In a year that witnessed yet another British Invasion, the English band that connected best with American critics as well as fans was Elastica. The band’s hook-filled two-minute anthems recalled the no-rules invention of the late-’70s punk explosion (and occasionally borrowed riffs from groups like Wire and the Stranglers). Nursing a hangover from alcohol, ecstasy and techno the night before, Elastica’s singer/songwriter Justine Frischmann took time to reflect on the band’s accomplishments in ’95 and look ahead to where she, guitarist Donna Matthews, drummer Justin Welch and new bassist Abby Travis are going.
Elastica toured the United States four times last year. What was the highlight?
Lollapalooza, actually, because it was such an extreme American rock experience. I really did enjoy watching a lot of the bands we played with from the side of the stage. I think when we came here the second time, it was really amazing because our video [“Connection”] was on MTV, and people were coming up and saying, “Do that face!”
You play to ever-increasing crowds. Are you concerned about a backlash?
I think people appreciate what we’re doing. I was wary coming here, because of the experiences Blur had, but I had no idea what we’d encounter. It helps that there’s less hype here than in England. The whole MTV thing is insane, but generally the music press tends to be more responsible.
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Were there any interviews where you weren’t asked about Wire?
Yeah, a few. It was interesting because there are a lot of Wire fans around, obsessive ones, and it’s great. I’m a fan. I think they inspire a kind of loyalty that goes beyond anything else, beyond the usual band/fan relationship.
You ‘re very fond of the punk and New Wave eras. Do you see any parallels to the current alternative-rock boom?
People were making their own rules then, which is a good thing. The press was really positive, and I think that’s happening again in England. There’s the feeling bands are doing something different, changing the mainstream. Oasis, Blur and Pulp have all had No. 1 singles, and the last time anything like that was happening was the early 1980s.
Are you amused by the lengths that male writers have gone to to find a politically correct way to say that you’re a babe?
Handsome is my favorite; my mother hates that word every time she sees it. [Laughs] I seriously think that in rock & roll, if you’re a woman and you’ve got two arms and two legs, you’re bound to be considered a sex symbol. Generally, people don’t frighten me. I enjoy speaking to them. I feel quite unshockable. I don’t mind it when they’re flirting with me; I’d rather that than them being shy. I had an interesting case of that the other night in Springfield, Mass. I went to get a hot dog at this all-night truck, and I ended up at 4 in the morning eating hot dogs outside with these drunk men. There was this incredibly drunk man kissing my hands, and these guys behind me were arguing about whether I was or wasn’t the girl in Elastica, and they were going [sings the riff from “Connection”], “Dah dah-dah dah, dah dah-dah dah.” But I was really drunk myself, so none of this bothered me.
I gather you don’t have a problem with eating meat.
Actually, I was a vegetarian until the last American tour, but I fell off the wagon. I still can’t eat steak, but I love hot dogs. You can’t really get them in England. The first thing I did when I got home was go straight to the deli, but they’re not the same there. They’re the best thing to eat when you’ve got a hangover, and they’re the only choice in airports.
You live with Damon Albarn of Blur and two cats. Who’s more trouble?
I had to give one of my cats away. It just got totally stressed because I kept leaving it to go on tour. It kept relieving its bladder all around our apartment. I was probably more fond of that cat than anything else, and I had to pack it up in a box and send it off to a new home. I definitely felt like I was making a sacrifice for my career. Damon is definitely not good at housekeeping. He makes an effort, but the last time I got home from tour, none of the light bulbs worked. There was one bulb that he had to change and take with him whenever he went from the kitchen to the bathroom. There was no food in the fridge and dirty laundry everywhere. But he functions like this. I’m not going to pick up after him.
Bassist Annie Holland quit during Lollapalooza. What happened?
She left on good terms. It was really her saying, “I love you guys, but I don’t want to do this anymore.” She was tired of the grind. Either you like this lifestyle or you don’t.
So what’s coming up for Elastica in 1996?
We just recorded a single [“I Want You”] with Flood and Alan Moulder, and we’re gearing up to work on a new album. It’s exciting because it’s a new band with Abby. The dynamic has changed. With Annie there was a particular sound that she favored, and anything outside of that she didn’t really want to try. She was into the more punk stuff. I think we’ll be getting beyond the guitar, bass and drums stuff, using more keyboards and doing more with the rhythms and longer song structures. “I Want You” is five minutes long, but I don’t think it’s going to bore anyone to tears. Ultimately, everything we do is always going to be defined by our [punk-pop] aesthetic. We played to a lot of people last year, and I’m totally happy to stay at the level we’re on as long as people are interested in our music. In many ways I don’t want to get any bigger. We’re not compromised by the mainstream, but I feel like we’ve reached an audience. We’ve connected.