Wednesday 23 August 2017

Blizzards frontman Bressie is going it alone

One of the more eye-catching and absurd quotes on the challenges of going solo came from none other than Geri Halliwell. "Becoming a solo singer is like going from an eau de toilette to a perfume," she reasoned. "It's much more intense."

Don't worry, Niall Breslin, aka Bressie, isn't getting into the celebrity fragrance racket just yet. Breslin is best known as the heartthrob singer of Mullingar quartet The Blizzards, who, during a five-year tenure, released two highly successful albums. He's back with his debut solo effort entitled Colourblind Stereo, a long player that in his own words "a lot of The Blizzards fans won't like, some will love and other people who hated The Blizzards might like".

"It's a pop album," Breslin states over a slow pint of Guinness in the Long Hall, a rare treat for a Westmeath man based in London. "I'm probably going to get a bit of stick for it, but it's what I do and what I've always done. It's the music I love listening to and writing. While I loved The Blizzards, I didn't want to make a guitar album. At the moment, I'm just bored with it. I grew up with the Now Minus 10 or whatever the hell it was, basically the s*** Eighties stuff. I tried to write an uplifting pop album and it doesn't have the words 'DJ', 'dance floor' or 'club' in any song, which is a nice change. I did a survey last week and 32 of the top 40 songs in the charts right now have those words in their lyrics. That's 100 per cent true. Check it out."

While it's certainly all very well to follow one's heart, the million-dollar question is whether the considerable contingent of Blizzards fans will take to it or not.

"[The Blizzards] was raw and innocent, but I felt as a songwriter that I could do better," he reasons. "To be fair, there's probably a certain element of Blizzards in it. If I'm honest, I'd love to do a Blizzards album that had nothing to do with any label or commercial expectation whatsoever and just go for it and do a really heavy album. I'd love to do an album that's as hard as f***. It's a bit idealistic and, of course, the issue would be who would pay for it."

So as for a Blizzards reunion, never say never? "Absolutely," Breslin answers without hesitation. "As much as I love Eighties pop, I equally love Nineties grunge and bands like Alice in Chains. I liked them initially because it was cool to like them, but I grew to love them and their music. I'm not a genre snob. With The Blizzards, you knew it was going to be rock. There's certain rules and you're not going to be putting a tambourine on a chorus."

A common predicament for the newly liberated frontman or woman is being suddenly robbed of the safety net of band mates. "It's not scary at all, but what I will say is that I definitely miss the lads," Breslin answers. "I haven't done enough gigs to know yet, but I miss the confidence they gave me on stage. Being in a band definitely has advantages. All the stuff that adds up for a solo artist, such as having your own control and being the focal point, never outweighs being with four very close friends doing music. Obviously, you've five different personalities to juggle and have to make sure no one gets offended or hurt, and that can get a bit tiring. In The Blizzards, we were such good friends for such a long time that nothing ever built up. It would be like, 'You smell'. It'll be out there straightaway, and said and dealt with. I know the guys since I was five or six years of age, so it was never going to be an issue."

Before The Blizzards, Breslin was an accomplished athlete, representing his county in both GAA codes and playing rugby for Leinster. As nerve-racking as going on stage can be at the best times, Breslin maintains, generally speaking, it's easier than the pressures of the sports field.

"There's so much outside your control in sport," he explains. "The guy beside you could have a disastrous game or you could get injured or you might just play s***. There are so many elements to it. With sport, you can literally practise every single day but you can still have a bad day. With music there are still different variables, but compared to sport the only thing that's really outside your control is if the PA blows up, and I love that."

This background has definitely benefited Breslin. "I certainly did approach music with the same mentality," he says. "The music industry has got a hell of a lot more competitive and every little aspect is important. If you're doing a 30-date tour, you've got to be damn sure that every gig is as good as the last one. The days of getting f***ed up and walking on stage are over. If you really want to succeed in music, you've got to approach it like a professional. If I was manager of a band, I'll be damn sure that alcohol and drugs weren't a culture if you wanted to succeed. You can't be running off on the piss the night before a big gig."

It's also assumed that sports stars have terrible taste in music, which is certainly not always the case. I've encountered two of Breslin's former Leinster teammates, Denis Hickie and Shane Horgan, at numerous gigs over the years. Hickie is a renowned muso, who successfully stood in for 2fm presenter Jenny Huston, and has his own box named after him in the Olympia.

"There's definitely a divide there and people assume you're a jock or a meat head," Breslin agrees. "I had to get over that for f***ing years, but I was always a musician first and a sportsman second. Funny thing is, I never listened to music before I played. I hated it. Denis would often say to me on a train, 'Check out this guy, he's amazing'. He loves more left-of-centre stuff that I'd have no interest in, but he'll say the same thing about songs I'd like. The biggest music fans I've ever met are sports players."

Breslin was thrilled to bits to witness the Leinster team's heroics in Cardiff this year. "I was there at the start of it," he says. "It took 10 years of hard work to win that first European Cup and now they've got two. People bump into me in the pub and ask me if I'm jealous, but if I kept playing I could be in Italy or somewhere. There's no way I'm jealous. I'm over the moon. I'm f***ing chuffed. I know how hard they've worked and I chose not to play rugby anymore, and that doesn't mean I don't want Leinster to win. The last [Heineken Cup victory] was immense. It was one of the best nights I've ever had."

Back to the music, The Blizzards may have been very popular, but they certainly weren't deemed to be particularly cool, and Breslin has a refreshingly grounded and interesting take on how his new venture might be perceived. "I've made this because it's the music I want to make," he concludes. "I want to write good pop music with good choruses that have a bit of a story to tell. I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Never have. Never will. It's not why I'm here."

Colourblind Stereo is out on September 16

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