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Modern Times

One of the best post-grunge pop bands Britain had to offer, Sleeper were undervalued at the height of Britpop for daring to have a charismatic frontwoman songwriter. Back, after 22 years, with a sparkling new album, singer Louise Wener and drummer Andy MacLure tell John Earls why they refuse to get too cosy after being away for so long

In just two years, Sleeper scored three Top 10 albums. In some ways, they were the ultimate Britpop band: their singer was a quote magnet, their hits such as Inbetweener and Sale Of The Century were snappy and memorable. But, perhaps because Louise Wener wasn’t male, there was resentment towards Sleeper, too.

“The music press was so leaden and serious back then,” sighs Louise. “It was hard to get any humour across. There was a basic sexism, too; this fake shock of, ‘Oh, it’s a woman at the helm! Writing the songs!’ Because of that, the men in the band had to be diminished in some way.” Most obviously, that was in the term ‘Sleeperbloke’. Coined initially to describe Louise’s bandmates, guitarist Jon Stewart, drummer Andy MacLure and bassist Diid Osman, Sleeperbloke soon became shorthand for any supposedly anonymous man in a female-fronted band.

“The term Sleeperbloke would never have been used about anyone in an allmale band,” says Louise. “Most bands have a charismatic lead singer, it’s the job! The other guys are automatically in the background by comparison. In the 90s, the offers were, ‘We’ll put Sleeper on the cover, but only if it’s a picture of just Louise’. So as a band, we were constantly involved in a lot of horrible bartering.”

It seems cruel that, as soon as Sleeper announced vital comeback album The Modern Age, a quiz from joke site Monkeon went viral asking people to guess the band from the anonymous Sleeperbloke. There was at least one important difference in the 2019 version. “This time, there were all-male bands deemed to include Sleeperblokes,” notes Andy MacLure. “It didn’t used to be like that: Only femalefronted bands had Sleeperblokes in the 90s. It was a terrible, misogynistic way of operating. I thought that viral quiz was quite funny, though. I scored 10/10 on it – those band members are my people, after all.”

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Long Live Vinyl - Apr 2019: Record Store Day
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