. We were willing to learn. And that's what
happened when we did Scar. That was supposed to be demos because
Ivo still wasn't sure about us. He was completely taken aback by
what came out of that session."
"We started by writing crappy riot grrl
anthems," says Berenyi, "which was probably charming in a
juvenile way. But there was a very rapid shift from the minute
we started to write for records. The music, the lyrics became
much more thoughtful and expressive, more important, really. I
remember that change beginning when Emma wrote Thoughtforms, it
certainly made me think I needed to get my act together."
They all got their acts together quickly, so
much so that Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, producer of
Lush's Mad Love EP and their debut LP, Spooky, was in some
quarters credited with transforming them, even with writing
their material. "Ivo was against us working with Robin," says
Anderson. "People said at the time, 'Don't you think that being
produced by Robin that you're being swamped by the 4AD
collective, that you're not Lush anymore?' But I never saw it
like that. I knew Robin before I knew Ivo and I knew he liked
what we did, and we all loved the Cocteaus anyway. And we had an
enormous amount of freedom, and more loyalty and attention from
the label than most other bands ever got."
"As for Robin writing the songs," says
Berenyi, "they were already written, every part, every
tambourine hit, everything was arranged. Then we went
into the studio and experimented with different sounds.
We did learn a lot from Robin, about sound, about how to
sound bigger. Before him we had, like, two pedals. Then
the next tour we had banks of equipment to reproduce
By the time Spooky
was released in 1992, Rippon had amicably departed, to
be replaced by Phil King (ex of altie legends Felt and
Biff Bang Pow!). The LP went Top 10 in the UK and was an
indie chart-topper. It sold upwards of 120,000 in the US
too, in part due to one of the most glorious chapters in
the Lush story: Lollapalooza II.
"We were bottom of a very heavy bill,"
explains Berenyi "and, though we knew Perry Farrell was
a fan, we felt like we had nothing to lose - we were
just grateful not to get bottled off. As a result we had
zero attitude, simply tried to be pals with everyone.
Bear in mind that this was only the second Lolla and
cynicism and star pecking-order hadn't yet come into it.
Everyone shared the same backstage area, nobody was
treated like royalty. "I guess we 'bonded' mostly with
The Mary Chain (fellow Britishers) and Ministry. There
was a lot of stage invading and leakage from one band to
another. On selected occasions, Lush had Soundgarden's
drummer, Pearl Jam's guitarist (in a dress), Ministry's
drummer (again in a dress) and a naked invasion by two
Ministry roadies (BIG guys) and Mr Lifto from Jim Rose's
performers. We in turn joined Soundgarden (Emma and
Chris on drums during Cop Killer), Pearl Jam (me on
guitar for Keep On Rockin' In The Free World - yes yes,
I know...), The Mary Chain on backing vocals. Ice Cube
was jumping around to Lord knows what. Probably the
Chili Peppers too, but I'd be too drunk to remember. The
other major event was my spectacular, tequila-fuelled
stage dive off a 15-foot stage in Dallas to Ministry
which ended up with a blood soaked dress and 14 stitches
in my head. All in all, an absolutely grand time. I
Having proven beyond all argument
their hellraising credentials, Lush repaired to
Rockfield Studios in Wales with the renowned Mike
Hedges. The recording of Split, their second LP proper
(a collection of their early EPs, entitled Gala, had
been released in the US only) was exceptionally testing.
Expectations of an American breakthrough were high and
the pressure was on. Beyond this, Berenyi and Anderson,
writing separately as usual, were digging deep. A
writing pattern seemed to be emerging. With the likes of
"Hypocrite", Berenyi appeared to be more punky with a
melodic pop edge, her lyrics like confrontational diary
extracts, while Anderson was more impressionistic,
brooding, even progressive, enjoying the sound of words
as much as their meaning, as evinced by her "Desire
Lines". It was not a theory that held up for long.
