The Lighthouse Family on their return and playing Portsmouth Guildhall BIG INTERVIEW

Tunde Baiyewu and  Paul Tucker are The Lighthouse Family.Tunde Baiyewu and  Paul Tucker are The Lighthouse Family.
Tunde Baiyewu and Paul Tucker are The Lighthouse Family. | Other 3rd Party
If you cast your mind back to the mid-’90s, then the driving music narrative is that of Britpop, and Blur vs Oasis, et al.

But one of the biggest bands of the era, who were written off by critics in their heyday and are rarely mentioned in the nostalgia-fests which regularly fill certain TV channels’ schedule, are enjoying a successful comeback.

The Lighthouse Family’s 1995 debut album Ocean Drive went six-times platinum, selling nearly 2m copies in the UK alone. Its 1997 follow-up Postcards From Heaven went four-times platinum.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And their easy-going blend of soul and pop yielded hits like Lifted and High, which remain radio staples to this day.

But the pressures of fame led to the duo of vocalist Tunde Baiyewu and keyboardist Paul Tucker going their separate ways in 2003. There was a brief reunion in 2010 and ’11, which after a tour, went quiet.

Last year, the pair returned with a Radio2 play-listed single My Salvation, followed by an album Blue Sky in Your Head, which went into the top three.

Paul tells The Guide: ‘It’s been a bit of a mad couple of years, it's been amazing, the shows are all selling out, and people are singing along, the shows have been fabulous.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘When we got together in 2010 we were going to make a record then but we couldn't make that work.

The Lighthouse Family's new album is Blue Sky In Your HeadThe Lighthouse Family's new album is Blue Sky In Your Head
The Lighthouse Family's new album is Blue Sky In Your Head | Other 3rd Party

‘We've been talking about doing this for years, and it's funny because it's been like a time warp – I can't believe it's 10 years.’

So what was the hold up?

‘I don't know,’ laughs the Tyneside native, ‘I joke sometimes that we're a bit too laid back.’

They’ve found themselves back with their old label, Polydor, and even the same management team.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘There was something about the way it all came together. It felt like it was the right time. We both felt like it was an itch that we hadn't really scratched and we had wanted to do it for a long time – we just hadn't actually managed to pull it together.

‘I had a lot of songs that were kind of in different stages, that I thought: “These are Lighthouse Family tunes.”

‘It was a bit like something else was saying: you've got to do this.’

In making Blue Sky, the two found themselves quickly slipping back into the groove.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘When we were making the record, we went at it in exactly the same way as we did when we made those records in the ’90s,

‘A lot of things have obviously changed since then, the music business isn’t the same anymore, but you just want to make a record that you love yourself, and then I suppose if you do that, you kind of hope that other people will feel the same way about it.’

One aspect of their comeback that’s surprised the boys is how much their old songs still mean to people.

‘I think the nicest thing is about what's happened is that what we did back then, it became part of the people’s stories – people got married to the tunes, people met their husbands and wives and girlfriends to those tunes, they had kids, all sorts of stories.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘People tell me that they associate the songs with people who aren't with us anymore,

‘'It was this love for the thing, it took us by surprise, really.

‘It's mad, you’ve got people saying come to Australia, come to Brazil, come to the United States, come to France, come to Germany, you know?

‘And that's another thing you don't realise, but you've got this tapestry of all these other places around the world with people that love it.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Paul admits that he didn't speak with Tunde for ‘probably a couple of years’ after they first split.

‘When we started doing it we just wanted to make tunes and just live the music life – have a life making records.

‘We didn't ever set out for it to be as successful as it was. It was much bigger than we anticipated, and there isn't really an instruction manual for that.

‘When we first started doing it we both lived in Newcastle, and we did about eight years in each other's pockets. It was pretty full on. It takes people by surprise when things take off.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The musician says one of their biggest concerns, though, was putting something out which could stand alongside their back catalogue.

‘This year it's 25 years since we put Ocean Drive out – It doesn't feel like it – but it is a long time and you hear your songs on the radio all the time, and even though we've not been around the songs have still been kind of singing during that time we’ve been away.

‘It’s difficult, you’ve got songs like Lifted and High and Ocean Drive, and you're trying to do something that you think is of the same calibre as what you've done in your past. It’s a tall order.’

Ask Paul if they’re ever annoyed about being airbrushed out of musical history by the critics, and he’s emphatic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘Oh, no, not at all. Not at all. I think it's interesting how that flag looks different when you look back at it. I mean, in the ’70s Fleetwood Mac were doing the same sort of thing when punk was happening.

‘When we started making records we came from being in nightclubs in Newcastle where the music was really uplifting feelgood house music, you know? And I think that was the canvas of the ’90s and it was almost like the Britpop-thing was more of an outlier.

‘We just wanted to make uplifting music.’

For the live shows, it’s not just the duo – they’re a full seven-piece band.

‘It's great playing those old songs, it’s great playing new songs. We really want it to be brilliant. We want people to come down and think: “Ah man, that was incredible!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

‘People know the tunes and really we want to play what people know, we want it to be the record. But there's something about it being live and really loud, you know?

‘You’ll scratch your head when I say this, but we come at it more like a rock-band ethic – you want this really fabulous big night. It’s not polite.’

The Lighthouse Family are at Portsmouth Guildhall on Saturday, February 29, tickets from £29.75. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.