Thursday, 25 September 2014
The Song Lives On, Part 2 – Revelino, ‘Happiness Is Mine’
Info: Revelino were a Dublin 5-piece band who released three albums from 1994 to 2001, Revelino, Broadcaster and To The End. The band comprised of Brendan Tallon (vocals & guitar), Alan Montgomery (bass & vocals), Bren Berry (guitar & vocals), Ciaran Tallon (guitar) and Shane Rafferty (Drums). The band primarily played gigs in the famous Whelan’s of Wexford Street in Dublin’s south city, where they built up a significant fanbase. Perhaps their most well-known song is ‘Happiness Is Mine’ (above) which featured on the cult Network 2 alternative music show, No Disco, leading to the band gaining an even bigger following. On a personal note I recall seeing Revelino live twice, once at a college gig in UCD and I’m certain I also saw them in Whelans, although, as Brendan mentions below, they played everywhere back then so it really could have been anywhere! I got in touch with Revelino frontman Brendan Tallon and asked him to cast his mind back to those heady days, and he didn’t disappoint with some great stories. Also, a massive thanks to Brendan from myself for taking the time to put this piece together, here’s what he had to say:
‘We lived out in the Ballinteer suburbs in a house together, just like The Monkees but without the hits. We didn’t really hang that much in town unless we were gigging or recording there. I suppose if there was a scene, that’s where it must have been happening. I remember there were lots of gigs to play though, bands went into actual studios, rented rehearsal rooms. We played and rehearsed incessantly. If we weren’t playing music in our band house, we’d be in a local bar doing gigs for a few beers or hiring out rehearsal rooms to work on new songs – we were playing and working all the time. When we started we’d all given up our jobs, we couldn’t really play but we decided to go for it and we rehearsed 5 days a week from 10 to 5 every day in a local youth club. We rehearsed in the aisles of our local Supermarket, on Christmas day, anywhere, anytime and we really gigged a lot, traveling all over the country, to England, usually London, some gigs in Europe and we even got to America a few times. Mostly if you were to ask me what’s the standout memory, it would be traveling around, usually in a van that was fitted out with airplane seats so we could all sit around together, the band and crew, having the most unbelievable fun you could imagine. I never laughed as hard and as much as those trips. We fought like fuckers too, fist fights, all that, but there were some funny people in that group and we had some seriously hilarious times together. We were all from the Ballinteer area, the band and the crew, so the house was where we hung out, most nights of the week people were there. We played a pretty well-known pub called the Blue Light every weekend and there were parties after those gigs where half the pub would come back to the house. One time we arrived back in our bass player, Monty’s little green Mazda with 20 German bikers following us into the quiet little leafy estate at 2 in the morning. Stuff like that was happening all the time so it was a very interesting experience. We had a deaf neighbour who complained about the vibrations. Funnily enough though, we got on great with the landlord, a detective, and generally the others living around the place.