"Everything was great," says Anderson
about the build-up and reaction to Split. "We got
everything we wanted. Our own tour? We got it. Europe?
We got it. America? Yes. In fact, everything was going
well until Split, when the momentum dropped. We were
immensely pleased with it, even though it had taken so
much out of us. We thought it was the best work we'd
done. So we were disappointed with the reaction - it
sold half as much as Spooky. But, having got through
that bad time, when the carpet really felt like it was
being pulled out from under us, we really did get
stronger. Strangely, it really boosted our confidence."
Despite its musical bravado and
violent lyrical honesty - "We both seemed to move
between massive self-hatred and violent accusation of
other people," says Anderson - Split was seen as a
disaster, and changed the band's approach.
"With me it was a case of once
bitten," explains Berenyi. "I felt I'd written extremely
personally on Split and had that dismissed incredibly
glibly. I felt I had to back off because I couldn't
really take that reaction, to my stuff or to Emma's. I
mean, "When I Die" was all about her father dying, it
was really poignant and that was ignored - not so much
in Europe or the US, but certainly in the UK."
As is often the case, failure proved
liberating. While the pressure came off, new enthusiasm
was injected by the arrival of new manager Peter
Felstead. The band threw themselves into recording what
would be their final LP, Lovelife. Exploding the myth of
their individual writing styles, the "brooding and
progressive" Anderson wrote the shimmering pop hit
"Single Girl", and "500" (about a little Fiat), while
Berenyi maintained her confrontational rep with the
bruising, brilliant "Ladykillers", then undermined it
utterly with the mournful, pastoral "Papasan".
"I remember the first track I wrote
for the LP was "Ladykillers"," says Berenyi "and it took
me nearly three weeks to write it because I'd had such a
bruising to my self-confidence as a songwriter with
Split. I decided to fill the song full of every bloody
corny gimmick I could think of - simpler harmonies,
handclaps, sudden stops, etc, a kind of 'give 'em what
they want' thing. Of course, my idea of commercialism is
still a long, long way from other people's. "Ciao!" may
be a lilting duet with Jarvis Cocker but it's still
basically two people telling each other to fuck off."
The combination of this freedom with a
growing experience and expertise obviously took Lush
onto a new creative plane. So obviously, in fact, that
the pressure was immediately back on to break America.
Now the touring became back-breaking and repetitive.
During yet another US tour - this time with the perhaps
inappropriate Gin Blossoms and Goo Goo Dolls - even the
fans began to ask why the band were playing so often.
The frustration and bad feeling within the band grew
inexorably. Acland, ordered to rest by his doctor,
returned to his parents' home in the Lake District.
Anderson, dissatisfied with her current position, called
a meeting and announced her departure. "It was total
overkill," says Anderson "I felt like a product being
shoved down people's throats. It felt soulless."
"Everyone was sick of touring," says
Berenyi "and Emma said she didn't want to go through
anything like the Lovelife experience ever again. She
thought we should continue without her ('Well, look at
Suede') but I said no way. Things were left at that with
no definite decision. Being the eternal optimist, I
believe it was rocky but it would have continued, gone
in a totally different direction. Then two days later we
heard about Chris."
Up in the Lakes - horribly, terribly -
Acland had hanged himself. "For me," says Berenyi "That
was the end. There was no way on earth I could have gone
on with Lush without him, because I always firmly
believed that without his benign influence Emma and I
would have torn each other apart years ago. Not to
mention the obvious fact that he was one of my closest
friends ever and there was very little else I wanted to
do without him, for that matter. So I guess to Emma the
end was aready in sight. For me personally, it was
Chris's death, and Chris's death only that finished
Lush. I enjoyed being in the band immensely, I'm glad I
did it. But that really was a full stop, his personality
was such a major part of the band."
It should have come as no surprise
that Acland's death finished Lush. Privately and
professionally, in their joyful celebrations and their
painful (and far more frequent) self-examinations, they
were in the business of living life, really living it.
