name that tunic

Diverse Northern popsters tunic take time out from their hectic schedule to talk about their . . . em . . . hectic schedule. Tape: Peter Murphy.

SINCE THEIR formation a couple of years ago, Belfast pop kineticists Tunic have established themselves as one of the most prolific and hard-working acts to come out of Ireland in quite a while. In their short career, the band have notched up six singles and three albums, no less than four John Peel sessions, plus a whole host of major-league gigs, including Reading, In The City, the Camden Crawl, not to mention support slots with the likes of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Ash, Cast and Ocean Colour Scene. Have Tunic got their shit together or what?

"I know," laughs Mark, who sings, plays guitar and bass, and occasionally drums with the quintet. "It's sort of weird, isn't it? The reason we got the first Peel session was, in my opinion, the best reason ever, which was just that we gave him a tape of really basic 4- and 8-track stuff that we'd done and he loved it. We'd only done about two concerts when he got back to us. That was really good, 'cos a lot of these things are led by agents and management. But because of that, we were immediately offered a place at In The City in Manchester, where we met the guy who put our first single. It was amazing, but really scary, we couldn't believe that people were that keen from the word go."

One of the most interesting aspects of Tunic's songwriting and performing methods is that the musicians don't have strictly defined roles.

"None of us really specialise in one particular instrument," explains Tanya, one of the band's several singers/guitarists. "There isn't really a drummer or bass-player, we all swap around to suit the song. It's not a conscious effort to make things look interesting or anything, in fact our lives would be much easier if it wasn't like that. It has caused problems on stage in the past, but we'd like to think that we've refined it as best we can. And we all write songs, so everybody contributes in one way or another."

"I think the fact that we're all contributing reduces musical frustration," adds keyboardist Michelle. "It's not just one person saying, 'This is your part for this song and this is how it's played.' Basically we write our songs on an 8-track, everybody listens to it, goes away and writes their part, and comes back. It may not be your song, but you still feel as if you have some creative input, rather than just being like a session musician. If you don't have an outlet for your desires and passions then it's bound to boil over."

Consequently, while many of their contemporaries are struggling to find enough songs to lash together a decent first album, Tunic have more strong material than they know what to do with.

"Again, that comes from us having so many songwriters," Michelle affirms. "One of us doesn't have to go away to a retreat for three months and come up with three tracks for the next single! But it's very difficult, not having a big record deal yet, finding money to put out all the tracks. There'd be a lot more if we had the money."

Financial struggles notwithstanding, Tunic are a fiercely independent lot, something reflected in the take-control sentiments of songs like the strident 'Queen Mee' from their current promo CD.

"That's quite autobiographical," admits Tanya, author of the song's lyrics. "A lot of songs I write come from personal experience, every aspect of my life. Emancipation's probably too strong a word for it, but 'Queen Mee' is the other side of a song like 'Also Ran' which is really depressing and miserable."

Not content with working on a new album, the band are also planning a film, Futuristic Maverick . . . Cop. What's the story there?

"We're still working on the concept as we make it," reveals Jonathan, the outfit's drummer/guitarist/vocalist. "It's going to be slightly autobiographical and slightly experimental."

So we're talking Jean-Luc Godard directs Spinal Tap?

"More Bad News than Spinal Tap," he qualifies. "We'll have to call in a lot of enthusiastic amateurs. There seems to be a lot of 'em about." n

* Tunic will be supporting Texas at Blackout '98, The Botanic Gardens, Belfast on May 1st and Heineken Green Energy, Dublin Castle on May 2nd.

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