Interview: The Blizzards
Published on October 6th, 2009 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker caught up with Niall Breslin (aka Bresy), songwriter and lead vocalist of Irish pop-rockers The Blizzards, to discuss the chances of his band replicating their homeland success in the UK and why he abandoned a promising rugby career to be in a band. We also uncover a mutual love of ELO…
You won two Inter-Pro Championships with Leinster’s youth team, you helped Ireland finish 3rd in the FIRA U-19s World Cup, you won Division 2 of the AIL Irish league with UCD and the inaugural Celtic league as a full-time professional at Leinster. Clearly, you were quite handy at rugby.
What made you decide to jib it all in for music?
NB: Well, I’ve always been a musician, all my life. I got one or two pretty severe injuries which really affected me. I look at someone like Damien Duff, who tore his hamstring, and I know he’s never sprinted since, because I had the same injury. I went through the same problems; I kept tearing hamstrings and muscles and I just got to the point where I thought, you know what, I’ve got something else in my life that I love. I love music, and I was sick of being injured and sitting on the sideline depressed, sitting in my bedroom mourning about being injured all the time. So I thought, go for music, it might take off. We worked really hard; the professional aspect that was instilled in me by playing rugby, we brought that to the music. We were strict on ourselves, you know?
Your Wikipedia entry makes a point of saying that you’re a fan of Blur…
NB: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Blur. I’m a fan of Britpop in a big way, Oasis and all that. For the first time in years, our generation got some rock stars, you know? Even now, there’s no rock stars, there’s no iconic figures. As much of a prick as he is, I look up to Liam Gallagher; he was exciting, he was enjoyable, he was funny, he had charisma. Unfortunately that’s kind of gone out of music at the moment. If you try to be charismatic now, you’re an egotistical prick. You can’t win either way. I just love that era of music, and it’s always Britain that leads the way with stuff like that. America tries to think it does, but it doesn’t. In pop music, it’s always the UK that puts their foot forward and says, “This is a new style of music”.
You’ve had massive success in Ireland. Do you feel confident about replicating that kind of success over here?
NB: Honestly, no. The UK goes through periods. At the moment, you’ve got to be a girl that plays keyboards. That’s just the way it is, and we accept that. We’re not the type of band to give out about it. It works in cycles; electro-pop will be gone next year, simple as that, and a new style of music will come in. In Ireland we had the luxury of working and working, touring and touring and building up a fan base. For us to do that in the UK would cost us huge amounts of money. You see bands playlisted on Radio 1 and Radio 2 who still aren’t selling records, so how in the name of f*** are we meant to sell any? We’re a commercial pop act, we’re signed to a major label; if we don’t sell records, we’re f***ed. I’d love more than anything to make some kind of impact in the UK; like I said, the best music of all time has come from the UK. It’s really where it’s at. People say, “Would you go to Australia?” but I think Australians are fed what’s big in Britain. Although I’d love to tour. The reason we’ve got such a big following here [in Ireland] is our live shows; we put a good live show on. I’d like to play some big shows in the UK and see what people think.
Are there any bands around at the moment that you particularly dislike?
NB: I really have a dislike for moany, pessimistic music. I don’t think it’s badly written, it’s just that everyone has their own problems and it’s a bad enough f***ing world at the moment without having to hear someone giving out about it on your radio. Our producer always said to us, “Look, you’re not good at that melancholy ‘the world has no meaning’ sh*t, so don’t do that”. The average person on the street doesn’t want to hear that. People want to hear something that makes them happy. I don’t like giving out about bands because I realise how much work goes into this. I know plenty of people give out about us and say “you’re a straight-down-the-middle, cheesy pop act”, but that’s what we do. That’s what we like. That’s the music I listen to. I listen to Abba and bands like that; that’s my thing. So I’m certainly not going to give out about bands that have a different style of music that I don’t like.
Compositionally, Abba were brilliant!
NB: They were the best pop writers in the world. Genuinely the best pop music ever written. To me, they’re up there with The Beatles as songwriters. If you buy Abba Gold and put it on, you just realise that they’re complete geniuses. There’s a lot of music out there at the moment that I really love that’s just come out; Florence and the Machine took my breath away when I heard it. Her voice…everything about them is just amazing, and I think I’d rather play on the side of what’s good at the moment instead of giving out about what’s bad. There is bad stuff out there though. I went to see La Roux in London; brilliant songs, but she doesn’t look comfortable on stage. She looks like she’s got a fire pole stuck up her arse. But I really like her album, although electro-pop could be well and truly gone by the time she comes out with her second. Who’s to know?
You sound like an ELO fan to me.
NB: I’m a massive fan of ELO and Jeff Lynne. I love everything he’s done, even if it’s just stuff he produced. What I like about ELO is that they just didn’t take themselves seriously. We do take what we do seriously, we adore it, but we don’t take that kind of strong-hand stance to music, you know? I’ll listen to any criticism, as long as it’s constructive; I’ll listen to it, take it and I won’t get offended. At the end of the day, I know I’m a long way from the finished article as a songwriter but I want to become better at it, so I listen to people who I respect and who tell me how to become better at it.
Good man. ELO get a lot of stick, but they’ve influenced some fantastic bands.
NB: People who give them stick don’t really interest me. I don’t really care if people don’t like something; that’s not important to me. But there’s an awful lot of amazing songwriters in the world that would give their right arm to be able to write a song like Mr Blue Sky. It’s like three songs in one. I have a huge amount of respect for them and I don’t tend to respect people who…you know, you don’t have to like them, but don’t put them down because they’re quirky and cheesy. I think that’s wrong, you know? If you don’t like it, don’t put it on.