Its’ 2pm in Dublin on a reasonably nice day and Overdrive is standing outside The Workman’s Club on the Quays of the Liffey River, waiting for No Sinner to join us for an whistle stop tour/photo-shoot around Dublin city center.
As each member emerges from the dimly lit venue, it’s plain to see the fatigue that a touring musician has to endure, as they have just traveled over night from London where they have been busy promoting the release of their debut album “Boo Hoo Hoo“.
Hitting iconic landmarks such as Ha-Penny Bridge, O’Connell Street and Dublin Castle under the threat of rain and with just an hour to spare, can prove to be quite the challenge, but as coffee’s are consumed and tour bus cobwebs are being blown away, the sun decides to stretch it’s rays through Dublin’s beautiful cobbled streets and spirits are lifted.
No Sinner are Colleen Rennison (Vocals), Eric Campbell (Guitars), Ian Browne (Drums) and Brandon Clark (Bass & Bandana’s). Their unique and highly addictive jams are the stuff of bar room brawls and backstreet ass slapping party’s and tonight they plan to level Dublin in a show that leaves most attendee’s picking their jaws up off the floor.
But first, lets get into the mindset of No Sinner and find out what makes the cogs of this machine work so damn well. Our guest for the afternoon is the sassy, zero bullshit front woman, Colleen Rennison who is more than happy to kick back and let it all flow.
OD – Firstly, how did you all meet?
Colleen – We met through the Vancouver music scene. I was playing in a cover band and Ian (Drums) came in on a show because our regular drummer couldn’t make it. At first, I didn’t think he liked me very much because he was very quiet around me, but I guess it’s because I made him nervous. Anyway, he told his friend Parker Bosley who had just left his band (Hot Hot Heat) to come and write with me. Parker and I met at a party not long after Ian had spoken to him about me and we just started writing together from that point on. At that time, I was doing a jam night in a place downtown called The Gilton Company in Gas Town. Every week we had three different musicians jamming with no rehearsal, no structure what so every and sometimes we would not all meet each other prior to the gig.
That’s were I met Eric (guitars) and at first I didn’t ever know his name but we just hit it off musically because he is such an amazing guitarist. He was under age at the time (18) and was kicked out of the bar that night and I couldn’t find him as he had no email or facebook address. But I knew he was 18 and he lived in North Vancouver, so I just tracked down all the Campbell’s that I could find through the phone book and eventually found him.
OD – The name “No Sinner” was apparently taken from your cousin who pointed out that your last name “Rennison” spelt backwards reads “No Sinner”. Can you talk a little about when this happened and when it was decided that you should use this as the name for the band?
Colleen – Right around the same time when I was meeting these guys and I was in the cover bands. It was just around the time when I was living in New York and I came home with a vague idea of what I wanted to do and it just came about that it worked out.
OD – Were there any other names in the works prior to this?
Colleen – All the names that we wanted were all taken, but there was a few that we fooled around with. We were thinking that “Gang Banquet” was hilarious (laughs). It didn’t seem fitting for the project so we shelved that idea.
OD – The title of the debut album is “Boo Hoo Hoo”, can you talk a little about this and how it came about?
Colleen – We chose that song a long time ago as the record title, because we felt that it was a good introduction to who we were and what we were about. We felt that it’s the most stand out song on the album. It’s almost like a mission statement for us. Looking for something true inside all the rubble, looking for love in all the wrong places, if you know what mean.
OD – This is the first show of a string of European dates in support of the new album “Boo Hoo Hoo” can you talk a little about what to expect from “No Sinner” live and also how important the process of playing live is?
Colleen – It’s very friendly and we like to have a good time. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Expect to come and feel something real. It’s a good time. It’s so important for us to play live. Even when we are in the studio we like to play everything live. We are not a big fan of overdubs and like to jam it out live. Some bands work in other way’s but that’s just the way we like to do things. It’s a connection thing for us and it reflects in our music and that’s the way we get our best results.
OD – There seems to be an abundance of names tagged to reference “No Sinner”, with people explaining that you sound like one band or another. Do you have any direct influences in terms of the real essence of “No Sinner” and do you get sick of so many name drops in the press when talking about you?
Colleen – I don’t really listen to very much new music. I have no idea. We touch on a lot of things. At times we can sound like early Black Sabbath and then there are times we sound like The Supremes! There are so many things going on with our music. I like to think of it as a swampy mix of all the best stuff you would hear on an oldie’s radio station.
Personally for me and I don’t often name check other musicians, but one of the things that I did set out to do, was take influence from a 70’s German band called Frumpy led by a lady called Inga Rumpf who is still actually playing the Blues Rock circuit in Germany and we actually played in a venue that they had just played recently. They are amazing and they touch on the same thing that we touch on. They are way more psychedelic that we are, but with the recent stuff that we are writing we are going in that direction. I always thought she was an amazing front women with a really cool voice and that was what I was going for when we started this band. Then is just materialized into something of its own. You can’t really have too much of an end result in mind. I think if you focus to much on what it’s supposed to be then you don’t really let be what it is. It needs to be organic.
