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Interview with Romeo's Daughter

ROMEO'S DAUGHTER

Interview by Dave Bott

Back in 1989 Romeo's Daughter were expected to be the next big thing. A critically successful debut album produced by the world famous Mutt Lange, with a little help from John Parr, had lifted the bands profile and resulted in extensive media coverage. Then it all seemed to stall. After several years a move from the Jive label to Music For Nations eventually enabled the release of sophomore 'Delectable' (minus Lange's involvement), but then it all came to an end. A triumphant return in 2009, on the back of a winning Firefest performance, saw a resurgence in the Romeo's Daughter fortunes and kick-started a new era in their history. Fireworks caught up with lead-singer Leigh Matty for a half hour chat that covered the recently released 'Organik' acoustic EP and plans for the immediate future. First of all it was a trip down memory lane and the initial break-up.


Romeos Daughter Interview

Our guitarist Craig (Joiner) is much better at remembering all the things that happened back then. If memory serves we all just became disillusioned and frustrated with everything. We made our first record with Mutt and when he said he would be there for us to do our next record the record label (Jive) became incredibly excited, as the first had done so well. I think everyone was hoping we would be the next Heart or, due to Mutt's involvement, as successful as Def Leppard or whatever other band was in vogue at that time. It transpired that, for whatever reason, Mutt couldn't do the second record. We had waited so long and lost so many years waiting that the musical climate had changed and our type of musical style had lost its popularity. We moved to Music For Nations and did the 'Delectable' record on our own. We always seemed to be on the back foot, which was hard for us after the way the debut record had performed. Craig doesn't have the love for 'Delectable' that myself and many of the fans have, as he thinks the sound lets things down, despite the quality of the material. In a perfect world we'd re-record that album. I can't see that happening though, as the current focus is on working towards new songs and the next studio album.

Stepping back from the music business completely, Leigh's focus then centred on voice-over session work.

I was represented by an agency in London for session work. I started doing some work in the office and before long was running the company. 15 years ago I left and started my own business, a voice-over company called 'Just Voices'. I just stopped singing completely. When I was 34 I also got breast cancer, so music was secondary to health issues and a totally different career move. I was actually the only one from the band that stopped performing. Craig became a very successful writer and he also started a covers band with our drummer Andy and my husband Merv (Goldsworthy.....FM bass player).

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After so long away I think it came as surprise to many people that Romeo's Daughter reformed in 2009, culminating in a Firefest (6) performance in Nottingham.

The Firefest gig was mind-blowing. I don't think any of us had an idea about the reception we'd receive. We had made only 2 records and had been away for so long, so playing in front of such a passionate crowd like that was quite daunting. We had to see where we could take it after such a fantastic response and here we are over 10 years later. When we first reformed it was such a steep learning curve. The music business had changed drastically and was reliant so much on social media, especially for a band operating at our level. When the band first started I was on the cover of Kerrang and other magazines several times. Now it is so important to have a website, and using Facebook and Twitter are essential in maintaining a profile and getting news to people about record releases and touring schedules. We still have work to do in that respect, but we have a dedicated fan-base already in place.

Original keyboard player Tony Mittman left the band several years ago, but rather than find a full-time replacement it has been possible to continue as a four-piece and utilise tapes to fill out the sound when playing live.

If we could find a permanent keyboard player it would be ideal. We did hold auditions when Tony left the band and had a guy from Germany who played with us for a while. Logistically it just wasn't practical because we had to fly him over every time we wanted to do something. A lot of the newer material isn't as reliant on keyboards as the older stuff, so using tapes to augment the sound makes a lot more sense. It may sound really corny but playing live makes all the hard work worthwhile. Craig and I were really lucky to meet up when we did. We clicked on so many levels and became really close friends. Then Andy came along shortly after and the 3 of us just seemed to have an understanding. Even when things go wrong we still love what we do and hopefully it shows when people come to see us.

Recently Romeo's Daughter have undertaken a brief UK tour, taking in several very different locations over the course of 3 consecutive weekends. Having seen the band in Blackpool (at the Waterloo venue) it was obvious how well loved they are and how even the severest of weather conditions failed to temper everyone's enjoyment.

We were made aware of the Waterloo venue about a year ago, when we were planning to go out on tour. It was then that Craig had a heart attack and was really ill. Any plans had to be shelved so we included Blackpool on this recent run of dates, despite the fact it's a considerable distance from home. We played in Nuneaton on the Friday night and then continued up to Blackpool on the Saturday, so were able to break the journey up like that. When we did the show in Bradford on one of the other weekends we ended up driving for nearly 6 hours to get to the venue. Financially we do OK. There are only 6 of us, including the 4 of us in the band, our sound guy, and his wife, who does our merchandise. Our merch tends to do really well, so if we lose out at one show we tend to make it up at the next. We tend to focus on playing Friday and Saturday nights as these are best for getting people out. We hadn't been out on tour since 2018, so it was almost like dipping our toe in the water again. We also managed to tie in the dates with the release of the EP, so they kind of went hand in hand. We've been able to play our longest ever sets and it is great to be able to play 17 or 18 songs that cover all our albums. A lot of planning and preparation is involved when it comes to touring, so we have to make sure it is financially viable. We are hoping to head out for some more dates in October 2020 and have already started making some arrangements.

The 6 track acoustic EP, 'Organik', sees a number of established Romeo's Daughter songs re-worked and re-arranged to a more stripped back format. The inclusion of a new song, 'Since You Went Away' also shows that the creative juices are still flowing.

Some of the songs have already benefited from an acoustic format when we have played live, so in that respect they were easy to choose. They just lend themselves naturally to that more 'organic' format, hence the title. We discussed which would be the best 5 we could strip back, without them losing their existing identity. 'Alive' was one of the first choices and the intimate nature of 'Talking Love' meant that was a no-brainer also. We have tried to do an EP like this before and even rehearsed a number of songs and tested some new arrangements. Even though we had what we thought were the strongest 5 songs we probably could have included 5 more. We just didn't have the time and were also a little unsure how much interest there would be in this sort of thing. We needn't have worried because the response has been fantastic and they have been selling really well, both at shows and through our on-line store. We recorded them at a studio in Baker Street over the course of 2 days and then spent another couple of days just tweaking a few things. We did 'Talking Love' and 'Since You Went Away' acoustically at the recent shows and they went down really well. Maybe we could do an extended acoustic section in the future; it's certainly something to think about.

And the immediate future and the rest of 2020...

We have a bunch of new songs that we intend to start demoing soon. We are thinking of going the record label route this time out, even though we do quite well when we have complete control. It just means we would have more support when it comes to things like videos and promotion. We will also be out on the road again later in the year for another run of dates, so it would be great if we had some new material to showcase.

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