Kildare band Fresh Ré are barely out of school but they’ve already played stadiums – and are determined to push on to even bigger things, they tell
The funny thing about viral videos and being a smash on the internet is that, despite all those who try to make it happen and all those who claim to have it all figured out, you just don’t know what’s going to catch on. There’s no formula.
So when a grainy hand-held video of two young lads from Celbridge, Co Kildare doing their version of Rihanna and Calvin Harris’s We Found Love crept online – first on to Facebook, then You Tube – no one was expecting it to rack up a couple of million views. Least of all the lads themselves.
The boys in question were 16-year-old Harrison Dodo, who played guitar and rapped. Accompanying him on vocals was Robert Scanlon, aged just 11 when the video was made. Together they are two-fifths of a band called Fresh Ré, alongside Scanlon’s older sister Ashlee and fellow Celbridge natives Cian Francois and Daryl Bengo. The latter trio couldn’t make band practice one particular Saturday afternoon, so the other two started messing about and made the video on Harrison’s iPod. The two-minute clip took on a life of its own, born of its off-the-cuff charm and, in an era of pristinely polished pop stars, that rare sense of raw talent on show.
On the strength of the video, the two boys soon found themselves performing on The Late Late Show. Also guesting on the show was Robbie Williams, in town before a show at the Aviva Stadium, and he was impressed enough by what he heard to make the pair an offer.
“Robbie saw us doing our soundcheck and he was like, ‘I might get you to play on my tour’,” says Robert Scanlon. “We thought he was just saying it to be nice, but then my dad told us, and the next day we were actually going to the Aviva. I used to be so shy at singing, like in the video where I have my head down and all. Then to perform in front of 60,000 people was crazy.”
While Scanlon and Dodo were on stage, Daryl Bengo, Ashlee Scanlon and Cian Francois were in the audience. Seeing their band-mates perform to such a huge audience made them all the more eager to push themselves and the band to bigger and better things.
“Even though I wasn’t on that stage, I still got that feeling like, ‘Jesus, we’ve got the chance to do this’,” says Bengo. “We didn’t see it like, ‘Oh my god, this is happening’. It was kind of like, ‘Oh my god, make it happen’.”
They continued to post more covers to You Tube, but now as a full band. With no label behind them, they relied on their social-media presence to spread the word. They bagged the opening slot on a tour with the Original Rude Boys, played half-time at Croke Park during last weekend’s hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Limerick, and have a sold-out show at the Academy 2 (originally lined up for later this month, but now rescheduled to October 4th). Their hard work is paying off.
As of this summer, all members of the group are finished with school for the moment, with the exception of Scanlon, who is 13. With no studies to worry about, they are keen to work more on their own songwriting, something they are obviously passionate about. But, with only one original single, Young, released so far, this has perhaps been overshadowed by their cover versions.
“Because we put so much effort into our originals, we don’t want to let them just go to waste,” says Bengo. “If you come and see us live, you’ll see that actually most of our set is originals now,” adds Francois.
The Academy show is perhaps more important than those stadium slots. While tour supports are all well and good, nothing compares to headlining their own show, knowing everyone is there to see them.
“The Academy isn’t the biggest show we’ve done in terms of people, but it’s not always the quantity that makes the show good,” says Francois.
Ashlee jumps in. “I think it’s just that those people are paying to see you – that’s mad.”
“And to see everyone cue up for your show is just incredible,” adds Francois. “I remember looking out at the crowd and everyone having a good time. It’s amazing. It really is.”
It’d be ridiculous to judge a band such as Fresh Ré at this stage in their careers. They’re barely out of school, they’ve released one song of their own, they’re still “unsigned” – though they are showing how little that phrase can mean in 2014. For a group of teenagers, they are remarkably focused, professional and ambitious. For now, their plan is simply to keep on keeping on; play the shows as they come up, keep working on their material, and take every chance they get to spread the word.
“All these things are like stepping stones. The thing about us is, even before the band started, we’ve always had that vision of living that kind of a lifestyle and I guess we never limited ourselves,” says Francois.
“Consistency is very important, that’s one thing,” adds Bengo. “You just have to keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t like looking at stuff like, ‘we’ve got the Academy, that’s all we’re focused on right now’. I don’t really look at it like that. Every day we try to make it sound better than yesterday.”
Due to unavoidable building work at The Academy, Dublin, Fresh Ré’s sold-out show is rescheduled to October 4th. All tickets are valid for the new date