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picturehouse 'When live gigs dried up I went out in the car like a loser and sang at the top of my voice' - Dave Browne

Nineties sensation PictureHouse are back with a bang and a new album - but frontman Dave Browne says the Sunburst hitmakers never really went away as the band get ready to toast their 25th anniversary this year

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STILL GOING STRONG: Frontman Dave Browne will turn 50 this year

STILL GOING STRONG: Frontman Dave Browne will turn 50 this year

STILL GOING STRONG: Frontman Dave Browne will turn 50 this year

With a string of still-catchy hits spanning a three-decade career, it's no surprise that Irish band PictureHouse has a cult following around the world.

What did pleasantly surprise frontman Dave Browne, however, was discovering that his 18-year-old daughter Alisia was among the converted.

"One of the lads rang me and said there's somebody putting together all these playlists online," tells the proud dad of the band's surprise superfan, "and he found out it was her.

"How cool is that? I was like, 'Jesus, well done, love!' She's actually a big fan of the music. I was kind of pleasantly surprised to find out when I was going through her Spotify playlist one time trying to find something.

"She's an amazing singer herself. Her passion is musical theatre, so she'd be a massive Waitress and Dear Evan Hansen fan, all these new [Broadway] shows that she's introduced me to - so she's been an inspiration too."

Back in the early 1990s, not much older than his only child, Dubliner Dave was already traversing Europe in the back of a battered tour van nicknamed 'Flash' on the strength of the fivesome's debut album Shine Box.

What feels like a lifetime on, the lead singer admits he was amused to find himself topping the charts once more, after the group sang 1998 superhit Sunburst on The Late Late Show recently.

"You can imagine the amount of virtual pints that were being lifted," laughs the 49-year-old of shooting to the top of the iTunes chart following the live television performance. "It doesn't have the same ring, 'virtual pints', does it?

"It was hilarious. Myself and Johnny [Boyle], the drummer, have been pals since we were infants and he only lives down the road so we meet up for walks.

"We were just laughing, the two of us, 'Here's to being number one - enjoy it while it lasts!'

"It's just nice to see that the song still connects to people, and I'm sure there's a lot of people that were new to it that downloaded it too, which is always good."

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MUSICAL HERO: The band got to support Meatloaf around Europe early on

MUSICAL HERO: The band got to support Meatloaf around Europe early on

MUSICAL HERO: The band got to support Meatloaf around Europe early on

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Like pretty much everyone else in the industry, the songwriter suddenly found himself with a lot of free time last spring.

But he reveals how he found a novel way of exercising his larynx during lockdown by channelling the host of the other Late Late Show, James Corden, with Carpool Karaoke for one.

"It's the same tired old story at this stage, but literally it all just stopped last March," says Dave, who lives in Ballycullen at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

"The voice is like any other muscle - it starts to lose its fitness after a while.

"[Before the Late Late] it just kind of hit home, 'Jesus, I haven't actually done a gig in a year. So I decided I'd just go out in the car so I don't bother anybody, and I throw on the music and I sing at the top of my voice, just to keep it fit.

"[I'm sure people are thinking], 'Look at this loser, driving around on his own singing'," he jokes. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not singing my own tunes - I'm not that bad!"

With a back catalogue that also includes the smash hits Heavenly Day and Somebody Somewhere, he certainly wouldn't be short of material if he were.

Now the blast from the past band has just released a new album 1999 - Live in Dublin, with material unearthed from the turn of the century, and it is even available on cassette tape for true '90s kids via Picturehouse.ie.

Although frequently billed as making a 'comeback', the band never actually went away, according to its frontman.

"That's a good question," mulls Dave as to whether the group ever really disbanded. "Not really.

"We've had various different members over the years. Having said that, we did a lovely reunion in the National Concert Hall in 2017, and everyone who's ever been in the band came and played.

"So it's not like a marriage break-up or anything like that, the original line-up just kind of fell apart naturally as the years went on, but the band always made records. There's no point in formally saying 'I'm not doing that anymore'."

Despite the Dublin band's runaway success, which has seen them play alongside everyone from Mel C to Bon Jovi, and win celebrity fans such as Elton John, Dave confesses he's not exactly in a position to retire ahead of his milestone 50th birthday this August.

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BACK TOGETHER: The five original members of PictureHouse are (from left) Aongus Ralston, Duncan Maitland, Dave Browne, Johnny Boyle and Geoff Woods

BACK TOGETHER: The five original members of PictureHouse are (from left) Aongus Ralston, Duncan Maitland, Dave Browne, Johnny Boyle and Geoff Woods

BACK TOGETHER: The five original members of PictureHouse are (from left) Aongus Ralston, Duncan Maitland, Dave Browne, Johnny Boyle and Geoff Woods

In between being signed by music giants - including Warners and PolyGram - over the years, the lads self-released many of their best known albums, including Bring The House Down in 2000.

"What it meant was we never made any money really," explains the award-winning songwriter. "All the money always went back into making the records.

"We signed the record deal with Warner, so they own the first two albums in Ireland anyway, and they won't give them back, even after we'd made them ourselves, which was a major pain.

"I always just used to do that, even with my first band, I got a load of cassettes made and put our name on it, because if you were waiting around for somebody else to do it, sure it'd never get done.

"People think, 'Sure, you're on the telly, you must be loaded'," he adds of finding fame without the usual accompanying fortune. "It's gas."

Dave and his bandmates struck a chord again last year with the heartfelt single When I See You Again about reuniting with loved ones after the pandemic.

As they toast their 25th anniversary this year, however, the down-to-earth star says he's still pinching himself over one career high back in the day.

"Growing up I was a big Meat Loaf fan," recalls Dave. "My mother took me to see him in Dalymount Park in 1980 and I said, 'I'm going to be up there singing with him some day, mum' - and I did. What's the odds of that?

"When you look back now, you really only tend to think of the good times, and they far outweighed the bad times, I have to say. We were in the back of the van and off we went all over Europe supporting Meat Loaf.

"And I'd be looking forward too, if we can get back to some kind of capacity. It'd be great to just get out again and play for people.

"I'm sure the appetite for gigging has hopefully not waned," he adds. "I'm sure it's probably even on the rise."

"If we can get back to some kind of capacity. It'd be great to just get out again and play for people.

"I'm sure the appetite for gigging has hopefully not waned, and I'm sure it's probably even on the rise."

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