Erasure are one of those rare acts that continue to flourish long after their synth-pop peers have wilted into a hazy memory. Composed of keyboardist Vince Clarke — who also co-founded Depeche Mode and Yazoo — and frontman Andy Bell, the duo are riding high on the release of last year’s studio album World Be Gone, and its post-classical reinterpretation World Beyond, a March collaboration with Echo Collective. Earlier this month, the outfit dropped World Be Live, effectively rounding out an unintended trilogy of music meant to celebrate those who fought — and continue their fight — for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals around the world.
Vanyaland caught up with Clarke as the pair were about to finish up a sold out, three-night stand over the weekend at New York’s Beacon Theatre, which come immediately before a show at Boston’s House of Blues on Tuesday night (July 17). He talked about the enduring popularity of Erasure, being the “easy listening” band on Mute Records, and why he won’t show up if Depeche Mode gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Michael Christopher: The popularity and more so the vitality of Erasure still exists today. When you see the touring docket and you’ve sold out coast to coast in the States, does that surprise you?
Vince Clarke: I’m completely flattered, you know? I know the way it happens, it happens because we have such a loyal fanbase and also, we don’t tour all the time. There’s a bit of a sort of expectation when we do play. We make a new record every two years I think, and that’s a good space, a breather space really, to get people excited to know there’s a new record coming out or a new tour coming. I couldn’t imagine when we started that I’d still be doing this thing after all this time — who could?
Putting out an album every few years, not many acts even bother doing that anymore. How important is it to you as an artist to not just be a nostalgia act?
It’s really important. It’s more interesting for us. Obviously, we play a lot from our previous records — and we enjoy that and everything — but the hardest part is to create something new. It’s all very, very unpredictable; we don’t conceptualize what the next record is going to sound like or how the songs will be. Andy and I go into a room and start writing songs and we don’t really know what’s going to happen. We go into a room pretty much with nothing and come out with a song. And that process is miraculous — it really is.
Concurrently with Erasure, you’ve always had so many other things going on, whether it’s The Assembly, Family Fantastic, teaming up with Martyn Ware, and of course dozens of remixes. What drives you to keep your hands in all of that.
Well it’s really just opportunity. People come along with these ideas; someone might want to do a remix or do a collaboration, and it’s something that interests me or something where I feel I can contribute something and make it different. That’s how I make the decision to get involved. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I get people offering me stuff and I say, “You know what? That’s really good… [laughs] why do you want me in there?” I’ll only get involved if I can contribute something and also if the collaboration is a friendly one.
A collaboration which I think surprised a lot of people was in 2011 when you got back together with [Depeche Mode’s] Martin Gore for the VCMG project. Do you see the two of you linking up in the future?
Well, Martin says that he will make another VCMG record in 20 years’ time [laughs].
You’ve been with Mute Records since the very beginning of your career, which is another rarity in the industry.
I’m the oldest person on Mute [laughs]. My relationship with the record company is completely secure, and I’ve got a very close relationship with [Mute Records founder Daniel Miller]. I saw him last night. He’s nine years older than I am, and when we first met, we thought he was an old man — and he was 29! I think for Mute Records, we’re kind of… we’re like the Silicon Teens of Mute, really. We’re not dark, we’re not Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, we’re not Depeche Mode… we’re the easy listening band [laughs]. And I think that they like the idea of having one of those easy listening bands on the roster.
At some point down the line, if and when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decides to induct Depeche Mode, do you go to the ceremony?
No. Depeche Mode, they’ve had an amazing career and they’ve worked incredibly hard to get where they are at the moment. They deserve all of the credit. All I did was started the band — you know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t go. Apart from that, I don’t have a nice suit [laughs].
So there are no regrets?
I don’t regret anything in music. I feel incredibly happy and blessed to have met Andy, and we have a really, really special relationship. If I hadn’t left Depeche Mode, then I wouldn’t have met Andy, and that would’ve been a tragedy.
ERASURE + REED & CAROLINE :: Tuesday, July 17 at The House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston, MA :: 8 p.m., $45 in advance and day of show :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page :: Featured photo by Andy Sturmey, courtesy of Mute Records