THE title says it all – Feelin’ Real. Woking four-piece The Sha La La’s have finally got round to playing the music they love, and it turns out so do loads of other music fans.
Frontman Darron Robinson admits to a long history of bands which never quite made it but says it all came together when he stopped trying to please other people.
“All of us have been in other bands, I’ve been in loads,” he says. “But now I’m finally doing what I’ve always loved.”
The album, released on Detour Records, is soon to be followed by an appearance on a March of the Mods DVD, being sold in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, and The Sha La La’s are now in constant demand for gigs all over the country.
“I knocked music on the head for a few years,” explains Darron, whose previous bands include The Explain. “Then I was trying to get back into it and I was doing the acoustic scene, open mic nights, and getting thoroughly fed up with it.
“So I thought ‘Sod it, I’m going to make the music I want to play’. I’d be driving to my gigs listening to Toots & The Maytals or Al Green in the car and then turning up to listen to people whinging about their lives while playing an acoustic guitar.
“You’d get these very nice, white, middle-class girls singing songs about how crap their lives are, and they can’t be!” He says he’d been “waylaid” by trying to please others. “I’ve had publishing contracts and management contracts in the past and people say you should write this or be like that and I’ve had enough of that.”
So, he wrote a bunch of songs in a style that he calls ‘Motown punk’.
“It’s the soul music that I love but with that energy and urgency of white working class people,” says Darron. “It’s part of what I think of as a mod tradition, of British working class kids that love American soul music.
“It’s a tough mix. Even The Small Faces couldn’t quite pull it off but they came up with something equally as good. Anyway, it’s not going to stop me having a go.”
The switch in style has definitely worked for the band which features drummer John ‘Pax’ Piccirillo, guitarist Louis Lucano, and John Lee on Hammond organ, as well as Darron who plays bass and sings (and is a full-time dad and part-time decorator” at other times).
“The whole thing took me by surprise,” he says. “We did a video for Something I Can’t See and put it on YouTube and it went mad. We started getting gigs without trying.
“Then we did a charity show called March of the Mods for the Teenage Cancer Trust and there’s going to be a DVD of all the bands that took part, which was filmed in Norwich at the old Anglian TV studios.”
The Sha La La’s then recorded an EP with (Keep On) Risin’ Up To Love as the main track, and did a limited run of 2,000, which quickly sold out.
“Then Detour Records contacted us to say they wanted some EPs to sell,” says Darron. “We said ‘There’s none left’, so they said ‘We’d like to release an album by you’.”
The result is Feelin’ Real, which shows off Darron’s musical passion to perfection. “I just love music,” he says. “When I listen to music I get the biggest thrill out of it. I can’t listen to music without it inspiring me to do something.
“When I was 14 I started getting into stuff on the Stax label and people like Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield and at that time people like Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Jam were around.
“Back then I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t dance – still can’t – but it made me feel so fantastic that I knew I had to do something. So I started making music and it’s still the greatest thing to me.
“I’ve called the album Feelin’ Real because that’s what it’s about, it’s the feeling I haven’t lost.”
The Sha La La’s play Jakefest at Westfield Club, Woking, on Saturday December 7, and the Hobgoblin in Staines on Saturday, December 14.
The 10-track Feelin’ Real album is available online from www.detour-records.co.uk