Here are all of the articles/reviews of the Connells to which we have access.


The Lost Peele Wimberley Interview

You want to go outside and do it? Obviously
a lot of questions focused around the new
record. So I will start there. A number of
people have commented on that you wrote a
couple of songs in the record. And there
does seem to be a change in terms of more
people contributing songs and stuff like
that. What would you say to people who are
commenting on that in terms of what
accounts for that?

Two things. The main one being that
everybody has been going through this
period of dissatisfaction I guess. You know
not having as much creative input as they
wanted or just with we are just scraping and
there are all these bands zooming past us.
That is the main thing and then the
secondary reasons probably some of the
time when Mike doesn’t have enough songs.
It’s like a natural evolution as well as people
wanting to contribute more songs to it. So
then the songs with the most votes make the
record. It is like a certain cut off or
something. Well a number of people have
commented on it is going to take a live and a
number of people thought that would be a
good choice for a single.
I have heard that a lot. Yea.
Have you given any thought to that?
Well I don’t think the band would think of
that as a single at all. I think that it would
need a better mix. It doesn’t really blend
that well, but it obviously got that were you
anticipate the words kind of thing. On the
other hand, I don’t think that the length will
grab on to anything in the lyrics.
That is interesting because a number of
people have speculated what the song is
about. Well what would you say having
wrote it?
Well the funny thing about that is probably
that the speculation is all wrong. I was
writing it from the perspective of someone
who is really disenchanted with radio and
basically I was saying that the only way that
we would ever get a song on the radio is if
someone was totally insincere and popped it
on the radio anyway.
Yea, a lot of people have interpretations
about relationships or family members.
Yea, there is elements of that but when I
started writing the lyrics I was thinking
about radio.
A number of people have also commented on
the Hill off of I don’t think it made the cut
for weird food. Has there been any talk
about other than it wound up on a
soundtrack (Scream) doing anything with
No, the interesting thing is that that song is
that a lot of people really took emotions. We
didn’t try to be clever because that is not
how I am.
It circulated quite a bit. I know a lot of fans
have tapes and stuff that include songs that
didn’t make the records and stuff like that.
People are really commenting on boy I
really wish that this had been on a record or
something like that.
Yea, Mike’s twin came up to me one day.
Yea, I got a lot of comments on that. They
are all like through away songs.
One thing I noticed and a couple of really
die hard fans. People like Dee Dee and Wee
Collins and some of these other players.
Sheryl Wolf have all commented on Bruise
and Bitter Pill have a similar feel.
Yea, definitely.
There is kind of a companionship there with
these songs. A number of people was like o-
kay how come Bruise made a record that
Bitter Pill didn’t.
I think it all has to do with circumstances
so many more songs when we did Weird
Food so there is definitely songs on the
record that I wouldn’t have on there. There
are a couple of songs that didn’t make the
What is it like to work with Jim Scott?
I like working with Jim. He is real straight
ahead no bullshit. We had a good time. The
comment he made to me. You know working
on this James Ehall record. He is really
great. He didn’t embellish too much.
He seemed to have a certain type of feeling
sparseness almost. You get a sense of that
on Live as opposed to the samples that are
on Weird Food. They are really different
records. I think the producers played at
least a small part in that.
I think that the one thing that I regret with
Weird Food is that he did a good job, but I
think he was what we was going for. Maybe
there was too many tracks and sending
mixes to us. He was sending us mixes while
we were in Europe probably the main
reason is that there were at least no
apparent reason I’m sure that once it was
mastered it sounded really good and all that
but we want our records to have a sound so
I think Tim had a roadmap and he wasn’t
able to communicate that to us he had to
much respect for Richard’s reputation. He
told me in Orlando a guy who had actually
engineered on the record. Why do they want
me to mix on the record?
Would you think of working with Jim Scott
Oh yea.
You guys talked that far ahead yet?
I would. I don’t think Michael would.
Oh yea, why not?
I think he has already said that he didn’t
want to. He is searching for that one perfect
one. Which he will never find. I think that
Mike’s respect. He is searching for this hit.
Is this something you guys think about when
you guys are in the studio when you’re
working on songs or like this is the obvious
single? Or this is the one that has got the
potential to be the hit.
Yea, we definitely think about which songs
seem like singles to us. At times once they go
through the transformation they loose a lot
when we make a record cause our demos are
a lot better.
Have you thought about a live recording?
Jim wants to do one.
He would be like the perfect choice.
I’m sure in the contract material it says new
material. I think they would be happy to do
it. It definitely wouldn’t count as a record
on the project. We could do for very little
It you could go into a space and play live
without too much tinkering or machine or
production process. Or you could even play
like in front of a home type crowd or
something like that. I heard really great
things I almost was going to drive down for
that event that Saturday and decided not to
and all these people were like oh you can
stay at my house. I was like oh no I got kids
I can’t do this, but then I heard from people
you should have really been there. I guess it
was a lot of fun.
It was a lot of fun. It sold out. Evidently
there was people camped out. You could
bring your own alcohol and drink. There
was like people in the woods, across the
street, everything. Ironically the radio
station that sponsored it didn’t know that
we had that kind of impact. They had
screwed up the first ads. They was only
playing the song during the day.
That is going back a few years.
I think that maybe it has made a difference.
Have you guys started thinking as far as
how long the tour is going to last and stuff
like that.
We have been talking about it if something
happens with the radio then it would
obviously extent the tour.
They’re promoting the record to the end of
the year right.
You will figure it out from there.
A number of people have asked. In the
history of the band is there a record or song
that you like the most or that you identify
the most with?
I definitely enjoy Boys Hat the most
creatively on that record. I think that just
being allowed to follow my heart with me is
always the best and I really work hard for
the first idea. It is like I could just go just
boom but I’m not going to be satisfied. I
mean if it works for the song then great but
the songs like Choose a Side or the Sky’s the
Limit and I don’t know what else they are
like things where I listened and tinkered
around and finally came up with these ideas.
Maybe some of them was o-kay over all at
the time but still it is like they are really
personal and that out of all of our songs
Another Soverenir
Why do you say Another Soverneir?
I don’t know it’s just the emotions of it. It is
sort of melancholy.
That is an interesting choice. I could see
that. A lot of people are curious as far as
how the process works in terms of like
recording and like when people come in with
songs. Like when Doug or Mike or Steve or
George comes in with a song. Do they like
already have an idea like I want you to do
this or I want this kind of syncopation or
Sometimes, sometimes.
Is there times when they have like no idea
and they come to you and say we need you to
come up with something.
In terms of you and David is there like a lot
of collaboration there?
No, I would say that usually cause I’m
quicker off the key you find him trying to
work on it a track, but I have already laid
down the groundwork.
So there is a clear process of collaboration?
Or at least partial collaboration?
Yea, because when he comes back there then
I have to usually modify what I’m doing
Another set of questions that just relate to
how you guys are playing. A number of
people have commented that you seem to
sound better live. This tour just real
subjective interpretations from people so a
number of people were asking me to just go
ahead and bring that up with the different
guys that I talk to. Do you agree with that?
Do you guys hear a change? Do you notice
the difference would be the best way to
describe it?
I was surprised when I heard that after the
Raleigh show. Because in my opinion we
sort of reached maybe a pinnacle.
And then related to that people were
commenting that the band seems more up. I
don’t know if that is the right adjective or
verb to use. People are just moving around
more. There is a whole thread of people
talking about Mike’s jumping up and down
and Dave’s doing this more side-to-side stuff
and everyone seems more energetic at least
people are just wondering about that kind of
Yea, I think that I have noticed that.
You don’t think that is a major issue or
concern in any way?
No, no.
Dancing and like we are jumping all over
the stage last night?
I keep wondering especially with Mike
David being the driving force in a while.
Another question from one of our listeners.
This one is from a 17 year-old. A younger
listener. Again one of those questions. She
was just wondering how you like this as a
profession? How do you find this?
I love it. I have always loved it. Since I was
13 or 14, I realized that this is what I
wanted to do. So I accomplished it and
worked totally hard. The travel. All of the
people I get to meet. I love the fact that
people respond to what I do.
Some people were curious, and I think I
mentioned this to Doug and Mike in the
recent past, some people were curious about
what would you define as successful. How
would you define success for the band?
For me, really being happy in context.
Really enjoying life. It is like feeding
yourself. Some of the things you care about.
Of course the logical follow-up to that is are
their people in the band who are concerned
about the more business side of things or
the money side of things?
At this point yes. I think that it is natural at
the point where we are at in our lives. Our
A couple of other questions that people had
I don’t want to monopolize all your time
here. How do you plan to travel? There are
like ten or twelve guys in the bus. I think ten
is on the official web page and there have
been pictures of you guys slipping by. Isn’t
that very close for ten or twelve guys?
I think it took a while for us to figure out
everybody’s patterns and all that. It is
interesting. There is basically three areas of
the bus. I rarely sit in the front lounge. I
almost always sit in the back lounge. Mike,
Tim, Dave, and Steve are usually up front.
As well as George who has trouble sleeping
on the bus. When we get to a town, he will
get up earlier than everyone else and the
rest of us don’t usually get up until the
That is an illness. The morning people. I
don’t understand it myself. I’m an
insomniac. This whole idea that you could
go to bed at 10 or 11 and get up at six. The
whole idea sounds really perverse to me.
Yea, same here. I can’t even think about
going to sleep then. I might get in the bed at
eleven but read for a couple of years.
As some point you realize oh I should go to
Then there are pretty much like patterns
that get established on the bus?
So it is not like everyone congregates in one
No. No.
The bus is pretty big.
There is almost always someone sleeping.
Right. Well we’ll get off the whole traveling
kick. We will get back to some of the more
music questions.  People are also interested
in what other bands you are listening to?
I always like that question.
It almost always changes.
? and I was talking about Ok Computer
which is a record that I like a lot. I am still
listening to the Last Whiskey record and
stuff like that. Now he is mixing the release
of this earlier record?
I’m sorry. I’m digressing here. So what are
you listening to?
I still listen to Ok Computer. That is one of
those that is a timeless record. I am
listening to a lot of drum and bass music.
It seems like a natural since you are a
Well yea, but the thing is that it is sort of a
misnomer because you deal with drum and
basses and you realize that you can’t judge
all this electronic stuff the same way you
would judge other music. A lot of it has
grown out of or at least initially grew out of
or is more about the process of drum and
bass than the jazz sensibility, but he works
his ass off you know probably two or three
samples of real drummers and it creates
these sequences. It is really interesting. He
was a jazz musician.
To be able to leave on a computer
somewhere and not really use.
And he has been doing it every sense a long
time. He is like totally interested in the DJ
culture and all of that. I see DJs are here.
Like last night more and more are listening
to his records. His records will definitely
evolve. It is called hysteria in Canada. His
songs yet. Maybe that will come hopefully.
That is o-kay there is no correct answer to
that question. It is purely subjective. Each
individual brings their own concerns.
Yea, I mean a lot of the stuff that I listen to.
That makes real sense to me. Well there are
some parallels. I remember when I first
heard it I thought that sounds like the
That is what my best friend said.
It is not perfect. There is not any
duplication or anything but there are
components of the song.
It is really funny. I really noticed elements
of the song, but it happens all the time and
the context is different.
Somebody said good artists create, great
artists steal. So there you are. There are a
lot of these questions that Mike had no idea
how to answer these questions and I just
kind of laughed so I will throw them at you.
Do you have any sense of where you see
yourself in 10 or 15 years from now?
Yea, I do definitely. There is a lot that I
want to do and a lot of it won’t ever get done
in the Connells so I am well entrenched in
new things.
Like a project of your own?
Yea, projects maybe.
Do you have any opportunities besides with
the Connells to do any of that production?
Just a demo for a band that I really didn’t
like at all. I am not really sure that I ever
heard the final product. At times they would
just put a spot in a song under the solo and
then move from there into a solo spot. The
recording process in which a good engineer
helped me out and I like to do it with
someone who I really, really like. That was a
lot of fun because he hates recording new
Have you ever heard of a band out of
Milwaukee called the Guns?
Yea, I heard a lot of people talking about
A lot of people on the list and to me
personally like these guys clearly seemed to
be influenced although the interesting thing
is that people say that they don’t have as
good a drummer as Peele. People are really
out. I actually own a couple of things by the
Guns because Chad a friend of ours who is
in anthropology is getting his degree out of
Milwaukee and so I able to hear it. I hear
the similarities and certainly in terms of the
song structure and the lead vocalists. But I
have also spotted me some fans of that
group and they actually cite you guys as one
of their musical influences.
Wow, cool.
So have you heard any of there stuff?
Yea, the interesting thing is that I heard
them on the radio in Raleigh on a college
station and yet it turned out that it was the
Guns. I had already heard about them and
then I met the drummer.
They tend to do smaller tours. They do some
stuff nationwide but I know they played in
Atlanta and Athens. They regularly hit
Chicago but it does seem like Milwaukee,
Madison, and Chicago. That is where their
base of support is.  I think that their last
record was on a decent size label but it
doesn’t seem like they are getting any push.
Clearly radio is fairly conservative and
given the business of radio. Any videos?
Not yet.
No videos for this record?
We got a couple of good treatments. One for
Norwood Cheek and another one for?
It seems like the video is tied directly into
some story-telling notion or the narrative of
the song. Even for a relatively straight
forward or some inexpensive video. It still
seems to cost quite a bit of money here.
I was talking with my best friend about this
and he is a director and I told him and he
said they are going to want a $100,000
video. It definitely a catch 22 when making
a video. There is not some guarantee that it
will get video play or air play in general.
Your last two videos were really neat. I
loved the video for 5th Fret with the Psycho
theme. Well the video for Maybe taking off
of the deliverance one. That is a great movie.
But I just thought these are great.
Yea, I wish that the 5th Fret video did the
execution better on it. At least the
performance on it is.
Steve ends us as Ned Bailey because he is
newest in the band. I am sure that that is
not a role that people are lining up to do.
Definitely not.
People said I’m not doing that. That is
exactly what I would say.
Oh he was fine. He thought it would be a lot
of fun.
Norman Cheek was involved with that.
Yea, it was Brainy Cooper. I went to school
in Chapel Hill and became friends with my
best friend. Is it the tape?
No, I’m doing just fine. I have to check it
every once in a while. Let me ask you one
thing about videos and then I think that I
have pretty much exhausted all the
questions that I have. What video do you
think is most characteristic of the band?
Oh, good question. It has to be two videos
because there are definitely two sides to the
band. And they are both?
It is like just walking around is it Raleigh?
And then 74 and 75 was with the whole?
was with the people from the yearbook.
Because it is so solemn and I think that it
really captures the band. It is like I was
telling my friend. He didn’t really work for
That was kind of tuff for him?
Yea, he hated it. But then he tends to feel
sorry for himself.
I can understand that TBT is not
organizationally that they have a few issues
to work out. Not just in terms of you guys
but they have real difficulty with
distribution and promotion and man if that
is not the centerpiece of a record company
other then the whole creation. I don’t know
what is.
Well they should have, I mean I know they
do good work as far as being their own
distributor and those kinds of things. Those
kinds of things happen a lot to us to.
You are the first rock band that they signed.
They just put out novelty tunes before that
and still are come to think of it. It does
seem like there are quite a few bands at this
There are.
There is? and a few others that I seen a few
promotions for.
And those, they can promote those bands
because word of mouth. Well all right.

