The Union Ė Succumb to the Sirenís Song
By: Ken McGrath
Following the break-up of Thunder in 2009, the band heíd played with for two decades, Luke Morley didnít wait around. That same year the guitarist joined forces with vocalist/guitarist Peter Shoulder to form the appropriately named The Union. Shoulderís former group, the underrated but much loved Winterville, had supported Thunder in the past but who knew that this coming together would yield such a strong and prolific songwriting team? See 2010ís self-titled debut and last yearís Sirenís Song for evidence.
Not to be confused with one-time Motley Crue wailer John Corabiís Union, this English duo are slowly but steadily building up a following, drawn to their, solid, blues-tinged rock. Itís a style which may get dusty and go out of fashion every now and then, but never gets old. As they prepared to hit the road co-headlining with Northern Irelandís, umm, answer to Led Zeppelin, The Answer, Luke Morley took some time out to answer a few questions for the uninitiated.
Blistering.com: Are you looking forward to getting out on the road with The Answer?
Luke Morley: Very much. I think itís a really good advert for British rock and both bands are musically a good match.
Blistering.com: Do you feel a little looser as the opening band or is there a bit of pressure on you to go out there each night and win over new fans?
Morley: The tour is actually billed as Ďco-headlineí so we donít feel at all like an opening band. The opening band is called Skam I think youíll find! We donít feel any pressure at all. This is music, not sport!
Blistering.com: Howís the new material, from Sirenís Song been going down live so far?
Morley: Very well generally. Iíd say that both Sirenís Song and Obsession are already firm favourites.
Blistering.com: Do you enjoy playing these smaller shows in comparison to the bigger venues youíd have played when opening for Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake? Or is there a difference to you?
Morley: Small or large makes no difference to us. If people have paid to see you they deserve to see our best show so thatís what we try to give them every night. Anything less wouldnít be good. Iíve seen bands not trying over the years and itís not something I ever want to be associated with.
Blistering.com: Whatís the plan for after The Answer tour and the rest of 2012?
Morley: Well, weíve already started writing new material so we will be making another album later in the year but before that weíll be playing some European festivals during the summer
Blistering.com: Whatís your opinion on the cost of ticket prices these days? Do you get any say in how much it costs for people to see The Union live at your own shows?
Morley: We do have a say and I think the price for this tour is extremely reasonable. I donít like to see fans being ripped off by bands or promoters and musicians need to look at the long term harm over pricing might create.
Blistering.com: In Ireland weíre recently seen the closure of a number of small to medium sized venues due to financial reasons and a lack of people going out to gigs. Have you noticed any difference in the size of venues you can play in or that there are some towns/cities you canít play because there are no venues of a suitable size?
Morley: I think at a grassroots level, music will always find a way because young musicians are always desperate to play and perform so theyíll always find a venue somewhere and pack it out with their mates. Itís harder for professionally-run venues because their overheads are larger so they have to have a good audience that goes to the venue regularly and building that kind of reputation takes a few years. I think people still enjoy going to gigs so itís a question of making the experience as good as possible for them because, at the end of the day they are our customers and the venueís customers.
Blistering.com: Any favourite venues that youíve enjoyed playing in over the years that have been steamrolled because of the recession?
Morley: Lewisham Odeon where I grew up and watched bands as a young kid. I saw my first gig there (T. Rex) when I was ten years old and it was that experience that made me want to do this for a living. They knocked it down before I got to play there.
Blistering.com: As someone whoís been touring for quite a number of years have you noticed things getting better or worse for touring musicians in the last couple of years? Please explain.
Morley: I think people still go to gigs but in times of recession their maybe a bit more choosy about which ones. Thatís why itís important to make sure they enjoy themselves. I donít think itís any worse now than it was in the 80s when I started.
Blistering.com: Have you noticed the numbers of people attending gigs decreasing? Are people still buying merch, etc. at gigs?
Morley: The live market is generally healthy but as I said earlier some artist have allowed their tours to be over-priced and eventually people will get pissed off with feeling like theyíre being ripped-off.
Blistering.com: In recessionary times they say that art flourishes, have you experienced anything that puts any truth in this? Are you seeing people showing more interest in interesting or creative endeavours more so now than maybe ten years ago and if so how? Is there anyone doing anything at the moment that really excites you?
Morley: There are limited opportunities for young people and itís much harder starting a band these days than it was when I started but theyíre still doing it! Also I think when times are tough people need to escape into music or film or whatever floats their boat so maybe tough times are good for anybody that works in creative arts. New bands that I like? Saint Jude and The Virgin Marys.
Blistering.com: With CD sales through the floor and record shops closing down everywhere have you had to change tactic with how you get your music out to people?
Morley: CDs still sell, just not through the high street outlets any more. Amazon has a massive share of the physical the market and they have to a large extent replaced record shops. The problem for musicians now is thereís a generation of young people growing up that have never bought a piece of music in their lives because, since music went digital they havenít had to! I think people in my position have to be a bit smarter in how we sell music; using different formats and special limited editions is one way. I also believe that itís worth giving your music away if it gets people coming to your gigs. Itís definitely worked with The Union so far.
Blistering.com: Or do you just focus on touring, playing the best shows you can and concentrate mostly on that end of the business?
Morley: I think both are very important. Itís hard to tour if you donít make new albums and re-generate interest in what youíre doing.
Blistering.com: What sort of crowd do you normally get at The Union shows? Do you find you draw an older crowd, from your Thunder days, or a younger crowd from Peter Shoulderís Winterville?
Morley: Thankfully itís a mixture of the two.
Blistering.com: I see on Twitter youíve begun working on album number 3 already. You donít wait around do you? Are you and Peter going through a strong creative patch together?
Morley: Yes. We enjoy writing songs and we tend to do it whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Blistering.com: What stage are you at so far with the new songs? Is it just riffs and basic song structures or do you have full outlines and lyrics yet?
Blistering.com: Howís it sounding? Do you think thereíll be any surprises for fans in the new material?
Morley: I donít know until weíve finished writing it. I hope we surprise ourselves.