Volume 93, Issue 67

Friday, January 28, 2000


Weekend Pass

Santilli a scintillating solo

What's all the Buzz about?

Red rise from ashes of indie folk favourites

Apollo 440 supplies musical mix


Red rise from ashes of indie folk favourites

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

You've heard of rappers being crucified by fickle fans for not being "real" enough. You've heard of hard-core metal heads turning on bands because they've gone too mainstream. But even the most ardent music fan might have a hard time trying to recall the last time a Celtic band incited a reaction from fans for not being folky enough. Suffice to say, this honourable distinction belongs to the travelling musos in Red.

Brothers Alan and John Glen formed Red immediately after the demise of their previous band, the independent folk stalwarts Uisce Beatha (pronounced Ishka Ba-ha).

Widely recognized as one of the most successful and diligent independent Canadian acts of the '90s, Beatha slowly built up a solid fanbase from coast-to-coast, largely on the strength of their frenetic Celtic sets and relentless touring ethic.

After putting dozens of national and European tours under their belts and selling a cumulative 25,000 albums, the Glen brothers grew tired of the rigid constraints of traditional Celtic music. They decided to break away and reform under the name Red, this time intent on peddling a more diverse and all-encompassing sound than anything they'd have been able to do under the guise of a "Celtic rock" band.

"We didn't want to continue on the path that Celtic music was taking in Canada," Alan muses. "We'd done what we'd set out to do and we didn't see it going much further without having to compromise what the band was all about."

Unfortunately, the Glens hadn't counted on the reaction that this career move would provoke from Uisce Beatha's more devoted followers. "We didn't expect the backlash," he says. "A lot of people were angry and a lot of people yelled at us at shows. That really makes us laugh, because there's no set rules for Celtic music." He stops, pauses and reconsiders for a second, before adding, "but apparently there are."

Alan prefers not to comment any further on the slight backlash, noting Red is a new band with new intentions. "We've said what we've had to say in the past and it didn't go over that well," he sighs. "We're not labelled as Celtic anymore so it doesn't serve much of a purpose to expose our feelings about it."

Not that Red has abandoned everything that made Beatha a fan favourite. The brothers have taken special care to ensure their new music is still imbued with the same jovial and energetic qualities, but have expanded on their previous template. "[Our new material] is still kind of that bar room sing-along style, but we also like to explore certain social issues," he explains. "Canada is a difficult place to get too involved in politics or in anything other than straight ahead bubble gum music."

Moreover, Red isn't an exercise bent on intentionally alienating Beatha fans. Whenever the mood strikes them, the Glen brothers are known to include Celtic sets during their Red shows, a sign that perhaps things are coming full circle for the duo. Alan concurs.

"[First] we had to get people to understand that we had changed and that we were a different band," he says. "Now people are coming back and saying 'I really like Uisce but I also really like the new stuff and I'm glad you're moving on.'"

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