Stacy‘s Radio Interview

Connell’s Interview  6-14-98, Salt Lake City

Something tied in with the millenium I guess. That is a Mike answer
for you. I can tell you that right now. You will never get a straight
answer from Mike. Every song is too personal. Anyway it is a great
album. I am going to play a track for you right now. This one is Brut
from the new album Still Life from the Connell. 107.5 the end.

I got the Connell’s in the studio right now with me. That song was
written by Peal Everyly who is the drummer and he has been
contributing a lot of songs lately. In fact everyone has. Everyone has
at least one song writing credit on this album. That is pretty cool. It
seems like with every new album everyone contributes more and
David has a nice instrumental you should check out and George has
another one of his torch songs again and Steve the keyboardist
helped out with a song that Jim Scott wrote about a trip to this place
called boy island.

Steve came up with the lyrics and that was what Jim Scott was calling
the studio  because it was just a bunch of guys hanging out.

So it was Boy Island

I was going to ask you where Boy Island is.

It is a studio. It is imaginary place.

Well everyone should go there. With everyone helping out with
songwriting does that help you guys feel more unity as a band or
have you ever lacked that? What do you think?
It probably does make everyone feel more involved in the whole
process so yea it is definitely a good thing.

Well it’s good everyone gets to help out. It’s a nice balance for the
album as well. I’m going to play the title track now and I’m going to
let Mike tell you what the title track deals with. If he will answer it
straight tell us about still life, Mike.

It is about the up side of just staying put. Of life slowing down a little

Still Life there you have it. Prolific words from Mike Connell here on
105.7 the end. Let’s listen to Still Life. (music).

105.7 the end that is still life and a track from the Connell’s new track
album Still Life. They are going to be playing tonight at the Holy Cow
private club for members second south and fifth east. Make sure you
check them out. Me having seen the live shows at a few cities
recently, I’m highly qualified to tell you that this is a show not to be
missed. The band sounds really great right now. The new songs
sound great live and of course Doug is providing a lot of old
fashioned entertainment.

Tonight it is Steve’s birthday too.

It is.

Make sure you have plenty of signs or yet out “Happy Birthday”  to
Steve. Doug do you want to fill everybody in on the favorites they
can plan on hearing tonight from the other albums?
Oh God. Hey wild will be one. Maybe get a gun. So many I don’t

Oh all your favorites. See I told you that it was not to be missed. So
along with all of the new good stuff, you can hear some of the old
favorites also. I got another old track for you right now if I can load
it up in time. It is from the Boiling Heights CD. It’s entitled Over
There.” If you are a Connell’s fan then you know it well. (MUSIC)

105.7 the end rocking with the Connell’s here in the studio that is
Over there from the Boiling Heights CD. I’m Stacy and we’re talking
with Mike Connell, George Huntley, and Doug McMilliam and we are
kind of talking about what has been happening with them lately really
cool project is this great cover of Cruel to be Kind the classic Nick

George you want to tell us how you got the chance to do that?
George: I’m not really sure how we got the chance to do that. We
had found out that we know a lot of people that know this Dan Rose
fellow who did this movie. His first movie was the Last Supper and I
don’t know if anybody has saw that. I’ve never seen it. The name of
this movie is Dead Man’s Curve and it appears to be sort of a twenties
something who done it love story kind of thing. It might be good
might not be.

But your song is on the soundtrack?

We really love doing the song. It was really fun. We had met Nick
Lowe on a couple of different occasions so Yea, I was hearing about
that and I hear that Mike had a really good time meeting Nick Lowe.
Doug and I ended up in Wales in some pub with good old Nick eight
years ago and we had a great conversation till a few pints later and
he had to leave. This was the first time I heard Junior Brown was in
his car in Wales. Pretty interesting.

Well great we’ll look for that one on the Dead Man’s Curve
soundtrack sometime in the fall is that right it will be released?
Yea, I think so.

And we hope we’ll get a chance to hear that one tonight because it
sounds very good live too. The new album was produced by Jim
Scott who has worked with a lot of fine artists including The Bodines,
Tom Petty, The Samples, Sting, and Wiskey Town. You could go on
and on. He is a busy guy. And the album has a really crisp sound
really energetic just pleasant to listen to all the way through. We are
going to play another one off that track right now and Mike give us
an honest answer. What is soul reactor about? (music)

Soul Reactor, another new one from the Still Life CD, the Connell’s on
105.7 the END. I am Stacy Tucker with members of the Connell’s here
in the studio and that Soul Reacor song man that rocks life and I am
not a woman who says that song rocks very often. Hey Doug what’s
this in this song.

We recorded in Sound City where we recorded and it fit the solvid

You are right in there, right at James Dio.

He is a little guy and he fit right in.

There is too few songs that have credits to him.

We got McCartney and Lennon and Rio James Dio in that song and
company. Name droppers the big three.

We want to thank you guys for coming on by the studio today and
make sure you check out the Connell’s at the Holy Cow second south
and fifth east a private club for members get your tickets at the door
and good luck tonight guys. Good luck with the rest of the tour and
the album.

And show up no matter who wins the game.

Oh yea, go to the game and then go see the Connell’s. That is a
perfect way to round out your evening and we will put on another
old favorite here. This is “Something to Say” from the Fun and Games
disc. (Music). 105.7 the END.

Left off the Dial Interview


(This interview is taken from issues of the Boylan Heights Digest published
by Art Jipson)

Interview with Michael Connell on the Afternoon of 10-13-93.
by Art Jipson

I drove up to Cincinnati the Afternoon before the band was to play at
Bogarts near the University of Cincinnati campus. I was unsure what to
expect. I have to admit that I was scared. I have only interviewed a few
musicans and because I am a huge fan, I was really nervous. However, there
was no reason for me to be nervous. Mike answered the door to the hotel
room that he and David shared with a smile. Throughout the interview he
was kind, patient, and funny. I spent an hour and a half talking to Mike while
David worked on a painting in the corner.

1. How does Ring Compare to other records that you have worked on (Word,
Fun and Games, Boylan Heights) how would you compare them?

Michael Connell (MC): I think that this comes a little closer to what we’ve
been trying to accomplish for the last few years since Boylan Heights which
was the second record. Maybe in some ways we’ve refined what we’ve done
with the last two records and I just like this group of songs better. It might
be nothing more than that–liking this particular assortment of songs. But I
think that the feel of the record is a little more relaxed. That might have
more to do with production alone and to some extent the performances in
the studio. But because the feel of the record is more relaxed, I’ve had an
easier time listening to this one, I’ve had some problems with Fun and
Games and One Simple Word. I think that there is a certain frantic quality at
times to Fun and Games. I think that if we could rerecord some of those
songs we could do a much better job with them. Tempos might be too
fast…that sort of thing. With One Simple Word, the record to me doesn’t
have much to do with what we sound like live. That was one of my problems
with that record.

I think I like the lyrics better for this record. We’re getting more to the face
of things. I think that things seem a little more focused, the lyrics are a little
more self-evident. They’re Still pretty vague and ambiguous but not as much
so its a little clearer what’s going on within the songs. They’re a little more
coherent or hang together a little better than the last couple of records.

2. How would you characterize the songs? Relationship songs?

MC: Yeah, on the whole I would say personal experience songs. Hopefully, a
couple of universal themes work there way in but we’ve never been much
of a band for tackling political or social issues. I think that it’s because that
for me, personally, I feel uncomfortable trying to soapbox trying to address
things that I am not well equiped to address.

3. You mentioned that you thought the new record is more refined. How
would you say that the record is more refined?

MC: I think that what I meant by that was that the arrangements were a little
tighter. We have a clearer sense of what we want to do with a 3 and a ahlf
minute or 4 minute song. More than anything, the arrangements are tighter
and the parts are tighter. We’re learning to lay off where in the past we’ve
tried to fill gaps. A group of guys figuring out what works best for them.

4. It seems that there are some changes in the band. Your singing more and
some shifting on the songwriting chores. How would you characterize
changes in the band?

MC: Well, I think that the way the songs breakdown is nothing more than a
function of…we throw all the songs on the table and the band, the producer,
and our manager Ed, we all decide which songs work best together. Even
though George has just one song on the record there were still more of my
songs that were recorded than rejected. There is nothing political going on,
its more just trying to figure out which group of songs make the most sense

5. This record also has the addition of Steve Potak on Keyboards. Is he a

MC: He’s not part of the incorporated. Which means he’s free to go on and
pursue other things without having TVT reign him in. A couple of years ago
he started playing out live with us. I guess he is a defacto member of the

6. Where did you meet Steve?

MC: He knew George in High School. He’s a native of Raleigh. More lately he
was good friends with the brother of the woman David married.

MC: David is that the way it worked?

David Connell (DC): Well, actually, he was working at the music store where I
bought my equipment and was the one that suggested, because we were
looking for a keyboard player, that we try him out since he was eager to do it
for some reason.

MC: And he looks perfectly normal, nothing threatening about Steve.

7. Tell me about working with Lou Giordano. He worked with Zuzu’s Petals,
Sugar…Why Lou Giordano?

MC: The band was taken with that last Sugar record that he produced with
Bob Mould?

AJ: The Beaster record or Copper Blue?

MC: Copper Blue. We met Lou when we were making Fun and Games. He
had things going on at Fort Apache where Gary Smith was producing our
record. That connection had something to do with it. Talking to him and
talking to people that he worked with before. It became evident that he was
an easy going guy. In a lot of cases that in the end is the most important
criteria. Someone that, espcially Doug, can feel comfortable around. I don’t
think that Doug was especially comfortable while we were making One
Simple Word. This time we were going to find someone who would let Doug
take a more relaxed approach to singing the songs. With One Simple Word I
think that Hugh Jones expected a real performance on every song. And
Doug has a tendency at least on parts of songs to want to “half-ass” on
songs. And we thought that Lou would be more amenable to that approach.

AJ: More open?

