RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with singer Leigh Matty to talk the past, the present and the future.
RUSHONROCK: You were away for 18 years – what prompted the decision to get Romeo’s Daughter back together?
LEIGH MATTY: Initially it was because we were asked by Firefest’s Kieran Dargan if we’d play the festival. We’d been asked a couple of times over the years but in 2007 I went to see FM and I talked to Kieran at that gig. He explained he’d been a big fan of the band back in the day and was really keen to see us play again. Two years later we joined FM on the Saturday bill and it was incredible. We hadn’t even considered getting back together at all. Don’t ask me why but it just wasn’t in our plans. A lot of our peers from the late 80s/early 90s were getting back together and doing well but I hadn’t sung professionally for 18 years and it wasn’t something I was just going to decide to do one day. It just so happened that the rest of the guys were free around the time of that Firefest show and we ended up having a blast. We’d all stayed in touch and we realised we wanted to do more. The rest, as they say, is history. I went out on stage that night and got the most amazing response from the people in front of me. We came off stage wondering whether we had another album in us and decided to give it a go.
RUSHONROCK: Right now do you feel like 18 years in the wilderness was too long?
LM: Absolutely. I can’t quite believe that I waited that long to sing again. What on earth was I doing? I mean I did the odd thing – the odd backing track here and there. But nothing like what I’d been doing with Romeo’s Daughter. I just can’t believe I gave that up for so long. I don’t know what I was thinking! I suppose I had become very disillusioned with the music business by the time we called it a day the first time. We tried everything possible to make a success of the band back in the day but for various reasons it just didn’t happen for us. In the end I was quite relieved to be out of the business when the band did disband. But I’d forgotten just how much I loved the physicality of singing live on stage in front of an audience. Now I just can’t believe that I stopped doing what I love.
RUSHONROCK: What prevented Romeo’s Daughter from reaching that next level?
LM: The first record came out in 1989 and I think if it had been released in ’86 or ’87 then it might have been very different. The US embraced us pretty quickly and Heaven In The Backseat charted over there. They really liked us but by the time we got around to making the second album it was all just a mess. We missed the boat. It was just how things happened. If we’d been a bit stronger and a bit more forceful as a band we might have got more of what we wanted. But hindsight is a waste of time.
RUSHONROCK: Was making new music all part of the plan when you did decide to get back together?
LM: It had to be. After doing a few comeback gigs there wouldn’t have been anything left for us to do. We were never hugely popular in the first place – we had a bit of an underground following but we weren’t on the same level as Thunder or the Quireboys for instance. We had a burst of good press when we started and I was suddenly on the covers of all of the rock magazines but it all died pretty quickly. We only had a short period of time for people to get to know us and as a consequence people only knew a couple of the singles and we didn’t have a huge back catalogue to fall back on. We only had two albums and if we were going to come back properly we needed some new music.
RUSHONROCK: Does playing the new music give you a buzz?
LM: We love to play tracks from the last two albums live. We’re not scared to put our reputation on the line. We played two new songs from Spin at Hard Rock Hell earlier this year before that album had been released. It’s very important for us to be in a position to play new music. We want people to get to know what we’re doing right now. It’s great t play the songs that people know and love but it’s all about moving forward as far as Romeo’s Daughter is concerned. As a band it’s both exciting and scary when we play a new song for the first time because it’s what underpins everything that we do. We don’t have a record deal – we do everything ourselves and the new music is at the heart of that.
RUSHONROCK: It’s rare when a band makes a comeback that all of the original members come back on board: do you all get along after all of these years?
LM: We actually get on better than we ever did! I think we’ve all kind of matured since the early days. There are times when we don’t all agree 100% but that’s only natural. We never broke up in the first place because we didn’t get on with each other so getting back together was no problem. The guys are very funny and we always have a great laugh when we’re on the road. I’m always laughing at their stupid antics and when we go out on tour it’s an opportunity to be sillier than we ever were.
RUSHONROCK: How did the tour with FM come about?
LM: It’s come full circle for us really. In 1989 the first tour we did was with FM and now they’re taking us out on their 30th anniversary tour. We picked up a lot of fans from doing that FM tour and it’s a natural thing for us to go out with them on the road again. This time it made even more sense because we’ve both got new albums out. It’s a fabulous opportunity for us to promote Spin. Later in the year we’ll do our own headline tour but we’ve been looking forward to going out with our old mates for a while now.
RUSHONROCK: Both bands (and opening act No Hot Ashes)played Hard Rock Hell AOR earlier this year – how much do you enjoy that festival?
LM: It’s the second time we’ve played the AOR festival and it’s a really well run and professional event. It’s great to be part of it and we love playing there. We had a great slot this year and had the chance to play a short acoustic set too. Because of that – and the way we felt it went – Craig and I have decided to pursue that side of things. We’d never done an acoustic set before but loved it and we’re looking to do a longer, unplugged set in the future. And it’s all thanks to Hard Rock Hell AOR!
RUSHONROCK: Female fronted rock is big business in 2015 – do you feel you missed the boat or is it a good time to be starting out again?
LM: I don’t know. The music industry is very different to the way it used to be. We were lucky enough to jump on the end of the opulent 80s – we tasted the end of the good times when there was money to be made from record deals. In that respect it was a good time to be fronting a new band. Now I think we’d have to be all over social media and be forced to accept that there was no lucrative record deal at the end of the road. I’m very much enjoying our second chance but I think we all see things differently. Today we’re doing it because we really love it and that’s the only reason. When we started out we loved it but we also thought we could make some money out of it! And we wanted to be famous! These days that doesn’t really matter – we all have jobs and the music is a hobby that we love.
RUSHONROCK: New album Spin has already picked up some great reviews – having lived with the record for a few months now how do you feel about it?
LM: It’s weird actually. Once you finish an album, as a musician, you don’t listen to it for ages because you’re actually scared to hear it again in case it’s awful! Or at least that’s what I’m like. My gut feeling when we finished recording Spin was that I’d really, really love it down the line. But it doesn’t really matter what I think – it’s what the fans think. They will all have their favourite song but Craig’s songs are always very catchy and I think that’s at the heart of the new album. Personally I love the song Radio – we played that at Hard Rock Hell – but I’m very proud of the record as a whole. I’m proud that we haven’t relied on the way we sounded in the 80s and that we’ve tried to freshen things up. We want to be relevant but we’ll always sound like Romeo’s Daughter!