“Someone pinched my favourite green Adidas top from the stage at The Joiners. You can tell I loved it as I am still talking about it now. If anyone has it, I‘ll take it back!” laughed Sleeper’s Louise Wener, recalling the band’s first gig in Southampton in 1994.

Today, 25 years after that show, the Nineties indie legends are releasing their first new album since 1998. They headline The Engine Rooms on Thursday.

Singer-songwriter Louise, lead-guitarist Jon Stewart, drummer Andy McLure and ex-Prodigy bassist Kieron Pepper will bring tracks from their new record The Modern Age, along with Britpop smashes like Inbetweener and What Do I Do Now? from the band’s three top 10 albums.

When we spoke, Louise was in last minute rehearsals and packing merchandise for the tour. “We’re doing everything ourselves this time, it’s a huge job,” she said.

Since reforming in 2017, Sleeper have sold out gigs across Britain and drew a huge crowd to the main stage at Victorious Festival in August. Does Louise wish they had reformed sooner?

“In some respects yes, but things usually change for a reason. At the same time as we were considering a comeback show, some sad events were going on in my family. That persuaded me to do something life affirming and outside of my comfort zone. You can’t manufacture those moments.”

In the years between Sleeper, Louise became an acclaimed author, penning four novels and an autobiography. She married band mate Andy and the couple have a son and daughter.

“I didn’t picked up a guitar in 15 years,” said Louise. “I never thought about it. I shut myself off from that side of my life. I needed to switch it off, walk away and do other things.”

The singer says writing novels has made her a better lyricist. “I still sit alone with a guitar and carve out a melody. I love the mystery of where the ideas will take you.

“But this time, I wrote all of the lyrics before going in the rehearsal room. Back in the day, I remember writing the lyrics of Inbetweener half an hour before we had to record it!”

The band say it was “a dream” to reunite with renowned producer Stephen Street for The Modern Age.

“It was nerve racking waiting to hear whether he liked our demos, but when he did we knew making this album could really happen.”

Their new tunes are a perfect blend of the classic upbeat Sleeper sound mashed up with lyrics inspired by growing older, early motherhood, and, on first single Look at You Now, the perils of a fragmented political situation.

“It’s very much the tapestry of our lives now,” said Louise.

Sleeper had just released their second top five album, The It Girl, when they played Southampton Guildhall in June 1996. It was at the height of Britpop and on the eve of Euro ‘96. Louise remembers it as a magical time, but also with a note of caution.

“Permanent sunshine and an incredible sense of optimism seem to define that era and its music, but if you pulled back the curtains, there was a darkness too. It was a period of excess that damaged many people.”

Louise says one favourite single from that time is still resonating strongly with fans.

“People seem to associate the lyrics of Sale of The Century with the heyday of their youth. There is a huge sense of nostalgia and camaraderie for everyone when we play it. Feeling such warmth from the audience is a really joyful experience.”

Despite losing her favourite garment, Louise said she loved playing The Joiners in 1994. “The place was heaving with sweat dripping off the walls, I’m glad it’s still going strong”.

Sleeper headline The Engine Rooms, Southampton, on Thursday March 28. Support from Glasgow’s Lucia.