It was really our own scene rather than feeling a part of something bigger happening in Dublin. It was fairly Rock n’ Roll. One year I didn’t see sunlight for the entire winter. Not very healthy. But we were pretty serious about the band and trying to do the best gigs and recordings we could. If I have any regrets it’s that I didn’t enjoy some of the actual live gigs more. I used to get quite nervous before gigs. Basically I took it too seriously. It would usually work out because the gigs were nearly always great, the crowds were nearly always great but so much time was wasted being uptight before the event. I’ve learned to deal with that anxiety more efficiently now. Also I wished we’d worked on the whole recording process a lot more. You left it to the engineers back then but there was no real producer, no arranger and I think a lot of Irish bands suffered from that over the years while American and English bands seemed to produce better records sonically and conceptually – and maybe a lot of that was because they were better bands but also because of the expertise of the people working in the studios. In Dublin as far as I could see it was a matter of going in, setting up as you would live and hoping for the best. A hangover from the traditional musician concept in the Irish that has probably dissipated somewhat now. Of course there’s a lot of value in that too but no one ever suggested slowing a song down, changing the key, cutting out a solo, getting to the chorus quicker. There were no producers. Now I realise that kind of experienced ear in these situations is invaluable. Our first two records were basically live albums recorded in a studio, which gives them some energy for sure, but sonically and as musical arrangements they could have been better with even little bit of guidance. The others in the band don’t agree. Our first album was mixed in one night with most of the band asleep on the floor. If I could do it again I would have learned as much as I could about capturing sound, arranging, what makes a record work. At that time recording was a very expensive exercise. You had to save a lot of money and go into a studio in town. Now everyone has a pretty decent studio on their computer. We did get our hands on a 16 track machine and did some great stuff on that but I wasn’t interested in those days in the process. That was someone else’s job. My main thing was song-writing. That’s how I saw myself, not ever as a singer even, that was incidental because no one else stepped up to the mic and I wrote the songs so I naturally ended up doing it. I wrote most of the first album around the time we’d finished our previous incarnation ‘The Coletranes’. We were deemed by our manager and ourselves to be too static and uninteresting, visually, live so we recruited a third guitarist (just a couple of months before anyone had heard of Radiohead). That was my brother Ciaran who became a big influence on the musical direction of the band. We rented a rehearsal room in Churchtown and spent a week putting the songs together and I can clearly remember the feeling coming out of those rehearsals and all of us being ecstatic about how the songs were sounding. We knew it was good stuff because of how it was making us feel – it’s one of the best feelings you can get and I’m sure every single band ever formed has experienced it at some level. It’s one of the big things you really miss about being in a band. We were very close and those kinds of times just brought you even closer and made us feel you had something worthwhile to put out on record. Later our next door neighbour Michelle Spillane, who ended up making videos for bands, passed a remark on how funny she found it that every band is blown away by their own songs. It stuck with me as being something to keep in mind.
But before we even played a gig as Revelino we’d gone to a studio, recorded the new songs, printed the album and had ‘Happiness is Mine’ played on No Disco. We weren’t exactly trying to build a crowd at our first gigs, they were already there. Just a few weeks of being played on one TV show, some reviews of the album and we had an enthusiastic following. Our home soil for gigs was definitely Whelans. We played every conceivable venue up and down the country but that was the bands natural habitat, probably because we played it so much and that was the closest we came to being part of a greater scene. There were lots of great bands on the gig’s, lots of other musicians hanging out, probably the venue for the 90’s Dublin scene in the way The Baggot had been in the 80’s. Everyone played there, everyone went and hung out there, the crowds were always great, that’s where the energy was concentrated. We’d released the first album with an independent company called Dirt run by Brian and Shane O’Neill of the Blue Angles and they had the idea to build their own studio. It was makeshift but it was a wet dream come true to have your own place to record any time you wanted, day or night, and we did. It wasn’t well equipped with mics or outboard gear but it did have a 2 inch 24 track Studer tape machine which was Mecca for recording to tape. That was another great period for all of us although we were arguing a lot among ourselves, there was a lot more tension than on the recording of the Revelino album and like so many indie dreams it wasn’t going to last once the practicalities of making a living crept in on everyone as time went by. It wasn’t an ideal space to make music, dusty, cold, run down and junk everywhere but we got our second album Broadcaster out of it. The first album happened at a certain time and place and in a way that seemed to catch a wave. The second didn’t. It’s strange when you feel you’ve topped your first album, you think the songs were better, the playing, the recording but there’s this disconnect between what the band feels about it and how it goes down. This album was recorded by more experienced engineers, mixed by a real mixing engineer in London, properly packaged and promoted. It went down well live, with the reviewers and the fans but it didn’t take us anywhere we hadn’t been before. Now I can look back and understand why but at the time it was confusing and disappointing for us and was also fractious to our inter-band relationships.
