"I have a low boredom threshold. I want the best bits, verse-chorus,
verse-chorus, that's it. The whole thing of playing two middle- eighths and triple choruses to finish isn't music, it's brainwashing. It's like an ad device to sell a song. If you want to hear the chorus again, rewind it." - Justine Frischmann.
Elastica were originally a four-piece band based in London in the 1990s. Their music was heavily influenced by Wire, Pavement, The Fall, Blondie, Adam and the Ants, The Buzzcocks, and The Stranglers, leaving it somewhere between indie and punk. They first came to the attention of the music press as part of the short-lived New Wave of New Wave (along with bands like S*M*A*S*H and These Animal Men) but survived the demise of that scene to become prime movers in the Britpop movement. If you listen carefully to their more recent songs, you can also hear the electro influence which joined the band at the same time as Sharon Mew.
In 1990, Justine Frischmann and her boyfriend Brett Anderson formed an indie band, which Justine named Suede. Justine was originally Suede's second guitarist alongside Bernard Butler, but six months after she and Brett ended their relationship, Anderson kicked her out of the band. Looking back, Justine said of the time:
"I was like, 'I've got to get out of this, coz I'm making everyone really miserable.' And I really wasn't pulling my weight: I was just playing bar chords and muddying up what Bernard (Butler) was doing."
Justine was happy to leave Suede, having become fed up of being in the background, and had begun plotting the formation of a new band. She started rehearsing with Justin Welch, a drummer who'd played with Suede for six weeks in 1990, and the two of them formed the band that became Elastica in October 1991, with Justine on lead guitar and vocals and Justin on drums. They recruited Annie Holland (bass guitar) and Donna Matthews1 (guitar and vocals) through advertisements in Melody Maker magazine, and played their first gig in May 1993. After a few more gigs, they had made a handshake deal with Deceptive Records.
The name 'Elastica' was thought up by Donna's flatmate, Jane Oliver. Previous names of the band included "Vaseline", "Onk", "Spastica", "Spastics Society", "Kirby Grip", and "Dad".
Even before they had released a single, Elastica were a known band. They had been a support act for Blur, the most popular band of the year, and also had played many gigs around London. They embarked on their first tour in October 1993.
Elastica's first single, the short and snappy Stutter, was released on Deceptive Records in November 1993, as a limited edition on 7" vinyl only. It had been heavily plugged on the radio, and only 1500 copies were pressed - they quickly sold out, helping to create a buzz around the band.
The first tour ended in early November, but only ten days later were they on tour again - supporting Britpop superstars Pulp.
In January 1994, they released Line Up, which also sold very well, entering the charts at number 20, even though some critics pointed out that the tune bore a very strong resemblance to Wire's I Am The Fly. In May, they signed a record deal with Geffen Records, and later that year Stutter was released in the USA.
The Elastica name was kept in the indie spotlight because Justine was going out with Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, who were at the peak of their popularity, and they were regarded as Britpop's premier couple. Elastica were voted by the readers of Melody Maker magazine and New Music Express magazine as Best New Band. In the autumn, they released their third UK single, Connection, which charted at number 17. The riff of Connection sounds rather similar to another Wire song - this time it was Three Girl Rhumba.
Another single, Waking Up, was released in February 1995, to further allegations of plagiarism - this time the melody was a little similar to No More Heroes by the Stranglers. By this time, Justine was used to shrugging off such claims, saying "Really? I think it sounds more like Duchess, myself...".
However, the allegations led to problems for the band. In March 1995, on the eve of the release of their first album, they were taken to court on the night before their first album was to be released. However, both cases were settled outside court, and the album, titled Elastica, was released. The name of the album had been intended to be chosen by the readers of Melody Maker magazine. Some of the ideas that came up were 'Tie Me Up And Give Me Toast', 'Edible Liar', and 'Seven Xs And A Single Y'2. The band didn't really like these suggestions however, and called them 'dreadful'. The album was nearly called 'Keys, Money And Fags', from a line in the song Line Up, but this was rejected because the word 'fag' has an entirely different meaning in American English3. It was then almost named 'Eponymous', but in the end they settled for just 'Elastica'. It shot straight to Number One in the album charts, and became the fastest-selling UK debut album ever, beating even Oasis' album Definitely Maybe which was released the previous year. Soon after the album was released in England, Connection was released in America, and although it was quite popular, it only reached the Top 60 in the charts.