OD – Can we talk a little about the process of how you write the music? Do you just jam it out or is there a system of concentrating on melodies first and applying lyrics or vice versa?
Colleen – It changes all the time. At first is was just Parker Bosley and I on the kitchen floor with an acoustic guitar and then we bring it to the band and they just flesh it out. “September Moon” and “Work Song” are a band effort. They just transformed Nina Simone’s “Work Song” and they totally brought that song to life. “Devil On My Back” is an example of what we sound like all writing as a full band. They actually put that together and jammed it out at a rehearsal that I wasn’t even at!
They sent it to me and I wrote lyrics and brought it to practice and we all sorted our parts out then. Sometimes it’s just Eric and I and we just come up with some melodies or lyrics and bring it to the other guys. There really is no method to our writing at all. We like to jam with lots of different bass players, as the feeling of the songs change and it brings new identity to the music, which is really cool. We are really open to playing with friends and playing with new people. At the end of the day, as long as we are making good music that is the most important thing.
OD – Colleen, what is your main source of influence/subject matter for lyrics?
Colleen –Just life, everyday life! I’m a pretty ridiculous human being who tends to wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m really sensitive and what you see is what you get. I’m not really discrete or reserved. I do things wholeheartedly and throw myself in the scrum of life and come out with some cuts and bruises and then I write about it.
OD – How do you maintain your voice when playing night after night? Do you have any tips for budding singers?
Colleen – I try to be really conscious of it. It depends on where I am in the world. Like when I was down South, the geography of where I am effects my voice. It was so hot and muggy down there, that I was already loose and I actually reached an octave higher, where’s here it’s a little colder so I have to watch what I do. I can’t smoke as much and especially yelling over loud music at each other after the shows and then I wake up the next day and my voice can be strained. I have to be conscious all the time and sometimes I just have to go to bed. Lots of cough drops and water and I always have a shot of whiskey before I go on stage and it really opens up the pipes and helps a lot!
OD – The new single from the album “Love Is A Madness” was recently released are there plans for another single and if so, which one will it be?
Colleen – Yea, the label are planing to release “Boo Hoo Hoo” and “Runnin”. My favorite and a single that I would like to release is “Devil On My Back”, but we are kind of getting overruled and fucked around by our label, so I don’t know if that’s going to happen.
The way that we did it, is that we have videos made for all of the songs and different radio stations in different areas just pick up on different songs. When our album is released in American they might pick up on completely different songs as to what they might go with over here.
OD – Regarding the album cover, where did the concept come up with and why did you pick that image?
Colleen – We were scrambling and didn’t have enough money for a photo shoot, so a friend of mine Mandy-Lyn Antoniou, who is an amazing photographer, had some ideas of doing a creative shoot with Eric and I.
The cover was actually a full body shot, but we just decided to zoom right in on my ass. It was a tongue in cheek nod to “Born In The USA” “Too Fast For Love” and “Sticky Fingers”. So many men have done album covers like this and I was thinking “well, I can do that too” (laughs)! I just think it’s such an iconic image and blue jeans represent out music, a slutty pair of blue jeans, basic and down home, sturdy image.
The title “Boo Hoo Hoo” is also tongue in cheek too. It’s not a sad song that implies that I’m gonna cry until I find a man. It’s more of a kind of a “kiss my ass”, if you know what I mean.
OD – What do you regard as the most iconic album cover of all time?
Colleen – Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie) is a favorite of mine. It’s so simple and yet so out there in terms of the character of Ziggy, which is not really reflected on the cover. It’s so cool because he came from Mars and it’s like he’s this creature under cover under the street light. It’s not too suggestive and not too in your face, but really draws you in. Unlike Kiss, who just blast you with an overload of information. I also kind of like the Guns n’ Roses “Spaghetti Incident”. I was really young when I saw that and I was like “what is that, it’s disgusting”. I thought it was just so revolting, but now I think it’s really clever as it totally got my attention.
OD – Are you currently writing new material or just taking a break while you are touring the new album?
Colleen – Yea, we have a tone of stuff and would like to put something new out by the end of the year. We are sitting on so much stuff. “Boo Hoo Hoo” is over two years old now and we are so ready to get new stuff out there. Our new stuff is more psychedelic which is really interesting and I can’t wait to get it out.
OD – Finally, if you could tour or record with any living artist, who would it be?
Colleen – I really like the band Hyme and I really like this new band called Temples, they are so rad. Also, a band called The Districts which everybody should check out. But in terms of a band that I would like to play with, I think that we would be a great fit for The Rolling Stones, so I might just campaign for that while I’m over here in Europe!
No Sinner – Boo Hoo Hoo is out now. Get your copy here.
For more information on the band go here.
Words – Oran O’Beirne
Photography – Steve Dempsey – Down The Barrel Photography