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Boo Radleys interview: ‘Every time there’s a sunny morning, that song gets played’

The 1990s certainly gave us a lot of great music, and one of the decade’s most anthemic singles was undoubtedly Wake Up Boo! by the Boo Radleys, a Merseyside band who recently got back together after more than 20 years apart.

The Boo Radleys. Picture: Chris Payne
The Boo Radleys. Picture: Chris Payne

It’s one of those songs that everybody knows – a radio staple that has unquestionably stood the test of time – but there is more to the Boo Radleys than just the 1995 smash hit, taken from their highly successful number one album, Wake Up!.

A new chapter has now begun for the band – singer/guitarist Simon ‘Sice’ Rowbottom, bass player Tim Brown and drummer Rob Cieka – with the release of Keep on with Falling, the group’s seventh album, which was released on March 11 and which contains the excellent single Alone Together.

Undertaking a run of UK dates last autumn, the Boos – who were signed to the famous Creation Records label, also the home of Oasis, back in the 90s – met fans again for the first time since 1997’s Reading Festival appearance (they split in 1999) and are returning to the road next month.

Their Cambridge stop will be The Portland Arms on April 20. Sice spoke to the Cambridge Independent from Chinnor in Oxfordshire, the location of his ‘real’ job. “I am in my consulting room at the moment,” he reveals. “I retrained as a psychologist.”

So having found a more ‘settled’ job, what made the singer decide to put the band back together? “It wasn’t really a decision to get the band back together,” he explains.

“What happened was that me and Tim got chatting at my 50th birthday a few years ago and really it was just about working on music. He said, ‘I’ve got some songs, can you sing on them?’ and I said, ‘Well I’ve got some songs, can we work on them?’ and we started doing that and it just kind of built – there was a sort of natural trajectory to it where we just ended up with a lot of these songs.

“Then the question was what do we do with them? I think the more that we worked on them, the more that we wanted people to hear them, and I’ve always missed the live thing as well, so it was just from there – it was a growth thing really.”

The band members reconnecting started before the pandemic. “One of the good things was that we got the last bits of live recordings that we needed to do just before the pandemic,” says Sice, who has collaborated with other musicians and worked on a few solo projects since the band broke up.

“Tim lives in Northern Ireland and we were over there in the February [of 2020] before things closed down. But what it enabled us to do was to work on other stuff individually at home – because we’ve all got the recording equipment – so we were able to do that and to work it through. We basically had to wait it out until we could release something on the other side of it.”

Black vinyl copy of the Boo Radleys' 2022 album Keep on with Falling
Black vinyl copy of the Boo Radleys' 2022 album Keep on with Falling

While the waiting gave the band “time and space”, Sice says the waiting around was difficult “because we were very excited about it”. He continues: “Geographically we’re all over the place: Tim’s in Northern Ireland, I’m in Oxford, Rob’s up near Manchester. We did do some stuff together just before the pandemic happened.

“But then we were able to send stuff around and work individually which, to be honest, if we weren’t able to do that it wouldn’t have happened because we all have our own careers and family commitments and those kind of things. So doing things in the way we used to do them in the 90s – going off for six weeks somewhere in some studio in a field in the middle of nowhere – is just not feasible.”

Before the release of Alone Together, Sice and co put out other singles from Keep on with Falling – the melancholic sing-along You And Me, A Full Syringe and Memories of You, I’ve Had Enough I’m Out and the title track.

“The recording [of the album] was different,” says Sice, “because it was done differently but when we got together with the live stuff it was like time hadn’t passed. That was incredible – we set up in a practice room and it was like 20-odd years hadn’t passed because we were playing songs that we played back in the day and it all just fell into place...

“There’s something almost magical when a group of musicians get together; the sound that they produce is very idiosyncratic and it’s very special to them – so that was fantastic.”

Boo Radleys promo image
Boo Radleys promo image

The Boo Radleys’ musical journey began with their first album, 1990’s Ichabod and I. The response saw Creation Records pick the band up and, capitalising on momentum, the follow-up, Everything’s Alright Forever, was released to positive reviews in 1992, before Giant Steps cemented the band’s reputation the following year.

Integral to the group’s success was guitarist, singer, chief songwriter and founding member Martin Carr, who was responsible for writing the Boos’ biggest hits. He is not board for this current reunion, although he was invited to join by the others.

“It’s a weird one,” says Sice. “Yes, we did [ask him to join] but probably not at the time that he wanted it to be... The big difference was that because it came about through me and Tim’s songwriting, once we had the songs in place, and once we were ready to put it out, we asked Martin to be part of it then and I think the problem was that was probably too late for him.

“We’d always worked in the past where he would produce the songs and we would essentially work on them and get them ready, kind of thing, so I think he was more keen on doing that – and especially as he’s been a solo artist for 20-odd years, he has very much a way of working... So because this is different, because this came from our songs as a starting point, I don’t think he was particularly keen.”

Sice adds: “He does some of the songs [in his shows] that he wrote and we did in the Boo Radleys and he does them really well. We’re still in contact, it’s just one of those things that didn’t quite work out.”

Sice notes that the new album seems to have been fairly well received thus far. “I think it’s been generally OK,” he says. “I think that people are, shall I say, pleasantly surprised. It’s quite an unusual thing that a band that had a dominant songwriter like Martin comes back without him.

“So I think there was a fair bit of scepticism, but then I think people are generally pleasantly surprised that it sounds like the Boo Radleys, because three quarters of it is that important component. It’s one of those things you have to be very careful about what people think about your music because you can’t allow it to affect what you do too much – but it’s always lovely when people do seem to like it.”

On Wake Up Boo!’s ongoing success, Sice says: “It’s a really strange one; it was a huge hit at the time but it’s continued to be. I think every time there’s a sunny morning, it gets played. We’re incredibly fortunate for that to be able to happen and it opened a lot of doors for us.

“And going through life, as we’ve moved into different areas, it’s also a kind of calling card in a way. People say, ‘What did you use to do?’ and I say ‘I used to be in a band’ and when they hear it’s that song, they’re very blown away – there’s a recognition there.”

The Boo Radleys will be appearing at The Portland Arms on Wednesday, April 20. Visit theportlandarms.co.uk. For more on the band, go to thebooradleys.com.

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