RELISH from N. Ireland have sold platinum albums, have won prestigious music awards, have written global hits, graced some of the world's most famous stages and have fans stretching from Paul Weller to Brian May, to U2 and more and are virtually unknown beyond Ireland.
Relish comprise of brothers, Ken and Carl Papenfus and Darren Campbell who hail from the picturesque County Down, N. Ireland.
The Papenfus brothers are sons of South African jazz singer Jane Londis of Golden City Dixies fame as well as subsequent solo releases on the EMI label. Jane was winner of the prestigious Miss Entertainment award in 1969 and performed and translated into her native Xhosa what has been voted as South Africa’s most popular indigenous song “Master Jack”. Their Father who later became a doctor of psychology and author featured as percussionist on the Kwella Kids releases, having built up a reputation for being the white guy who could out play the black guys.
Of mixed race with black African mother and white African father, home would become Belfast for the exiled couple and son who had fled South Africa's race laws that deemed interracial marriage illegal.
The most prized possession for the couple was their extensive record collection of music that stretched from Ray Charles to Van Morrison, The Beatles and Joni Mitchell, to world and roots music and beyond. This musical palette was to inspire the young boys to venture into the world of music and to embrace without prejudice all that music in it's many wonderful forms had to offer while giving solace to their often homesick parents. This blending of cultures resulted in an eclectic mix of musical tastes and influences in their upbringing which was likewise to be reflected in their music. Their first love though was rock music. Effortlessly preserving the legacy of their rock inspirers such as The Black Crowes, Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Police and The Beatles, while, on the other hand, as any music lover will also appreciate, mixing rock with other genres as veterans AC/DC, Led Zeppelin or Thin Lizzy did, and in that tradition Relish also followed.
N. Ireland was to become a land of opportunity for the brothers who after coming through various local bands, building a reputation as prodigious instrumentalists from an early age and finding themselves constantly alone due to driving band members too hard and always ready for more, had run out of bodies. With demo time booked, interested labels and no band, the
brothers asked a local bass player who worked in his dad's music store to help out for a while until they at least recorded some more demos for interested labels, but he instead suggested a friend who "really loved his art, but played a bit of bass on the side", as a quite unattractive offer. But this was their only option. Darren Campbell was more than just a part time bass player. This guy could play like Flea, then Jaco Pastorius with influences from the Beastie Boys to The Pixies. This was a magic moment that would prove the most important meeting for the band and mark their future. Having lost their vocalist, keyboard player and bassist, Darren was a welcome comfort but the line up was incomplete and London management companies and labels were awaiting new music. It was suggested that Ken, having sung backing vocals for the band, for the purposes of the demo, sing the three tracks on the demo. Horrified at the prospect but desperate, Ken reluctantly agreed. Carl and Darren would exercise the use of their vocals also in an attempt to fill out the sound that the removal of keyboards had previously provided.
This was to become the demo that changed their lives. London management took the band on, and on the back of the tracks a horde of record labels began to travel to N. Ireland to hear them in rehearsal/ mum & dads living room. At one point there were around eleven or so A&R and even label MDs coming to their house over the course of a couple of weeks. The result was a deal with EMI Ireland that allowed for the complete creative and artistic freedom, which in the end sold them the deal.
Extensive and relentless touring ensued and a year later they had begun recording the beginning of their debut album with legendary record producer John Leckie who had just won a Brit award for producer of the year on Radiohead's The Bends album. The album, which was to be titled “Wildflowers” was subsequently finished by Al Clay who had come from the world of movie soundtracks with Hans Zimmer as well as having just finishing mixing The Stereophonics seminal album Performance and Cocktails. With album complete, a string of Irish radio hits followed resulting in a Platinum album, awards, glowing reviews live and album, and numerous high profile endorsements from U2's Larry Mullen to Queen's Brian May who paid them the courtesy of a hand-written letter expressing his appreciation. U2 personally invited the band to play at their first Slane Castle show in front of 80,000 and they also played support to Stereophonics, Coldplay, Kelis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Ocean Colour Scene. The album, and particularly its lead singles, "Let It Fly" and "Rainbow Zephyr", brimmed over with direct soul and gospel influences, soft in tone but with a clear rock edge.
