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Working Tougher Ground: The Cranberries Dig Deep To Branch Out (1996)

Working Tougher Ground The Cranberries Dig Deep To Branch Out by Kymberli Hagelberg (Scene Magazine) Fergal Lawler is enjoying the up side of an unfortunate break. Were it not for bandmate Dolores O’Riordan’s bum knee, he’d be hanging out on a bus somewhere heading for the next gig. Instead he’s relaxing at home in Limerick, Ireland, gearing up for the second, hopefully healthier leg of the tour that will bring the Cranberries to Blossom this Friday, August 23. Like O’Riordan (vocals), the band — Lawler (drums), Mike Hogan (bass) and Noel Hogan (guitar) — are tougher than they look, and lots more versatile. Thirteen slices of hard life and dashed expectations, TO THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED relies heavily on O’Riordan’s dynamic hiccupy yodel to get the serious sentiments across, big guitars and the band’s relentless rolling rhythm, brought to the foreground by producer Bruce Fairbairn’s keen ear. Far sturdier than its pastel predecessors, EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT SO WHY CAN’T WE and NO NEED TO ARGUE, the new release surprised longtime listeners, critics and even the band’s record label with its newly muscled tone. Lawler spoke to SCENE recently about the new record, having a life on the road and the Cranberries’ need to strike a balance between external expectations and internal responsibility.

SCENE: So, will you all be in one piece by the time you get to Cleveland?

Fergal: Oh yeah. Dolores just twisted her knee.

SCENE: I heard she also worked on it for another couple days.

Fergal: She went to a doctor who put a splint on it, then she tried one more show hobbling around. Turns out it was quite bad. She’d torn some cartilage. We lost eight or nine shows in Australia. That’s why I’m at home in my front room. We found it was quite bad really, and there’s no point in doing this if you can’t give it 100 percent.

SCENE: Will you make up the canceled shows later?

Fergal: Probably after Christmas.

SCENE: Your new record got a lot of notice for being harder than your others.

Fergal: That’s what we were looking for, really. We had most of the songs written over the past two years and began to notice they were quite different from the others. We played a few live and recorded them on tape just to see what they sounded like, and they went over really well.

SCENE: Much of the change is being credited to your new producer. Why did you choose not to go for a third record with Stephen Street (Smiths/Morrissey/ Psychedelic Furs)?

Fergal: We wanted to work with somebody different this time so we jotted down a few names and came up with Bruce.

SCENE: I’ll admit that I laughed when I first read about that. Fairbairn’s resume now reads, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi… and the Cranberries.

Fergal: (laughs) A lot of people were very surprised, but he had an open mind about it, and that’s what we were looking for. We’d obviously heard the Aerosmith stuff and his work with other bands. We didn’t choose him for that — we’re not really fans of those bands. It was his overall sound that we really fancied.

SCENE: Like?

Fergal: He gets a sound that’s really lively and punchy. That’s something that was really missing in the past two albums. So much energy from our live shows was just lost — a lot of that edge was really cut off. Bruce was able to capture the bit of us that’s a little more raw. In five weeks we were able to record the whole album, and were more than happy with what we ended up with.

SCENE: Sounds like you had a lot of unexpected choices in mind this time. Were people at the label telling you, “Why tempt success?”

Fergal: At this stage they realize we really know what we’re doing. The first record they were always looking around saying, “What are they doing now?” By the second one they just came in the last week and asked, “Can we have a listen?” — that was it.

SCENE: So you’ve proved yourselves?

Fergal: Yeah, and at the end of the day it is our music. We should have the right to decide what we should do.

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