Such a tragedy, the loss of their life and soul, could
only serve to drain the fun from their adventures. The
fun, of course, is vital to the Lush story. It was a
raison d'etre and, incredibly, held them back as the UK
was gripped first by grunge melancholia and then by
po-faced, swaggering Britpop.
Their talent and their exuberance
though had already made a difference. Particularly in
the States, where their music was deeply respected and
their lyrics - often moving, rigorous and earthy
appraisals of themselves and their relationships, their
nature and nurturing - were a motivating force for
female songwriters. As well as being accidental icons
(the best kind), Lush also made exceptional music:
classic pop, fiery punk, soaring ambient and a modern,
lilting folk. It can be harrowing - fun or fraught,
these are recognisably real life experiences. But it's
all worthwhile, all of it. And few bands could
truthfully say that.
- Dominic Wills
|This article appeared
in one of the largest newspapers in England. It gives a brief overview the band's career,
including the years between the original breakup and the reunion,
and what was going on behind the scenes. It was published the
day before the Chorus
box set was released in the UK, 3 months before the first
For an in-depth look at the band up to 1996, see the
May 1996 issue
of Record Collector magazine
December 3, 2015
Ethereal, angelic shoegazers or boozy scenesters? Seventeen
years after they split up, Lush talk about their legacy – and
why they have reformed
Officially, Lush broke up in February 1998, when they issued
a statement as a courtesy to their fans. In reality, they were
done the minute they heard that their drummer, Chris Acland, had
killed himself on 17 October 1996. “I didn’t even want the
publicity of splitting up,” singer and guitarist Miki Berenyi
says. “I thought: isn’t it fucking obvious? We knew it was over.
Fuck the rest of the world. I just retreated completely.”
It was a shocking conclusion for an intensely likable band
who always looked as if they were having fun even when they
weren’t. Though they were bracketed with the shoegazing scene,
they had their own distinct charisma. Neither experimental like
Slowdive nor besotted with classic rock like Ride, they wrote
fantastic pop songs. Their name suggested the luxuriant swirl of
their records, while actually repurposing a disparaging term for
a heavy drinker.
Drinking red wine on a couch in a London hotel library for
their first joint interview in 19 years, Lush are still
excellent company. Berenyi, instantly recognisable even though
her distinctive shocking-pink 90s hair is now ink-black, gets
told off for vaping indoors. Co-frontman Emma Anderson wages a
war of nerves with a passive-aggressive desk clerk who keeps
silently opening the library door. Silver-haired bassist Phil
King regularly interjects with wry, elegant anecdotes, like an
indie Peter Ustinov.
Lush toyed with reuniting as far back as 2007 but it didn’t
seem like the right time. “To be honest, I thought we were a bit
forgotten,” Berenyi says. “There were books coming out about
[90s music] and we barely got a bloody whisper.”
“I always felt we were seen as followers,” Anderson says,
disgruntled. “My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and the Jesus
and Mary Chain were the sonic geniuses and the other bands were
copying. Now, nicely, it feels like we’re seen as influential
When Lush saw
Slowdive and Ride reform to great acclaim, they figured it was
now or never. Hence a gorgeous new soup-to-nuts boxset, a
brand-new EP next year, and live shows in the spring with
Acland’s old friend Justin Welch, formerly of Elastica, on
drums. Berenyi was inspired to take the plunge by reading the
section in Viv Albertine’s memoir about “the Year of Saying
Yes”. “That did resonate with me,” she says. “I thought this is
the last chance I’ve got to do anything like that again. It’s an
open door and I should walk through it.”
It’s dismaying to learn that Berenyi and Anderson fell out
for several years after Acland’s death because much of Lush’s
appeal stemmed from their tight, if sometimes tense, friendship
and simpatico songwriting. They met at Queen’s College in
Westminster when they were 14, both misfits in an environment of
privilege. Berenyi’s mother, a Japanese actor who appeared in
You Only Live Twice and Space:1999, had recently moved to the
US, leaving Miki with her father, a womanising Hungarian
journalist, and her misanthropic, alcoholic grandmother.