Troubles began at EMI with the band's second album Karma Calling failing to secure a UK release and though whilst under delivered in Ireland still managed Gold status due to a hardcore fan base that had stayed faithful to the band during their grueling four year tour schedule. With the prospect of a third album receiving a similar fate, the band successfully released themselves from contract. Much to their disappointment a number of months later the band were tabloid news in a major local N. Ireland paper, where the centre pages had filled a fictitious article about how EMI had dropped the band. The band gracefully didn't respond, having firmly believed that EMI Ireland had done their best for the band but circumstances beyond all their control at the label were at fault.
An out of the blue request from Westlife to cover the band's hit Rainbow Zephyr as Hey Whatever as the first single on the band's new album, was given the thumbs up by the guys as this would give their work a new lease of life, particularly in the UK where the label had completely ignored and failed to release their second album Karma Calling. Hey Whatever was a no. 4 UK hit and a worldwide hit to boot that launched what would become Westlife's most successful album to date.
After parting ways with EMI Relish as a collective took a hiatus.
Ken and Carl lent their talents to the British jazz/funk group The Players, consisting of members of Paul Weller’s band and Ocean Colour Scene, they also featured on childhood friend and ex band member’s Steafan Hanvey’s first two albums, Ken toured as guitar player for Paul Weller as featured on his Studio 150 DVD, Darren had a cameo as bass player for Weller on the Jonathan Ross Show, and Carl lent a rhythmical hand to the likes of Paul Brady, Hal, Lesley Roy, Juno Falls and other major label artists.
Released on October 24th Ken, Carl and Darren returned with their new album “Connected” on their own label (Zephyr Sounds), (licensed to US Rock Ridge Music and major distribution through ADA/Warners), and finally a real opportunity to bring their music to the world on a global level is had. A version of the record was released in 2009 in Japan only under the title “Three Times” through CCRE.
Their new album "Connected" sounds more like a debut album. Its fresh and energetic with a clear renewed excitement and love for music again and the future looks bright as for the first time ever the true cultural impact that this band was able to deliver at home can be an experience shared worldwide.
Relish hit the ground running with their most recent single ‘Something To Believe In’ remaining in the top 50 of the airplay charts in Ireland whilst receiving some significant UK plays especially on Radio 2. Press has been favourable with South African magazine Music Review stating
“Connected is rock n roll for the masses make no mistake about that, because every song could be a single…
and UK’s Classic Rock Magazine proclaiming
“They are one of those bands who seem to be able to do everything, without compromising, power, melody, class, focus. They’ve got it all. Potentially world class.
Some of Relish’s biggest achievements include, both their albums (“Wildflowers” & “Karma Calling”) both going top ten and achieving two top ten and two top twenty singles; single “You I’m Thinking Of” reaching no.1 in the international airplay chart in Japan and no.2 in the national airplay chart in Japan, as well as no.7 in the Spanish charts and notable airplay in Indonesia; being played on UK Radio 1 and being A-listed on Radio 2.
Most overlooked though is how an act as out of the box as Relish defined their own musicality and permeated the hearts and minds of a new generation of music lovers at home. Relish are truly a breath of fresh air. On the Irish airwaves we now hear soul-tinged songs from Belfast and Dublin artists, some now breaking internationally that surely owe their freedom to their pioneers Relish. Despite some attempts to pigeon-hole Relish under various banners, camps and clichés, they have joined the arena of a sample of other black rock artists with the same attitude like, Lenny Kravtiz, Ben Harper, Prince, The Commodores to name but a few but remain independent in their own delivery of finely crafted songs.