Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show

Engine Alley

May 1999

From the official band biography: "Engine Alley has had a variety of line-ups but the issue is not as confusing as it may seem. The basic core of the band is Canice Kenealy (lead vocals and second guitar), Brian Kenealy (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Eamonn Byrne (bass). This has been the consistent and non-changing basis of the band. In true Spinal Tap fashion, drummers have come and gone, not infrequently. On drums from late 1989 to late 1994 was Emmaline Duffy-Fallon, followed by ex-Hothouse Flower Jerry Fehily for 1995, Gary Sullivan in 1996 and our present skins Paul O'Byrne 1997.

In 1991 we introduced a fifth element with classical musician Ken Rice (Irish Chamber Orchestra), who played violin and keyboards, he remained until late 1995 and also appears on the unreleased 1996 recording sessions. 1998 the line-up was briefly augmented by Mark Murphy on guitar. Mark had played in Brian's 1997 side project The Valleys, (which also included Eamonn and Paul). Confused? Good!

Guest musicians over the years have included; Mark 'Anthony' McGrath, Kirsty MacColl and Paul Kelly. As it goes the four-man twin Kenealy guitar assault is what we're happiest with these days.

Engine Alley formed at the latter end of the 1980's in the shape of Kilkenny boys, Canice Kenealy (Vocals), Brian Kenealy (Guitar) and Eamonn Byrne (Bass). Moving to Dublin in 1989, they recruited drummer Emmaline Duffy-Fallon and the line-up was completed in 1991 with the addition of Ken Rice (Orchestra) from Kerry on violin. While living in Dublin they took their name from a grey barren street in the heart of the Liberties, an old part of Dublin's south inner city. They quickly established a loyal following with their generally manic live performance and colorful appearance. Mother Records signed them and their first release was the Flowerbox EP in August 1991. The next single, Infamy, was followed by their excellent debut album A Sonic Holiday (produced by Steve Lillywhite), which won a Smithwicks / Hot Press award for Best Irish Album of 1992. The album contained a fine collection of tracks including the singles Mrs. Winder, Song For Someone and Infamy. In September 1993, Infamy was released in the UK followed by a return to the studio in the company of Pat Collier. The results were included on a revamped version of A Sonic Holiday entitled Engine Alley which was released in the UK in November 1993 and included the single Switch. At this stage Engine Alley had moved lock, stock and barrel to London. Switch was released in Ireland in December 1993 with three other new tracks from the Pat Collier session. The band relocated to Dublin in 1994 and the album Engine Alley was released Stateside on Island records. October of that year saw the band on a short but very successful tour of the US. On their return home in November 1994 there was a slight setback with the sudden departure of drummer Emmaline. This was quickly redressed by the inclusion of ex-Hothouse Flowers drummer Jerry Fehily. February 1995 saw the band part company with Mother. Not ones to hang around they immediately began to write and entered Sun Studios, Dublin with an armful of songs ready to record. They emerged triumphant with a ten-track album entitled Shot In The Light, produced, engineered and recorded by Engine Alley. Shot In The Light, which was released on 28 July 1995 on the Irish independent label, Independent, is a move away from the pseudo-glam rock/pop, sound/image of A Sonic Holiday. The new sound is a raw, rocky, live sound which shows the darker sound of Engine Alley. There is now more emphasis on the guitar/bass/drum nucleus of the band. 1996 the band decided to take a break. Canice and Brian pursued separate musical and non-musical endeavors while Eamonn landed bass duties with 'The Lord of the Dance' show. In early 1998 the lads felt ready to reconvene and along with Paul O'Byrne (drummer from Brian's interim project, The Valleys), played a triumphant return gig in April in The Da Club. That gig found the collective engines in fine form with Canice as irrepressible and compelling as ever and band locked into a fresh accomplished groove, onwards as ever!"

With the release of Lavender Girl they are now on their tour of radio stations and it was during the rock show recently that I had the chance to talk with the brothers Kenealy, Brian and Canice.

Canice: "I suppose we kinda broke up three years ago. I don't know what the official line on that is really but in the end I hadn't spoken to Brian for a couple of months, I used to throw apples at his house just to show him that I was still alive [laughs]. We have started writing songs again. Brian did his own thing, he had a band called The Valleys and I went off and made some strange recordings and Eamonn went off and did some work with Lord of The Dance and still is in fact."

Did the guys miss the Engine Alley thing in the intervening three years?

Canice: "We missed the good bits and didn't miss the bad bits! We probably get a bit drained by getting involved in the industry and trying too hard. Those parts we kinda left behind. We did miss playing live together and writing songs. It was those parts we wanted to come back to. We did learn enough to know that there was ground that we didn't need to go back over, like personal stuff. Not to say that we would not have arguments but we would be more careful with those arguments. It's more concentrated now on who does what within the band. It's more focused on a certain kind of sound and we know what works. The attitude now is just to make music and I think that was always the attitude but we were caught up in the idea of making it really big. I don't really know what the big aims are any more but we are definitely more relaxed with everything now."

What kind of music influenced that band?

Canice: "Brian would be a bit of a Neil Young head. My angle would be punk, the Jam and the Clash. The whole structure of the band is around choruses."

Is there a new album anywhere in the plans?

Canice: "A new album? Yea. We have material in storage and we are always putting stuff down and testing the waters so to speak so we could have an album out soon. The reaction to the single has been very good. People are playing it on various stations. It's nice to see that people are genuinely please to see that Engine Alley are back again and hopefully we will be doing all the major cities in Ireland over the summer."

At this stage of the conversation Brian decided that Canice was hogging the limelight a bit and joined in. Was he happy with the end result of Lavender Girl?

Brian: "Yes I have to say I am very happy with it. That's all we can do with it now anyway. We have to let it go now and see what happens with it. We never leave the studio until we are happy with what we have done and we have always kept that policy. We began work on this on the first of January this year. We actually demoed about ten songs and then we went back and picked three and the end result is what you hear."

Engine Alley's Lavender Girl is now on general release on Chrome Star records and is distributed by Records Services.

Engine Alley at the Open Directory Project

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Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show