“Teenagers usually have a rotten time of it–growing pains, angst, rebellion & general misery. But imagine teenagers who are also saddled with the responsibility of record contracts, management and publicity. That’s what the cranberries were burdened with during their teenage years, soon after their formatin in 1990.
‘We were thrown into the deep end,’ guitarist Noel Hogan recalls, relaxing in his hotel room in Albany, N.Y. ‘More or less we started this band right after we learned to play our instruments, and very soon after we started getting a lot of notice because of our demos.’
The Irish quartet–singer/writer Dolores O’Rioran, drummer Feargal Lawler, Hogan and his bassist brother Mike–were all under the age of 20 when they signed with Island Records and released their first record, “Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We.” That album garnered the band a mega-hit in “Linger,”with the lilting lyric: “You have me wrapped around your finger/Do you have to let it linger?” Now at the ripe old ages of 22 and 23, the band has just released its second album, “no need to argue”, and is at the beginning of an extensive U.S. tour.
Originally known by the plasyful name the Cranberry Saw Us, the band’s three instrumentalists grew up and began performing in their hometown of Limerick. O’Riordan, who had been singing in church choirs since the age of five, joined the group shortly thereafter. “The addition of O’Riordan’s powerful, world-weary vocals & deeply personal lyrics focused much attention on the neophyte musicians. Unfortunately, the immediate interest also carried a fair share of problems, with bad management and a variety of people who tried to take advantage of the young, inexperienced group.
‘We were lucky that we stuck with it, because we didn’t have trouble with each other, we just had trouble with people that surrounded us,’ Hogan says shyly, nesarly whispering his words in a thick Irish brogue. ‘Outside parties often tended to do things we didn’t want done. The thing that would annoy us at time is people who treated us like children. People would look at us and be very condescending toward us.’
‘Everybody Else is Doing It’ was enthusiastically received in the States after its release in 1993, but ironically, Britain did not embrace the record immediately. It was a perplexing occurance that left the band feeling rather bitter toward their countrymates.
‘We released the first album in England and Ireland and nobody cared,’ Hogan says. ‘It didn’t do anythin–no press, nothin. Then we came here [to Amercia] and it took off really big. So *then* when we went home, it was a completely different story. There were all these photographers and reporters at the airport. And the album was re-released and was number one in Ireland for about three months. It’s like we had to travel to the other side of the world to get noticed at home.’
Hogan attributes the U.K.’s lack of enthusiasm for the cranberries to the fact that the band is from Limerick, not Dublin (home to supergroups like U2).
‘In Ireland, there’s this thing that if you’re not from Dublin, people don’t really want to know about you,’ he explains. ‘The bands–they stay in Dublin all the time, hanging out in particular places with journalists. If you don’t do that, people don’t have anything to do with you. We still live in Limerick, so we were never in Dublin for any of that. But now, we hear about people writing that they knew it would always happen for us. It’s sad.’
At the heart of the cranberries is O’Riordan, who suffered the most through the band’s rough period. Along with the management and publicity snafus, the diminuitive singer was also undergoing problems of a personal nature, mainly with bad relationships.
‘I couldn’t really enjoy the success of the first album, because while it was happening I was having quite a bad time personally,’ she says. ‘ I was really unhappy for a long time, but I didn’t really have the courage to face up to the situation. These songs [on the new album] come out of a period in my life that I’d like to forget, but I don’t mind singing about it.’
‘It affected all of us,but not as much as Dolores,’ Hogan agrees. ‘Everything had gone wrong–everything that could. Dolores got sick for a while…You’d wonder at times if it were worth it all.’
Fate has a way of taking over, however, and just when the band was wondering why they were pushing themselves so hard for so little, things began to fall into place. ‘Everything Else Is Doing It’ went double-platinium and the band got new management. They played at Woodstock ‘94, and that performance helped catapault ‘no need to argue’ to the top of the charts.
‘Woodstock was mad–we had a ball,’ Hogan remarks. ‘We managed to get out before the mud…We were’nt born for the first one, but we knew a bit about it, seeing bits of movies.’
O’Riordan is also faring better these days. She has found an outlet for her difficulties by writing new songs–she has also found true love with tour manager Don Burton, whom she married in a lavish June ceremony held in Ireland.
Like her Irish musical mate Sinead O’Connor, O’Riordan is painfully mature for her 23 years, claiming that even as a young teen, she was very serious about her writing. Lyrically, both cranberries’ albums are clearly her personal accounts, ‘no need to argue,’ however, is a little self-indulgent, tackling subjects such as child abuse and the senselessness of war.
The new hit single, ‘Zombie’ was written after O’Riordan saw a news clip about a bombing in England that killed children. The song’s lyrics describe her anger at humanity’s unfeeling nature toward such violence: ‘But you see it’s not my family/In your head, in your head/They are fighting.’
‘More than anything else, the things that Dolores writes about are personal–relationships or whatever,’ Hogan affirms. ‘It’s not like we discuss that with her, but we look out for each other. Like I know that if I bring in an idea and give it to Dolores, she’s going to do something really good with it. So we just kind of trust each other and we more or less let her speak for the rest of us.’
The strong camraderie and trust many bands develop is quite apparent in the cranberries. It’s as if they turn to each other because other people have continually let them down. And of course they have the music, which is what’s most important to them.
“Naturally, we want to get better,’ Hogan says. ‘We want to improve ourselves. But we don’t feel any pressure. We find it easy fo write songs on tour–we’ve already got a lot of new songs that we’re working on. And that’s all we ever really worry about, writing songs. ‘ ‘Cause if you love that, it doesn’t really matter how many records you sell. If you can’t write songs, there’s no fun in doing it.’ “