"......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?
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.
The Prayer Boat's Official Site
The Prayer Boat at the Open Directory Project
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Last updated 29 April 2002
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Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show