The Boo Radleys wake up with new album Keep On With Falling and tour coming to The Wedgewood Rooms | Interview

The Boo Radleys may be best remembered for their top 10 single Wake Up Boo!, and as catchy as that song is, it does their legacy a disservice.

Thursday, 21st April 2022, 5:00 am

By the time the single became ubiquitous during Britpop’s giddy peak of 1995, the band already had three albums under their belts.

Trading in smart indie-pop that was hard to pigeonhole, they were darlings of the music press but operated largely outside the mainstream. However, with that single, and it’s chart-topping parent album Wake Up! the Merseysiders suddenly found themselves in the zeitgeist.

But it wasn’t to last and the four-piece called it a day two albums later in 1998.

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So when the name was sort of revived as Sice Boo and The Radleys for 2021’s Shiiine On Festival, eyebrows were raised.

An EP, A Full Syringe and Memories of You followed under the original band name. And then in March this year an album Keep on With Falling was released.

Speaking with frontman Sice Rowbottom over Zoom, The Guide found out how The Boos came back to life.

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The Boo Radleys, from left: Sice Rowbottom, Rob Cieka and Tim Brown. Picture by Chris Payne

Sice has never completely left music but he these days he is a counselling psychologist (with doctorate to match).

He explains the career change: ‘When the band split up, I stayed at home with the kids for about five-six years, then when they were at school, I was thinking, what the hell am I going to do?

‘One of the things I'd always wanted to do... I had a place at Liverpool University to do psychology when the band started. Now I live near Oxford, so I thought I'd go to the local university – Oxford Brookes – and do a psychology degree.

‘I absolutely loved it and got into the therapeutic side of things and went on to do a doctorate at the University of Surrey. Since then I've been working in private practice, coming up for 10 years now.

The Boo Radleys are at The Wedgewood Rooms on April 22, 2022

‘And that's been taking up most of my time since about 2013 – it's been fabulous.’

So when was the last time he had to juggle music and a day job?

‘You know, I don't think I've ever done it!’ he says with a laugh. ‘When we first started the music career, I was still drawing income support. I think I was studying, even, doing my A Levels, but I don't think I've ever actually had a job and a music career at the same time, so this is a first.’

It was at the singer’s 50th birthday a couple of years ago that the seeds of the reunion were sewn when he got chatting with Boo's bassist Tim Brown about maybe making some music together again.

The Boo Radleys are at The Wedgewood Rooms on April 22, 2022. Picture by Chris Payne

Sice explains the background: ‘I was starting to do little bits and pieces before that, and I think that's what intrigued Tim a little bit. About a year before someone had got in touch from the Jericho Tavern in Oxford and said he does this night called The 0151 which is the Liverpool phone code, and said it's basically Liverpool singer-songwriters or artists who do this acoustic show, would I want to do it?

‘Over the years I'd said “no” to plenty of stuff, but for some reason this time I thought, I really quite fancy it – I'll do that.

‘That was the first thing I'd done in about 10-12 years.’

His party and chatting with Tim came soon after: ‘We had talked about it, on and off for the past 15 years, saying: “Do you want to do some songs”, or whatever, but we'd never found the time.

‘With 2019, and with Covid and our kids getting older, I think we suddenly found the time. We kept sending all these songs backwards and forwards – he lives in Northern Ireland – sharing digital files, working on each other's songs, then suddenly we had these 15-20 songs, and then it’s, what are we going to do with them now?

‘There was never any intentionality about it, like: “Right let's get the band back together!” It was really just curiosity more than anything else.’

Drummer Rob Cieka was soon on board too.

‘Rob came in quite early. Me and Tim were sending these demos back and forward, and he said we need real drums on it – we need to get Rob in, he's the best drummer I know...

‘In February just before the pandemic shut everything down, we flew over to Northern Ireland and spent a few days getting all the drums down live.’

Anyone familiar with the band may notice a glaring omission in all of this – guitarist and main songwriter back in the day, Martin Carr. Since the band’s split he has remained active in music, recording initially as bravecaptain and then under his own name.

‘The next six months was the big discussion about the name,’ says Sice picking up the story. ‘Initially we said: “No, we're not going to do it with the name – we need to do it as something else”.

‘There was a festival I was going to do as a solo thing, Shiiine, and when I mentioned I might have Tim and Rob with me, they advertised it as Sice Boo and The Radleys, and that's when I was texting Martin, and he said: “For god's sake, just call yourself The Boo Radleys”, so I kind of took that as an okay, but reading some of the comments he's made since, he didn't really see it that way, so it's a little bit contentious at the moment.’

