Founded by brothers Mike and David Connell in the 1980's, North Carolina's The Connells were known for their guitar driven, melodic tunes that blended jangly pop and rock with thoughtful, introspective lyrics. Regulars on college and alternative radio, The Connells achieved international success with "'74-'75," which became a Top 20 hit in the UK and was certified Gold in Germany, Norway, and Sweden.
After some years without their music being available commercially, Bicycle Music acquired the band's catalog and on September 9th released Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of The Connells delighting fans everywhere. Recently, vocalist Doug MacMillan kindly took the time to talk about the collection, share fond memories and more.
It has been quite some time since you guys released any music, but you’re still together after 30+ years.
We’re still together, although members Peele [Wimberley, the band’s original drummer] and George [Huntley] left to do other things. We still have the same manager and booking agent, and play shows whenever the possibility arises, but we all have families and jobs which keep us busy.
Last week, Bicycle Music released a best of collection, Sone Cold Yesterday. How did that come about?
Man, those guys are great, they sort of came to the rescue for us. For many years, we were in limbo because our record company, TVT, had some financial issues. They ended up defaulting on a loan they took out and their catalog of music - which included us - was used as collateral. That whole period of time was a pretty miserable one because we would play shows and people would tell us, “We can’t find your music anywhere.” It was very frustrating and there didn’t seem to be a resolution in sight, so when we found out that Bicycle bought the entire catalog – well that was the best news we heard in a long time because fans could now get the music, and we couldn’t have been happier with that.
Did the band have any input choosing the songs that are in the collection?
Everything on this record is from the albums that were released by TVT, and as far as what’s on it, I think the criteria was to include songs that had been released as singles to college or alternative radio. I’m sure there are going to be people who don’t like all of the songs on there, but I didn’t have any problems at all with the songs we were given as possibilities.
The interesting thing about the record, though, is that it spans a pretty decent amount of time, so you’ve got varying production styles, but the was that they mastered it - it works.
Absolutely. Fans and new listeners really get a sense of how the music changed and evolved over the years. Do you think there’s any song that's missing?
Based on that criteria, I guess not, but there are a couple songs that George wrote that would get a pretty big reaction when we would play them live, but it’s too late for me to question anything.
Well, you can always put them on a Best of Part 2.
It’s funny you say that because I have had a few people ask about songs from Darker Days and I had to tell them that they weren't eligible. In addition to those, there’s another song Peele wrote and I sang, that was on the Scream soundtrack, that I would put on there. But when I look at the songs [on the record], I don’t see anything that shouldn’t be there, every one of them looks right. In fact, I’m looking at the track list now and think maybe we could even play this record as a set, but I have to think about it because some of these songs are harder to sing than others. For example, “Fun & Games;” man I love that song, but there’s nowhere to breathe! “New Boy” is definitely another one I love to sing and “74-’75”, I never get sick of that one.
Those there are some of my all-time favorite songs. “’74-‘75” though really was a breakthrough song for The Connells, particularly in Europe.
Every time we would make a record we would tour the Southeast, Midwest, and California, but it was always kind of the same thing as far as what would happen - and that’s fine, I’m not complaining. But it became more and more clear that there was a glass ceiling and after touring with Ring, we figured okay, that went well, but that’s about as far as we’re going to get. Then we started getting these faxes from a record company in Germany. They had licensed Ring to specifically release “’74-‘75” and the song went through the roof. The song got to the Top 20 and we weren’t buying it (laughing), but it was happening and the next thing you know, we were going over there and touring.
Do you look back fondly on those days?
Oh yeah, definitely. I have some good stories, but I don’t have any good way of retrieving them (laughing). I should write them down, but there are some that I will never forget. In Europe, we drove around in a double-decker tour bus with this really solid guy, Duncan, as our driver. I was talking with him and as we’re talking he looks over my shoulder and starts going “Oh God, no.” I was wondering what happened to make him miserable and I look and here come Mike and David [Connell].....I’m really confused, but he says, “I just got off tour with Oasis,” which just cracked me up (laughing)! It was one of the funniest things because he just went through hell and here come two more brothers. I told him they’re probably going to fight, but not like those two [The Gallagher brothers of Oasis]!
That’s a great story! You mentioned with the record that you’ll hopefully get out and play more. Do you think you’ll tour outside of North Carolina to support the record?
It would be great to do. We’d love to hit Philly, New York, and Jersey. Hopefully, with the release of this new record, we’ll be able to do that.
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Purchase Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of The Connells here