The beloved Irish
popsmiths aim to make their mark in America.
BY RANDY HARWARD
A couple of years ago at SXSW this band played the BLURT party.
You wouldn’t have know that the Irish brothers tuning up onstage had opened for
U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bob Dylan; they looked more like a couple of A/V
dorks setting up a movie screen behind their little two-man set-up.
But that first melodic, power-poppy song was riveting. Then
the screen came alive; three celluloid band members completed The Walls; and
they played more wonderful songs. The silver screen flashed grayscale images of
landscapes and exploded with a flock of birds, and the crowd hung onto every
song. “We only do [the screen] when we can’t afford to bring the whole band
abroad,” says Steve Wall, who fronts the band with brother Joe. “We did it in Vienna on Paddy’s night
to 1500 young Austrians going crazy and they’d never heard us before. I prefer
playing with the real-life band, though.”
The Walls, it turned out, had been around since 1998. That’s
four years after their previous band The Stunning ended a reasonably successful
seven-year, three-album (plus one live disc) run. At the time of the Austin show The Walls were
working on a third album, Stop the Lights. They’d also recently reunited as The Stunning for a series of sold-out
shows and reissues. But now, with Stop
the Lights having gotten a U.S.
release in March, the band, hopes to raise its profile outside of its home
country. “Strangely enough, in these days where everyone is tagged [on social
networks], The Walls are practically unheard of outside of Ireland.”
You might ascribe that to the “pet band” theory. When some
people hear a group whose every song has personal resonance and stands up to
obsessive replays, they keep it close. That’s how Steve Wall hears it from fans
around the globe: they don’t want to share. Count this writer among them, except eventually we do share. Look to bands like The
Posies, American Music Club, Buffalo Tom. They’re renowned now, but they used
to be the secret special band of some music nerd – and still kind of are.
“All I can say,” Wall says, “is I think our music is kinda
timeless. Maybe that’ll stand to us in the long run. But not too long I hope,
as I’d rather be appreciated while I’m actually kicking around on the planet.”
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