Another bite of the berry

The Cran­ber­rieshad phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess but rafrag­ile heart, and an ap­proach that was un­sus­tain­able. Dolores O’Riordan and Noel Ho­gan­tell Tony Clay­ton-Lea why they’re tak­ing an­oth­er­shot and why they couldn’t walk away

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

If there is a suc­cess­ful Ir­ish rock band as be­lea­guered as The Cran­ber­ries, then we have yet to make their ac­quain­tance. The Lim­er­ick band ar­rived just over 25 years ago with a few del­i­cate songs (some of which have stood the test of time – Linger and Dreams, in par­tic­u­lar, con­tinue to weave spells), but it took some years for the quar­tet to fully en­gage with their sud­den, rapid rise to in­ter­na­tional suc­cess.

The ini­tial road to vic­tory was un­steady. The band formed in 1989 and within a year orig­i­nal vo­cal­ist Niall Quinn left, with his po­si­tion filled by slip-of-a-girl singer Dolores O’Riordan, who de­vel­oped sev­eral of the band’s early de­mos (in­clud­ing Linger and Dreams) into songs that seemed good enough to send to UK-based record com­pa­nies. Such in­stincts proved cor­rect – Is­land Records signed them, but com­pli­ca­tions quickly arose when the band fired their man­ager (and early pro­ducer of tracks for their de­but al­bum), Pearse Gil­more.

New man­age­ment in the ex­pe­ri­enced shape of Rough Trade’s Ge­off Travis fol­lowed, as did a new pro­ducer (the ac­claimed Stephen Street), and by early 1993 the re­fur­bished de­but al­bum ar­rived. De­spite the sense of ex­pec­ta­tion, Ev­ery­body Else Is Do­ing It, So Why Can’t We? didn’t set the world alight. In­deed, not much of any­thing hap­pened.

Amid mur­murs of vary­ing states of be­wil­der­ment, not even sharp-wit­ted mu­sic in­dus­try peo­ple knew what to do with a band that had some fine songs but lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in the art of per­form­ing. Fac­tor in a fe­male sing-

It would have been eas­ier if we had had more ex­pe­ri­ence with the ac­tual mu­sic in­dus­try – we were very young and very naive, shel­tered. Fame was ex­tra­or­di­nary, re­ally The Cran­ber­ries has been such a defin­ing thing. We have a ca­reer from it, we make a liv­ing from it; it’s some­thing that we know we’re very lucky to have

er who was so shy that she of­ten faced the stage back­drop in­stead of the au­di­ence, and you had prob­lems.

Within a year, how­ever, all was to change: in the US as sup- port to (the then much bet­ter gam­ble) Suede, MTV put the videos for Linger and Dreams into, as they said back then, “heavy rotation”. The Cran­ber­ries quickly be­came the most suc­cess­ful Ir­ish band since U2. The level of achieve­ment, O’Riordan ad­mits, came much too quickly.

“It would have been eas­ier if we had had more ex­pe­ri­ence with the ac­tual mu­sic in­dus­try – we were very young and very naive, shel­tered. Fame was ex­tra­or­di­nary, re­ally.”


Out­wardly, the band could do no wrong, but prob­lems were brew­ing. It seems you could take the band out of pro­vin­cial Lim­er­ick but never the other way around.

“It was a very dra­matic change from liv­ing in a coun­try area out­side Lim­er­ick to sud­den- ly be­ing dropped into cities such as Lon­don and New York. That was a huge leap from one life to another.”

For O’Riordan, the leap even­tu­ally be­came too wide to com­plete. “For as long as I could, I held on to those years like I was grip­ping a roller­coaster ride.” By the third al­bum, To the

Faith­ful De­parted (1996), she says had to let go. “I got sick, had a melt­down – it was too much work that caused it.”

The on-hia­tus ap­proach the band has un­der­taken since then pro­vided some re­lief from the pres­sures of what to them was a re­lent­less tread­mill of tour­ing. Var­i­ous solo projects were of­fered for pub­lic con­sump­tion, but in­dif­fer­ence greeted all of them. Grad­u­ally, they re­alised that ev­ery road led back to The Cran­ber­ries.

“For the fore­see­able fu­ture that’s the plan,” says gui­tarist Noel Ho­gan, adding that any con­ver­sa­tions presently be­ing had by the band mem­bers in­volve the forth­com­ing al­bum, Some

thing Else (a “Best Of” col­lec­tion pret­ti­fied by mu­si­cal back­ing from the Ir­ish Cham­ber Orches­tra) and a fur­ther al­bum.


“We all know that ev­ery time we leave The Cran­ber­ries to do some­thing else that the band it­self is still there in the back­ground – I’ve never heard any mem­ber walk away to do some­thing and say they’re fin­ished with it. For most of our lives – I’m speak­ing for my­self, ob­vi­ously, but I’m sure the rest will agree – The Cran­ber­ries has been such a defin­ing thing. We have a ca­reer from it, we make a liv­ing from it; it’s some­thing that we know we’re very lucky to have. Most im­por­tantly, when we come back from wher­ever it was we were, there’s a de­mand for us. A lot of bands go away, come back and no­body cares.”

It’s still stop-start, how­ever, and even re­cently there was trou­ble in the house when, in Oc­to­ber 2013, O’Riordan filed a High Court case against Ho­gan (for rea­sons not dis­closed). In­ter­est­ingly, in April 2015 the pair signed a pub­lish­ing part­ner­ship with Warner/Chap­pell Mu­sic UK Pub­lish­ing. Less than three months later, the High Court case was struck out. It’s all happy fam­i­lies now, then?

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, like many bands,” says Ho­gan ca­su­ally. “Un­for­tu­nately for us, a lot of the time it’s a case of a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and out­side forces get­ting in­volved, telling one per­son one thing and another per­son some­thing else. The more peo­ple are in­volved, the more phone calls there are, and by the time you get the story it’s not as ac­cu­rate as it be­gan. It gets messy, mat­ters get mud­died, tem­pers run high.

“When Dolores and I get to sit down at a ta­ble, across from each other, and talk things through, it’s like the is­sues never hap­pened. We get on with it, and it’s very much like a brother and sis­ter re­la­tion­ship. Dolores and I now talk prac­ti­cally ev­ery other day, and our friend­ship is prob­a­bly health­ier than it has been for a long time.”

Both Ho­gan and O’Riordan see Some­thing Else as a step­ping-stone or a stop­gap be­tween old and new ma­te­rial. An al­bum of new ma­te­rial, he ad­mits, is where their real in­ter­ests lay.


“We have lit­tle pieces that need work done on them, so that’s def­i­nitely the next step for­ward. It’s great hav­ing such a weighty back cat­a­logue, but what makes it re­ally ex­cit­ing is to keep on writ­ing, to do bet­ter stuff than you’ve done be­fore.”

O’Riordan is sim­i­larly en­thused, but not at any price, which seems fair enough con­sid­er­ing her pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence at be­ing on the top while feel­ing rock bot­tom.

“Hope­fully, after this tour we’ll write new ma­te­rial, but at the same to­ken I gen­uinely don’t ex­pect to be as suc­cess­ful as we once were. The 1990s was our time for that, I think – we were hun­gry and on fire. Now, we’re older, we have kids, and I know we’ll never get those ear­lier mo­ments back again. Not that I want them.”

Some­thing Else is re­leased April 28th through BMG. The Cran­ber­ries play Water­front Hall, Belfast on May 17th, and Bord Gais En­ergy Theatre, Dublin, May 18th

The Cran­ber­ries Noel Ho­gan, Dolores O’Riordan Mike Ho­gan and Fer­gal Lawler

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