Steve and Joe Wall were the main songwriters and singers in the hugely successful Irish band, The Stunning. They released four albums and numerous singles between 1990 and 1994. Their debut album, Paradise In The Picturehouse spent five weeks at number one and was certified platinum as did the follow up Once Around The World. Songs such as Half Past Two, Everything That Rises and Brewing Up A Storm became anthems at Stunning gigs and are still heard on the airwaves around Ireland and beyond. However towards the end of 1994 frustrations within the band at the lack of progress being made internationally led to a split.
Joe and Steve spent the following year and a half writing and recording a collection of new songs. They started to receive attention from UK based record companies and in January 1997 they signed to Columbia Records and moved to London. However the relationship didn't work out and the band requested to leave the company. The important thing now was to keep working. They set up a studio in their house in North London and despite annoying the neighbours, made great progress.
In May 1998 they moved back to Ireland where they recruited two new members, called the band the Walls and started rehearsing a live set. A single, Something's Wrong, was released in April 1999 and now the (superb) new album Hi-Lo has just recently been released.
Steve and Joe were in on the Irish Music show as part of their promotional tour to highlight the new album.
Recently it has become easier to know them as The Walls having always referred to them as The Stunning.
Steve: "Actually I still have the occasional slip of the tongue and call ourselves the Stunning but that will have to be ironed out. The more we have had a few singles out and such the Walls are more than just a name now and people are beginning to recognise us."
Is it any harder this time around to get the name known?
Steve: "I think it would be harder if we didn't have what we had with the Stunning because there is a bit of a history now attached to us and a lot of people are curious to know what happened to the Stunning and are curious to know what the new music is like. It's a help to have a background but there is definitely baggage also where people have a preconceived idea of what we should be like. Generally that has been ok."
Did the band find themselves deliberately steering clear of the Stunning sound?
Joe: "It was not really happening like that. It was naturally coming out different to what we had done before. It took a long time to get this new album out. First of all we started demoing stuff in Galway after the Stunning split up. Then we got a record deal and we moved to London and we signed to Columbia Records which is part of Sony. We did a lot of recording there also. Then we left the label but they would not give us the tapes without us giving them a lot of money, something like £86,000. We just said 'get lost!' So we came back to Ireland and started it all again."
Have the lads learned any valuable lessons through all the years?
Steve: "I don't know about learning lessons. We make mistakes but we don't necessarily learn from them [laughs]. I don't know if we are any the wiser to be honest."
Joe: "I think we have learned an awful lot. Sometimes I wish we had learned it all long ago when we were eighteen! The whole experience of being signed to a major company and all, we did learn from that."
Steve: "We started our own label for this album. It's really just a logo at the end of the day. We recorded and produced this ourselves and it's distributed by Record Services. Now it's up to us to sell the record, we are responsible for marketing it and so on. The biggest problem for Irish bands and I am including the Stunning in this, is getting your stuff released abroad. Just because you are signed to a major does not mean that your work is going to be on release in Spain, France or anywhere other than home. It's up to the label boss in each country to decide to take it or not. If there is one thing we have learned is not to get involved in that scenario. It's equally a struggle as a band on an independent label. We raised money for this album through investors to help market the album and there are videos to be made and poster campaigns, ads. There is a big spend involved in getting it out there."
You have to admire the Walls determination to succeed. They have managed to keep going despite having being knocked back on a number of occasions. Hi-Lo is now on general release and there are a number of tracks on it that demand that you take an second listen. Stand out songs for me are Bone Deep and Get Wild. But, hey, don't take my word for it. Buy the album and tell me that this is not the best work the Walls have done for years!!
The Walls' Official Site (currently unavailable)
The Walls at the Open Directory Project
Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show on WLRfm
Friday nights from 10pm to 1am GMT
Last updated 2 July 2002
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Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show