Louise Wener – In Conversation

Avid followers of Beyond The Title will know that one of the major themes of the podcast is Britpop and the pop culture of the nineties. Last November, we were lucky enough to be able to devote a whole month to this potent musical revolution but sadly one crucial individual remained absent from such a celebration which was of great disappointment. Being in the first generation to benefit from unlimited social mobility, singer/songwriter Louise Wener enrolled at Manchester University to find herself put together with lots of likeminded friends who were craving a change. Meeting Jon Stewart and Andy Maclure encouraged Louise to cultivate her flair for music and in 1993, Sleeper was formed on the backdrop of the positivity of the early nineties. Finding herself right at the epicentre of the britpop revolution.

Press play, below, to listen to the full interview


Or watch the unedited zoom call on YouTube

As history has shown, the media is always responsible for controlling the narrative of peaks and troughs in music and such was prevalent throughout the nineties thanks in part to the power of the press and the financial boom within the record company market. As soon as Stuart Maconie had coined the term “Britpop”, it was only a matter of time before the press wanted to package bands and artists into this genre. This, combined with Matthew Bannister’s new sound of Radio 1 gave this trend in music the brevity it needed to become a revolution. Looking back at this period with the benefit of hindsight, Louise is able to be a little more analytical and critical of the self-celebratory approach that Britpop represented. Yet being in the midst of such a potent genre, it was hard not to become totally immersed into this world which arguably defined her career.


Sleeper’s debut album Smart was released on the 13th February 1995 by Indolent Records and contained the indie anthem Inbetweener which peaked at number 16 on the UK chart. Girls with guitars had very seldomly been seen on the British music scene and this was the first time that women had taken centre stage on a musical trend, despite still not obtaining the infamous status as the Gallaghers, Jarvis Cocker or Damon Albarn. Yet the contributions of Louise, together with Sonya Madden of Echobelly and Skin were absolutely crucial in breaking down some of the gender stereotypes that surrounded indie music at the time. Britpop was, to some extent, devoid of any sexual divide and instead focused more on what it was like to cope with disillusionment in the mid nineties than discriminating against any particular group. In this regard, it didn’t matter about your gender, religion, sexual orientation or social background, if you identified with the music then you were part of it.


Sleeper’s follow up studio album The IT Girl was released in May 1996, right at the peak of Britpop. Hits including  Sale Of The Century, Statuesque and Nice Guy Eddie spoke to a certain demographic of young, ambitious men and women who seeked something beyond their expectations. This was music for the eternal optimist who believed that things really could only get better. Sale Of The Century remains unique in terms of its ever evolving meaning and the line “It’s never gonna be this good so just climb in” now recreates the freedom of youth almost like the 1996 version of Louise Wener is actually giving some exponential advice about how we should make the most of the good times while we still have our youth. In retrospect, the nineties was a very optimistic period and young people were able to dream big without worrying about external pressures or approaching adulthood. Therefore Sale Of The Century maybe a tidy reminder of just how good this generation had it during Tony Blair’s New Labour.


Sleeper split in 1998 leaving Louise to ponder the next phase of her career. After toying with a solo career, she realised that it was the dynamics of being in a band and the many different emotions that went into it which fascinated her. As any good writer knows, you should always write about what you know and this inspired the former Britpop queen to ponder a totally new career. Having spent her whole career surrounded mostly by men in a very male dominated industry, Louise felt that she had got inside the mind of the opposite sex and chose to make the protagonist of her debut novel a man in a band. Published in 2003 Goodnight Steve McQueen centres on Danny McQueen and his dream to become a singer in a rock band. With the same imagery, style and tone of a quintessential Sleeper album, Goodnight Steve McQueen is a literary nod to Wener’s Britpop roots and creates an eternal link to her music career.


More recently, Louise has embraced the podcast medium and created The Crisis Right where she catches up with fellow nineties icons and obtains their insight into the ageing process. In 2024 the podcast took to the road with dates in London, Brighton, Guernsey and Oxford with an array of icons from the nineties including; Adam Buxton, Charlie Higson, Miranda Sawyer, Betty Boo and Nick Moran as she invites them to relive their youth. Obviously being so instrumental to the culture of the period, Wener has a personal link to all her guests which is what makes this podcast unique. Her easygoing approach to the interview, together with their mutual connection allows the subject to open up in a far more natural and interesting way than a normal celebrity interview. This is her real gift as an interview as she effortlessly creates an atmosphere which resembles just two people sitting having a conversation and forgetting the audience sitting in front. Perhaps this is the secret to the success of The Crisis Right and long may it continue.


Luckily, Sleeper reunited in 2017 for the first time in nineteen years and announced a number of bespoke gigs followed by a nationwide tour alongside fellow Britpop legends Dodgy, The Bluetones and Space. It’s clear that the Britpop renaissance is well and truly here to stay and Sleeper are right at the core. So, whether she’s writing gritty novels, asking the big questions on her podcast or performing Sleeper’s timeless, uplifting repertoire to a live audience, Louise Wener remains right at the very top of her career. Over the past eight years, I’ve been lucky enough to welcome many accomplished figures to the Beyond The Title microphone. Yet very few have been as wonderfully modest as this subject and despite her vast cv, seems so down to earth, lovely and humble. Since starting Beyond The Title back in 2016, there are just a handful of people who I’d love to chat to and Louise Wener was right at the top and I can honestly say that she didn’t let me down. Thanks Louise!