MC: Doug would be doing a take on a song and hugh would be “no, no,
you’ve got to emote!” In some instances, the vocals, the deliveries are more
forced than any of us would have liked. When we’re working up a song, I
might tell Doug “that you might consider going falsetto here instead of
going full voice.” That sort of thing. Try this falsetto. And we have parts of
songs where Doug would hit a falsetto but Hugh does not like falsetto, so
that wont do. “No, no falsetto you’ve got to sing it full voice.” As a
consequence I think that some of the vocals [on Word] sound a little
strained or forced.

AJ: Yeah, I can see that. On a couple of songs on Word its almost like all of a
sudden there’s gravel in Doug’s voice. It’s like Umphf. I’m pulling from the
diagphram now.

MC: Exactly, exactly.

8. You’ve guys have worked with a number of producers. You worked with
Mitch Easter. What was that Like?

MC: It was great. Our first experience with recording hadn’t gone
necessarilly so well. We had only been together a few months when we went
in to make Darker Days. Don Dixon was realizing that we had serious time
constraints because of the amount of money that we had–we were financing
the thing ourselves, so we had a weekend here and a weekend there. He
knew he had to take the bull by the horns and lead us through the thing. So,
he didn’t field a whole lot of suggestions with the band. But with Mitch it was
everything we could do to get him to make suggestions. “You guys just do
the things that you feel comfortable doing and that is more or less the way
things sort themselves out. ” We went in and started playing and only if he
thought that we were really getting off track with something would he speak
up or if we asked him “What do you think about this?” would he have some
suggestions. His appraoch was to let us do what we felt comfortable with
and he would capture it and try to make sense of it after everything is on
tape. So, the atmosphere was really good for Boylan Heights. The record
sounded far better than it ended up–something happened in the mastering
process. I still don’t know what TVT did when they got hold of the tapes from
Mitch. But to this day Mitch will say that that was a much better sounding
record until it was out of his possession. Something happened in mastering
that was…I don’t know enough about what goes on in mastering to be able
to say what exactly happened.

AJ: Some kind of engineering problem?

MC: I guess, I don’t know TVT wanting a particular sound and maybe asking
the person who was mastering…

AJ: Correct me if I am wrong. Or feel free to just say “I don’t want to answer
that.” But it seems that a number of bands seem to have problems with TVT.
Distribution problems and Organizational problems. I spoke with some
people at Black Park in between the last two records and it seems that I got
a sense of frustration with dealing with TVT.

MC: Yeah its been a lot of frustrating things over the last several years. Now
that things are better, everyone’s making a concerted effort, I guess I am
supposed to be toeing the line. Things are much better, they really are, TVT
gave us artist administered fund. Saying here is the money you guys do
what you want with it. So, we were able to choose to Lou Giordano and
choose the studio. We were able to do all the art work our selves. And they
were good to their word didn’t involve themselves at any point in the
process. Only now in trying to promote the record. So, Things are definitely
better but over the years things have not necessarily gone so well. The
threatened lawsuit and all that stuff. I guess last December realizing that it
was a matter of patching things up with them or…if we wanted to put out a
record we would have to patch things up. So, since then things have
definitely been better.

AJ: Let me go back to some changes. You are singing two songs, lead.
Waiting my turn was the song on Word?

MC: Right.

AJ: Here you take lead on Burden which is a much different song than
Waiting my turn. Are you feeling more comfortable with lead or do you want
your treatment?

MC: Something like that. Any time someone who writes a song turns it over
to someone else to sing something changes in the translation. Given my
limitaitons as a vocalist, the vast majority of the time, Doug takes what I
hand over to him and makes it his own but with a couple of songs, especially
of a more personal nature…I started thinking that it might not make…that I
would give them to Doug and something was just missing it seemed to me.
Fuck it–despite the fact that I can’t really sing, I’m going to sing these
songs. I can’t say that I’m especially comfortable singing–cringe when I

AJ: Do you cringe when you hear yourself singing?

MC: Yeah, the vocals are so nasal.

AJ: You seem to have a higher register when you sing. Like a first tenor or
something? Doug’s voice does the same thing. You do seem to make a
higher leap then he does.

MC: Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of…there’s no gravel or anything like that. I
don’t know how to characterize my vocals, I just know that I do end up
singing in a higher register. After Darker Days I think…that part of my
problems with Darker Days is how low Doug sings on that. I became very
conscious of that after that record. Every song that I’ve written subsequent
to those songs–getting it in a key where Doug would have to sing in a
higher register.

AJ: I would comment that on ’74-’75 he pulls down a bit. Especially when he
uses his vibrato.

MC: Yeah! Songs like Holding Pattern!

AJ: Wouldn’t part of the low singing be a result of a learning process?

MC: Yeah, he didn’t know what he wanted to sound like at that point. He
really didn’t know what his own voice was at that point. I think that’s what
happened between Darker Days and Boylan Heights was that he finally
realized that he had his own voice and he didn’t necessarily have to sound
like…not that he was trying to sound like anyone person on Darker Days
maybe a composite of some people. He found his voice more on Boylan
Heights and each record he makes some strides. I am a lot less critical of
Doug’s studio performamces after trying to sing in the studio, it was alot
harder than I imagined.

AJ: How do you guys record in the studio?

MC: We’re definitely not a one take studio band. There’s a good bit of
patching up.

AJ: How do you guys record in the studio?

MC: We’re definitely not a one take studio band. There’s a good bit of
patching up that has to be done, some operation. Lou’s approach was to
have Doug sing a song four or five times and then make a composite of that.
Most of the rhythm tracks Peele and Dave get in one take, David sometimes
has to go back in and punch in some bass lines or some parts of bass lines.
Some of my rough tracks for rhythm guitar were kept. But it is more of the
layered approach. Starting with bass and drums and then building on top of
that. And I’m pretty certain that over the years with Doug its been a matter of
piecing together the parts from various takes.

AJ: Do you like it on the road?

MC: Yeah! Its sort of a day to day proposition. Some days, some nights
shows go really well and you remember why you started doing this in the
first place.

AJ: Let me ask–why did you start doing this in the first place?

MC: Well, initially it was something to do that was a distraction from school.
It was something that I always wanted to do and found that during my
second year of law school that I suddenly had a lot more time than I had the
year before. I started writing songs and I though that a band would be a nice
outlet for some of these songs that I’d been writing and why not give it a
whirl. I was thinking that maybe in the third year of law school that we could
be playing at parties or bars in the area. So, I spent about a year getting the
band into place and then in the Fall of ’84 we started playing out soon after
Peele joined the band. With our first drummer things just never really
coalesced. We needed to be playing out.

AJ: Who was the first drummer?

MC: John Shultz–a guy who introduced Doug to the rest of us. They had
been friends from childhood and he was going to school at Chappel Hill like
David and myself. He’s now at in Los Angeles with a group of our friends and
their all involved in the movie industry to some extent.

AJ: Well, I’m sorry I interupted you, you were talking about touring.

MC: Tours like this are generally more enjoyable simply because the new
record is out. There’s a certain optimist with each record–that this one will
do better than the one before. It will be radio friendly that things will

AJ: It seems to me that you are getting quite a bit of radio play off of
slackjawed in Southern Ohio.

MC: It seems to be. We get new numbers Wednesday. It seems to be
improving. The record itself is now in the Gavin chart–the top ten chart for
Rolling Stone.

AJ: The video play on 120 minutes can’t hurt. Don’t they take their top ten
chart from there.

MC: Yeah, last week we found out that we’ve gone charging onto the
Billboard charts at 199.

AJ: You’ve got to start somewhere. Think of Tommy Stinson. Friday Night is
Killing Me didn’t crack the top 200. They toured like crazy…

MC: I look at Westerberg’s record and wonder why it didn’t do better. I saw
that it was 180-170 range on Billboard. But that was a band that I always
thought never really got their due.

AJ: Would you consider yourself a replacements fan?

MC: Absolutely! One of my biggest thrills over the years was a stint that we
got opening for the replacements. That was at the tailend of their career but
still some of those shows were just amazing. I had seen some of their
earlier…I guess the first time I saw those guys was in ’83/’84 right around the
time that Let it Be had come out. That was an explosive show. I think that
Bob Stinson…They just sort of exploded or imploded. Westerberg just fell
flat on his guitar. He broke the neck that night. He collapsed and they got
him back up with another guitar. It was amazing.

AJ: When you look around, not just in the alternative scene, but what kind of
musical contemporaries do you like…a song or an album?

MC: Over the last year or so I have been listening to Teenage
Fanclub–Bandwagonesque, Matthew Sweet-Girlfriend, the last
replacements record, the Westerberg record. Soul Asylum, but I don’t listen
to them as much because I can hear them everywhere. I saw Bill Sullivan,
their tour manager, in Ralleigh after they played the white house and right
before we left [for this tour] in this coffee house in Ralleigh and Sullivan’s
brother started the thing. So, he spends some time down there. His brother
said, “Bill’s in the next room, you should go talk to him.” And Bill was like,
“Yeah, we just got done playing the White house and we are going to
Europe in a few weeks.”

AJ: Let me ask the inverse, although you don’t have to respond, is there
some stuff that you just can’t stand musically?

MC: Long Pause. I couldn’t say that I was a big ugly kid Joe fan. All these
bands are going to occur to me after you leave. David, can you think of

DC: I don’t…

AJ: I was reading an old article in alternative press and there was a quote
there about “New Stream” music. [MC starts to laugh] What the hell is “New
Stream” music?

MC: Laughs. That is Doug being asked a question that he has no patient
with. Someone asked him to characterize our music by what genre we fit
into. He throws out the first thing that comes to mind to shut them up.

AJ: It almost sounds like a fishing allegory to me.

MC: He loves fishing. Doug has no patience for questions like that. It starts
showing up in reviews and stuff. There’s no new stream. Doug is a much
better interview than I am.

AJ: No, this is fine.

MC: That’s just Doug.

AJ: You tend to have the majority of songs on the record. And you describe
how songs are picked–a democratic process. How do you approach writing
a song. Do you write the music first?

MC: Typically, I just sit and work with an acoustic guitar and start streaming
chords together. A melody occurs to me to make sense of random chords
thrown together. Its rare that I will have all of the parts of a song figured out
in one sitting. I might have a chorus, or something that seems to me might
be a chorus for a song and I’ll have it on tape somewhere. And then three or
four months later I will come up with a part of a song in a different key and
think “this sounds to me like a verse.” And then I will go back and listen to
all the tapes and now if I were to alter the pacing a little bit of this part and
put them in the same key–would these parts fit together. And that’s the way
it works which is probably not the best way to go about writing songs. I think
it is best if you can come sit down and come up with bridge, verse, and
chorus all in one sitting and it happens that way every now and again. But
more often than not I have all these parts of songs…tons of parts of songs.
And at some point starting to bring it together and trying to make sense of
these different parts. The vocal melody and the chord progression which
come together first and then the lyrics come at the tailend of everything.

AJ: I’ve read that you don’t write on the road, that you don’t compose on the
road…is that true?

MC: Yeah, for some reason…I’ve never had any luck with that. In some ways
that’s unfortunate because that’s a lot of time that goes by without trying to
come up with new material. I am sure that if I applied myself I could come up
with something but I let myself off.

AJ: Down Time! You need down time! You can’t be constantly working.

MC: Laughs.

AJ: I would think that going from city to city would be kind of disconcerting.

MC: Yeah, its kind of disruptive. Now, with more and more of us settling
down. Three of the guys in the band are married and I’m engaged.

AJ: Congratulations!

MC: Thanks. So, we are a bunch of homebodies, so getting out is a
little…there’s a certain sense of dislocation. Tours like this one because it
makes more sense to be out on the road, it’s a little easier to swallow having
to be out for six or seven weeks. It’s so essential, we’re not the sort of band
that can go into a studio and hope that records sell themselves. We have no
choice but to get out and promote the things.

AJ: Do you have a favorite song on the record?

MC: Yeah, ’74/’75 might be my favorite song. But I do like Doug’s song Any
Day Now quite a bit. And David’s song I like.

DC: Oh, yeah…


AJ: Tactfully done, diplomatic. I remember that You guys were in Downtown
Toledo a few years ago. I believe that the song was at that time called

DC: It didn’t have a name, it didn’t have lyrics.

MC: That’s right. Doug, and Dave and I were demo-ing that song in Winston,
Salem with Scott Tim Harper whose our soundman. And he had a lot to do
with the way our songs came together. But Doug, and Dave and I, Doug
knew he was going to have to sing that song that night so the three of us
just sat down and one of us would throw out one line…so if the song makes
any sense at all…

AJ: That’s interesting because I think that its a very cohesive song when I
listen to it.

DC: You do?

MC: I think that at some point we were all keyed into where we were headed
with the song [“Hey You”]. But it is really, just really an assortment of
phrases from three different guys thrown out and patched together.

