Interviews

WLRFM - Roddy's Irish Music Show

Roddy Cleere of WLRfm interviews Emmett Tinley.

"......I feel that a lot of bands think that they are owed something and it's just not like that. It's a really tough business and you have got to go out and do the work yourself and not expect handouts from anywhere."

1999 has already been a big year for Wicklow band The Prayer Boat. They signed deals with BMG in America, Setanta Records in England, Virgin Records in France and Caroline Records in Spain. The band were also asked to contribute to an album for the prestigious R and B label, Ruffhouse, home to such multi-platinum selling artists as the Fugees and Lauren Hill.

The Prayer Boat is Emmett Tinley, his brother Patrick, Tony Byrne and Tim Houlihan. They derived their name from an Indian festival where people burn incense and candles on small reed boats (prayer boats) and float them down the river Ganges at night, carrying their wishes and prayers.

The Prayer Boat's superb new and second album, 'Polichinelle', is comprised of songs written over a 3 year period up to the spring of 1998 when the first of these was recorded in Dublin. Midway through the recording process, the band made their first trip to America where the reaction to their songs was incredible and won them some heavy-duty fans right across the musical spectrum.

So why is it then that a band of this very apparent talent has yet to reach the higher reaches of the music industry?

Emmett Tinley:

It's just very hard right now to get people to take a chance on our kind of music. They just cannot be sure if it's gonna sell or not. With our kind of music it's very hard to get a single out of it and it's a very expensive business. You have to tour a new album and that too costs money.

For a working band it must be very frustrating when you know that you have the goods to sell but no one is buying.

Yea, it's very hard sometimes to do a show and we sell a few CDs at gigs and people are coming up and saying things like 'Why aren't you huge'. We get emails from all corners of the globe saying the same things. Everyone in the business does see what we have but they are unwilling to take the chance right now.

So what keeps the band going?

Belief in what we do really. It cannot just be for the money, although that's nice but cannot be the main reason. You cannot write songs for other people. It all has to come from the people within the band and it's the belief in what you do to keep you going. It's up to yourself if you want to get out or stay in.

What does the title of the current CD 'Polichinelle' refer to?

It comes from Italy and it was a puppet. It was a deformed puppet and it symbolized something that isn't real when you first look at it.

Does Emmett find it difficult to write songs?

At some point it became easy. I started out by playing covers and enjoyed playing other peoples songs and then I started to write my own. I like the music of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. The first single I ever bought was Super Trouper by ABBA.

How easy it to lay yourself bare to other people through your songs?

It's very easy to write songs when you have something to write about. It isn't like something happens and then I go out and write a song about it. It's something you live with for a while and find what the essence of it is.

How has the music industry treated the band over the years?

We have had the same ups and downs like everyone else. My opinion on that is very different, in that I feel that a lot of bands think that they are owed something and it's just not like that. It's a really tough business and you have got to go out and do the work yourself and not expect handouts from anywhere. We have played America and they are very much into live music and when they go to see a live band they really listen to the music and they don't mind parting with money to hear it. With them, everything is there to be done and seen. The plan is to get the CD released at the end of the summer out there.

The Prayer Boat is a band of quality, as anyone who has listened to their music or seen them live will testify to. Just how long it will take for their music to be in vogue remains to be seen but one thing is sure. With bands like the Prayer Boat waiting in the wings for their time in the spotlight the future of the Irish music business is in more than capable hands.

 

Hot Press - "When The Boat Comes In"  May 31 1995

Interview with singer/guitarist Emmett Tinley and bassist Tony Byrne.

JOHN WALSHE climbs aboard the newly-rejuvenated PRAYER BOAT who are up and sailing again with a new single 'Dark Green'.

THE PRAYER BOAT are back. "So what?" the smart boy at the back of the class asks, under his breath.

So, Blessington's finest have just released a really good single, 'Dark Green', with an album to follow later this year. They've got new management, a record deal and are ready to take on the world again.

Formed in 1987, The Prayer Boat derived their name from an Indian festival where millions of people burn incense and candles on small reed boats (prayer boats) and float them down the River Ganges at night, carrying their wishes and prayers. The band sent a demo away to RCA in 1989 and were signed up by the end of that year. They recorded their debut album, "Oceanic Feeling" in 1990, which was released the following year to almost universal acclaim and very little commercial success.

The all-too-familiar story almost ran its course. Band parts company with record label, never to see the lights of stage again. But no, not The Prayer Boat. Once again proving that Irish bands are made of stern stuff, the four lads packed their bags, moved to Glasgow and licked their wounds for three years before re-emerging as a brighter, fresher outfit with a renewed will to succeed.

They signed a new deal last November with Almo Sounds, the new independent label formed by A&M founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. So are they bitter about the RCA affair?

"Not at all," stresses front man, Emmett Tinley. "By the time we had got to the second album stage, there wasn't a single person left at RCA who had been involved with the band when we were signed. We have no hang-ups about it at all."