Elastica then moved on to join the Lollapalooza tour in America later in 1995, replacing Sinead O'Connor. They were working their way up the American ladder - but on the 6th of August, Annie announced that she was leaving the group, saying that, along with bad RSI, she really couldn't take the pressure of it all. She was temporarily replaced by Abby Travis from Los Angeles, who only stayed with Elastica for the tour. During this time, the band also gained another short-term member - Anthony Genn, supposedly on keyboards, but he mucked about most of the time and was really only there for entertainment value!
Not much happened musically in the group after Annie Holland's departure - the band stumbled to a halt in the aftermath of the American tour, and they could hardly carry on without a bassist. Justine eventually began working on new material4 - and recruiting new band members.
In 1996, Dave Bush, who'd briefly been a member of The Fall, joined on keyboards and a new bassist was finally found - Sheila Chipperfield5 was appointed as Annie's replacement in 1997. She had been too shy to apply for position of bassist herself, and she only got into the band because her sister met Donna at a Rage Against The Machine gig.
Paul Jones also joined on guitar - Frischmann had seen him playing guitar with his own band, Linoleum, and asked him to play in Elastica after meeting him at a party and finding that they had similar tastes in music. The band also acquired Sharon Mew (known as Mew) around this time. She and Justine met through mutual friends, and she joined on synth and backing vocals.
However, by the late 1990s, Donna Matthews and Justine Frischmann weren't getting on as well as they had before, so Donna began to write songs with Sheila Chipperfield. However, Justine had become good friends with Annie Holland again, and managed to talk her into rejoining Elastica on bass. This meant that Sheila Chipperfield had to leave, something that Donna wasn't happy about as the two of them had become quite friendly, and this is thought to be one of the main factors in Donna herself leaving Elastica in Autumn 1998. At the time, she said to Justine "I don't like your voice, your lyrics make me cringe, and the way you play your guitar makes me cringe.".
The rest of the band carried on without Matthews - recording in the studio, making occasional television appearances and giving finished tracks to John Peel so that he could play them on Radio One.
Finally, Another Record
Four years after their last release, Elastica released a 6-Track EP in 1999 - cunningly titled 6 Track EP. Three of the songs on this, How He Wrote Elastica Man (co-written with The Fall's Mark E Smith), KB, and Generator, were 'work in progress' when the EP was released, the final versions of which would be included on the album, The Menace. Miami Nice was a home recording, which would also be played with before it was released on the next album, as would Nothing Stays The Same, which was written by Donna. The other song, Operate, was a live song, which appears on no other official releases.
The long-awaited second album, entitled The Menace, was released in April 2000. Justine explained the title thus:
"It's called 'The Menace' because it has been for me in every possible way. Everything that could have possibly f***ed up, f***ed up. I'm very glad to see the other side of it to be honest."
The Menace gained favourable reviews in the music press, but failed to make an impact on the popular consciousness - the band's cultural moment, at the height of Britpop, had been and gone and it would have taken something pretty spectacular to recapture that kind of exposure. The album's first track, Mad Dog was released as a limited-edition single which (naturally) sold out and the band toured to promote the album.
To be added soon - more on final stages of the band, flesh out chronology in early bit as well. More on being dropped by Geffen, and dissolution of Deceptive records. What have they done since? Solo material, Justin and Mew. Donna in Klang. Justine presenting architecture programme on BBC3 - logical move, considering her Dad was the architect who designed Canary Wharf
On February 4th, 2001, Deceptive Records ended, leaving Elastica without a record company. For a while, they claimed to be recording a third album, but on October 3rd 2001, Justine released a statement to the fans to inform them that Elastica had split.