Silver Bells, Andy Bell, It’s Christmastime With Erasure!
Snow Globe is an apt title for Erasure’s new album, because it shakes up Christmas and flips it upside down. Yes, the synth-pop duo of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell has given the world a new holiday themed record, comprising classic carols and original compositions. Snow Globe sets itself apart from traditional Christmas albums by displacing the predictable saccharine sentimentality with a bittersweet, post-Christian spirituality. Instinct received an early Xmas gift this year when we got to chat with Bell, the openly gay half of Erasure, and discuss the new album, dealing with the loss of a loved one and the band’s upcoming tour.
What inspired you to record a Christmas album?
We did a Christmas EP, which was only five songs, in 1988. It was called Crackers International. It was a very good record for us. It was counted as an album in the U.S., just before we did the Abba-esque thing. There were songs on there like “She Won’t Be Home” and “Knocking On Your Door,” which was a version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Vince Clarke was saying it wasn’t finished. So we thought we’d do a whole one.
How does this stand apart from other Christmas albums?
I think our album is very spiritual. Maybe not necessarily commercial. I think it touches something very deep. It reiterates the innocence of Christmas: children and purity and a festival of light, really.
Interesting, because what drew us in were titles of songs like “Bleak Midwinter,” “Blood On The Snow,” “There Will Be No Tomorrow.” It sets up an irony of the innocence of the season. Where did that juxtaposition of the two tones come from?
“Blood On The Snow,” that was one song that kind of came out one night. I woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning and this whole song came out. It was so unusual. The words came out, the tune came out. It kind of wrote itself. You can’t definitely know what it’s about, but to me it reminds me of the story of the little tin soldier and the ballerina. I don’t know if you know that one.
Yes, Hans Christian Andersen, we believe.
Yeah, I suppose it’s not really a Christmas song but it always comes out around that time of year. It’s one of those sad, unrequited love songs. It’s a bit more than that really. Winter is very odd.
Did all your tracks derive from inspiration like that, or did other ones come from different sources?
No, we did quite a lot of co-writing together, Vince and I. He did “Bells Of Love” for his niece. Others, we wanted to cover ourselves, like “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” which I love, and “Silent Night,” which I really love.
Why do you feel this album is ideal for a gay audience?
A lot of gay people are outside the church, in lots of ways. I think the album has more to do with the purity of Christmas and the real meaning of Christmas. Not about this little baby being born, which is kind of a fairy story, really. It’s more about looking out for each other and making sure people are having love and playing around, all that kind of stuff.
If there is one statement you want this album to make about the holiday, what would it be?
I know Christmas has become very commercial, but beneath all of that, once you take all the wrapping paper off, there is something very pure, something very lovely about giving. The more you give, the more you receive. That’s a universal law.
Beautiful. We love how that ties in with the whole spiritual aspect of the album, that sense of generosity. Now, going over the last year, artistically, what do you feel are some of the most significant events that happened to you?
Well, definitely the passing of my very dear soul mate. So setting up the house, moving the house, getting on with my life, starting from scratch, really. Just being very thankful for everything that I have. You grow up and you realize everything isn’t all about you. The world seems like a huge place, and you are just a tiny part of it.
That’s a profound event. To what degree do you feel that event influenced the upcoming album?
I think greatly so. It put me in touch with some deep knelling. Something extremely peaceful inside comes out when I’m singing. Hymns are spiritual songs. They were created for a reason. Especially songs like “Silent Night” are little prayers. It’s about enjoying the stillness.
That’s very sweet. Now switching gears, you’ll be performing live at CarFest.
That’s a show being promoted by Radio 2 here [in the U.K.]. A great supporter of Erasure—Chris Evans—asked us to do these shows for charity. We have this thing here called Children In Need, which helps poor families around the world. We are going to do our own Erasure tour in the fall, probably starting September or late August. I’ll be writing for a new Erasure album, and I have a one-man show coming up.
How are you going to be celebrating your Christmas this year?
This Christmas I will be with my lovely husband and his bonkers mom. We will probably be somewhere in Florida. So we’ll be in the blessed sunshine. But we’ll have plenty of trees and sparkling decorations.
You’re going to decorate a palm tree?
Well last year we rented a flat in Miami, and I brought the snowiest tree possible. It took up the entire living room. It was a mess putting it away.
Did you and your husband get married in England or the States?
We got married in England, and hopefully we’ll get married in Florida as well when they allow. Probably in 2016.
Snow Globe is on sale and available now. For all things Erasure, visit erasureinfo.com. And for more on Andy, you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBell_info