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Rock: Bluetones taking their fame as it comes; By Penny Fray.

HIGH profile bands have been and gone since the beginning of the so-called Brit Pop era of the 1990s.

But chart-topping group the Bluetones have survived the tides of change and are now commencing the summer of 2002 with a series of gigs dubbed the Bluetones Promenader.

Despite the fact that they've never courted much media attention during their careers, the four Londoners continue to amass a rabid following around the country.

As a ``real'' group who write their own songs, perform live and play different instruments, guitarist Adam Devlin isn't surprised by their on-going popularity.

``People know who we are but not our private lives and that's a good thing,'' he says. ``We're happy to feel famous only while playing gigs.''

They say they have no interest in courting newspaper headlines and that their objective from the start was to be ``loved by hundreds'' rather than ``quite liked by thousands''. And nothing has changed in the last eight years.

``I'm glad to say that we've stayed true to ourselves,'' says Adam, as he potters around the kitchen.

``We never had a master plan. We just didn't want to become rock caricatures that got divorced a couple of times and then developed a drug habit. We just wanted to play music.''

During the Britpop explosion of 1995 the band sneaked through the doors of chart success. But placing them in the same genre as Oasis or the Super Furry Animals seems a mistake, seeing that their influence mostly comes from the likes of Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young rather than the Kinks or The Beatles.

Yet they're proud of the fact that they're not one of those groups formed from the small ads.

Mark Morris (vocals), his brother Scott (bass) and Ed Chesters (drums) spent hours practising in a garage and playing in pubs and clubs around the country until a record company took notice of them. Their second single Bluetonic was a top 20 hit, while Slight Return entered the UK charts at number two.

``We were lucky in that we were Londoners and Brit Pop was taking off at the time,'' says Adam. ``But it wasn't a case of overnight success. We worked hard for two years gigging around Britain.''

For this reason, Adam finds it difficult to accept the instant fame of highly marketed singers created by programmes like Popstars.

``The music industry is changing and not for the better,'' he says. ``Live bands are finding it difficult to be signed by big record companies unless large profits are guaranteed. And it frightens us to death that the Gorkies are being replaced with the likes of Pop Idol's Darius.''

Signed to multi-million pound record company Mercury, they say they are pretty much left to their own musical devices.

``We were with a small division of Polydor called A&M and had a great relationship with the people there,'' he says. ``But since being swallowed up by Mercury we've been virtually ignored.''

Fortunately, people still recognise their name on billboards and flock to see The Bluetones play live.

Having just finished a national tour the band have now decided to do something a bit different by taking their show to rural venues.

``We're only doing eight gigs so we needed a theme. That's why we decided to play in seaside places,'' says Adam. ``We've already done Aberystwyth and thought it would be great to play in Bangor for a change. After all, it's near enough to the sea.

``Small towns and cities host the best shows because audiences are excited to see bigger bands perform there.''

Besides, they were curious to see where their pop acquaintances the Super Furry Animals started out.

``We know the guys from the Super Furry Animals because our paths have crossed in the past,'' explains Adam. ``We bumped into each other in Tokyo four years ago and went clubbing where one of Boris Yeltsin's body guards was drinking. It was truly a surreal experience being in the middle of these big, intimidating Russians and small Japanese fans.

``We tried to ask why they were there but our spoken Russian wasn't good enough and hand gestures got us nowhere.''

The Blutones have a devoted fan base in Japan as well as some European countries, yet they are ambitious to move further afield.

``We want to be successful but that doesn't mean we want to play huge arenas full of square people. That's not us. I'd say we're not far from our ideal situation. All we need to do is sell more records in other countries.

The USA is not an option though. ``If Oasis didn't crack America, we won't,'' says Adam. ``There's a lot of money in it and that's why it's seen such a holy grail for musicians. But there are drawbacks. Our mates in Supergrass flogged themselves to death playing in little hicky towns. They went from coast to coast and it made no difference to their profile. So they've told me that they'd never do it again.

``Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we'd never go over to the US. It's great to do a luxurious gig and have no illusion about what comes out of it.''

Apart from music, The Bluetones have a passion for football. The guys are regulars on Sky's TV Soccer AM and try to watch all the World Cup matches.

``I don't fancy England's chances,'' he concludes. ``I've worked it all out and Italy are my favourites. If they win in their group it won't be too hard to get the cup.''

L Bluetones will be appearing at Bangor University on July 19

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BLUETONES: `We never had a master plan . . . We just wanted to play music.'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 14, 2002
Words:953
Previous Article:Arts: Masks, mystery and a new freedom.
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