Wednesday, April 02, 2003


First published in The Badger, October 2002

JJ72 are fast becoming one of Ireland’s greatest exports. Having sold half a million copies of their debut album, the trio return with their second LP I To Sky, and an accompanying UK tour. BadgerMusic caught up with them on the Portsmouth leg of the tour...

“This is the best part of it.” says drummer Fergal Matthews. “Getting to travel the country and play gigs to the fans. The worst part is probably spending so much time with the same people, and kind of having to force yourself to get along with them.” Fergal’s been given a quick break from his bandmates tonight – nearby, bass player Hillary Woods and vocalist Mark Greaney are conversing with an over-enthusiastic presenter from Obscure FM in Somewhere-shire. “Well, not force yourself,” says Fergal, correcting a potentially difficult statement. “You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t want to.”

Given the success of the debut album, JJ72 have a lot to live up to with I To Sky, but the band aren’t hugely bothered, nor are they worried about competition from other artists. “I suppose there’s a bit of pressure now we’ve released it,” says Fergal. “Now we have to stand up to a lot of the other bands around, and we’re not near as commercial. They’ve all got their meat-and-potatoes tunes, haven’t they? Whereas I think we’ve got more soul-scratching tunes.
“It’s not a conscious decision to make a certain type of song,” Fergal continues, addressing the more mellow sound of I To Sky. “We were just young and naïve on the first album, and we thought we had to sound a certain way.”

Also noticeable is the closing track Oiche Mhaith, a Gaelic title but sung in English. Any hopes of an entire album – or even song – in Gaelic are quickly scuppered: “No, no, no!” cries Fergal. “We’re not at all fluent. We’ve forgotten anything we learned of it!” Nonetheless, it’s promising to see Irish music represented by something other than the sewage inflicted on the world by Louis Walsh.

“I think people don’t know that in Dublin there’s an awful lot of bands, like Melaton,” says Fergal, referring to JJ72’s support act for the UK tour (pretty good as well, by the way). “They’re the best of what’s going on at the minute. But all people hear is just your Samantha Mumbas and your Westlifes, which is a shame.” However, this isn’t the opinion of the whole group – Hillary is an unabashed pop princess, something which has caused the odd rift on the tour bus.

“She’s just a girl, and girls like dancing around and dressing up,” laughs Fergal, as he twirls a drumstick. “It’s obviously strange to have different sexes working together, but that’s just the way we wanted to do it.” JJ72’s boy/girl line-up, along with their widely-noted sex appeal, certainly makes the band stand out – but is it a positive or negative thing?

“Well, I suppose it’s a good thing to invite people to your music by the way you look, but when you actually listen to the music we make, I don’t think it’s relevant,” says Fergal, evidently keen to play down any pin-up status. “I think we’re quite unique, in a way. We’re not making music like anyone else. Maybe the look we have doesn’t suit the music we have, but that adds to it.”
So where do JJ72 see themselves going? On questioning the band’s long-term plans, Fergal is adamant that the present is more important.

“We love doing this. We love making music, but I don’t know. You never really know, so I suppose there’s that kind of fear involved, as to where you’re going to go.” But with two great albums under their belts, fans including Kelis and Bono, and a European tour approaching followed by further promotion in the States, you can’t help but think the only way is up for JJ72.
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