Houston Calling

SXSW preview: That Petrol Emotion

March 11th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Ireland’s That Petrol Emotion inspired many Britrock bands, past and present. Success in the U.S. always seemed within the band’s grasp but the band never quite attained the status of some of its contemporaries. However, the band’s legacy is firm and its music stands the test of time (which can’t be said for many bands from the Eighties). After splitting in 1994, the band — Raymond Gorman, Ciaran McLaughlin, Steve Mack, Damian O’Neill, and Brendan Kelly — recently reformed for a series of shows, which prompted a reunion and a new tour, including a stop at this year’s South By Southwest.

In anticipation of the band’s stint at SXSW 2009, That Petrol Emotion’s Raymond Gorman recently answered a few questions for Houston Calling.

Houston Calling: How did the reunion come about?

That Petrol Emotion: I can’t remember the exact chronology of how things happened but I guess the timing was just finally right for everyone. Steve Mack actually wanted us to play SXSW last year but it didn’t work out. The original offer to play came from a magnificent summer festival event in Ireland called the Electric Picnic and that galvanized everyone into action. We played the EP last August and also we did a fan club only audience in London as a warm up. The reaction and fallout to these shows was so overwhelmingly fantastic and beyond our wildest expectations that we of course wanted to do many more! So we’ve now got a very good promoter on board over here who is lining up some shows for the rest of the year. It’s never easy sorting out band business especially since Steve still lives in America and so we can’t always practice with him so much obviously however ultimately it’s all worthwhile.

HC: What are you hoping to get out of this year’s SXSW? What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

TPE: Obviously exposure — to let people know we’re back, better than ever, and maybe get some interest going for a proper U.S. tour again later on. We always did well over in the States and I think we could build an audience there again very quickly. When we played in Ireland last year we made a generation of new fans who were too young to catch us first time around.

I’m looking forward to checking out the best new bands too while there, there’s such a great selection to choose from. We’re music fans at heart. Always were, always will be.

HC: You had a 10-year run back in the day, which seems much longer than most bands that come out these days. What is one of your favorite memories from your time in the band during the mid-80s? It was a great time for a lot of British music, for sure.

TPE: It didn’t seem so great when we started out. I can’t believe there’s such nostalgia for all that C86 stuff at the moment. We were never part of that or any scene and I think that actually worked in our favour. The songs have not dated as they don’t evoke a particular era — they’re just stone cold timeless. Those C86 bands for the most part always seemed so weedy and lame at the time to me.

It always seemed that when we were going we were banging our heads against the wall and couldn’t break through into the top 40, then when we broke up Oasis, Blur, and all the new guitar bands came crashing through. Timing!

I do have a lot of great memories, of course, and you’re right to say we actually had a fair ole run. There were many many good times and a lot of them seemed to take place in America. I have very fond memories in particular of touring the “End of the millennium psychosis blues” record in ’89 as we traveled about 25,000 miles around the country that time and played over a month’s worth of shows. Atlanta was special to me — 1,000 people going crazy like the Beatles had landed again. Chicago, NYC, LA, San Francisco, Detroit, Vancouver, Miami — they were ALL great actually…I love America! There’s a refreshing lack of cynicism and elitism over there. You are only ever allowed to be popular here for about 18 months max and then the press will tear you down.

HC: I was always a fan of “Hey Venus” — will you guys be playing that song at your SXSW showcase? What can fans expect from the reformed band’s set?

TPE: Yes, I have no doubt “Venus” will be played. People can expect to see and hear a band that is even more rockin and accomplished than ever before,who are still hungry to prove their worth and their mettle and who are genuinely fresh, exciting and uplifting, we will rock and roll! We will ignite the gathered sweaty throng! We will take you higher, tearing the roof off the sucker and leaving you elated, blissed out smiling and humming those infectious tunes and riffs.

HC: That Petrol Emotion has been cited as a influenced on Britrock bands that came about about the time you guys first broke up? Do you agree and what do you think about your band’s legacy now that it’s been 25 years since you formed and even longer since you started out as musicians?

TPE: I think a lot of bands used to come over to the US and cite us as an influence but they rarely did it in the UK press! We’re talking Radiohead, Blur — other quite big names too, I’m flattered obviously but I just wish more people had bought or would buy our recorded output as a result of all these recommendations. As the man says you can’t eat credibility sandwiches! It’s frustrating that we’ve never been able to put out a best of compilation so far which is due to the fact that we were on so many different labels. We’re still trying to work it out even now. I really want us to be reappraised and lauded to the heavens — we deserve it! We also deserve to make a bit of dough for once too!

HC: How has digital technology changed the way you record and/or write your music?

TPE: It was a curse at the beginning and I think some of our records definitely suffered as a result of the initial switch to digital but obviously over the years it has got a lot better and people have started to remember that some of the old methods of recording were worth holding on to — mic placement, stuff like that which early digital engineers seemed to want to disregard as well as the old analogue technology. The one great thing now, obviously, is that you can have a full studio in your house for not very much money at all but this has also been responsible for tons of garbage seeping onto the airwaves also. It’s swings and roundabouts I suppose. For me at home I used to love having my little studio and it helped me become very creative until my daughter was born and then I haven’t been able to find any free time since.

HC: What are the band’s plans for 2009? Are you working on new music or taking it as it comes?

TPE: Taking it as it comes — we will be touring during the year so best is to check the websites: www.myspace.com/wavewalker7 | www.thatpetrolemotion.com | www.myspace. com/thatpetrolemotion | www. myspace. com/ciaranmclaughlin.

We don’t rule out new stuff — it just has to be of a very high standard. We have a legacy to protect…

Here’s a video of That Petrol Emotion’s 1990 hit, “Hey Venus”:

That Petrol Emotion plays its official SXSW showcase Friday, 3.20.09, at 1am at Elysium. The band also plays a party at The Dog and Duck Pub (406 W 17th) on Wednesday, 3.18.09, at 7pm.

Visit the band online at www.thatpetrolemotion.com.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeremy // Mar 11, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Oh, wow. I had no idea these guys were back together — too fucking cool…

  • 2 E.G. // Mar 12, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Manic Pop Thrill is such an INCREDIBLE record. Unfortunately, they lost me after Babble. Hope they re-release their stuff on CD!

  • 3 Gemayze // Mar 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    It will be a blast, you can be sure of that. I was lucky enough to see their shows in Dundalk and at the Electric Picnic in Ireland last year, and they blew the roof off at both venues! Wish I could be at the SXSW too.. But a like the sound of “more dates in 2009”..! Come and play Paris guys, you public is waiting!!

  • 4 Interview with Reamann about forthcoming SXSW gigs | THAT PETROL EMOTION // Mar 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    […] Check it out here! […]

  • 5 Glenn // Mar 23, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I saw the SXSW show at Elysium. It was really great, glad I decided to see TPE instead of an undeserved, overhyped new band. They showed the young bands a thing or two.

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