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If They Were Angels, Would we cut off their wings?

Rialto teach us the art of flying high on the charts.

 

It all started at student night in a local disco. Not for Rialto, I mean, but for Carlton and I. We were sitting at a table with some friends when the DJ put on a song I vaguely recognized."What is this?" I asked him. "Dunno," he shrugged back, "but it's pretty good." He stared at his beer; I bit my lip. It was going to drive me crazy for the rest of the night. Or until the chorus came up. "RIALTO!" I shouted at him. "Oh yeah...you know, they're opening for Echobelly. I hear they're great live. We should go."

So, about 2 months later, there I was, standing in the Manchester Student Union, sans Carlton, with a photographer who'd heard exactly 43 seconds of one Rialto song, waiting for the soundcheck to end. They belted out "Skyscraper," their first single, and trooped off stage to collapse, having only climbed off the tourbus minutes earlier. Tony, the tour manager, gestured at me, "They're in the dressing room. If you want to do this, it needs to be now." So he escorted us back and into a tiny hallway, cluttered with 2 sofas, a ton of luggage, and five members of Rialto. Louis, the singer, promptly introduced himself, gesturing to his bandmates (Jonny - guitars, Julian - bass, Pete - drums, Toby - keyboards) as they shook our hands. Introductions over, we lodged ourselves amidst the bags and TRIED to conduct an interview. I figured that as Rialto were still fairly unknown, having only just gotten their first Top 40 single, we'd best start from the beginning, and they obliged.

Rialto formed about two and a half years ago from the ashes of singer/guitarist Louis Elliot and guitarist Jonny Bull's former band, Kinky Machine. Jonny explains, "Me and Louis started...doing loads and loads of demos and listening to loads of different music, trying to formulate exactly what it was we wanted." Suddenly, as if by some sort of great cosmic joke, the door opened. And again. And again. It seems we were sitting outside the entrance to Echobelly's dressing room. And the door onto the stage where, naturally, Bennett were setting up for their soundcheck. Julian, the bassist, suggested that we should move to another niche that he'd located. It wasn't a major thruway, but it was even smaller than our previous location. We wedged ourselves into this cubby hole and Jonny attempted to continue. He explained that Julian had been brought in to help with the demos and then, satisfied with the sound they had created, drummer Pete and keyboardist Toby had been recruited through the omnipresent newspaper ad. Louis grinned at this recollection. "Lots of people have done it," he tells me. "That's how Suede got Bernard Butler." He pauses, an evil smirk crossing his face, "Genesis apparently got Phil Collins...." The band laughs. "But, you know, you have to see a lot of people that aren't right." Louis, and in fact the whole band, take a very matter-of-fact attitude to the whole course of events which has developed into their newfound success. As if finding the last 2 members of Rialto was just another inevitable step in the progress of the band. Not the luck of the draw in who might answer such an ad. Both Jonny and Louis describe the evolution of Rialto as unavoidable. They tell me, "It just started coming out in the music and we thought, well, you know, it wouldn't have been right for Kinky Machine anyway. It was just better to develop something fresh. It was much more of a challenge as well doing that."

And suddenly...BOOM!

The sound of drumbeats interrupted their musings...again. Seems we'd moved from the noisy hallway, to a choice position right behind the stage. And Bennett were so loud that the furniture was vibrating. Toby moved to close the door leading onstage, but it didn't help. Especially with roadies coming in and out. Back to the hallway. And back to me praying that the interview on my tape might be even a little bit audible above the din of background noises.

