BY SEÁN P. FEENY
IN 2001 a young band County Down broke onto the Irish music scene with a huge bang defying all ‘traditional’ music boundaries.
Whether it was rockers or mainstream pop music fans, Downpatrick trio Relish had everyone tapping along to their melodic, rocky and harmony-driven songs featured on their platinum-selling debut album Wildflowers.
We caught up with the band’s frontman Kent Papenfus ahead their concert at the Balor Arts Centre in Ballybofey this Saturday night. September 15 to delve into the past and also find out that Relish are about to make up for lost time as they prepare to take on the world.
Like for many band’s there came a point in Relish’s career where the trio felt things weren’t creatively satisfying anymore. While Ken, Carl and Darren were recording their second album, Karma Calling, (2003) in London they would bump into the members of Ocean Colour Scene.
The Britpop outfit were recording at the same studios and so the guys would catch up in the canteen every few days or listen in to each other’s recording sessions.
Ken said: “One afternoon Damon (Minchella) told us he was going to be recording some demos with Mick Talbot and Steve White [both former members of the Style Council] and asked us if we would like to join them for some jamming sessions.”
A few years later Ken and Carl ended up joining what had become somewhat of a supergroup, The Players, playing on their second album From the Six Corners (2005) and going on a full European tour with the band. “It was great for us to do something different, we did a lot of writing together, sending each other material and then later going into the studio in London.”
While Carl was snapped up by The Answer to go on tour with ACDC when their drummer broke his thumb, Ken later joined Paul Weller’s band filling in for Steve Craddock [Ocean Colour Scene] when he was not available to go on tour with Paul.
“We knew the guys from Ocean Colour Scene and Paul had heard our own music so it was great to be asked to tour with him.”
While Ken, Carl and Darren enjoyed experiencing new things, it was only a matter of time before they would once again get back together as Relish.
“It’s great to work with other artists and go on tour, but for us Relish is personal thing – we’re a family so we’ll always stick together,” said Ken.
The trio took time to get on with ‘real’ life, taking time to spend with their families and do everyday things they hadn’t been able to do before.
When the time came that Relish felt they were ready to write a third album, Ken said they knew they would need to approach it as if it were a debut album.
“We knew that we would have to continue on from where we had left it, but also needed to write an album for those people who had never heard our music before.”
No longer tied to EMI, Relish have a brand new team around them as they take their new album, Connected, released by Zephyr Sounds and distributed by RCA Global, and prepared to bring their music around the world – which should have happened the first time around.
“We are doing what we want to do this time and it’s a very organic process as we continue with the soft launch of our new album.
“When we first started we never liked to categorise ourselves with our music and we’re the same today, we hope our music will appeal to a wide range of music fans,” said Ken.
Relish’s fan base has always been exactly like the band’s own record collection, crossing various borders and that was always their greatest appeal.
It is hard to comprehend why one of Ireland’s greatest bands of the early Noughties never went global, but this is about to change as Relish firmly take control of their music.
“We have an experienced team around us that we are heading, but we are able to concentrate on what we do best, too, play music and write songs.
“One of our next biggest steps will be taking our music to the United States, where we have never been before, and then we are already working on our next release for the UK and Irish markets in the new year,” said Ken.
Although EMI Ireland didn’t release the band’s first two albums to a global market, EMI Japan did after seeing Relish at a conference in London. And so they already have a loyal base in Asia, while other countries in Europe and Canada picked up their music.
Ken said: “We are literally venturing into a lot of new territory and making it worthwhile so there are a lot of exciting times ahead for Relish. We really do feel this is a fresh start and a new beginning for us.”
It was during the days of Karma Calling, still under EMI, that Relish were also offered to write material for other bands, one of those bands under the same label was Westlife who ended up recording a rewritten version of their hit Rainbow Zephyr as Hey Whatever.
“We did very well out of our first to albums so allowing Westlife to do their version was never a case of money, but it was a chance for what we were doing ourselves to reach different markets and areas as the label wasn’t taking us there themselves.”
But Relish are finally going international in a big way and it’s long overdue and when new fans delve into the past, after purchasing Connected, and buy Wildflowers and Karma Calling they will find out just how great this trio from Downpatrick is.
Relish play the Balor Arts Centre on Saturday, September 15, at 8.30pm For tickets call the Balor box office on Tel 07491 31850. www.relishmusic.com