AJ: That’s fascinating that it comes together so cohesively.

MC: The way that I would characterize the song is really pretty typical of the
way that our sound or songs of the last few years.

24. AJ: How would you label yourselves, if you had to label yourselves–and
these exercise are always ridiculous. I have heard collegiate jangly rock
which other than Darker Days I don’t hear so clearly, power pop, Southern
Roots Pop, there are several different labels that have been applied to you
guys. How do you think of the Connells?

MC: New Stream. Laughs.

MC: I think we’re guitar oriented, hopefully melodic pop rock. For myself
anyway I was always more influenced by British bands. I grew up listening
pretty much exclusively to British bands. So, the whole Southern thing it
makes sense in so far as our music isn’t radically dissimilar than from REM.
And they [REM] cast such a huge shadow that FOR what we’re doing it would
be hard…it does invite comparisons. But it’s never been the case that I sat
down and waited for REM’s new album to come out and started to write more

So, yeah, more than anything I think that we’re preoccupied or most
concerned with trying to come up with decent melodies. Lyrics that
hopefully are not embarrassing or too embarrassing. That sort of thing. I
don’t think that the guitar sounds have been jangly, either, for the last few

AJ: It just seems that any Southern band invites some kind of REM
comparison regardless of whether or not the melodies of the songs
structures themselves invite such a comparison.

MC: Yeah.

AJ: How do you feel about reviews of your records? Are any reviews
significant for you?

MC: Let me think. I get more concern about the local reviews just because I
know that my Dad is gonna pick up one. Actually, I think that I avoid looking
for the reviews anymore because I figure that if one that’s pretty positive
comes out then our manager will make a point of showing us. Hence
otherwise I assume that something is going on that I just assume not see.
Some less than positive reviews of the last few years have been good for
me, I think to read some of the criticisms. With most reviews I realize that it
is one person’s opinion. Only in instances where there seems to be
something…it’s almost as though there is something personal going on.
Sometimes things get so vicious that you can’t make sense of what you are
reading. Someone obviously hates or detests the band so…that you wonder
if it’s just the music. If these songs could instill that sort of venom or inspire
that sort of venom.

I love reading reviews of other people’s records and I understand the
function that reviews serve but I can’t say that I go out of my way to find out
reviews anymore. You get burned a few times and you…or you read some
awful review and you become less prone to go to track down every review
that comes out.

25. AJ: Is there any member of the band who lives seeks out reviews,
positive or negative.

MC: David over here. There is a magazine in Atlanta called Creative Loafing
and any time that we’re coming to town. It’s not so much as a review as a
preview and there’s this one guy who just utterly dispises the band. And it’s
finally got to the point where it’s almost amusing to see what he’s going to
say. Each time there is one thing that he says over and over, it’s like I told
you every time do not go out and see these guys but you keep going back
so I’m throwing my hands up. He’s written awful things about people that I
like quite a bit–like Robyn Hitchcock, I know that he was playing in Atlanta
one weekend when we were playing there and it’s like…. I think that he
thinks that are lyrics are a little precious or something like that. Or that I
don’t know what his gripe is entirely. I think part of it is the fact that in
Atlanta anyway a good bit of our crowd might be more clean cut type of
crowd. He probably sees that as a bad thing. Maybe we’re a little too life

AJ and MC: laughs.

AJ: Think black album covers.

MC: Yeah! Laughs.

26. AJ: Let me ask you about videos. Seven was your first video and then
one or two per record after that?

MC: Yeah, we actually made one for hats off. I think that, Dave, they put that
on 120 minutes didn’t they?

DC: Yeah!

MC: It was on a time or two. That was as with seven some friends of ours in
Raleigh spent an afternoon with us and just made the videos. Very low
budget–we just stood around drinking beer, something like that. “Over
there,” “Scotty’s lament,”–were the two videos from Boylan heights. The
video for “Something to say” that was a nightmare. I hated making that thing.

27. AJ: What happened with “Something to say?”

MC: It was just an awful video and TVT found this guy who I think just missed
the boat completely. He had no sense of the band, maybe, never listened to
a record. I’ve got this wonderful image guys. His treatment that was sent
down had something to do. Dave, what was the metaphore for the song.

DC: The junkyard of lost ideals.

MC: Yeah, the junkyard of lost ideal that was it. All these things would be
heaped on. We at least put our foot down and kept that out of the video, but
Jesus…it’s like it looks like a bad jean ad to me. Blue jean ad.

28. AJ: How do you feel slackjawed. It seems like you guys goofin’ around.
There’s some performance segments in it.

MC: We had a much better time making that video. This friend of ours from
Raleigh whose now living out in LA, his name is Peyton Green made the
video, he came back and he know all of us well and understand, I think, the
personality of the band and the individual members. Things were a lot
looser making that video than with other videos.

Although with get a gun our first drummer john Sholtz made that video.
Things were pretty loose then but…it was a lot of fun. The fact that we could
do it in Raleigh made a big difference, didn’t have to go off somewhere. And
we used all the locals in and around the city.

29. AJ: What is your general disposition toward videos?

MC: I think that we understand that in this day and age it’s almost imperative
to at least give it a shot to make a video. To see if it can end up on MTV. But
we realize at the same time that it is an awful lot of money to spend on
something that you wonder how much difference it actually makes.

30. AJ: If you had to sum up the band, characterize the band–in a short
statement–could you do that?

MC: I’ll give it a shot! I would say [pause] a bunch of guys who tried to come
up with some decent songs and at least tried to avoid embarrassing
themselves too much in the process. I think that on top of all that we have
always made a point of…I think that John Lennon said “that to make it in this
business you’ve got to be assholes, and we’re the biggest assholes there
ever where.” And that quote never made sense to me until I was in a band
and I could see how it would be easy to be an asshole. The band collectively
could be sort of less than…. I think that we have been pretty good about
being decent bunch of Guys as a band. And that to me is important. I have
always tried to be fair with one another and those that we come into contact

An early article with a great picture of the band
Here is the rest of the article.

May 9, 1986
From: CMJ New Music Report
Connells – Darker Days
Elvis Costello does it again, or at least his label does. Britain’s Demon
Records followed up their American Heartland success with EIEIO with the
Connells debut LP, DARKER DAYS which is just now finding U.S. release (as
is EIEIO). Combining the feel of real down-to-earth southern pop, bright
production (Bob Dash and Don Dixon), and a British style that conjures up
the Moody Blues, these North Carolina boys have come up with an album
that feels fresh. Twangy guitar, pounding bass, and vocals that give that
Morrissey whine a real rockin’ feeling makes “Hats Off” and “Seven” stand
out, but if you really want that popified Smiths sound, it jumps right out on
the title track. The colorful sounds of “1934” and the fuzzy instrumental “Dial
It” make for a well rounded record.

Date Unknown
The Connells – Darker Days – Black Park Records “No hipsters here claiming
to have been playing country-rock before it was cool. No roguish string-tied
‘vested cow thrash, no morbid all black make-up-in-lace death rock, or
angst-ridden balefulness. This band can be cool all on its own.” – Tasty World
And so it goes, this “cool” band has just recently released in Europe in
January of 1986 by England’s Demon Records (co-owned by Elvis Costello).
The Connells, a five piece band from Raleigh, NC, produce an energetic
pop/folk sound with strummed guitars, sprightly speed rolls on the skins
and Smithlike vocals. But these guys are not the Smiths! They’re America’s
own – The Connells.

Date Unknown
The Connells – Darker Days
This Raleigh, NC band drew Smiths comparisons early on, but has thankfully
transcended the initial label, where Morrissey & Co. stubbornly place the
singer’s grating affected vocal right in front of you, Doug MacMillan’s warble
– a warm and friendly one at that – is integrated smoothly into the complex
web of jangly guitars and unobtrusive textural keyboards. Bands past and
present flit past, the Byrds, Modern English, Let’s Active, even Simon &
Garfunkel. Yet this is totally unique, melodically exhilirating, glorious music.
Most tracks are midtempo; the casual listenermay complain of sameness.
The dense, ominous headlong rush of “Hats Off” should counter, its
amphetamined brace of choppy guitars battling it out with an aggressive
blurted vocal. There are classic moments throughout the nine songs
present, too many to list and truthfully, too emotional to dwell upon in
writing. Record of the month.

From Rolling Stone:

The Connells
(three stars)

On ‘Boylan Heights,’ the second album by this North Carolina quintet, the
Connells come off like sensitive undergrads pondering life beyond the halls
of ivy. Can they ever really go home again? Will they get married? Fight a
foreign war?

It’s no wonder that the album has spent weeks in the upper reaches of the
college-radio charts, for Boylan Heights articulates the concerns of the
emerging adult while providing the jangly guitars, minor-key folkie
harmonies and robust backbeat that constitute familiar terrain for
left-of-the-dial listeners.

Yet chief songwriter (and lead guitarist) Michael Connell, who founded the
group in 1984 with his bass-playing brother David, pens tunes with more
far-reaching appeal. As delivered by the fervent lead vocals of Doug
MacMillan, Connell’s chronicles of romantic yearning and home-town
alienation can pluck just about anyone’s heartstrings. In the rousing “I
Suppose,” he contemplates the memory of a one-time sweetheart whose
“form and…face/Like some place that I know/Still return to me now.” In the
delicately hymnlike “Pawns,” Connell’s troubadour pleads to his lady:
“Please release me with your smile.” Connell isn’t above an ironic dig at his
seemingly perpetual lovelorn condition; in “Scotty’s Lament,” the refrain
goes, “I delight in my despair.”

With their Dixie driver’s licenses and eclecto-folk-isms have come
inevitable R.E.M.-Let’s Active comparisons, which the Connells’ choice of
producer Mitch Easter only invites. But Boylan Heights has plenty of
idiosyncrasies that set the band apart from its Southern colleagues, such as
the lilting Celtic jig that opens “Scotty’s Lament” and the brave little trumpet
floating above the martial strains of the antiwar song “Over There.” Boylan
Heights continues to yield up more charms with each listen.
~Moira McCormick

(This article was taken from an issue of the Boylan Heights Digest)

The Raygun Article Feb. ’94
The Connells
by Jim Desmond

The Connells suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Their pure pop sound,
preppy look and teeny bopper fan base [art’s angered by this comment]
make it easy to write them off as lightweight. But there is nothing
lightweight about RING, the band’s fifth release.

Taking a break from fishing off the Carolina beach, Doug MacMillan, the
band’s lead singer and resident free-spirit, explains that he’s been listening
to the new Nirvana record, which triggered some thoughts on why people
can miss the boat on the Connells. “Nirvana hits you over the head with all
the anger and fear or whatever they’re feeling,” says MacMillan. “Then later
on I find myself thinking, ‘Wow, these melodies are good.” “With us,” he
continues, “it’s exactly the opposite. The things that are unsettling, the
skewed perceptions of things that are in the songs don’t reveal themselves
immediately. I don’t know if our way is better, but that’s how we do it.”

Later I met up with the band’s principal songwriter, Mike Connell, over
breakfast at a coffee shop on the fringe of the campus of the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where MIke was a law student and his brother
David an undergrad when they formed the band in 1984. Mike, the band’s yin
to Macmillan’s yang, became visibly uneasy when discussing his lyrics the
chrous of “Disappointment,” one of RING’s best moments, goes “And if I
dissappointed you, I’m sorry. You’re a disappointment too.”

“I don’t feel comfortable writing optimistic lyrics and I don’t know why,” he
cautiously stated. “I didn’t have a traumatic childhood or anything like that. I
write in the minor key a lot and light-hearted lyrics just seem out of place. In
some ways maybe it is calculated, I guess. If the lyrics were as nice or sweet
as the melodies it would be too much. There would be no rough edges.”

On the surface, the sound of RING is safe pure pop, nothing earth shaking
yet thoroughly listenable-bouncy songs, the melodic guitar lines of Mike
Connell and George Huntley, the careful rhythms of David Connell and Peel
Wimberley and MacMillan’s sweet high vocals. But dig a bit deeper and
you’ll discover surprisingly intense tales of betrayal.

It has never been easy getting a handle on the Connells. They are a study in
contrasts. Buoyant melodies offset by Mike Connell’s penchant for dark
lyrics. Southerners drawing primarily from British pop bands from the
Beatles to the Smiths. Studious players fronted by a singer who is most
comfortable on stage when things go haywire (“When something breaks, I’m
squared,” he says. “When I do a goof, it’s my natural personality coming

While hoping that RING does for the Connells what GRAVE DANCER’S UNION
did for their good friends in Soul Asylum, Mike Connell is trying to keep
some perspective o the position his band is now perched in. “When I stop
long enough to think about it,” he sayd, “I can’t believe that I could compalin
about selling only 100,000 records. I think of all the great bands like Big Star
who never sold anywhere near that and I feel like an ingrate.”


