Lush are an English alternative rock band, formed in 1987, disbanded in 1998, and reunited in 2015. The current lineup consists of Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar), Emma Anderson (vocals, guitar), Phil King (bass) and Justin Welch (drums).
They were one of the first bands to have been described with the "shoegazing" label. Later, their sound moved toward Britpop.
Formation and early sound (1987–88)
The band formed in 1987 in London, initially named The Baby Machines (after a line in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Arabian Knights"), with a lineup of Meriel Barham (vocals), Anderson (guitar, vocals), Berenyi (guitar, vocals), Steve Rippon (bass) and Chris Acland (drums).
Anderson and Berenyi had been school friends, having known each other since the early 1980s, and together published the Alphabet Soup fanzine. In 1986, Anderson joined The Rover Girls as bassist, and Berenyi joined The Bugs, also as a bass player. Neither band lasted long, and in 1987, they joined Barham and Acland in The Baby Machines. Rippon joined shortly thereafter, and the band members decided on a change of name to Lush, making their live debut at the Camden Falcon on 6 March 1988. Barham left the band and later joined Pale Saints. Berenyi then took on lead vocal duties.
Anderson said of the band's beginnings: "We were kind of punk rock in one way. We did think, 'Well, if they can do it, why the fuck can't we?' Basically, our idea was to have extremely loud guitars with much weaker vocals. And, really, the vocals were weaker due to nervousness – we'd always be going 'Turn them down! Turn them down!'" Berenyi said, "We started by writing crappy riot grrl anthems... which was probably charming in a juvenile way. But there was a very rapid shift from the minute we started to write for records. The music, the lyrics became much more thoughtful and expressive, more important, really. I remember that change beginning when Emma wrote "Thoughtforms," it certainly made me think I needed to get my act together."
Scar, EPs and Spooky (1989–92)
In 1989, the band signed to 4AD and released Scar, a six-track mini-album. Critical praise for Scar and a popular live show established Lush as one of the most written-about groups of the early 1990s UK indie scene. Anderson told Everett True in Melody Maker, "I remember when I couldn't play, I wasn't in a band, didn't know anyone else who could play, and now we've got a record out on 4AD. I sometimes find it impossible to come to terms with what's happening."
Not long after, the British music press tagged them with the "shoegazing" label. The following year, the EPs Mad Love (produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins) and Sweetness and Light (produced by Tim Friese-Greene) were released. All three releases were eventually combined into the Gala compilation album, which was produced mainly for the US and Japanese markets. The band recorded a live session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show in 1990 and contributed a cover version of "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" later that year to the anti-poll tax album Alvin Lives (In Leeds).
The band's profile was raised by extensive touring, including an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in June 1990 and tours of Japan in late 1990 and the US (with Ride) in the spring of 1991. Preceded by the Black Spring EP issued in October 1991, Lush's first full-length album of completely new material, Spooky, was released in January 1992. Again produced by Guthrie, Spooky featured a sound very similar to Guthrie's band Cocteau Twins, with walls of sound and a great deal of guitar effects. Reviews were mixed and critics of the album held that Guthrie's production brought the sound away from the band's original creative vision, although it sold well, reaching number 7 in the UK Albums Chart. The album was preceded by the band's first UK top 40 single, "For Love." Rippon left the band during the final mixing of the album to concentrate on writing, though his book Cold Turkey Sandwich—a fictionalised chronicle of his time touring—was rejected by publishers. He was replaced by Phil King. Also in 1992, Lush toured America as part of the second edition of the Lollapalooza festival. Lush was added to the roster by Lollapalooza organiser Perry Farrell, the Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman, who personally requested Lush.
Split, Lovelife and break-up (1993–96)
Lush approached Bob Mould to produce their second album. The band stated that Mould was too busy to produce them, but Mould said in a Spin article that he backed out because "I kept picking the wrong girl's songs... I had to get out before I broke up the band!" The band found completing Split frustrating. It was recorded by Mike Hedges at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Then Hedges along with the band went to mix the recordings, first at Abbey Road Studios, and then at Hedges studio in Domfront, France. However, Ivo Watts-Russell of their label 4AD wasn't satisfied with the sound, and subsequently Alan Moulder was hired to remix it. Released in June 1994, Split was not as successful as Spooky. Unusually, the band released two singles from the album ("Hypocrite" and "Desire Lines") on the same day, the 30th May 1994. Neither single broke into the UK Top 40.
The band concentrated on the American market, on the advice of their management, but failed to make a breakthrough. They suffered further setbacks when tours of Japan and the UK were cancelled. They decided to break from their management and begin work on a new album. Unfortunately, the new management also prioritised achieving success in America.
1996's Lovelife, the band's final album, was produced by Pete Bartlett, the band's live engineer. It represented a change in musical direction, with less shoegaze experimentation and more direct pop melodies. It became the biggest seller of their career, possibly as it was more instep with the contemporary Britpop style. Lovelife included the hit singles "Single Girl", "Ladykillers" and "500 (Shake Baby Shake)", and also featured a guest appearance by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp duetting with Berenyi on the song "Ciao!".
Instead of capitalising on success in the UK, the band's management sent them on an ill conceived American tour with the Gin Blossoms.:35:14 With the band feeling pressured and tired, Anderson discussed leaving the band. She said she did not want to make another Lovelife but would rather make a small and personal album. The other band members were open to this suggestion, with Berenyi keen to keep the band together.:37:07
In September 1996, the band played their last performance, prior to reuniting, in Japan. A month later, tragedy struck the band when drummer Acland committed suicide by hanging himself at his parents' house on 17 October 1996. The band did not perform again, but the official break up announcement was made on the 23rd February, 1998.:38:00
Berenyi went on to work as a production editor at two major magazine publishers. In 1998, Anderson formed a new group, Sing-Sing, with singer Lisa O'Neill. Sing-Sing released two full-length albums but in January 2008, announced they were disbanding. Anderson currently resides in Hastings and has held various jobs in the music business in management, PR, accountancy and at a booking agency. King plays bass for The Jesus and Mary Chain and also works for a music magazine as a picture researcher.
In September 2015, the music press suggested a reunion might be planned after Anderson posted a cryptic "7 day." message on social media and the official website was revamped. On 28 September 2015, Lush announced their reunion on their Facebook page. The reunited band consists of Anderson, Berenyi and King with the addition of Justin Welch (Elastica) on drums, an old friend of deceased drummer Acland.
To celebrate their return, 4AD will release a vinyl edition of their best-of compilation Ciao! Best of Lush and a box set containing almost all of their prior released material along with a selection of rarities, sessions and demos. Lush also announced a show at the Roundhouse in London on 6 May 2016, and have since added a second date, 7 May 2016, after the first show sold out in six hours. They have also alluded to further dates in North America.
Lush's cover of The Rubinoos song, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," (retitled "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" for Lush's authorised version) was cited in a 2007 lawsuit filed by The Rubinoos against Avril Lavigne, whose song "Girlfriend" bore similarities to the Lush cover of the Rubinoos song. A settlement in the case has since been reached.