They look on that whole incident as a learning experience. "You can't think that just because you have a record deal, things are going to work out," says bassist, Tony Byrne. "It's just the first step. We definitely learned a lot the first time.

"Almo, being a small company, doesn't have a big international conglomerate hacking at its back, trying to get figures on paper and make profits," says Tony about the difference this time around. "It's a bit more intimate than the relationship with RCA, and there's greater communication with the powers-that-be, which helps a lot."

This being their second jaunt on the record company merry-go-round, I wondered if there was more pressure on the band to succeed.

"Not yet," says Emmet. "We all want it to work. Everybody's very positive about the whole deal. This is the first single we've had out since we signed with Almo and we're not really looking for too much from Ireland because of the timing of the release (2TV and No Disco are off the air for the summer months), but if it doesn't have some degree of success in England I'm sure people will start asking questions. At the moment, however, there's no pressure on us."

NEW AWARENESS

With work just completed on the video for 'Dark Green', the single is ready for release in England in early July, to be followed by some tour dates in London. The band are currently recording their second album, which they hope to complete by next month. They fill in the blanks in a hectic summer schedule with Irish tour dates and an appearance in the acoustic tent at the Glastonbury festival.

"We're really looking forward to playing at Glastonbury, "enthuses Tony. "We've never been there, so we'll be going both as participants on stage and participants in the crowd. We're on quite early in the day so we'll be able to enjoy the whole event."

"What we really want to do is to go out and play to people, "explains Emmet. "We don't want to depend on people making phone calls. We want to build up a following by playing live. "Although nothing is finalised yet, Emmett says that he would love to tour Europe and America later this year, maybe as a support act. If MTV were to pick up on the 'Dark Green' video it would make touring Europe easier, allowing them to access markets which have hitherto eluded them.

It's a well-documented fact that punters aren't splashing out as much to attend gigs as they were five years ago. The argument has been raised that dance music is killing live rock 'n' roll. I put it to The Prayer Boat that it's bad rock bands who are killing live rock.

"People don't go searching for music any more," offers Tony. "You're given so much music on television through MTV that the choice is right at your fingertips, and I think live music has suffered because of that. It's the same with the whole Rave thing. You know exactly what you're getting. Whereas, when paying in to see an unknown band you run the risk of being disappointed."

How can the balance be redressed?

"I suppose it depends on what perspective you take on it," offers Tony. "Is success an accolade, or is it the music that matters? There are a lot of bands that are making great music, but because they haven't been commercially successful doesn't mean they've failed. There is also the belief that if you are making good music you want people to hear it. It depends what way you look at it.

"Hopefully The Mean Fiddler will be a venue that will attract people who want to enjoy themselves regardless of who's playing," he continues. "I believe the Rock Garden failed because of its design and decor. It wasn't an uplifting place to be, deep under the ground. The Underground was, of course underground too, but it had a certain quality and an atmosphere."

However, it's not all bad news on the live scene. "We did a gig in Whelan's last month and we were playing some of the older songs," says Emmet. "Essentially we were doing the same thing as three years ago, but there was a completely new awareness of the songs. People are more interested in songs and actual lyrics now than they were previously. It was a strange feeling, but it can only be a good thing."

© 1995 Hot Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

 

2TV Battle Of The Bands - August 1996

Interview with singer/guitarist Emmett Tinley on the Coca-Cola Battle Of The Bands on RTÉ in August 1996. Interview by Dave Fanning.

Dave: That is The Prayer Boat from Blessington in County Wicklow, 'Saved' is the name of that song. So before we go over to the panel we'll go over to the band themselves. So, can I say that of the six bands here tonight, that you have the most experience, certainly as a band, in that you've been around for some time?
Emmet: Yeah, probably so.

Dave: And when you released an album a few years back called "Oceanic Feeling", was that when you relocated to Glasgow or was it after that?
Emmet: It was straight after the release of the album that everything sort of went wrong. So we couldn't tour the album or anything, so we just split.

Dave: Why? Bad contracts with record companies?
Emmet: Well not so much that, but Pat had an accident with his hand straight away when we were going to tour. So we couldn't really do anything with it then and we'd been so long waiting for it to be released that at the end of it we were dropped then shortly after that from the record label.

Dave: So why Glasgow?
Emmet: Well we got new management then and our manager was from Glasgow. He had a P.A. company, so it was cheap to do a gig.

Dave: What was it like to have played some festivals? I know you played in the Glastonbury festival last year.
Emmet: Yeah, it was amazing. We were on pretty early but we were in the acoustic tent which was always a guaranteed audience. It was perfect for what we were doing.
Dave: Is there an album on the way to go with this 'Saved' single?
Emmet: Well, we have to record the album ourselves and its hard getting studio time, but we're hoping to get something out in September.

Note: The Prayer Boat subsequently went on to win that Battle of the Bands competition and won themselves £5,000 worth of equipment sponsored by Coca-Cola.