Not deterred by the immediate banning of the single ‘IRA’ by distributors, Liverpool-based duo Pleasure Island set about reworking the lyrics to the track challenging mental-health stigma, because the message is that important. Priory is out on 18 June is the result.
Although the band would prefer to have the track released with the original satirical, hard-hitting lyrics, they are not concerned with reworking songs to have better impact, in this case being allowed on to digital platforms. The distributors took offence to the line “Since I joined the IRA, you’ve never forgiven me,” which is actually a reference to the florid symptoms of psychosis, which for many includes delusions of persecution, and a plea for forgiveness for becoming ill.
But distributors deemed that this would be to offensive for digital service providers like Spotify to carry, which given that platform carries a playlist called ‘IRA Songs’, many songs called ‘Fuck You’ and the catalogues of Charles Manson and Gary Glitter, it becomes difficult to see where a song about mental illness could fall foul of “policies” on offence!
It is the tale of singer Sean’s experience with mental illness and him being plagued with hallucinations about being persecuted. The alluded to membership of a paramilitary group is a metaphor for the complexities of offence and personal actions. In the middle of this ordeal his partner ended the relationship and cut off all contact. So that is what ‘Priory’ is about, now shifting the title to be about the famed 90s rehab clinic. The band would like to point out they have no affiliation with either organisation these songs have been about.
It was a case of life imitating art mirroring life, with ‘IRA’ being cancelled just as Sean Regan was himself cancelled for displaying hallucinatory symptoms of illness… What will happen to ‘Priory’?
Pleasure Island have a history of penning songs that have sudden relevance due to national events, saving the NHS, demolishing statues of questionable figures, all before it became a zeitgeist discussions point. These singles have been performed live for years prior to the current pandemic and the current renewed unrest in Northern Ireland, never raising any “offence” and the band intend to perform the song with the original lyrics should it continue to receive a positive response from audiences. But the band will also renew that stance should anyone mistake it for comment on the current troubles, and if it triggers anything related to those events.
Pleasure Island respects the fragility of the current climate and has no desire to be part of any negativity.
Musically, it is a classic blast of indie-rock, another indie-dancefloor filler waiting to happen. Previous singles have gained fans in the shape of former Everton goalkeeper turned Twitter legend Neville Southall plus press nods from Under The Radar and Louder Than War.
2021 is a big year for Pleasure Island, with their big return to the fold being scuppered by a year of pandemic lockdowns. Formed in Australia by a Liverpudlian ex-pat mine worker, Sean’s journey began as part of a garage rock three-piece called The Spitfires, based in the world’s most remote city: Perth, Western Australia. Their debut record, Songs From The Debt Generation, instantly set down a style marker: politically-minded tales of modern life set to distortion.
This music gained heavy rotation on RTRFM, 4ZZZ and spot play on FBI, RRR and Triple J with the singles also featuring on national television broadcaster ABC, the band left W.A. to relocate to Sydney. From there they toured Australia and Japan in support of the album Songs From The Debt Generation, but behind the scenes, things were unravelling; founding bass player Paul Bovenkerk left due to mental health issues, while the band cycled through over thirteen drummers, including two which were recruited from the audience during the same show. Something had to give.
After a much-needed hiatus, the band relaunched as Pleasure Island, and played their first show at the Smithdown Road festival with new drummer Sam Pierpoint. ‘Help Me NHS’ was the next step in their rehabilitation. This is where we are now, a rehabilitated and revitalised Pleasure Island – older, wiser and with more to say.
After all this turmoil, Pleasure Island is ready to claim their crown as the UK’s most thrilling indie guitar bands.