Anderson had been adopted (a fact she only discovered when she
was 34) by a retired army officer and his wife who lived in a
veterans’ club. “I think we were both quite isolated in our
homes,” Berenyi says. “It was like: ‘You’re weird, and I’m
weird, too.’ We could trust each other.”
The two girls wrote a fanzine specialising in gothic rock and
rude jokes and played bass in other people’s bands. After
leaving school and meeting Acland at North London Polytechnic,
they decided to start their own group, originally called the
Baby Machines. “If you went to the [Camden] Falcon, half the
people there were in bands,” Berenyi says. “Whether you wanted
to write a fanzine or sell your own clothes in Camden or start
up a club, all those artistic things were possible on a
shoestring and lots of people would join in. We just wanted to
be part of it.”
Their early shows, Anderson says, were “pretty rough”, and
their first singer, Meriel Barham, left to join the Leeds band
Pale Saints, also on 4AD, with whom they often shared bills
early on. However, a glowing write-up in Melody Maker caught the
eye of the 4AD label’s enigmatic founder Ivo Watts-Russell, who
saw in Lush the potential that other A&R men missed. He
dispatched them to famous singing teacher Tona de Brett and
invited them to record a mini-album, 1989’s Scar. Show by show,
they improved, until they were one of the hottest young bands.
“We didn’t start off as proficient musicians,” Berenyi says. “I
became a singer by default. We could literally only play the
songs we wrote. We went on tour with Ride and at the soundcheck
they started jamming.” She shudders. “Not us.”
In the restless, gossipy music weeklies, Lush were saddled
with two conflicting images. Thanks to glittering, sensuous
records, such as their 1992 album Spooky, produced by Cocteau
Twins’ Robin Guthrie, they were ethereal shoegazers with voices
like angels’ sighs. At the same time, they were boozy scenesters
who, King jokes, would “turn up to the opening of a packet of
crisps”. Neither stereotype was accurate.
Berenyi recently appeared in the BBC Four documentary Girl in
a Band, talking about being being asked to strike provocative
poses for photographers and getting bitten on the rear by Blur’s
Alex James. “It just felt like, oh fucking hell, we’re doing it
again,” she says. “Hasn’t it moved on? There was always
back-biting: ‘Oh, it’s because you’re girls that you get the
attention.’ A lot of people wrote us off.”
Still, the attention accelerated their rise. They acquired a
manager called Howard Gough, a notorious loose cannon prone to
extravagant acts of largesse with Lush’s credit card. “When I
read Kill Your Friends, I thought: ‘That’s Howard!’” says King,
who joined Lush in 1991. “If we did a good gig, he’d say: ‘We
were brilliant!’ If we did a shit gig, he’d say: ‘You were
Gough did, however, wangle Lush the opening slot on Perry
Farrell’s 1992 Lollapalooza tour of the US. Anderson and Berenyi
were the only women to appear on the main stage, unless you
count the industrial rock group Ministry’s dancers, which you
probably shouldn’t. Among their touring companions, Ministry
were fun, Pearl Jam gracious, the Red Hot Chili Peppers
obnoxious and Ice Cube standoffish. “We wrote on his mirror:
‘Hey Cube, say hi to Lush,’ in lipstick,” Anderson remembers.
“He came in and said: ‘Some people got no respect.’ We were
Making their 1994 album, Split, with producer Mike Hedges was
much less enjoyable. By the time they were mixing the record in
Hedges’ gloomy French residential studio in the middle of
winter, Berenyi says: “The madness had set in. We were isolated.
Mike lost interest, our manager went Awol, our A&R man went
Awol, Ivo had had enough of 4AD. It was mixed and remixed. It
was fucking endless, actually.”
