Kenickie write great songs. And they're comedians. The problem is, they may not be miserable enough to be fashionable.
Kenickie are slumped in the shadow of a hundred teen idols. From the wall of their rehearsal room cafe, signed photos of former sensations, from Paul Young to Luke Goss, stare down. Bassist Emmy-Kate Montrose and songwriter Marie du Santiago, both 19, can barely meet their gaze, so hungover are they from tequila at Boyzone's fairground theme party. They rammed the Boys' dodgems, gawked at Brian May and cruised home through Trafalgar Square at dawn. When Lauren Laverne, 20, the band's other songwriter, strolls in wearing shades, hat and grin, the talk turns to band goldfish Sid swallowing his bowlmate, Elvis. It's to be expected.

Kenickie are the funniest band in Britain. They look good, they're young, and they're from Sunderland. But even after the hit single, "Punka", that's all most people know. They've been a victim of their own brilliance. Their interviews are comedy classics, but their songs don't get a look-in. Only those who actually bought last year's album, At the Club, know better. It wasn't dependent on the novelty of its teenage writers but combined their exuberance with worldly distance, lust for life with interest in its cost. Kenickie's new single, "I Would Fix You", makes this a little more plain.

It's the first fruit of a second album, recorded since the band (including drummer and Lauren's older brother, Johnny X, absent ill) moved to London. Lauren and Marie have been friends since they were six. Their repartee is a combination of jokey insults and friendly support. They expertly prick pomposity. But "I Would Fix You" is a song worth serious discussion. It seems, partly, to be about soaking up punishment on others' behalf. It's not the first Kenickie song with such sentiments.

"I think that's me, really," says Lauren, after a guilty pause. "Because I tend to attract and to stick with people who don't like anything, who tend to be not very good for me, really. I take on that role, when I shouldn't. I do that quite a lot. It's one of my failings. It's very Catholic."

"I think a lot of girls tend to do that," says Emmy-Kate. "Lauren's got a very curious idea that men are basically a bit stupid, so she lets them get away with more. Because girls should know better."

"It's crazy, really," a mortified Lauren mumbles. "Just a walking freakshow..."

In the current climate, freakshows are de rigueur. Anyone who can remember what pop music is should know instinctively that At the Club matters more than the sonorously-named likes of Urban Hymns. But the perception remains that serious artists are angst-ridden boys, not sparky girls. Kenickie have sad songs to spare. Their cause would be helped no end if they would only let reporters poke around in the pain that goes into them. "Life is stressful/ when you're successful," Lauren croons in "I Would Fix You". But it's at least partly tongue in cheek. She's not vain enough to put her problems in the papers.

"People who've heard the new album say: `It's so miserable'," she says, "and they really want me to sit in the corner and say: `Yes...' But I'm not going to. The whole point of Kenickie is that no one is more special than the next person. If you make good music to slit your wrists to, then brilliant, so do I. But the difference is I don't go into it in a pathetic, whiny way. If I listen to `September Gurls' by Big Star, or Carl Wilson's solo album, some of the most beautiful songs ever - suicide songs - it doesn't make me miserable to listen to that. I just think, `This is beautiful,' and the fact that people can feel and have emotions is an amazing thing."

You can almost feel the pressure to dissect another post-fame comedown in current Kenickie interviews. "Everyone wants it to be the Lauren breakdown album," says Emmy-Kate. "But it's not that miserable. God..."

"We will not say the word `misery' again, till I die," Marie admonishes. "There. And that'll show you all." "Can we say the word miserly?" Lauren enquires.

However strong they remain in the face of depression chic, there could be dangers ahead for Kenickie, as the mainstream beckons. But they don't care. They're more interested in pop's possibilities. Last week, Lauren was at a gig by rock'n'rollers Royal Trux. She felt as if there was some essence pouring out from the stage, something that, if she could only absorb a bit of it, would take the rest of her life to exhaust.

"I feel like the new album is brilliant," Lauren says. "But I feel like it's going towards something that is going to be atomic. I feel like I could change the world, but not yet. I'm just in training at the minute. I'm like Karate Kid. In about two years, I'm going to knock everyone's heads off. I don't know whether I'll do that with Kenickie, or whether we'll do that under another name. I don't know what's going to happen."

Does Marie feel the same? "I'm sorry," she says, miles away. "I was looking at David Essex." Lauren adds coldly: "Marie will have been sacked by then."

Wouldn't such success be scary? "It's not scary," says Marie, "because if things get too hard to handle, we can just go, `ta ra then'." "Andrew Ridgeley's living a fairly quiet life, isn't he?" says Lauren, kindly. "In the words of the song," Marie adds, "nothing lasts forever."

"I've got a big family," Lauren concludes. "I see people at all stages. I know at some point I'm going to be 70. Every pop star gets forgotten about, eventually."

`I Would Fix You' has just been released on EMI. Kenickie are currently touring; their second album, `Get In', is out in August