The blog’s title gives it away. I was a massive That Petrol Emotion fan back in the day.
So you can imagine that I was delighted to discover recently that four former Petrols are active on the gigging front again in a new band – The Everlasting Yeah.
Ahead of the band’s first headline show (at the Roundhouse in London on 12th October) guitarist/singer Reamann O’Gormain took time to speak to to MPT about life after the Petrols (twice) and his plans for an Everlasting future.
First off he confirmed exactly who is in the new band:
“It’s myself (Reamann), Ciaran (McLaughlin – drums), Brendan (Kelly – bass) and Damian (O’Neill – guitar) – basically the Irish contingent from the last TPE lineup who made ‘Fireproof’ and ‘Final Flame’.”
The end of That Petrol Emotion, however, wasn’t the end of the four musicians’ collaboration and they have developed quite a bond over the years as Reamann explained.
“In a way we never stopped. We always stayed friends for a start. In 1995 we had a band called Wavewalkers which was myself, Damian and Brendan and we originally wanted Ciaran to play but he wasn’t up for it at the time as he wanted a break. So we got in another great drummer, originally from Derry also, called Kevin Sharkey.
“Then after the WWs fell apart (something that broke my heart at the time) Ciaran and myself started playing around London acoustically for a while. These were actually very fertile and creative times – although no real official recordings were made – and loads of songs were written.
“We kept trying to start something over the years but it just didn’t happen for the longest time. We would often talk about it and there were a few abortive attempts but it just didn’t gel for whatever reason.
“We didn’t actually get serious until after the TPE reunion shows in 08 and 09 and after that we realized that we really wanted to keep going. However after the last TPE show in Brooklyn, in December 2009 Steve Mack decided he didn’t want to straddle continents any more due to the birth of his first child, so TPE shows and plans came to an abrupt end.
“The rest of us felt that there was some kind of momentum to be capitalized on nonetheless so we started rehearsing to see what would happen. The four of us had actually already done a small gig playing new material of mine for my 40th birthday in 2001 and that went down really well so there was always a feeling that the magic was still there and worth reinvestigating.
“It’s actually very difficult for me to consider playing with anyone else. I did a few other things with other people for fun but we work so well as a unit I’m always drawn back to these fantastic musicians who are also my friends. We have such a laugh together. We also have acquired an unspoken understanding over the years and an uncanny ability to just improvise something great from scratch so I was thrilled at the prospect of playing together again and haven’t been disappointed. [That b’day gig in 2001 was actually filmed and recorded and is on youtube btw].
“So in early 2010 we started rehearsing seriously and got very excited about the initial results only for Ciaran to put his back out and everything had to be put on hold for nearly a year again.
“It has often been a slow and very frustrating experience getting to the point where we are now. It feels like a lot of negativity and obstacles have been put in our way but we have somehow emerged triumphant. We now have a set of all new, very strong material and are finally ready to play in public. The upcoming gig in London at the Roundhouse Theatre on 12 October feels very significant. We have done two shows already as support but this is our first headline gig and we want it to be something special.”
That Petrol Emotion were well known not just for being a great band but also for being enthusiastic music fans. Reamann explained that little has changed in that regard even if the Everlasting Yeah draw on, perhaps, a wider range of influences than TPE did.
“Ciaran and I still swap music that we’re listening to, we have pretty similar tastes although those have probably changed a lot since TPE days. Nowadays we consider things we wouldn’t have countenanced back then. It’s called growing up! I think some core influences remain the same but there’s loads of other bits and pieces in there – too many to mention in fact.
“If I had to narrow it down I’d say you can hear as jump off points the influence of The Velvets, Television, Joy Division, War, the Equals, Can, NY Dolls and of course there’s a bit of TPE in there for good measure.”
On the evidence of the live videos that are up on Youtube, The Everlasting Yeah sound a little looser than That Petrol Emotion. Actually, maybe a lot! Reamann described the new band’s sound in another of those snappy one liners that TPE used to specialize in.
“Celtic Cosmic Music that feeds your heart / head and moves your hips / feet.”
Reamann and Ciaran, of course, took over lead songwriting duties in the Petrols after the departure of John O’Neill with the other band members all contributing. The balance in the EY seems to be similar but Reamann explained that the songwriting method is somewhat different this time around:
“We jam a lot so it’s more freeform this time, as you say much looser. We’re really trying to pluck stuff out of the ether, to tap into the collective unconscious, so we improvise and then have to go back and try and relearn what we played during the improvisation. So it can be hard work sometimes but always very rewarding.