With songs about death, infidelity and neglect, Split was a
dark, introspective album that jarred with the beginning of the
Britpop party. It fared badly and the music press soured on
Lush. “We weren’t getting in the charts so we were called
underachievers,” Anderson says. “Maybe they felt they’d given us
a lot of attention but we weren’t reaching the dizzy heights of
the Top 10. So when Split came out it was like: ‘Well, we can
give up on this band.’” With 1996’s Lovelife, however, Lush
wrote their sharpest, most emphatic songs, including three Top
40 hits and a duet with man-of-the-moment Jarvis Cocker. “It was
a really good record for enjoying ourselves,” Berenyi says. “We
got our confident moment.” One music magazine photographed Lush
in gladrags, grasping a bottle of Moet. Good times, only not
really. Watts-Russell had experienced a nervous breakdown and
Gough’s replacement as manager was a bad fit. “We had no one to
rely on,” Anderson says. “It all started unravelling.”
During the 1990s, the music industry was in the throes of
delirium. Cash-drunk major labels wasted millions on bidding
wars and marketing ploys for anyone who looked remotely like the
Next Big Thing, thus burdening bands with unnecessary debt and
unrealistic expectations. For every alternative band that
crossed over, a dozen were driven to distraction.
In Britain, Lush were pitched into the world of “comedy
Friday night bullshit”, which was grating if not without its
surreal pleasures. “It was quite fun going from the rarefied
world of 4AD to the Radio 1 roadshow in Hunstanton with Simon
Mayo in a fatsuit dancing at the side of the stage,” King says
drily. In the US, they toured relentlessly in pursuit of a pop
breakthrough that never happened, and that they didn’t really
want anyway. Anderson agrees with a comment from their A&R man
at Warner Brothers, the late Tim Carr, who said Lush were a
great indie band, but they weren’t the Cranberries or the
Sundays. “Warner Brothers thought they would turn us into a
mainstream act who would sell a million, and actually it wasn’t
fair. We still wouldn’t have made any money, our debts were so
large,” Anderson says.
After yet another US tour, Anderson called a meeting to tell
Berenyi she’d had enough. “I said I’m quite happy to record an
album of Gregorian chants if that’s what you want to do but I
think it’s really important that we stay together,” Berenyi
remembers. “We left the meeting like: ‘OK, let’s see.’ Two days
later we got the phone call.”
Acland had hanged himself at his parents’ house in Cumbria.
Nobody had seen it coming. His bandmates knew he was taking
Prozac, anxious about turning 30 and unhappy about a recent
breakup, but he gave no indication that he was suicidal. During
Lush’s last US tour, they had spent a night in a New York bar
with the singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel. Acland was ebullient
while King got miserably drunk. After Acland’s death, Eitzel
wrote a touching account of the night, Lower Eastside Tourist,
but when King heard it he realised that Eitzel had got the wrong
man: he’d assumed the bassist was the suicidal one.
“I know it’s a cliche but [Chris] was the last person in the
world you’d think would do something like this,” King says.
“That’s the thing with suicide. You can’t make sense of it. You
keep going back to look for the clues, and there aren’t any.”
Berenyi, who had dated Acland, was shattered by his death.
“Chris’s suicide was the worst thing that had ever happened to
me,” she says. “I was completely floored by it. I remember going
to Sainsburys and running after some bloke who looked like
Chris. I had a meltdown at some gig. Steve Lamacq came up, being
very sweet, and I completely lost it, crying. I thought, there
are all these people that I know and I don’t want to talk to any
of them, I just want to talk to Chris. I needed to change
Anderson is now a bookkeeper but had another band, Sing-Sing,
for 10 years. King juggles journalism with playing in the Jesus
and Mary Chain. Only Berenyi, who also became a journalist, gave
up music all together, bar three sporadic, low-key guest vocals.