(This article was taken from 2 issues of the Boylan Heights Digest)

The Connells Cream vol.3 no.2 p.24 January/February ’94
by Tom Lanham

Are American audiences, on the whole, pretty stupid? This is the question
Doug Macmillan is addressing while his crafty Carolina combo the Connells
jangles through a soundcheck. The evidence is all there Beavis and
Butt-head on the cover of Newsweek; Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the
USA” being misinterpreted as a flag waving anthem. Even Americanized
remakes of definitive European films such as The Vanishing and La Femme
Nikita insinuate that we Yanks enjoy being talked down to. But perhaps the
most telling footnote is the Connells’ curious career itself, which–after eight
years and rive brilliant pop albums–still remains stuck in low indie-label
gear. Is this outfit–huh, huh, huh–too smart–huh, huh, huh–for us?

Macmillan isn’t sure. But he’s got some theories. “La Femme Nikita is the
best example of that way of thinking,” he says, after apologizing for his
group’s striaghtforward soundcheck rendition of Bob Seger’s tacky “Night
moves” number. “The original Frnech version was so cool–they were
spoofining Bruce Willis and all those action guys. And What does Hollywood
do? They turn around and film one over here! So maybe there’s a danger to
doing things that aren’t 100% serious, things that have an element of irony
to them, because there’s always gonna be somebody who totally buys it.”

Unfortunately, these gullible people–whoever they are–were not buying
Connells records. The group still resides in relative obscurity in Raleigh,
NC, and continues to record for tiny TVT Records when it’s not touring the
East COast club circuit to put food on the table. After a spin though the
latest Connells communique, RING, the tragic plot thickens. This is a great
alternative-rock album, bubbling over with bright bluebird hooks and
snappy lyrical patter and clipping along on an almost heroic momentum.
While guitarist/songwriter Mike Connell clangs out his typically Merseybeat
leads, Macmillan sings his leaders super-smart thoughts in s souffle-fluffy
tenor that settles into the music like soft autumn leaves. “I’ve been standing
slackjawed since you were here/yeah, I’ve been standing slackjawed,” goes
the memorable chorus to “slackjawed,” and–although the term “slackjawed”
isn’t heard very often in pop music parlance–the cut sounds like an old
childhood chart friend, something you might’ve heard on your pillow-ticked
transistor late one schoolnight. Long before you learned the importance of
SAT scores, that is.

Maybe if the Connells had used simpler Cliff Notes terminology this song
would be a big hit. Perhaps we could edit down Finnegan’s Wake while we’re
at it, too. Keep the art basic and understandable for our slow-witted
Everyman. “there’s always someone who doesn’t get ‘Slackjawed,’ and I can
tell when they’re not getting it, and I start laughing,” says Macmillan, who
doesn’t speak with any perceptible snootiness. “It’s when people look at you
sort of dumbfounded, you know? But I like those kind of lyrics, ones that,
when you hear ’em, you can visualize what they’re about.” A touch of
frustration creeps into his voice as he admits, “Some of our songs are
easier to fall into than others–they don’t take much thinking to get into.”

Of course, when the Connells first got together in 1984, the guys were all
still frat-rats in college. Degrees were forsaken, however, as the unit gelled
and started touring. Mike Connell and his bassist brother David had been
weaned on Southern soul, but a latent–and now-trademark–Brit rock fetish
was audible by TVT album #2, the exuberant Boylan Heights.

Of course, when the Connells first got together in 1984, the guys were all
still frat-rats in college. Degrees were forsaken, however, as the unit gelled
and started touring. Mike Connell and his bassist brother David had been
weaned on Southern soul, but a latent–and now-trademark–Brit rock fetish
was audible by TVT album #2, the exuberant Boylan Heights. That Big Ben
chime is still around on Ring, in folksy songs such as “Spiral” and “Running
Mary.” MacMillan is quick to squeal on his compadre too: “Oh yeah, MIke
was a big Jethro Tull fan growing up, back before their real self-indulgent
phase kicked in.” In vintage “Living in the Past,” in case crowds fail to
guess the band’s arcane roots.

But why stay in Raleigh? Why not hightail it for major-label Los Angeles after
all this time? “Actually, for groups on the East coast, it’s either New York or
Boston,” MacMillan corrects. “But I just don’t see the need. I can think of
several bands who’ve moved up there, only to find out that nothing was
happening. But it all depends on your expectations as far as this business
goes, so I’m just pleased to still be doing this.” The Connells, in fact, had
Hollywood come to them recently when rock video director Mark Pellington
(Pearl Jam’s award-winning “Jeremy”) arrived in Raleigh to film a clip for
“’74-’75,” the new Ringle single.

“He went to the high school in town and got an old ’74-’75 yearbook and
actually interviewed people from that class,” says MacMillan. “You know the
documentary 28 UP? It’s like that. He flashes the yearbook picture on the
screen and then follows it with footage of them now. The video doesn’t
completely evoke with what the lyrics are about but it works.”

When pressed, MacMillan confesses he doesn’t really know what Mike
Connell meant with such lines as “I was the one who let you know/I was your
soryy-ever-after, ’74-’75/giving me more and I’ll defy.” The best explanantion
he can manage is, “Well, it’s obvious Mike was writing about a specific
experience, although he didn’t elaborate. It sounds like its about a bad
relationship, or it could be a family matter, and I’ve noticed that on different
nights we play it, different things come into my head.” A track you have to
analyze to appreciate? God forbid! Beavis and Butt-head will take one look
at the vid and declare “This sucks! Huh, huh, huh.”

Ultimately though, MacMillan is happy just being his low-profile self. “I like
not knowing what “’74-’75” is about,” he testily defends. “Because the whole
point of the song is, you take from it what you can get.” And what’s so
difficult to grasp about that?

Catching Up With The Connells…
by William Dunavant, Raleigh {NC}
from the December 1990 issue of The Record Exchange Music Monitor

At this moment, the Connells have to be N.C.’s best hope for a nationally
recognized rock band. Since the mid-80’s they’ve been recording, playing
shows, and amassing a following that could just put them into the big time.
With the release of One Simple Word, their fourth release on TVT, they’ve
broken beyond the label of College/Alternative and have come up with a
great batch of strong, catchy pop songs. It also features their most
adventuresome instrumentation yet. Instead of moving to a major
metropolitan market, the Connells have chosen to keep their hometown
[Raleigh], and their laid-back approach makes them that much more
admirable. With a little time in between touring the country in support of the
new album, lead singer Doug MacMillan took time out to answer a few
questions over a beer in a local tavern here in Raleigh.

WD: I talked to Mike [Connell] before you guys went to Wales to record.
Maybe you could tell me a little about the trip?

DM: I’d never been overseas; actually, most of us hadn’t been. We got to
play in London before we recorded and Hugh [Jones, the producer] got to
see us play in a small place called Borderline, sort of a Tex-Mex place.
People thought we sounded like Husker Du because it was so loud! [Laughs]

Overall, it was great; we were out in the country. The studio itself was an old
farm, a really old structure. There was a town nearby, several miles away,
that you could go to if you had some time off. For me it was cool, because
when the rhythm tracks were done, I would go in and sing the lead parts at
night. Hugh probably worked 15 hours a day. There were times I would be
singing until 4 or 5 in the morning and the sun would be coming up. You
know, after recording I wouldn’t be ready to sleep, so I would go fishing. I’d
get some line, go over the hill where the sheep farm was and down to the
stream and fish. That was the best way to unwind. The sheep would almost
make human noises and I could tell when it was time to go back and sleep
when I could hear “Douuug.” [Imitating a sheep.]

WD: The actual recording went ok?

DM: Oh, it was really cool, um, we, all of us, went a little crazy. It was like
cabin fever. it was a ideal way to record because we were so detached, but
the drawback was that you start to go a little crazy, if you don’t find
something else to do, because you start thinking about the music too much.
Hearing things that aren’t there. But yeah, it was great; the setting, the
situation. I think that it shows we were prepared; when I listen to it, I think it
sounds a lot better.

WD: Which do you like to do best–recording or playing live?

DM: I like playing live. It’s a more natural environment. Even the shower is a
more natural environment than a recording studio.

WD: You’re kind of known for spontaneity during live shows, but on “Too
Gone,” what’s with “Let The Music Play?”

DM: We were practicing one day on that song, but we reworked it into a
slower version. We were playing it and Mike played the chords, kind of
spaced out, and sang, “Let the music play…” and looked at me and I thought,
“Oh, man!” We were so pumped! Then we worried that Hugh might not like it,
but he was into it. That was the funniest song to record by far–we were all

[At this point we divert our attention to a TV in view of our booth with a
Happy Days re- run that Doug was watching out of the corner of his eye.]

This is great! This is Fonzie’s big jump at Arnold’s. This is Fonzie’s big
moment. Ooh, look at Marion. Hey, oh–to be continued–yeah!

[The show breaks with Fonzie on his motorcycle in mid-air after leaving the
ramp–a good bit of laughter from us!]

WD: Does he make it?

DM: I think he does, but he hurts his arm. I think Leather Tuscadero is in that

WD: Ok, back to the interview. About playing live. I know you guys play some
fun cover songs. Any new ones in the works?

DM: We’re working on a couple right now. A Thin Lizzy song called “Running
Back.” We do one by the Tremolos called “Here Comes My Baby.” We
haven’t really had much time to do that sort of stuff, which is too bad
because I like playing covers.

[I asked Doug about a band he played in called April Fools, that focused on
playing Burt Bacharach songs! They even recorded an album, but Doug
declined to talk much about it.]

WD: On another personal note, I know some people brag about their CD
collections, but I know you collect…

DM: [Interrupts] 8-track tapes.

WD: How many?

DM: I’ve got quite a few. One thing happened at a show in Cincinnati. This
guy, 15 or 16 came back with boxes of tapes he’d bought! There was like, all
the Village People, Styx and some obscure ones. I just thought, “This is
getting out {of} hand.” Maybe it’s some odd rebellion against CDs, I don’t
know. But CDs sound so good.

WD: One more question about One Simple Word: I noticed that the lyrics
weren’t printed on the new album. Any reason?

DM: We went through this dilemma last time. It’s kinda like, you know, you
can understand the lyrics, so why do we have to put them down? We were
also stuck with the burden of writing all those damn lyrics down! That was
the main reason. [Laughs.]

In conclusion, I have to add that the discussion shifted to politics. The
Connells played a benefit in Winston-Salem to raise money for Harvey Gantt.
Doug said someone accused them of “getting all political” but that they
were simply supporting something they believed in. This holds true to the
way they’ve handled their whole career, and I think if they get the national
attention they deserve, it will be that much sweeter.


Breaking Out The Fifth: The Connells
by Rick Cornell, Durham {NC}
The Record Exchange Music Monitor, October 1993

Over the past nine years or so, The Connells have gone from being a three-
piece more than happy to play the occasional frat party to a quintet with truly
national and international popularity, sharing stages and convertibles with
everyone from The Replacements to Nick Lowe along the way. During this
time, the band–guitarist/primary songwriter Mike Connell, bassist Dave
Connell, guitarist/vocalist George Huntley, chief vocalist Doug McMillan,
and drummer Peele Wimberley–has logged many, sometimes rather
reluctant, miles and recorded four albums (all for TVT) with a fifth, Ring, just
being released. The first two, 1986’s Darker Days and ’87’s Boylan Heights,
found reviewers conjuring up images like “somewhere between The Smiths
and R.E.M.,” while the release of Fun & Games in 1989 and One Simple Word
in 1990, led to the repeating of the mantra “harder edged” ad nauseam.
When I arrived in North Carolina six years ago, I celebrated my move by
immediately rushing to the nearest music store and buying three records:
Robbie Robertson’s first solo album, The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet
Me, and, wanting to bone up on my newly adopted area, Boylan Heights from
(as they were invariably listed) “Raleigh’s own” Connells–putting Raleigh’s
own in some pretty stellar company. I’ve been hooked ever since (not to
mention that, as a Cornell, I’m only a consonant away from being in the
band), so I jumped at the chance to talk with co-founder and older band
brother Mike Connell. On a Chapel Hill back porch over a couple of
(conservative estimate) Labatt’s and Thomas Point ales, Mike and I talked
about the band’s origins, their new album and the great lost cover of “Living
In The Past.”

RC: Same five guys for five albums, that’s fairly rare these days.

MC: Yeah, we’ve managed to keep the lineup intact these nine years. I
guess that’s an accomplishment in itself. We’ve had periods where things
got a little tense, but we managed. We know how much latitude to give one
another now.

