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Relish The Music
Ahead of a Dublin gig, the Northern Irish trio talk about their self-imposed hiatus, success in Japan, and that Westlife cover..
Nadene Ryan, 12 Jun 2012
Everyone over 25 remembers Relish, the Downpatrick group who hit the ground running back in 2001 after landing a record deal with EMI and releasing their platinum-selling debut, Wildflowers. Four chart-topping Irish singles followed, a top spot on the Japanese most-played list, and an unlikely request from Westlife to cover their single ‘Rainbow Zephyr’.
Ken Papenfus, the band’s lead singer, laughs at the recollection, “Yeah, we did a number of gigs in Sligo and Westlife were there, hanging around local pubs at the time. They were big into Relish. They came up to us one night and asked for a copy of our album. Then a year later they called us up and said they really liked the album and wanted to do a cover of 'Rainbow Zephyr'. We were like, ‘Yeah why not?!’”
Reworked as ‘Hey Whatever’, the Westlife cover was a UK top 5 and an international hit, but were the band happy with their psychedelic lyrics being changed? “We knew they were going to change the words. I’d actually have been really surpried if they’d gone for the original lyrics to be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing! I was glad they stayed true to the energy and the vibe of the track, and yeah, we loved what they did.”
Relish’s first two albums, Wildflowers and Karma Calling, were highly regarded in Ireland and abroad and went platinum and gold respectively. They even garnered some high-profile fans such as U2’s Larry Mullin and Brian May from Queen. “That was just unbelievable,” Ken enthuses. “We were doing bits and bobs in the UK when Brian May came across our music and liked it. It was just really encouraging to know that someone like him appreciated what we were doing and what we stood for. Especially because we’re fans of Queen as well. To know that someone you’re a big fan of likes your music is a really great feeling, we were honoured!”
While their success quickly gained momentum after they were signed to EMI, it took them a long time to reach that place where they felt comfortable in who they were as a band: “It wasn’t easy”, Carl, Ken’s brother and the drummer of the band, reflects.