With new album A Sinner’s Saint out now via Frontiers Records and plans already in place to pen the follow-up there’s no stopping the Ulster quintet.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman Phil Conalane to bring you the first part of an exclusive interview with one of Britain’s brightest prospects.
rushonrock: The Northern Irish rock scene appears to be in rude health right now – is that the case?
Phil Conalane: It is. It really is. There’s a lot of bands doing stuff both within Northern Ireland and beyond. The scene is growing even if the bands have always been there. There have always been a number of really, really good bands but with the likes of The Answer, Trucker Diablo and ourselves making an impression abroad the whole scene is moving up a notch. I’m hoping it will lead to a lot more great bands being discovered.
rushonrock: Why has the profile of rock music in Northern Ireland grown so fast, so soon?
PC: It’s a very vibrant and healthy scene but I think it’s a case of bands in Northern Ireland these days realising that they have to travel to make their dreams come true. Even if it’s a case of simply going over to mainland UK it makes a huge difference. You can’t rely on people coming over to Belfast or wherever – it’s a case of drawing attention to yourselves. The internet has been great as well – especially for the new breed of bands coming through.
rushonrock: So are there a lot of new kids on the brink of making a breakthrough?
PC: There are loads of new bands snapping at our heels! It’s crazy. There is a huge number of talented rock and metal bands in this part of the world right now and the likes of ourselves and The Answer have to up our game to stay in front! We know everyone and everyone knows us. It’s a tight scene and there’s a lot of support between bands. There wasn’t that same sense 10 years ago – The Answer were just starting to challenge Therapy? and Ash but now they’re the clear frontrunners. Behind them there are at least 20 bands who could become the next big thing in Northern Irish rock music. It’s great to be a part of that.
rushonrock: You play a diverse range of rock and metal so how did you shape the M$R sound?
PC: This is the thing with M$R. We all came into this situation from different bands but we all felt like we’d got to the point where we were going through the motions. We got so comfortable doing the things we were doing that we lost that edge you need. But the time I spent in cover bands and pub bands learning my trade had been invaluable up to that point. Because of that we all knew each other and we knew we had a common interest in the kind of music we’re playing now. It just kind of snowballed from there – we formed a band and wrote some songs and the next thing we knew were in the studio writing an album!
rushonrock: Did that songwriting process reflect your varying backgrounds?
PC: The reason the new album sounds like so many different bands from so many different eras is solely down to the fact that we’ve all been influenced by so many different records over the years. Everyone brings their own inspiration and ideas to the table. We never set out to be a classic rock band but it’s just turned out that most our music fits that bracket. And don’t get me wrong – I’d rather be called classic rock than nu-metal! But Andy [Mack, guitar] comes from more of a metal background and as a result some of our songs are a little heavier and faster. B.A.M., our other guitarist, is a pure Aerosmith/Quireboys rock n roll aficionado whereas me and Kie, our bass player, are into AC/DC and Lizzy! Our drummer Sean is so young he won’t even know who any of these bands are! We’re not trying to do anything special or flash – we are who we are and we hope people like what we do.
rushonrock: Where the band name come from?
PC: I get asked this all the time! It comes from poker – we play poker a lot. Anyone who knows anything about poker will know there’s a ‘reload’. And there’s a mythical ‘million dollar reload’ – it just summed up our attitude and the fact that we like taking chances.
rushonrock: Frontiers Records is the home to some of the world’s biggest and best AOR and hard rock bands – is it the perfect place for M$R to be?
PC: At the moment it’s a great label for us to be on. Our former label folded and we were left in a position where we still intended to put a record out but we suddenly didn’t have a label to do that for us. We wanted to go ahead but we don’t have any kind of PR or distribution expertise. It’s all very well for bigger and more experienced artists to release records themselves because they’ve been around and know the business but a lot of smaller bands don’t have a grasp of what needs to be done. That’s where record labels can still do a job. Frontiers aren’t strictly a rock label – I’d say they were more AOR and progressive. But they’ve really looked after us and they’ve been great. They’ve done everything we could have asked in terms of raising awareness around the new record – now it’s out job to keep the momentum going.