Now that Garbage's long-awaited fifth album — the band's first since 2005's Bleed Like Me — is nearly done, Shirley Manson and Co. are ready to open up about what caused the delay in the first place, starting with plain ol' politics.
"We'd gotten sold from label to label and ended up on a label that didn't give a shit about us, really," Manson tells SPIN. "It just stripped us of all our joy, and as a result, we turned on each other a bit. It got to the point where I was like, 'Fuck this. This isn't fun. Let's take a break.' And everybody was like, 'Yeah.' "
"I thought it would be like two years, and it ended being five years!" says drummer Butch Vig, acknowledging the whole band was fried. "Time ticked by really fast," Manson adds. "We looked back at what was going on in the music scene, and nobody had really taken our seat, much to our surprise! What the fuck? How come?"
Feeling needed, Garbage got their groove back pretty quickly. Their as-yet-untitled new disc, due early next year, is only weeks from completion. "We have seven songs mixed and maybe five to go," says drummer Butch Vig. "Hopefully the record's gonna drop in late March or early April."
Sessions started earlier this year, when the band got together in a tiny space in Los Angeles under very casual circumstances. "We went into the studio with no expectations other than drink a lot of wine and fuck around a lot," says Vig. "Shirley and I live in L.A., Steve [Marker, guitar and keys] lives in Colorado, and Duke [Erikson, bass and guitar] lives in Madison, Wisconsin. So we would get together for a week and then take a week off."
"It felt like I was coming home to my family in a way," says Manson. "It also felt fun. We're so familiar with one another, we can be ourselves and not give a shit about anything. It felt good."
Both Vig and Manson say the new songs have the same identifiable Garbage sound that fans remember, but updated for 2011. "We love old-school rock and punk and trashy sounds, but we love technology too," says Vig.
"People we've played it for says it sounds like the first record, and I'm thinking to myself, 'It doesn't sound anything like the first record,' " says Manson, referring to 1995's Garbage. "But there's an energy there that is, I think, reminiscent of the first record; a sort of hungriness is there."
For her part, Manson is revisiting familiar territory. "The overriding themes are pretty much about being a misfit, a geek, a nerd, a forgotten-about, in a way," she says — topics Lady Gaga has made the bedrock of her relationship with her Little Monsters. "It is really ironic because when the band [initially] started taking off, I thought, 'Wow, I'm no longer a geek! I'm cool! I'm hip! I'm popular!' " she laughs. "And of course, the feelings [of being an outsider] never went away."
Manson has also been grappling with the death of her mother, which weighs heavily in her new lyrics. "Mortality is definitely [another theme]," she says. "We're not young bucks coming out with our first record by any stretch of the imagination. The minute you pass a certain mark, mortality starts to wear on you more and more."
As such, the band is understandably overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from their loyal following. "We opened our Facebook page a couple months ago, and all of a sudden there are 300,000 fans on there," says Vig. "I hope they're excited to go on the next ride with us, wherever the hell we go."