The gigs were still well attended, the album got some radio airplay on the usual shows and on No Disco again but it didn’t take us on to the next level. In other words, we couldn’t make any money. Actually, we did make money, but it all went back into trips abroad or videos or something that didn’t include a wage. The first cheque I ever got for royalties I cashed, then promptly had the money stolen from the house. It was more money than I’d ever had in my life. A week later the fuckers came back for our stereos, one in each room. Anyway, musically maybe we had just repeated ourselves but it became clear to me that we’d stalled. Our drummer Shane, felt differently. He was sure the album would break us and he was so disillusioned when it didn’t that he left and disappeared West. After that it was never the same. It sounds like a cliché, but it really wasn’t, that was the beginning of the end. We went through a few drummers. One guy we had to sack during a packed gig in Whelans. It was his first big Dublin gig with us. He was nervous and behaving very strangely and drinking too much. Only 4 songs in and it was such a shambles I decided we had to pull the gig. Literally at that moment as we were about to announce it to the crowd, our previous stand in drummer walked into the room. We sacked the drunk on the spot and finished the gig. People actually thought the whole thing was a set up for publicity. Fucking unbelievable. The funniest part was after I walked off the stage the drummer we’d sacked came up to me and said ‘so, how do you think it went?’. Stupidly though, as if to exasperate the feeling of being stalled I didn’t feel there was much point in gigging the same venues endlessly even if they were successful. The others, especially my brother Ciaran argued strongly that we should keep playing as much as we ever did, doing regular gigs no matter what else was happening. Taking such a long break from gigging before our third album was really the worst thing we could have done for the profile of the band but that’s what we did pretty much at my insistence. Meanwhile Bren our guitarist, started working for Aiken Promotions in Vicar Street which meant playing Whelans was out. He denies it but we never played Whelans again after that. We were under an unspoken agreement to base ourselves around Vicar Street supporting bands that came through and playing the smaller venue The Shelter. By the time we’d gone back into Sun Studios and recorded what I think is probably our best album To The End, we’d lost our momentum and what following we had, almost completely. We knew it was our last album, no big deal but the clue was in the title and the cover – kamikaze pilots about to set off on a mission.
At that stage Monty had also left because we’d stopped gigging and because, he said, he didn’t like the new songs. Despite there being only three of us left we had a great time making the record. To The End got no airplay. There were no ‘singles’ on it as someone pointed out, but it was musically exactly as we wanted it at the time. We gigged it for a few months. The new line up of band was actually sounding great. Some of the gigs were exceptional but it got to the point where it would take weeks to synchronise everyone for a rehearsal. It just got too hard to get everyone in the same room so without it ever being expressly stated among ourselves we just stopped calling to organise gigs or sessions. No break up meeting after years of being in each other’s pockets. Now when I meet people who say they were big Revelino fans they have never even heard of To The End, they don’t know we even made a third album. Revelino wasn’t a thing we did in our spare time. We didn’t have other jobs and play in a band at night. In the beginning we played together every day practically but by the end people always seemed to have something going on that was more important. I have my theories about why we didn’t make it further. From that time, even legends to us like ‘A House’ petered out though. None of that ‘class’ made it. I guess we just suffer from a sustainability issue with such a small population and an Anglo-American obsession within our media. Thankfully it’s shifted but I still don’t see some great bands and singers from Ireland now breaking out. One thing for better or worse we never did as Revelino was think commercially. Musically we tried to please ourselves. There are some songs I would rather have not recorded and a lot of songs we didn’t release that I think are much better. Sometimes I felt coerced into directions I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with but then we all do to some extent. Should a band be a democracy or a dictatorship? Now I’m recording and writing either on my own or as part of a duo with Barry O’Mahoney. Last year we released our first album under the name ‘Saturday Captains’. I’ve thought about going back and recording some of the good songs that didn’t make it onto Revelino albums but I’m not sure if I want to go back that badly. A petition started a few weeks ago online ‘get Revelino back together for a gig’. My brother texted me about it so I checked it out – two signatories and I’m pretty sure one of them was him!’
– Brendan Tallon, Revelino (vocals & guitar)