The Charlatans have become one of UK music's institutions. In my review of the new record I wrote that for music fans of a certain age, it would seem strange for there not to be a new album from them every couple of years. 'Simpatico' is the latest in a career which dates back to 1990.

During the week prior to the release of the new record, the band held a press day at the offices of Sanctuary Records. I duly formed the orderly queue and bagged my half hour or so with Tim Burgess and Martin Blunt, although one was missing as we got things underway. During this interview we cover the new record, festivals, which classic might not be played live this year and what was one of the best days of Tim's life.

R13: What are the expectations of this record?
T: Well we'd like as many people to hear it as possible. We've been doing a lot of press recently so hopefully it'll be a global smash.

R13: What would you be happy with and what would you be disappointed by?
T: I guess we always get disappointed by imagining that nobody gets to hear it. It's all about being able to communicate with an audience after all.

R13: Does the impact of a single matter?
T: It kinda like leads people into the album, gives a taster for the album really.

R13: The current single went top 30.
T: I was very happy with that.

R13: What music were you listening to that inspired you with this new record, there are three tracks that have a noticeable reggae influence?
T: like dub, like a rude boy (laughs). There was one that started out sounding like 'White Man in Hammersmith Palais' but ended up sounding like The Specials. We were listening to early Gregory Isaacs (laughs again), early Ken Booth...

During this last answer the bass player Martin Blunt wandered in.

M: Towards the end of the tour for 'Up At The Lake' there were a lot of things we were in agreement with at the back of the bus when it came to putting stuff on the CD player. We were listening to a lot of Studio 1 as we'd just signed to Sanctuary at that point and they had a whole plethora of old dub and reggae stuff. The other thing was the LCD Soundsystem album which I still really like. So I think that was our train of thought when it came to starting this album.

R13: Another thing which struck me aside from the reggae influence is that it seems to be quite a mellow record in comparison to previous ones.
T: Towards the end it certainly is, it gets slower and slower. I don't know whether it's a mellow record as such...
M: I think the lyrics are very dark Tim, and that's a good way of giving people a false since of security. I do agree some of the music is quite mellow, but if you put on top of that some quite dark lyrics it puts a new complexity on the thing you're listening too.

R13: I think it comes across as quite mellow on CD but I imagine that when it's played live it will be anything but.
M: Hmmm. I think there's one thing we can say that is after sixteen years, the sound has always been much bigger live, wouldn't you agree Tim?
T: I would. I don't know why that is, I guess it's volume or power. We've always been taken very seriously as a live band. It's just trying to get all that noise onto one CD.

R13: Another thing which instantly stands out is how 'Black and Blue eyes' is as stereotypical sounding a Charlatans single as you could wish to find. Is that something you consciously do or does that just happen that way.
T: Mmm, it does actually yeah.
M: With that track, the music came from a session on one particular day. It was done about one in the morning and we sent it over to Tim and Mark who were working over in Palm Springs writing and mapping things out, and you came up with lyrics for it almost straight away didn't you?
T: Yeah, I just found it really inspiring...very Charlatans-esque.
M: it wasn't a conscious thing really. I did have a friend though who when he heard it the first time on radio did have to pull up and phone me and say "There's a band on 'ere sounds just like you, is that a compliment or not?"

R13: It's the keyboard thing that does it; you just instantly know who it is.
M: Yeah yeah, it's not a conscious thing but it is part of our sound and I'm glad we do have that, like a trademark of the band.

R13: I think every band needs that.
M: Yeah I know they do don't they. We've just always been very conscious of not turning into something which becomes a parody, or turning into your own tribute band. I think 'Black and Blue Eyes' is the right side of that.

R13: Have you ever seen a Charlatans tribute band?
M: There was one in Japan I think wasn't there Tim?
T: Charlie Tones I think.
M: Can't think of a British one though.

R13: The other track I wanted to ask specifically about was 'Sunset and Vines', what was the idea behind that?
('Sunset and Vines' is an instrumental track which closes the album.)
T: It's quite upbeat and light in comparison to some of the lyrics which are quite dark. For me 'Sunset and Vines' reminds me of a place down the bottom of my road and every Sunday they have a market, a bit like Nottinghill I guess, loads of street stalls, I love the place. I guess it's just like a nod towards that...I just like to name check places really.
M: It was always set out to be an instrumental. I'd say with what was being pulled on to get this album more than 'Up At The Lake' it was all coming from the same area, same taste, and towards the end of the recording session that one went down and it just leant itself to about three or four different tracks on the album and so just had to go on the LP.