“Ciaran and I will usually fashion the lyrics and top line melodies because we’re doing the bulk of the singing. But the best songs are the ones where we’ve just stumbled on something and everyone finds their way into it.”
One big difference between That Petrol Emotion and the Everlasting Yeah is that TPE very much had an established front man in Steve Mack, whereas the EY don’t. I might have thought that replacing such an outgoing lead singer would have been a problem for the band but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
“It has just evolved organically. Ciaran and I both love singing and it seems to be working well so far that we do the lions’ share. However the whole tribe sings!
“As we get more confident it can only improve, the blend of our voices is cool and complementary as we sound quite alike, and it gives the whole thing a real collective vibe where there is less of a focus on a single (front) person. There’s a lot of call and response too so it’s all very inclusive and a few songs are built for the audience to sing along with – in a non corny way of course!
“There’s a lot of earworms there which once heard will be hard to shake off, I’m so fed up hearing unmemorable music or songs that have zero hooks. David Holmes, the renowned DJ, said that we have more hooks in the first minute of our songs than most bands have in their entire career which I loved!”
With only two shows to date, the band are keen to get out and about to share the new material in a live setting.
“Obviously we’re hoping that word will spread quickly that we’re ready to go out and tour properly. I can’t wait to go on the road personally. We’d consider playing most places within reason, we just need to be asked!
“The TPE reformation shows made me realize how foolish we’d been to throw the towel when we did, although saying that the audiences for those shows could have been better.
“There seems to be a major problem of reaching the people who used to like us. PR in general is a headache, I mean at the moment it’s just mostly me on Facebook trying to drum up interest. But there’s only so much I can do with a full time job, family and band rehearsals all vying for attention!”
If gigs beyond next month’s London show are still at the planning stage, the Everlasting Yeah have more definite plans for recording.
“Finally, we are booked to go in straight after the London show. We are not putting any pressure on ourselves as we have often found the studio a troublesome and difficult environment in the past.
“So we are gonna make sure that this time its just fun, first and foremost, and that the enjoyment and freedom from any expectation or pressure will result in something special going down to tape. I want us to capture the moment the way truly great records do.
“There will be no record company interference anymore or any unspoken pressure to have a ‘hit’ so I’m sure it’s gonna be a gas. Plus I’ve got some great guitar effects I’m looking forward to being able to use.”
Reamann is clear on the band’s ambitions for the next 12-18 months – with one eye on the longer term.
“Just to get up and running really as a proper, fully functioning unit that plays on a regular basis. Then maybe, just maybe, to be able to make it into a full time thing.”
Looking back at his former band Reamann confessed to one regret.
“If I had one wish it would be that TPE be acknowledged as the influential band that they were at the time and to be rewritten back into history and not confined to the margins. Apparently there was a book about politics in music during the eighties published recently and there was not even one mention of us – extraordinary!”
To round things off I asked if there is any prospect of TPE shows at some point in the future.
“Never say never. Derry was the City of Culture this year and originally there was talk that the Undertones would curate an event and pick their favourite bands to play. John O’Neill wanted the Petrols to play and everyone would have been up for it. However it soon transpired that no budget would be allocated so it never happened which was a crying shame. Still pariahs in our own parish after all these years.
“Saying that, if the EY get a bit of momentum going it might confuse matters a bit but maybe not. The thing about the TPE catalogue is that it’s timeless, the songs haven’t dated. I’m still very proud of most of them and enjoy playing them so that’s not an issue.
“I wouldn’t want us ever to do any new stuff all the same. The catalogue is fine the way it is and deserves a decent box set reissue at the very least some day – if all the various record companies could only come to some kind of mutually agreeable licensing deal.”
To be honest, the prospect of a deluxe TPE boxset with all the studio albums, rarities and maybe even a live show or two thrown in, is enough to get me drooling.
But, actually, that’s a diversion. Because, in the present, these four musicians are very much focussing on the Everlasting Yeah and hopefully it won’t be too long before their first recordings will be available.
Believe me, they are very much worthy of your attention and, to demonstrate that, here’s one of the live videos out there on YouTube. I honestly can’t imagine any TPE fan not loving ‘Tell Me’. I know that I do.
You can get more information on next month’s London show here and, even if you can’t make it to London (as I sadly can’t), then stay in touch with the band through Facebook or Twitter (@everlastingyeah ) .
The Everlasting Yeah photo by Simon Bradley