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The Would Be’s
“Would Be suggests unattainable dreams, unfulfilled ambition, something elusive and hard to come by, not yet accomplished”
Shreiking Violet writes of The Would Be’s in 2011
Early nineties Indie sensation The Would Be’s infamously turned down 14 major labels to follow up their John Peel and Morrissey acclaimed debut single. They chose the most obscure indie label in order to stand by their Indie Ethics. Some would say the folly of youth… and everyone else would probably agree, as all further material was critically underfunded and the band broke up within the year. Armed with an arsenal of 20 years’ worth of new songs and persuaded by Tony Clayton Lea to come out of retirement… The Would Be’s are back and have a point to prove.
John Peel, Dave Fanning, Morrissey, Steve Lemacq, Tony Clayton Lea, Ian Dempsey, Jim Carroll, BP Fallon, Rodney Binginheimer and Stuart Bailey to name a few, fell for songs like “I’m Hardly Ever Wrong”, “My Radio Sounds Different in The Dark” and “Funny Ha Ha”. Described by NME as “Idiosyncratic Indie Oom-Pah Pop”, The band’s early influences are bands like The Smiths, The Pixies, Half Man Half Biscuit, I Ludicrous, Jonathon Richman, Flying Lizards and John Copper Clarke and it’s clearly heard through their melodious yet quirky take on life.
The Would Be’s are vocalist Julie Mc Donnell, whose voice was aptly described by Liam Fay as being “so laden with clouded pop vapour that everytime I listen to her it rains from the ceiling” and by Jim Carroll as a knowing yet lazy hazy sound reminiscent of a young Debbie Harry. Finnegan brothers Mattie, Eamonn & Paul on guitar, bass and drums and the oompah bit is provided by Aidine O'Reilly on sax and trombone (not at the same time mind). “The inclusion of the trombone was a deliberate decision not to take ourselves too serious and to be a bit different” said guitarist and Jonny Marr sound-a-like Mattie “I mean how many indie pop songs have you heard with a trombone solo?”
Hailing from the borders of Cavan, Meath and Louth, the band was set up in 1990 by the Finnegan brothers and the average age of the band was just 17 (Paul the youngest Finnegan was just 13). Their first single was recorded in 1990 for about 50p, had only 250 copies pressed, one of which was sent to John Peel in naïve expectation of a mention. The result was straight out of a music industry fairystory. Peel went crazy for it, played it repeatedly on his Radio 1 and World Service show, and offered the band an immediate session.
Within days, a feeding frenzy of A&R men scrambling to track the band down in rural Cavan ensued – even contacting Aidine & Julie’s convent school. “Crazy times, we’d get a call to go to the Head Nun’s office to talk to some guy from EMI or Polydor and then get extra homework for missing maths class” said Aidine. The frenzy reached new heights when 20 A&R men attended into the bands next gig in The Underground on Dames Street. “Actually, I think about 4 or 5 A&R couldn’t get in ‘cos a bus load of our teachers and school-friends packed out the gig” remembers Julie.
Things were so crazy, that Julie, Aidine and Paul made the bold move of leaving school. The next few months were a whirlwind of record company negotiations, sold out gigs across the UK, John Peel, Steve Lamacq and Fanning Sessions. At the time of signing and after a particularly tough gigging regime, things came to a head and Julie made the decision to go back to school. For her, it meant leaving the band. A tough decision, but a classic case of too much too young.
New signer Eileen Gogan, joined the band three months later, but unfortunately, things had already begun to unravel as Record Company funding hardly covered the basics. Despite bringing out the much acclaimed Stephen Street produced EP “Silly Songs For Cynical People”, getting a number of Singles of the Week in NME and supporting Morrissey on his Kill Uncle tour… the end was already in sight. After burning brightly for just a year and a half, The Would Be’s decided to call time in early 1992.
For the next 20 years the band were happy to be art teachers (Julie still and briefly Aidine), musicians, writers and hoarders of incredible new material (the Finnegan’s) and captains of industry (Aidine wishes). Tony Clayton Lea invited the band to the launch of his “101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die” as the track “I’m Hardly Ever Wrong” was featured. After reminiscing over many drinks about the unflattering moniker of being called “The Could Have Been’s”… Tony asked the question “why not reform?” A late night call was made to Julie and the rest is possible history.
The offer of a supporting gig with The Frank & Waters on March 31st was enough to seal the deal. .An “effervescent slices of near-perfect new wave power pop with Blondie Highlights”, reported Goldenplec afterwards. The bug had truly bitten and within weeks the band were back in the studio to record their new single.