RC: How did you all meet?

MC: I was in law school here [UNC] and started writing songs. My younger
brother was an undergrad. Once a week, I’d get together with my brother
and a friend of his, our first drummer. The three of us would just practice for
a couple hours. Our original drummer had grown up with and was good
friends with Doug, who was, at the time, a swimmer at ECU. He got Doug to
come try out with us because it was becoming evident that none of the
three of us could handle vocal duties very well. The four of us continued to
work up songs throughout that summer [1984]. Then toward the end of the
summer, we weren’t really getting any better. When we went looking for a
scapegoat, I guess we decided that it was John’s [the drummer] fault.
Peele, at that time, was playing with Johnny Quest. We just asked him to sit
in for a practice or two. We really didn’t intend to steal him away from those
guys. A few weeks after the initial practice, we started playing out opening
for Johnny Quest, the sort of thing where he could play a few songs with us
and then get to the task at hand, playing with those guys. But after a while,
increasingly, there were conflicts and Peele, for whatever reason decided
to stay with us.

RC: Either that, or I guess you become the permanent opening band for
Johnny Quest.

MC: Yeah, something like that. Maybe three months after we’d been playing
out, we decided to add George–David and I had known him since we were
kids–so the lineup was in place by December 1984 and it’s been the same

RC: What were those early days like?

MC: For the first few years that we were playing, it was just a matter of
when- ever we could get a show. Our first manager, a guy named Tom
Carter, who I went to law school with, was really responsible for making us
get out when we didn’t necessarily want to and play in parts of the country
that we never played. At that time, it was a lot easier to get into the clubs.
You didn’t have to have a CD, or even a tape for that matter, so on the basis
of cassettes or demos, we were able to get some opening spots in clubs as
far away as California even. It was definitely not a break-even proposition.
We’d sleep on floors and that sort of thing. We rationed out food. That kind
of coincided with the release of Darker Days, which we put out over here
and it came out on Demon Records in England.

RC: Demon’s been pretty good to people around here–Don Dixon, The

MC: Exactly. They got pretty interested in Southern bands, Southern pop
bands, around that time. They might have signed Dixon, but with us it was
more of a distribution agreement.

RC: I bought Boylan Heights when I first moved down here, figuring I’m a
real North Carolinian now.

MC: It’s still my favorite. I definitely like [the new album] better than the last
two. I’m not convinced I like it better than Boylan Heights.

RC: What’s it called?

MC: Ring. We thought we wouldn’t try to be too clever this time–go with the
one-word title. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting married

RC: Mere coincidence. Who produced the album?

MC: Lou Giordano.

RC: Five albums, five producers. What do you do to these guys?

MC: Yeah, we scare ’em off. It only takes a few weeks of working with us and
they want no more of us.

RC: I’ve seen Giordano’s name all over the place lately–the Metal Flake
Mother albums, the Bats…

MC: …Dillon Fence, Sugar. Actually, I think Bob Mould pretty much produces
his own records. Lou, I guess, served as an engineer and probably had
some input.

RC: On the last two albums, there have been more keyboards–3 or 4 songs
on Fun & Games and 6 or 7 on One Simple Word–and a few songs with horn
parts even. Is this a continuing trend?

MC: On this record, there’s a good bit of Hammond organ, you know the way
Hammond just sort of beefs things up. The keyboards don’t make
themselves as evident as they do on the last record–they don’t call
attention to themselves quite as much. They’re more for texture, I would say.
Not in the way [producer] Hugh Jones employed them on the last record. It’s
more just filling in gaps and beefing things up, which is really what we were

RC: The keyboards really made their presence felt on One Simple Word.

MC: There was even one song where it might have been a Hammond, some
keyboard was like a solo part. At the time, we had questions about it
because we weren’t using anyone live to play keyboards. Now that we do
have someone playing keyboards with us, it’s not as much an issue. We
wanted this time to have Steve Potak, who now plays keyboards with us, to
come up with the parts, make it a little more “real” with what’s going on live.

RC: For the first two albums, I read things like “vaguely Celtic” and
“Southern jangle meets sensitive singer/songwriter,” things like that. Then I
kept hearing about the power chords that kicked off “Something to Say.”
And the last album I kept reading “harder edged.”

MC: Yeah, I don’t know. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the guitar tones on that
last record. In some instances, I think Hugh Jones [felt] each song had to be
distinct, you know? There had to be a different sound. To me, that’s not a
great thing. I like albums that blend together a little better. That’s one of the
things I like about [Boylan Heights]. It was a little more seamless, where
songs kind of flowed one into the next. The effect on the last record seems
a little jarring at times. On this one, I think there’s more continuity. There are
just a few guitar sounds that we use and so it seems to hold together a little
better. And to me, it makes a little more sense anyway than the last record.

I enjoyed [making the last record] because we got to be out in Wales and
that was a nice experience, but the whole time we were out there, I wasn’t
too thrilled with what was going on in the studio itself. But the Pogues were
there making Hell’s Ditch with Joe Strummer, so that was great. I mean, The
Clash were one of my favorite bands of all time and then getting to meet
him, and The Pogues were pretty great as well.

RC: Did you write most of the new songs?

MC: Yeah. I wrote the majority. There are 13 songs; I wrote 8; Doug wrote 3;
George wrote 1 and David wrote his first song.

RC: My favorite line of yours is “I teach what I am taught/Filter in a
fact/Confuse it for a thought.”

MC: It’s easy, I guess, to be cynical and sometimes with songwriting I cheat
in that direction because I’m worried about songs sounding too sentimental
or something. I know with that song, we demoed “Upside Down” and sent
the tapes to TVT and the lyrics were really incomplete at that time. They
wanted a love song because they thought it was like a guy flipping over a
girl and they were a little dismayed when they got the final lyrics for “Upside
Down.” They were, “This is not what we’d anticipated and would you
consider rewriting the lyrics and making it more of a love song? More
radio-friendly maybe?” This album, TVT was really good. They didn’t offer any
helpful lyrical suggestions.

RC: When you write songs, do you start with a thought or a lyric sometimes
and work from there?

MC: Only on a couple of occasions have I had the lyrics in mind. More often
than not, it’s having a melody and then the lyrics more or less conform to
the melody. Typically, it’s music and vocal melody first, and then the lyrics. I
mean, it’s not unusual to have an idea for a song in mind, but then I’ll wait
for a melody to make the lyrics concrete. The lyrics really do come in at the
end of the process for me, which often means scribbling something down
for Doug when he’s about to go in and sing. It’s like “Forget what you’ve
been singing. This is what I want you to sing instead,” which is not a great
way of doing things.

RC: I really like the cover of “I Got You” that you did on the Freedom of
Choice compilation. Have you done anything else like that?

MC: Yeah, we did a version of “Living In The Past,” which TVT, unbeknownst
to us, sent to Chrysalis Records. I never know how much of this to believe,
but according to Steve Gottlieb [TVT’s president], Ian Anderson heard our
version of it and was flattered that someone was interested in putting that
down on tape, but apparently liked the version and had agreed to add some
flute to our version of it. The tape would be sent up to him. Yep, that’s the
word, so I don’t know, you know. I’ll believe it when it happens. I think our
version of “Living In The Past” is much better than we did to that Split Enz
song. I just shudder a little bit when I hear the original and think, “If those
guys could hear this, what would they think?”

RC: What’s their label? I’ll send them a copy–maybe they’ll add some sound
effects of something.

MC: [Laughs] Get the Crowded House guys to do something with that, the
Finn brothers.

RC: I’ve only seen you play at Walnut Creek. That’s probably not the ideal
place to see you.

MC: I don’t know how much of this stuff I’m supposed to say. I get in trouble
sometimes in interviews, but I think it’s still a little overwhelming for us to
play in a place that size. You’re sitting there trying to figure out what to do
with all that space. The couple of times we have played out there, it did go
better than I figured it would.

RC: I read that you could tell a lot about someone from his or her album
collection. What would we find out about you from yours?

MC: Let’s see [turning around]. It’s mostly British–The La’s; the obligatory
Led Zepplin CD or two; The Kinks, which I listen to a lot; Tull’s all mixed in
here. You’re more than welcome to look.

RC: It’s not even alphabetized. That’s a sign of some kind, too.

MC: Actually, it was until I moved. It started out being alphabetized–the
Allman Brothers, then Bach, the Beach Boys, Beatles, oh yeah, Big Star, Billy
Bragg. I’m missing a couple of his that usually sit right here.


George Reviews
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996 20:09:45 -0700
From: tbarrett@IX.NETCOM.COM
Subject: Re: George at the Brewery

Hey Guys!

I was at the Brewery on Tuesday and George did an excellent set (again w/
Johnny from Queen Sarah Saturday on lead) He did all the songs from the
Cave show except “Love Hurts”. Peele and Doug were there also. No sign of
the Brothers Connell. I talked to Peele for awhile, it looks like August 6 is
the date for the new CD. Tour plans are sporadic until the CD is released
although they have put in a bid to support Hootie on a summer shed tour
starting in about a month and a half. BTW, I was in Columbia on business
Monday and went to Hootie’s free show at Findlay Park, what an experience.
Say what you will about they’re meteoric success, but the bottom line is
they’re a fun band who writes good songs and I’ll never ask for anything
more than that!

Terry Barrett
Raleigh, NC


Weird Food and Devastation Reviews
Entertainment weekly August 23/30 issue.

THE CONNELLS Weird Food and Devastation (TVT)

A decade after their first release, the Connells are still combining the
honey-dipped melodies of English Pop with the melancholy folk rock of
vintage R.E.M., a formula that’s old but still mostly works. And even when
Weird Food stalls musically, the band’s lyrics about disillusionment and
regret keep the songs moving. B-

Jon Weiderhorn


The Connells Weird Food & Devastation [B] (TVT, 1996)
14 tracks; 48:04
produced by Tim Harper and the Connells
personnel: David Connel: bass; Mike Connel: guitar, vocasl; George Huntley:
guitar, vocals; Doug MacMillan: vocals, guitar; Steve Potak: organ, piano,
keyboards; Peele Wimberley: drums, percussion…just came out today.

i’ll review it properly after i’ve heard it a few more times, but the initial
responses are, in no particular order are along the following lines:
mysterious sixth individual on “New Boy” sleeve explained at last! full time
keyboard player. not very prominent in mix, but present noticeably on
almost all tunes. does rockin’ piano on one cut, calling to mind mott the
hoople. many songs louder than i think of the Connells as being — a little
more like the live show than some of the more polite records, ‘specially the
gonzo lead guitar on “smoke” (from whence the favorite lyric so far.) i can’t
decide if i like the jokey “Friendly Time” or think it’s annoying. it seems to
start as a Neil Young impersonation, and gets progressively weirder, ending
with massed backing vocals. might have been better as one of those pesky
hidden bonus tracks, where it could readily be ignored. generous, 14 songs
(then again, it’s been a while since “New Boy” and even longer since Ring).
looks like only one George Huntley song this time round (and his hair is
short again). have you heard his solo album? how is it? i don’t think this has
a prayer of replacing Boylan Heights or Fun and Games as my favorite
Connells record, but i think it will ultimately yield at least a few of my favorite
Connells songs. In their career they’ve come up with an utterly amazing
number of tasteful melodic guitar lines over simple chord progressions and
more than their fair share of sardonic observations about life and love, no
shortage this time round. the fave lyric (so far):

At least I know we had it planned In a rented minivan And at least I know that
somebody drove With a head full of steam I really hope you don’t know what
I mean I really don’t


Connells Interview in Greenville,SC 9/13/96
Note: This was done before the show with Mike Connell, Tim Harper, and
Doug MacMillan. Interview and questions by Lee Collins (
Please reprint this as much as you want to, as permission is expressly
given! Please excuse grammatical errors. I’m a math guy.
LC: How is _WFAD_ doing now with sales and airplay?

DM: It just came out and it’s really too soon to tell but…. MC: Through
_Soundscan_, it’s probably up near the 8,000-10,000 range.
LC: Airplay?

DM: It’s a little slow right now, but the excuse is that we haven’t toured in
2-3 years, so they’re thinking that when the actual tour starts, that should
jump start it.

LC: Was there any premeditation on your part to make _WFAD_ more diverse
in relation to the number of songwriters?

MC: The trend is for more contributions from the other guys, which suits me
fine. With us, nothing is ever that calculated.

LC: Mike, did it take any pressure off you to produce?

MC: Yeah, it suits me fine. I like the opportunity for the other guys to
contribute songs, because mine are kind of a type, and it gets to be a little
much after five or more records. I’m not capable of branching out enough to
keep things very interesting. I’m sure that the other guys keep things very

DM: There’s the downfall. ( everyone laughs ).

