The Barretstown Inspirations New York show in Webster Hall on February 22 promises to be the music event of the year, which is why its almost sold out. Now the Stunning are holding another gig in Connolly's pub in midtown.
The Webster Hall show has now been moved to a bigger room. For those of you that missed your first chance to see Mundy, Paddy Casey and the Stunning, along with comedian Tommy Tiernan, don’t hesitate this time around! Book your tickets at www.websterhall.com without haste!
One of the greatest achievements of this show is the return of The Stunning, a highly influential power punk band on the scene in Ireland in the 1990s. Songs like “Brewing Up a Storm” and “This Happy Girl” call to mind the Smithereens, REM, the Replacements, dbs, and everything else you loved about alternative rock from that timeframe.
The Stunning will play the Barretstown gig after they play a full set at Connolly’s Klub 45 room in Times Square the night before. All proceeds will go to the Barretstown camp for kids in Co. Kildare established by the late Paul Newman several years ago to provide holidays for seriously ill children.
I spoke with Steve Wall of The Stunning about re-forming his band and a budding acting career. Here’s how it went.
What have you been up to lately?
There’s a new movie with Keira Knightley called Can a Song Save Your Life? and there are some Walls songs in it. I’m doing some acting as well, so I have a lot of fingers in many pies at the moment. I’m a regular on this show Moone Boy and I’m in season two in Vikings, which airs in America on the History Channel. I play this scheming character Einar. I got to chop someone’s head off on the first day of the set, which is pretty cool!
Is that a distraction for the rest of the band?
I can say that about the rest of the band as well. They have a lot going on in the arts.
How does it feel to be back with The Stunning after all these years, and why did you re-form?
The Stunning broke up in 1994 and about 10 years later, we decided to re-issue our old debut album and it sold like hot cakes! I think it hit number two in the Irish charts. The easiest way to promote that was through the tour because we had no record label support.
That first tour was off the scales. Younger brothers and sisters of the original fans came together. So, we decided to keep it going and we play a few gigs once a year.
I see you have a new single, “Run and Hide.”
“Run and Hide” was part of a TV show in Ireland where unknown songwriters would have established acts record a song and try to make it into a hit. It ended up being a Top 10 hit. Mundy was in the show as well. It was written by this 24 year old in Ireland.
We had to make it our own, which was pressure, because it was the first music in 20 years for us. We are going back into the studio to record some new music this year.
How does this much time passing impact the group dynamic?
The band is a better band now. Everyone has said that who has come to see us. We have really improved by playing with other people.
I suppose with age we become more self-assured. Back in 1994 when we gave up, we gave up on that dream of world domination as well. It didn’t happen for us...well, it happened to some degree. But the pressure to make it is gone — now we just play because we really enjoy it. We’re playing now for the right reasons.
I remember when we played in New York we would be disappointed when industry people never turned up. We’d be all downbeat for weeks. Now, we don’t care. It’s way more fun.
Does age and having each band member play music with different people have an impact on the songwriting?
I think so. As well as that, we were writing in a certain way in the 1990s because we were obsessed with getting radio play. We were very much a singles band. Now, we are not singularly focused on writing a three minute song. Now, we have all grown.
Jimmy Higgins our drummer is a master bodhran player who plays for the likes of Christy Moore and Altan. When you have that talent for the group you want to take advantage of that. So, we have a more folk element in the music as a result of his influence. But we are still punk as well.
I guess you can say the instrumentation in the band is stunning.
Now, now. We don’t want to get too far up our own backsides. We’ll never veer too far off the Stunning sound. We are still punks at heart.
There is a certain earnestness that people like Coldplay have brought to the market now that’s very earnest and a lot of falsetto singing and the like. U2 to an extent has gone there as well. I used to love U2 music, like Boy and what not. I’m always excited when they release something new, but then disappointed when it comes out so earnest and produced.
We like music that kicks the barstool out from under you. We love that raw gut energy. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s really cyclical, and I think the time is right for a three-piece rock band to break some molds again.
Any other plans to tour?
We’re playing Connolly’s in Times Square. We’ll be doing about 45 minutes on the Barretstown gig but we are going to do a full set at our own gig. I hope everyone comes out to see both!
USS Michael Murphy, named after Irish American Navy SEAL hero, heading toward Korea