Settling back into our original location, we were joined by Rialto's second drummer, whom they have added for their live shows in order to create a fuller sound. They liken it to the work of Phil Spector, one of their main influences. It certainly seems to have worked. While on tape, Rialto create a sort of pop melancholy, weaving tales of woe and misfortune amidst catchy hooks and dancing choruses of guitar and keyboard, on stage they are simply a banging rock band. Their intense live persona has garnered them rave reviews of their performances both in clubs in London and at several festivals this past summer. Looking to keep the ball rolling, theband eagerly accepted Echobelly's offer

of the opening slot on the tour. They tell me, "We've had a Top 40 single, but it's still not really enough to do a whole tour. If we did, it would be...sort of half the gigs would be a bit empty. It's better to just, like, get this much exposure.... Also, it's quite like, in the olden days, you'd get bands, and then you'd get unheard of support bands. And these days it's more like a sort of package, really, getting kind of reasonably well known bands to support. So we pull in a bit of the crowd, and they pull in a bit. It's either thator just touring the toilets, we could probably do a tour of the shitty old toilets around the country." The band do seem pleased with the reception from the crowd so far on the tour, pointing out that much of the audience regularly recognizes their breakthrough single "Monday Morning, 5:19" and that "we see people singing along with it. And some people trying to sing along with it." And that is exactly what happens on this night. The band come out to an already full house and take about 1 song to warm up the crowd between Louis emotional crooning and Jonny's rock-star windmills on the guitar. By the time the band reach "Monday Morning, 5:19" in the setlist they are being showered with cheers and screams, except for one rude bloke down in the front in an Oasis T-shirt, whom Louis tells to get a life. This seems oddly appropriate as he had told me earlier, "We don't get flapped by much on stage, mainly it's because the stage being higher than the crowd you sort of feel, well, better." And I'm wishing he'd said "untouchable," but that would be too witty I suppose.

When talk turns to what's next, I am told that Rialto's first album, which is already out in Japan, should be released in the UK in March. Their single, "Untouchable," (originally released prior to "Monday Morning, 5:19") will be rereleased in January, and they may even have another single out before the record. There are plans to tour with Sleeper in February and a possibility they will be heading off to Japan for a few dates as well. They very excitedly tell me "We've been doing a lot of interviews [with the Japanese press]. Somehow we're selling quite a lot of albums there." In terms of songwriting for the album, Louis tells me "I like songs that are sad, because they are the more

touching kind of songs. But there's always a strength to them. So that is the general, lyrical sort of vein. And the sound of it, it's just quite epic really, isn't it, it's sort of sonic." Julian chimes in, "The sound's got like harpsichords and dulcimers and odd things that normally aren't associated with pop music, guitar bands and everything." Louis nods his assent, "It's quite ecclectic in that way, there's a lot of different atmospheres and stuff, and quite epic sounding really, and quite a big big sound."

For a band named after a cinema chain who claim many of their influences from film, they take a rather blas‚ attitude about their visual image. When asked about the cover art, I am told, "We were just trying to get the ambiance of the music. The people who do the artwork are friends of ours, so it's good to have people you're involved with because they sort of understand what we're about. There's no deep theory to it, it's just about getting a kind of ambiance of what the band's about." In terms of video, they have released videos for 3 of their 4 singles ( "When We're Together," "Untouchable," "Monday Morning, 5:19), but they explain that their budget has limited what they can do on film with their songs.

They call them "straightforward performance videos" made to produce the same effect as the cover art - getting across the idea of the band. Louis states "It's just another way of explaining what your taste is." They do expound a bit on "When We're Together," discussing the way they captured a song written from the point of view of a stalker. Julian relates that it was filmed in black and white in an effort to capture the French film noir style. "The video kind of involved surveillance footage of a girl...and we're like peeping toms."

So where does all this leave Rialto in the great mix of things? "We don't try to fit in,"
Louis exhorts. "Anyone who tries to fit in ends up just a kind of pale imitation of what the
successful bands of the time are. You can be a sort of Cast to Oasis. Our ambition is to be out
on our own really, not just relying on a scene. The band's got enough about it that we don't have
to fit in all the time." But, they tell me as we're leaving, they still wouldn't mind if Pulp or Oasis
wanted to open for them someday.


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