King teasingly calls her “the Greta Garbo of indie”, but Berenyi
wasn’t trying to be enigmatic; she just wanted to be normal.
“To be honest, in the last year or two of the band I started
to turn into a bit of an arsehole,” Berenyi says. “Being in a
band does that to you. You just lose yourself, and you’re
constantly tempted to lose yourself. There are all sorts of
people preying on you and wanting you to be a certain kind of
person and it’s hard to stand against that. ‘Miki from Lush’ was
a different person to what I really am and it wasn’t a nice
person to be.”
For the next few months, at least, she will be “Miki from
Lush” once more, but not in the same way. This time they have
more control and less pressure, which is what they wanted all
along. At one point Anderson is complaining about some long-ago
argument with the record label when she stops herself with a
self-mocking: “I’m not bitter.” Everyone laughs.
“No, really!” she says. “Why is it working now? Because that
shit doesn’t matter any more.”
- Dorian Lynskey
Postscript: Miki looks back at
the highs and lows of the 2016 reunion after it was all over, on
Vapour Trail Blog
|This is the official
bio from the band's reunion website, posted in late 2015 and
left unchanged throughout the 2016 reunion. It is very brief but is
included here for completeness.
20 years after Lush’s last studio recording
and live shows, the band are reforming to play a series of shows
visiting North America, the UK and mainland Europe.
Occasionally corralled into both the
'shoegaze' and 'Britpop' scenes, Lush applied their fusion of
layered guitars and harmonised melodies to spiky pop songs,
sparkling soundscapes, spacey indie-dance and thrilling blasts
of full-on noise.
Emma Anderson, Miki Berenyi and Phil King are
back on board, but the tragic loss of Chris Acland is heartfelt.
The band officially announced their split in February 1998, but
the end had come in October 1996 when, completely unexpectedly,
Chris committed suicide, leaving his shocked and grieving
bandmates feeling that it was impossible to carry on without
“Even now,” says Miki, “it won’t be at all
easy knowing Chris won’t be there. We know you can’t recapture
what you had before but, hopefully, it will be brilliant in a
Justin Welch, a good friend of Chris’ who
played for Spitfire and then Elastica, will be standing in on
drums. “After Chris died, we gave his snare drum to Justin,”
says Emma. “He's not replacing Chris in any sense, but it's good
to be playing with someone who was close to him.”
Justin also worked with Emma on the initial
demos for her post-Lush band project Sing-Sing, while Miki cut
all her ties with music except for the very occasional guest
vocal. Phil became a long-standing member of The Jesus & Mary
Chain but, having completed their Psychocandy tour in 2015, was
free to reunite with Lush. "It's been tricky to organise,
because we have jobs and family commitments, but the time just
seemed right," says Phil.
For Lush fanatics, and anyone who keen to
immerse themselves in the band’s legacy, 4AD has released a
beautifully packaged box set with artwork by Chris Bigg who,
alongside design chief Vaughan Oliver, comprised v23, the
artwork team responsible for 4AD's iconic covers of the Eighties
and Nineties. The box consists of a five-disc set, comprising
the early compilation Gala (1990), the three studio albums
Spooky (1992) , Split (1994) and Lovelife (1996), and the
B-sides collection Topolino (the Canadian version, also 1996),
plus all manner of rarities (B-sides, radio sessions, remixes
and demos, some previously unreleased).
But that was then, when Lush were part of a
thrilling explosion of British guitar bands who took on the
mainstream (interesting fact: they are the only 4AD band to have
been on Top Of The Pops). In 2001, 4AD released a Lush Best Of,
which was named after their 1996 single ‘Ciao!” which in one
sense, served as a belated ‘wave goodbye’. With their return,
Lush are not merely reviving their legacy, but adding to it.
Their new EP, Blind Spot, is due for release in April. Watch
Even more in-depth info on
Lush up to 1996:
May 1996 issue
of Record Collector magazine