R13: So when it comes to touring the record, how much say do you get in terms of what festivals you play, how does that work?
M: You get asked.

R13: So with a band your size it's not a question of wanting to do one, like you did Reading last year, you're doing V this year.
M: That's true, you really just get asked. How long ago did we get asked to do V this year Tim?
T: It was just after the tour went on sale I think.
M: We're looking forward to V. Everybody's got this thing about "Oh it's this big corporate event, you get attacked and bombarded with sponsorship left right and centre", which I could see at the time but I think it's receded a bit now.

R13: It's a good festival, and varied. I mean where else would you get Radiohead and Girls Aloud on the same line-up?
M: I know. We enjoy them. We're up at T in the Park this year which I'm really glad has lasted. I think it's the twelfth year of that.
T: Didn't we play last year?
M: Year before, I remember the first time we got invited it was actually the second one and it was in Hamilton. I'm glad something up north has lasted that long.

R13: Given that you've been playing festivals for a number of years now do you get frustrated by turning up and finding you're lower down than a band with only one album who gets longer to play and struggles to fill the time?
T: Do you mean last year with Razorlight?
R13: And the Killers.
T: (laughs) Oh well you know the Killers...the Killers aren't really my favourite band in the world so I don't really care what they do.
R13: It was noticeable though how there were big gaps between some of the songs and they seemed to be really stretching it out.
M: You mean with their one album.
T: We didn't have a record out last year though.
M: Yeah and that was quite random the way we were just asked "Do you wanna come and do Reading". The last time we did Reading we headlined. We still enjoyed it last year...
T: I didn't enjoy it; it was a bit too light.
M: Yeah. See we first got asked to do Reading in 1990 and we said we weren't ready for it. I'm glad we waited for when 'Between 10th and 11th' was out.
T: Na it was just more money really. (Sarcastic laugh)
M: We would have had those big gaps though and twenty-five minute versions of songs.
R13: And what year was that?
M: 1991, we were on just before the Wonderstuff. I remember that year it was brilliant. We'd just taken a real slagging off from the music press and we walked on there and I think converted quite a lot of people that night.

R13: So how has the festival experience changed both for fans but also from a bands point of view, must be unrecognizable?
M: Oh yeah it has, more toilets for a start. I find that people now seem to get their tickets even though nobody has even been named as playing. It's moved on from Glastonbury now, like the V thing sold out even before everyone was known.

R13: Partly because there's no Glastonbury this year but it's changed a lot from my first festival. Just recently in the last couple of years it's become the most fashionable thing in the world to go to a festival.
M: Yeah I know, I had friends phone me up for V worried they weren't going to get tickets.

R13: Given how many albums you've had out and the amount of hits from them, which do you still look forward to playing and are there any you really can't stand?
M: I wouldn't say there's any we really can't stand. There's some where they do start to sound like a parody of the song, like either getting over cooked or it's just not working. For a while with 'The Only One I Know' it just wasn't working so we had to leave it out. I think there's some singles we'll drop this time round just to give them a bit of a rest.
R13: Like what?
M: 'North Country Boy'.
T: I love that song.
M: Oh alright we'll leave it in then (laughs). We've discussed it lightly but we'll probably end up having a big argument here if we carry on.

R13: Last thing, and I know this is going back a while, but Tim what was it like supporting the Stones at Wembley Arena?
T: Amazing... one of the best days of my life. They're possibly my favourite band and being able to stand and watch them sound check was really special.

R13: And have you any plans to do more solo stuff?
T: Not really. I guess I'll have to think about it one day but not for the moment.

And with that my time was up and the promotional conveyer belt moved on.

I guess it's the same anticipation that any band has when a new record is about to arrive, but it was interesting how, Tim especially, once he knew I'd heard the album, was keen to know what I thought of it:

"Did you find it as strange as a lot of people seem to have done?" he asked me no sooner had I sat down and got passed the initial introductions.

To find out exactly what I did think of it
click here.