How is his relationship with Martin these days?

‘It's actually been good. The ending of the band wasn't that bad – it was unexpected for Tim and Rob, but it was more that me and Martin were really tired of it. I think more than anything we were tired and fed up and needed a break. In hindsight, we probably should have said: “Let's take a break”. Plenty of bands go on hiatus.

‘But we just decided we're going to split up and I think Martin was keen to work on solo stuff.

‘We stayed in touch, but over the past 20 years we've kind of drifted, and what I'm realising is that we've become different people over those past 20 years.

‘Martin's the only one of us who really stayed in the music business, so I think he has a different perspective on things. He was asked to be involved, but I don't think it was at the right time for him – he's used to being there right at the start, writing the songs, everything flowing down from him. Once we had the demos done, we had everything recorded, then we asked him: “Do you want to play guitar?” but I don't think he wanted to be "just a guitarist" in inverted commas. I think that's why he said no, but we're still texting each other.’

The new album has seen Sice and Tim taking over the reins as the main songwriters.

‘When the band started we were playing live for about three years before we got any vinyl out. During that time we were all writing songs, and then this strange thing happened when we started making records, we sort of became a vehicle for Martin's songs, and me and Tim took a backseat. I don't know why that happened, but we were kind of okay with it.

‘This came out of a want to do our songs – it's not that we decided: “Right let's get The Boo Radleys back together with different songwriters this time”, it was more, let's do our songs, and what are we going to call it?

‘The good thing about that is that it's different. I really wouldn't wanted to have come back and done the same old thing again and gone down the same routes we always did. Shaking it up a bit has been a good thing to do.’

The new material keeps the familiar Boos sound, and Sice also feels this iteration of band gives Tim and Rob a chance to, erm, shine...

‘It was always a little bit unfair that me and Martin – as naturally happens – were seen as the front piece of the band.

‘I think Tim and Rob's contributions to the sound and what we did was overlooked, but Rob's a wonderful drummer, and Tim's extremely musical. There's a lot of what I suppose you'd call the backroom stuff, he had a lot of ideas, he'd do production stuff, and keys and sampling.

‘Tim always played a much bigger part than I think he was given credit for, and that's a big part of why it retains that sound.’

Sice elaborates by explaining how one of his favourite new songs developed – I’ve Had Enough, I’m Out, the album’s opener.

‘When I wrote it, it was a very sedate, almost like a Nick Drake, picked, kind of song. When I gave it to Tim and said I don't really know what to do with this, he came back with it in this form – it was brilliant and I loved it. It was truly collaborative, and that's what I really like it because I would have never produced that song in that way.

‘A lot of the other songs we got a stamp on them from early on, so we knew what direction they were going in, but that one was the truly collaborative one where I thought: “Wow, I never thought of doing it that way,” which is why it's one of my favourites.’

After the festival, the band managed to perform a handful of gigs last autumn, and they’ve been enjoying getting out in front of their fans again.

‘We're quite restricted in what we do because Tim's a teacher now – we’re restricted to half-terms and holidays for when we can gig – so rock'n'roll!

‘It's the one thing I always really missed, the one thing you can't get anywhere else – that playing live with a band in front of an audience, it's a thrill you can't really find anywhere else, so I did always miss it.

‘And going out and playing to the Boos' fans is lovely, we're kind of realising how loved we were by a lot of people.

‘For the last 20 years we kind of felt we'd been a bit forgotten about and nobody really cared. So to actually talk to people who really loved the band and were dedicated to the band is wonderful.’

And talking to those fans has revitalised their passion for the older pre-Britpop material as well.

‘The setlist is a real mix, there's maybe half a dozen off the new album, but I'd say two-thirds is old Boo Radleys songs.

‘This tour we're going even further back. A lot of people really wanted to hear songs off of [first two albums] Ichabod and I and Everything's Alright Forever, which we didn't really realise, so we're probably going to do a couple off of every other album.

‘We love it as well, we get to dip back into all of these songs off of different albums.’

And how does he feel about Wake Up, Boo! these days?

’That made us a bit of anomaly in some respects. I think without that song we would have been a kind of ’90s underground band that not many people had heard of, but suddenly there was this period where, wow, they're all over the radio and on Top of The pops and stuff.

‘It was a strange little blip, that, but it's fine in many respects, yeah, it's good.’

The Boo Radleys, supported by Thee Lonely Hearts, are at The Wedgewood Rooms on Friday, April 22. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.