Thursday 22 March 2018

From Would Be's to Will Be's

Reunited: The Would
Be's, with Aidine
second from right, are
on the comeback trail
Reunited: The Would Be's, with Aidine second from right, are on the comeback trail

Somewhere in an attic in a house in south Dublin is a dust-covered VHS tape with clips recorded from MTV's weekly 120 Minutes alternative rock show from 1991.

Somewhere on that tape is presenter Paul King reading out a letter from yours truly wondering if there was any chance he could play the new single 'My Radio Sounds Different In The Dark' from Cavan/Meath/Louth's finest indie band The Would Be's. Then something amazing happened: he played it.

It was an exciting moment to see a quirky, left-of-centre local group in there with the likes of the Pixies and the Stone Roses.

That same year, Morrissey asked the group to open for him at his first ever paid solo show in Dublin's National Stadium. The legendary John Peel had also asked them to record a session for his BBC radio show, and had given extensive airplay to their single 'I'm Hardly Ever Wrong'.

Smiths producer Stephen Street had recorded their second EP. Everything seemed to be falling into place for The Would Be's but alas, things didn't quite work out as they hoped.

Still only teenagers, they were, they admit, a touch naïve when it came to negotiating the thorny brambles of the music industry. Momentum stalled and eventually the band dissolved.

Fast forward 20 years and music journalist Tony Clayton-Lea included 'I'm Hardly Ever Wrong' in his book 101 Irish Records (You Must Hear Before You Die).

At the launch, band members Aidine O'Reilly and Paul Finnegan got chatting to Paul and Ashley from The Frank And Walters who suggested that they reform The Would Be's -- and offered them the support slot on their imminent gig in The Workman's Club in Dublin.

Within days, the original line-up (including singer Julie McDonnell) agreed to give it another go; their set in the Workman's Club was lapped up by the sell-out crowd. Within weeks a new single, 'Ivy Avenue', was recorded and a few weeks later was released on iTunes. Meanwhile, work is continuing on their debut album.

I meet the band (minus Julie, who lives in Leitrim) -- the three Finnegan brothers (Mattie, Paul and Eamonn) and sax/trombone player Aidine -- one afternoon in a Dublin bar. So how does it feel to be a Would Be again in 2012?

"We're more mature now," says Aidine. "We can handle the industry side of it better. The first time around Paul was only turning 14; we were 15 going on 16 -- it all happened so quickly.

"It came to a point where there were 14 record companies flying us over to London and we were going there in our school uniforms and getting changed on our way to the airport. It was crazy. In an attempt to slow it down, a decision was made to go with the smallest label (Decoy). Maybe that wasn't the best decision.

"The attention died away and then Julie decided she wanted to sit her Leaving Cert. We both left school two years early, so Julie made the very sensible decision to go back."

With Julie off swatting up on differential calculus and the life and times of Peig Sayers, the band drafted in vocalist Eileen Gogan.

"When Julie left, I don't think Eileen had a fair crack of the whip because everyone had fallen in love with Julie. It's hard to come in to a band after the original singer's left," says Mattie.

Looking back on it now from a distance, the band agree it was too much too soon for their teenage selves, but they enjoyed the ride.

"There was a lot of goodwill towards us -- John Peel rang us to say he liked the single and would we come over to record a session," remembers Paul. "He said he could put us in touch with people who could help us in case we were overwhelmed with record companies. He actually cared."

Eamonn adds: "And Morrissey voted 'I'm Hardly Ever Wrong' his favourite single of 1990 in the NME."

What do they remember of supporting him at the Stadium? "When we came out on stage, everyone started throwing flowers at us," says Eamonn. "Mattie went into 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' for the craic and the crowd went wild. Morrissey was probably in the back grimacing! It was great to do it. You could feel the heat coming off the front of the stage."

Paul adds: "I bumped into him recently on the Ha'penny Bridge. He was remembering lyrics from our songs!" Maybe it's time to put another request into MTV . . .

'Ivy Avenue' is out now on iTunes. For more info, visit MySpace/thewouldbes. A new digital single is out in mid-September. They play upstairs in Whelan's, Dublin, on August 18 and Cork, Little Big Weekend, on August 25.

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