No More Workhorse had a chat with Brendan Tallon, of Revelino about the reissue of their debut album. You can read what we thought about the album here.
Were you and the band listening to much music at the time? What would you say were the influences on the album?
Personally, I was listening to The Beatles mostly. Of course, there was lots of other stuff we would play in the van on the way to gigs and living together in the house we would listen to all kinds of stuff. We had a broad taste in music between the 5 of us but around then we were listening to Television, Sonic Youth, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teenage Fanclub, The Long Riders, The La’s, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Frank Black, plus a lot of punk & post-punk. We were also listening to the early REM albums, Jazz, Gerry Mulligan, Ennio Morricone, Planxty and the Bothy Band. Shane, our drummer introduced me to Nick Drake, and we all loved his favourite band The Stranglers. We had one night, I remember, we went through the entire Stranglers catalogue drinking whiskey. The next day we had to go to a radio interview and we went in totally hungover… and the first person I saw in the offices was Jean Jacque Burnel (bass guitarist with Stranglers)! I was too wrecked to speak to him. But there was always The Byrds, Dylan, Cohen, Lou Reed, The VU, Hendrix, The Kinks and of course we all loved The Beatles.
How long did it take to record?
The debut album was assembled from a few sessions. The bulk of it was recorded with our great friend and front of house engineer, Ronan McHugh who was just setting out on his very successful sound engineering career. We rented a studio in Bagenalstown in Co Carlow for a couple of weeks with mixed success. When we got home we had some great takes but realised some of the stuff was too laid back & lacked energy. So we booked into Sun Studios for a few days with Paul Thomas and he set the drums up in the control room so Shane could play without earphones, and with the guitars pumping through the big speakers. Paul was all about the vibes and came up with all sorts of ideas to get there. There was a lot more energy about those sessions because we knew we had wasted some time in Carlow and had one more chance to bring the goods. ‘My Bones’ was one we did with Paul and you can hear the high-octane atmosphere in the playing. We also overdubbed strings, percussion and some finishing touches to the Carlow tapes like the piano solo on ‘Happiness is Mine’ which added some extra flavours. A couple of songs, ‘Hello’ and ‘She’s got the Face’ were taken from a session we had done at the end of the Coletranes days, for a publishing company that was interested in us, and a couple more from a demo session we did with Tim Boland in his home studio which turned out to be good enough to use on the album. ‘That’s What Emily Says’ was from an 8 track tape of a rehearsal we’d done in the Factory. So it was pieced together from various sessions which probably lends itself to the eclectic feel of it.
Was there any of the songs that nearly didn’t make it? There must have been a fair debate with 5 of you in the band.
I don’t particularly remember any disagreements over what we put on it. There definitely was later with singles and the 2nd and 3rd album but we were pretty unanimous about the first album. We did leave off a couple of songs that are on the bonus ep that comes with the vinyl package, which are strong enough to have made the album, but songs get left aside for lots of reasons. We were moving at a fast pace and it is usually the last thing you do that you like most. We did leave a couple of songs off because we never felt we captured them well in the studio. We had some really cool songs based around Bren Berry’s 12 string Rickenbacker but I think that was the signature sound of The Coletranes and it didn’t seem to fit with the new approach.
The album got a good reaction when it came out, good reviews and a bit of exposure. Were you happy with how the album was received back in 1994? Did it get much attention outside of Ireland?
Yes, it was great. Happiness is Mine struck a chord and we had a fan base and interest straight away, thanks to No Disco and great radio support, especially from 2FM & Dave Fanning. The reviews were pretty stellar too, so it was all good. There was some interest from outside of Ireland but it’s all boring stuff about record companies that I don’t really bother myself with, we did release the album in England and France and played TV shows and toured there. I think that’s where a really good, experienced manager would have been handy.
Can you tell us briefly how things panned out after that, there were two more albums, isn’t that right?
Yes, we went on to do two more albums ‘Broadcaster’ and ‘To The End’. ‘Broadcaster was recorded entirely in a studio in Stephens Lane that Shane & Brian O’Neill from ‘Dirt Records’ had built. It was dusty and cold and we didn’t have much equipment but we could go in there anytime we wanted which was liberating. Most of that album was recorded live and you can hear it. It’s very immediate and electric. On both the second and third albums we felt we’d bettered the debut but that’s not how it was received at the time. That was a bit confusing and disappointing but recently listening back to everything I could hear there was something about the first album, and could appreciate that point of view. You never know how people will hear stuff until you put it out.
How do you feel overall about the album now? Anything you would change?
During this period of getting the re-release ready we have talked a little bit about the pros and cons of the decisions we made, the directions we took but we were flying by the seat of our pants at the time. The album has that urgency, that feeling of five people totally committed to what they were doing at that particular time and giving it everything despite the limitations. In that way, it’s a very authentic record. I remember mixing the bulk of the album with Paul Thomas all in one single night. The sun coming up and I was struggling to stay awake staring at all these knobs and faders on the desk and trying to make decisions about the mix. All the others lying around the place asleep and Paul drinking gallons of coffee. That’s the way it was mixed. When we finished we headed to the pub at 10 in the morning. Obviously, the new mix of Happiness is mine by Ronan McHugh shows the potential of what could have been achieved but it is what it is. I do really regret not making a few more records. We had the songs and some of the stuff we left off records that just exist now on cassette. I find it hard to fathom what the hell we were thinking sometimes.
We had a great group of people in the band and around the band and it’s hard to say you regret anything because it was so much fun but ultimately you want to get yourself into the position of making a living from what you’re doing. Getting into the position of being artistically able to make the records you want and make a wage from it at the other end. A band like REM who achieved that to such a high level are incredibly rare and in that way, inspirational, but it matters that they had such a huge demographic (in the US) to develop the band over the course of many albums and many years. Aside from being a stupendously great band, they had the population to sustain a journey like that. In Ireland, we don’t and you’d have to wonder what might have happened with the likes of ‘A House’, ‘Rollerskate Skinny’ or ‘Whipping Boy’ if they’d been American. You have to move out or break out somehow.
I really haven’t listened to Revelino very much at all since the band stopped performing but during the last few months of putting the album and EP, website etc together I definitely came to a new appraisal of what we achieved with the 3 albums and other songs, but particularly why people enjoyed this album so much at the time. Honestly, you have to let go of the reservations because a lot of the time they are just personal to yourself, and being the writer and singer I probably have a few more than the others. I don’t think there’s a band on earth, successful or otherwise, that wouldn’t have regrets and lots of things they’d like to change, but at some point, you just have to let it go and the album stands up on its own merits outside of how I feel about it. I’m just really looking forward to taking it out of the sleeve and seeing the songs cut in the vinyl grooves at last.
Revelino – Revelino – is released on vinyl on October 9th