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Fighting, reuniting and 'Psychocandy': The Jesus and Mary Chain at 30

Jim Reid of The Jesus Mary and Chain performs on stage during the V Festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
Jim Reid of The Jesus Mary and Chain performs on stage during the V Festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
Kristian Dowling/Getty Images
Jim Reid of The Jesus Mary and Chain performs on stage during the V Festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
The Jesus and Mary Chain performing live.
Paul Khera

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The Jesus and Mary Chain broke onto the scene in 1985 with the landmark album “Psychocandy.” The British group’s brand of post-punk noise-pop attracted a devoted and sometimes aggressive fan base. To make matters more difficult, there was the brittle relationship between bandmates — and brothers — Jim and William Reid.

Tensions caused the band to break up in 1999, but they reunited in 2007 and have been performing on-and-off since then. The band has recently been on tour, performing the album “Psychocandy” in its entirety.

When Jim Reid, the lead singer of the Jesus and Mary Chain, joined us at the Frame studios, we asked him about the thrill of playing songs that are 30 years old, how Coachella coaxed the band out of retirement in 2007 and just what it is about British brothers in bands that always leads to conflicts.

Interview Highlights:

"Psychocandy" was the band's first album. When it was released in 1985, could you imagine that it would have this kind of longevity?

[laughs] I certainly didn't know whether I'd be around 30 years later, never mind anybody's interest in the album. But I suppose we were quietly confident — we were aware that "Psychocandy" would have some kind of impact. We were listening to a lot of garage music from the U.S. in the '60s, like stuff by the 13th Floor Elevators, and we had kind of hoped that our music would do that to bands maybe 10 or 15 years down the road. But 30 years?

What kind of experience is it for you, to revisit the album every night you perform? What kind of thrill do you still get from performing that record?

It's pretty much the same process. I mean, at the moment, I'm not drinking, so that's a bit weird. [laughs] It's different, but it is more or less the same. Playing a show in 2015 is remarkably similar to playing a show in 1985 — there's a crowd out there, you go out and you make as loud a racket as you possibly can, and hopefully you have a bit of fun.

The band split up in 1998 and reunited in 2007. What led to the reunion?

I suppose we had kind of missed going on tour, everything about the band, really. [laughs] And we tried solo careers that failed dismally. When we broke up, I couldn't have imagined being in the Mary Chain again, but you know the cliche: time heals all wounds. It does, and after a while you start to think, Well, what was that all about again? I don't even remember what we were fighting about.

For a long time, I had assumed that William wouldn't want to do it, he had assumed that I wouldn't, and it was only because Coachella were so persistent, year after year, that I had a conversation with William like, "Should we do it?" And he said, "I thought you wouldn't want to do it." "Yeah, I'll do it."

I wanted to ask about your brother. You've had an edgy relationship, not unlike Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis or Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks. Is there something about British brothers in bands?

I think it's any siblings in a band. I mean, a band is a weird environment to spend a lot of time in. If you go to school with your best friend and you start a band and then you fight a lot, you break up. But, even if the band breaks up, you're still stuck with your brother, no matter what.

And you have the most brutal rows with your brother that you wouldn't have otherwise — two guys in a band together might scream at each other, but there's a line you don't cross. With your brother, there's no holds barred. We've yelled things at each other that makes the rest of the band cringe, like, "Ooh, you can't say that."

What's a successful tour for you? What makes a tour a good tour?

That nobody dies.

Yeah, that's a good start.

To be honest, it sounds horrible to say, but I just want to entertain people.

What's so horrible about that?

When people think of the Mary Chain, we're supposed to be miserable characters who dress in black leather trousers, as you can see I'm wearing right now. But at the end of the day, I want people to have a good time at Mary Chain shows. That's what it's all about, so if we do a tour and people seem to like it, then that's fine by me.

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