LC: Doug, when you composed “Fifth Fret”, I guess there was a day when
you had to present it to the band for the first time. How does it sound now
compared to then?

DM: I guess I played it for Tim first, of course, Tim produced the record, you
know. His idea was to come in on a certain day of the week and he’d tape
them on a DAT. So, I guess I wanted it to sound that way, real loud with loud
guitars, and it is.

LC: Isn’t it about an abusive relationship?

DM: Emotional and verbal abuse, yeah.

LC: Do you think _WFAD_ is getting back to your musical roots? Especially
for Mike, with the Beatlesque sounds in “Start” and “Friendly Time”?
George’s solo in “Smoke” is pure Hendrix, and “Let It Go” has some
Zeppelin meets Jerry Lee Lewis sounds in there.

MC: As far as “Start” and “Friendly Time” are concerned, you’re giving those
two a lot more credit than they deserve. I don’t think through this stuff so
much. It’s really haphazard. Well, with “Start”, I’d been listening to Teenage
Fanclub ( A Scottish band) and I think that, you know, maybe The Beatles by
way of Teenage Fanclub. I still listen to The Beatles all the time, but when I
picked up the guitar on the day I wrote “Start”, I probably had been listening
to Teenage Fanclub right before that. Their songs are sorta mid-tempo. With
“Friendly Time”, there was this idea of a _White Album_ sort of thing going
on; something zany going on.

TH: He had that on his 4-track, though….

MC: It was a little warped on the 4-track and then Tim tried to knock it up a
notch or two.

LC: I really like that song.

DM: I think we’re going to play it live soon.

LC: I can sense sarcasm.

MC: A lot of people have a big problem with that song.

LC: Although I love the record, my least favorite is the “Adj.Song”.

MC: That’s a lot of people’s least favorite.

DM: But that’s one of my favorites!! 😉
MC: It’s really tongue-in-cheek.

LC: I think the concept was good but…

TH: It’s just the execution! ( everyone laughs )

DM: On paper it was great.

LC: “Brown” is a great song. Why didn’t it make the cut?

MC: Yeah, I wanted it to be on the record, but it didn’t make the cut. What
can I say? I wanted it there. “Brown” just didn’t make the cut.

TH: But there’s only one reason it didn’t.
MC: What’s that?

TH: We felt the record might be too long, just too unwieldy for someone to
try to digest 15 songs…

MC: So in the voting, it was the 15th song, and the decision was to keep only
the top 14 , so “Brown” didn’t make it. We had to take that one off the record.
LC: What’s your favorite song on _WFAD_?

MC: I think that “Too High” might be my favorite, and it almost got yanked
due to the vote.

LC: It must have been # 14?( No response )

What about you, Doug?

DM: I like the “Adj.Song”( laughing ). I love that song, I really do, because it’s
so tongue in cheek.

LC: You two just don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings…

DM: No, this is my pat answer, that it’s one of my favorite songs. That, and
“Pretty Rough”. The “Adj.Song” to me is really funny and it, uh, just kicks in
on the chorus, I think.

MC: When I took the “Adj.Song” in, I was just thinking “this is such
nonsense”, there’s no way the band is gonna go for this, and I thought that
it was completely tongue in cheek and the best description I’ve heard for it
so far is that it’s a ” warped addendum to schoolhouse rock”.

DM: I still like what Kristi ( Mike’s wife) said: “Nirvana meets Mr.Rogers”.

MC: But then it occured to me soon after we worked it up that it really didn’t
translate the fact that it was tongue in cheek.

LC: I’m assuming “Maybe” will be released after “Fifth Fret”?

MC: I think that’s the case.

LC: “Back to Blue” would be a good third single.

MC: I think that would be a fine choice.

DM: I think they should go to the AAA for that one. Adult Alternate
whatever…where Natalie Merchant and all those guys retire.

LC: Who’s the person who helped on “Back to Blue”?

DM: You probably remember Lifeboat, don’t you?

LC: Yeah. Greg “Skeggy” Kendall, the guy with the blond hair.

MC: He also wrote the music for _Bandwagon_, the movie that John Schultz
wrote and directed.

LC: Doug, tell us about _Bandwagon_.

DM: We’re hoping it will come out. I play the tour manager of a band.

MC: It’s really good. It was accepted at the Sundance film festival in Raleigh.

DM: We’re just waiting for them to get it to the distributor. It’s got some
pretty funny moments in it, actually. The music really makes it.

Part Two
LC: What’s the deal with the interactive CD?

TH: Is it?

LC: George told me a month ago that there may be an interactive CD coming
out soon. He may have been me ( everyone laughs ). I’m gonna get
him for that. He completely b.s.ed me…( everyone rolls in laughter ).

DM: I’m just trying to figure out what the f— that would be like….like fight the
Connells! ( laughter ).

LC: No, really! He said it would have a scene where the “good” Connells
would fight the “bad” Connells.

TH: Connells Lament!

MC: Oh! That was going to be…what do they call those things…

DM: Electronic Press Kits…

MC: Yeah. EPK. ..

DM: It’s a thing where a lot of bands will make some for promotional things.
LC: So only a select few would have access to these?

DM: No, like Son Volt did it and a lot of bands do them now. It may have live
performances, interviews, clips from videos…it would be mainly promotional
in nature. And the idea we had was we would be replaced by these robots,
evil Connells,which was a great idea, although we never did it, and I assume
it’s been canned.

LC: This is really different, but what was the scene like back in 1984-86 in the
Triangle? What were those early shows like?

DM: We were just really excited the first time we played at a club.It was the
Cafe Deja Vu in Raleigh.

MC: It was all so novel. It was great; I mean it was just unbelievable. The
whole idea of being in a band for the first time was an unbelievable feeling.

DM: I remember getting like $ 20 or $ 30 after one show, and…there was a
number of bands in the scene even back then. We played small parties,
even played at a barbeque place once, The Daniel Boone Inn in Boone, NC.
We played two sets of our ten songs.

LC: So you played each song twice?!?

DM: Yeah! Even played them all three times each on a couple of occasions.
Oh, yeah.

MC: Peele was in a band, Johnny Quest, that played locally, but this was the
first band the rest of us had been in, with the exception of Steve, who was
in one called Stream of Consciousness.

LC: Tim, were you in a band?

MC: He was in a couple of bands, one called The Shake, and also Gumbo
Yah Yah.

TH: This is a true story. Mike and I used to run into each other every once in
awhile, and we were at the Top of the Hill Store buying beer one day and he
told me he had started a band and they were called The Connells, and I said
“great, it sounds like beach music! ( much laughter)

MC: We were playing at one fraternity that night and Tim’s band was playing
at another.

DM: We were rivals!

MC: We were playing the Beta House or something. Do you remember the
news anchorman, Roger Mudd? His son Jonathan Mudd, was in the band
with Tim.
LC: Jonathan Mudd? Where have I heard his name?

DM: He used to write for _The Spectator_.

LC: Yeah, that’s right.

MC: And he was also in JoJo Ex-Mariner.

LC: One of the most interesting , yet, sadly dated threads on the Connells
Listserv, has been the relationship, or lack of one, between The Connells
and TVT Records. Let’s set this straight once and for all.

DM: We had a legal…mangle with them a few years ago. We’ve gotten over
that. That was years ago. We get along great with them now, and have since
that matter was taken care of.

LC: And that was a renegotiation, not a renewal of the contract?
DM: Correct. It was a renegotiation of the previous contract.

LC: Which was for eight records, with _Brain Junk_ not counted toward the

DM: Right. Three more to go. It’s worked well as far as I can tell for recording

LC: I’m glad we could let the people know, and lay that issue to rest for good.
DM: Yeah.

LC: Some people have responded that they’ve seen large displays for
_WFAD_ at Target. In fact, a larger display was given to you than REM or
Pearl Jam.

DM: Yeah! I like to hear that. Nothing wrong with that.

MC: Great! No complaints here.

LC: What was the long wait between _Ring_ and _WFAD_ attributed to?

MC: Europe.

DM: We went over there six or seven times last year.

LC: How about a good story from Europe?

MC: Going on stage before Def Leppard in Rome in front of 100,000 people.
A radio station put on the show, it was free, outdoors, we were one of many
bands playing.

DM: Def Leppard lip synched.

MC: That’s the irony of it. They let us actually perform, and then this band
that’s filled arenas for more than a decade lip synchs.

DM: We were out there a little early, all of the equipment wasn’t ready, when
this guys runs up to me and says “Can’t you play something real quick
before ‘ 74-‘ 75 “( Doug uses Italian accent). And I’m trying to talk to this
Italian guy , so Steve and I played a Tom Waits song “A Habit and a Half” ( I’m
not sure about the title) and theyof enjoyed that and clapped along. It was
mind boggling.

LC: Did they hold up butane lighters?

MC: Absolutely. 100,000 people singing along to ‘ 74-‘ 75 That song was
getting tremendous airplay at the time.

DM: But, they want to hear “76-77”. They wanted a ballad.

LC: So you gave them “Maybe”!

DM: Yeah! But it’s no “74” ( Italian accent). It was so big that you can’t follow
it up. It was so humongous , over there. They call it the summer song. MC:
According to a Norweigan writer, every summer in Norway, there’s one song
that everyone associates with summer. For them, this past summer, it was ‘
74-‘ 75.

DM: Bizzare. They definitely knew the song, but didn’t know the band. Often,
we would play someplace and play 6-7 songs and the people would sort of
stand there and size us up. Then we’d play ‘ 74-‘ 75, and things would just
break. When we played in Stuttgart, West Germany, it was great. That was
like playing a show in North Carolina. They knew all the songs off _Ring_.
But that’s where the record label is over there.

LC: I sure do appreciate this and I’m sure the people who read The Connells
homepage will too. Let me have your birthdays, so everyone who wishes
can send cards.

DM: Sure! Mine’s March 19th. Steve’s is June 14th. Peele’s is April 4th.
George’s is March 29th. David’s is May 27th, and Mike’s is March 15th.

LC: Mine is August 16th.

MC and DC: That’s my Dad’s birthday.

LC: I always knew Elvis, Madonna, Mr.Connell, and I had something in
common. (much laughter)

LC: What are you guys starting out with?

DM: “Maybe”.

LC: Sounds good.
End of 9/13/96 Greenville,SC interview. Thanks to all involved!


From the Weekend section of September 12, 1996 Washington Post. At the
end of the review there was information regarding next week’s show at the
9:30 Club in DC.

The Connells originally came to prominence with a sound that gave
Southern neo-folk-rock a Celtic-lilt — sort of R.E.M. with a side order of Big
Country. After consistently failing to make another album as engaging as
1987’s “Boylan Heights,” the new “Weird Food and Devastation” finds the
North Carolina sextet in a subdued, even rueful mood.

On “The Adjective Song,” frontman Doug MacMillan sings words like
“smarter” and “nicer” and then concludes that “these are words that we use
to lie.” On “Friendly Time,” the Connells ironically feign to be pals with a list
of insufficiently sympathetic rock critics (including one whose name seems
awfully familiar).

There are some up-tempo tracks on the album, notably “Fifth Fret,” “Let it
Go,” and “Hang On,” whose chorus falsetto suggests a kinship with David
Bowie’s “Hang on to Yourself.” Elsewhere, however, the band attempts to
get “Back to Blue” with songs that cultivate a hushed, late-night feel. As
usual, the overall effect is adept but underwhelming; “Weird Food and
Devastation” should please the band’s fans, but probably won’t attract many
new ones.

Mark Jenkins
The Washington Post
Friday, October 27

REVIEW: The Connells, _Weird Food & Devastation_ (TVT) – Joann D. Ball

If good news travels fast, why are The Connells still the best kept secret in
American alternapop? Perhaps mainstream alternative/modern rock radio
can answer this question because The Connells have certainly done their
part to expose themselves to the American public. The Raleigh, North
Carolina sextet has toured endlessly during the past twelve years, playing
tiny bars, clubs and theaters and treating crowds to entertaining, energetic
pop explosions. They’ve also released a series of brilliant records
showcasing intelligent lyrics and ringing guitars, which have received
critical acclaim and solid support from college radio.

When the cd _Ring_ was released in 1993, it looked like commercial radio
and MTV would follow college radio’s lead and give the band the attention
they deserve. Although “Slackjawed,” the disc’s first single, got noticable
airplay, the follow-up “74-75” was completely ignored Stateside. “74-75”
became a smash hit in Europe, however, and propelled the album to gold
and platinum status in several countries. European success led The
Connells overseas where they spent much of the last few years touring and
playing to massive audiences.

_Weird Food and Devastation_, The Connells’ sixth effort, and fifth on TVT
Records, actually owes its title to the band’s European touring experiences.
A slight departure from earlier offerings, _Weird Food and Devastation_ is
more visceral, shaped by raw emotion and a rougher edge. There’s also
more lyrical and musical variation, in large part because five of the six
members contribute to the overall effort. For the first time, the songwriting
trio of lead vocalist Doug MacMillan and guitarists Mike Connell and George
Huntley share duties with drummer Peele Wimberley and bassist David
Connell. And mainstay Steve Potak contributes piano, organ and keyboards
in all of the right places on this 14-track buffet.

The Connells kick off _Weird Food and Devastation_ with “Maybe,” a gritty
sonic assault. MacMillan delivers this wake-up call over buzzing guitars,
pounding drums and throbbing bass. “Fifth Fret,” the first U.S. single, is
another stellar guitar-fuelled tune, irresistable and memorable thanks to a
catchy chorus. The rave-up number “Let It Go,” on which Huntley sings lead,
and “Smoke” are power pop servings with a Southern rock twist while
“Start,” “Any” and “Hang On” are classic Connells songs. The slower,
introspective numbers that have provided balance on previous records are
also here but darker and moodier. On the acoustic and lead guitar-laden
“Back to Blue” and the cello and distortion-driven “Too High,” the band
exhibit genuine emotional depth and breadth.

On _Weird Food and Devastation_, The Connells demonstrate that they are
truly alternapop artisans whose work is regrettably under-appreciated on
this side of the Atlantic. To paraphrase the chorus of “Fifth Fret,” they have
everything but what they want, which is all of your attention.

This review first appeared in Consumable Online, the oldest continuous
collaborative music reviews publication on the Internet. Each issue consists
of reviews, interviews, tour dates and more music information. Direct e-mail
subscriptions are available from or our World Wide
Web site


Stereo Review, November 01, 1996

THE CONNELLS: Weird Food & Devastation. TVT 9010 (48 min).

Performance: Edgier than usual
Recording: Good

These days, North Carolina rock is defined by the scruffy Chapel Hill sound,
but the state’s real legacy is probably closer to the brooding power pop of
the Connells and antecedents like Let’s Active and the dB’s. Such stuff
never survived the onset of postmodernism — after which most everything
started sounding like a train wreck, and melody practically became a
four-letter word. Yet the Connells persevered, making fine albums whose
strengths lay in their restraint and intelligence. Finally, the band was
rewarded with a European hit, the wistful ’74-’75, and now comes the
provocatively titled sixth disc, “Weird Food & Devastation,” showing off a
few new wrinkles.

Most notably, the songwriting is spread around, making for the liveliest,
most extroverted Connells album yet. Singer Doug McMillan had a hand in
six tracks, including the bouncy Fifth Fret, with its slashing Neil Young-style
guitars. Even drummer Peele Wimberly antes up a number, Any, whose
affecting melody is among the record’s highlights. Guitarist and chief writer
Mike Connell keeps things anchored with several songs that hew to the
band’s fundamentals — wonderful, filigreed entries like Start and Maybe that
have a Celtic sturdiness and a stately reserve — yet he also ventures off
with quirkier tunes like Adjective Song and Friendly Time. The only thing
missing is a few more originals from George Huntley, the generally more
prolific rhythm guitarist, whose bolting rocker Let It Go is a fastball from a
band that doesn’t typically throw such heat. “Weird Food & Devastation”
should please old Connells fans and win over some new ones.


Chandler Coyle Connells at the Metro in Chicago

The boys played down the block from Wrigley Field in Chicago last night. The
venue, The Metro, is an excellent place to see a show, especially since it is
a 5 block walk from where I live. An amusing point of trivia: their was a tour
bus parked in front of Metro, but it was not the Connells. Their’s was parked
around the side. The bus in front belonged to the Smashing Pumpkins.
Apparently the band was home in Chicago and needed a place to park the
bus and the friends at Metro happily obliged.

Opening the show was former Dumptruck member, Kevin Salem. He put on a
pretty good show. I enjoyed it being familiar with Dumptruck and one of
Kevin’s CD’s. During his mellower numbers his voice sounds alot like
Doug’s. The crowd was pretty thin at the beginning of his set. But people
seemed to enjoy his show. He played for about an hour.

The Connells took the stage around 8:20 and played until 10:00 with 2
encores. Some highlights of the show. An excellent version of “Doin’ You”.
Doug’s rendition of “Dream Weaver” acapella, with a nice beat laid down by
Peele. I did not keep a setlist, but recall them playing: Slackjawed, Stone
Cold Yesterday, Get A Gun, New Boy, Let it Go, Hang On, Scotty’s Lament,
Choose A Side, Try, Fun and Games, Sal, Hey Wow, ’74-’75.

The crowd was extremely well behaved, but definitely seemed to be having
a good time. I know it was not sold out by late afternoon, and doubt it was
even sold out at all. The band seemed to enjoy the show. The song on WFAD
with the low spoken vocals by Jimmy Descant, their road manager, which I
think is “Just Like That” was also played. Jimmy appeared on stage at Mike’s
microphone wearing an outrageous looking black and white fur coat and
sunglasses, smoking a cigarette. He played the “part” in that song perfectly.
It fit the image I got when first listening to that song.

The guys said they had been on the road for awhile and would not get back
home for almost 2 weeks. They did mention a big show in Raliegh around
Thanksgiving too.

I had a great time and met some long-time fans who were from the
Chicagoland area. I sure hope the band gets some more respect for this
record by the other cities and radio stations on their tour.

Interview of Mike Connell by Kevin Ring 10-31-96:
Kevin: Is the tour going well?

Mike Connell: “Yeah, actually, it’s going pretty well, especially the big cities,
places like Chicago, New York and Washington, those have been some
pretty good shows”

K: Has the crowd been pretty receptive to the new stuff?

MC: You know, the response is still better for the old stuff, for the most part,
but yeah, the response has been pretty good for the new stuff. I mean, it’s
pretty evident that people are still more familiar with the old stuff. It does
vary also, from night to night.”

K: Are you looking forward to coming home?

MC: Oh, yeah.

K: How have the crowd been?

MC: There were about 750 in Chicago, including comps and guest list and
stuff you know decent. We’ve been hearing from promoters that the market
is soft now, that there is a lot of traffic and people just aren’t coming out to
shows. We saw evidence of that, we played in Louisville KY, a couple of
weeks ago on a Monday night and one of the guys from Hootie and the
Blowfish came out to the show and they were playing the following night, we
had that night off, so they got us into the show and they played this 15,000
capacity and there were fewer than 5000 people at that show.

K: Any idea on how the album is selling?

MC: Ask the office

K: Where did the name of the album come from?

MC: Steve Potak threw that phrase out, he was talking about photo
opportunities on one of our trips to Europe. He just said that he intended to
take pictures of “Weird Food and Devastation”, so I thought it sounded
kinda clever.

K: How had the reception to WFAD been in Europe?

MC: I think there is a chance that we’ll make it overseas sometime next year.
I think that we’re licicened to EMI throughout most of Europe, and I think
they were looking for a follow-up to ’74-’75, you know, an acoustic ballad
type song that is reasonably radio friendly. And you know that we didn’t
exactly hand them a song like that this time. So, I think on the strength of
the last record WFAD is selling some over there, especially in Germany, but
nothing like the last record.

K: How was the performance on Conan?

MC: It was a much better experience than our first appearance on Conan. I
haven’t watched the tape, I’m really not interested, but I felt a lot more

K: What’s up with the welding helmets on the liner notes?

MC: Nothing to that. We ended up in some studio in Raleigh to do the photo
shoot and we just noticed those things lying around so to have fun, we just
put them on and then someone had the bright idea to put them in the CD.

K: Did you take all the pictures from the inside of the case in Raleigh?

MC: Most of them are in Wilmington actually. All of the external shots are
either in Wrightsville beach or Wilmington.

K: Are you playing any of the songs that didn’t make the album on the tour or
are those for later albums?

MC: There’s a good possibility of them showing up on a future records, but
no, we aren’t letting any of those out.
K: Have you been thinking about a new album already?

MC: As a matter of fact, we’ve been talking about it already. If we are going
to stick around and make more records, we realize that it would be in out
best interest to do it sooner than later. We’re thinking sometime early next

K: To start recording?

MC: To think about recording.

K: That will make those who own everything and can’t wait to get their hands
on something else very happy.

MC: Three years between records is kinda crazy, we need to accelerate

K: I’ve heard a lot about adjective song, good and bad. I really like it, but
what kind of reaction have you gotten and what do you think about it?

MC: Yeah, definitely mixed reactions from people coming up and talking.
That song is such a throwaway, I wrote it pretty much tongue in cheek, I
wasn’t trying to say anything significant. I think that people who really
dispise the song are kinda missing the point a bit. But part of that is that I
failed to convey that, you know, I was aware of that. When we went in to
record it I was thinking, I wrote this as just a toss away, honestly, I think I
wrote it in 15 minutes, which is pretty evident. When we were recording it, it
dawned on me that there’s nothing in the performance of the song or the
singing of the song that would suggest that it was intended to be tongue in
cheek so I can see why people wouldn’t see that.

K: Have you gotten any reaction to “Friendly time”? I read that review in the
Washington post.

MC: Jenkins, Mark Jenkins [laughs], I mean, I don’t know how to
characterize that review, I guess it’s negative, more of whatever that review
was, was better than any reviews he’s given us in the past. I think he was
flattered to have his name mentioned.

K: (question from list) What kind of equipment do you guys use? And how
has it evolved?

MC: I started playing through a Fender Super-reverb amp with a
rickenbacker 12 string. When George joined the band, he was playing the
same thing, so we had 2 12 strings for the first 4 years at least, the first 4 or
5 years. We pretty much simultaneously made the shift to 6 strings. For a
good 8 years now, I’ve been playing through a Marshall cabinet with a
Marshall hat and George plays through a Marshall cabinet with a demiter. He
uses a few more effects than I do I’ve just got one. Sort of a distortion box
really, but it does just beef things up.

K: The set lists from the tour have included the Winn-Dixie theme, but not
anything from Darker Days, any reason?

MC: Yeah, that’s what we generally start off our encore with. We did work up
“hat’s off” in soundcheck, so I guess we’re ready to play it, but for some
reason haven’t gone ahead and played it in the set. It’s been so many years
since we’ve really played any of the Darker days songs with any regularity,
but I guess we probably should.

Kevin Ring

Check out Technician On-Line-NC State University’s Student Newspaper


Interview on Still Life
Date: Monday, January 12, 1998
From: BulldogsGM

Hey everyone, Here’s the text of the very brief interview I did with Mike on
Monday. Hope that some of the info is interesting and useful.

Take care, Scott


SE: How do you and the rest of the band feel about the new material?

MC: I think everyone feels good on the whole about it. After going through
the whole recording process you start getting a little weary of the songs
after listening to them over and over.

SE: Where was the new album recorded and who produced it?

MC: The studio was called Sound City in Van Nuys, California. Jim Scott
produced it.

SE: Has the album been titled yet?

MC: I think we have – Soul Reactor.

SE: When is the expected date of release?

MC: Some point in April is the proposed date. Hopefully no later than April. I
can’t pinpoint the exact Tuesday, but I would think April.

SE: Have the songs been finalized for the album yet?

MC: Yes. The only decision that is yet to be made is whether it will be a 12 or
13 song record.

SE: What are the track titles?

MC: Soul Reactor, The Leper, Still Life, Curly’s Train, Gauntlet, Brown,
Bruised, Never, Queen of Charades, Circlin’, Glade, Pedro Says.

(Everyone contributed to this recording in terms of writing – George wrote
“Curly’s Train” and “Queen of Charades”, Doug wrote “Gauntlet”, Steve
wrote “Glade”, Peele had “Bruised” and “Never”, and David wrote “Pedro
Says”. It is not yet determined if “Crown”, another one of Mike’s songs will
appear on the record).

SE: Which of these are you most pleased with?

MC: I like Still Life. Pretty happy with Soul Reactor. Always in the mixing
process there are things that were recorded that are de-emphasized, and
that can prove frustrating, but, the good news is that the vocals are very
present in the mix, as well as the drums, which has not always been the
case. So, on the whole, I’m pleased with the job that Jim Scott did on the

SE: Are there any early favorites for singles?

MC: The early indication is that Crown, Never and Soul Reactor are possible
contenders for radio.

SE: In general, how would you describe the sound of this new material,
compared with the previous albums?

MC: Well, I would say that Jim Scott put it in a way that is pretty apt, when he
said that this record sounded more wide-eyed than some of the previous
ones. A little less melancholy. More of the songs are in a major key, and it
just sounds a little more upbeat. You might say it’s not as brooding as
previous albums.

SE: When we can expect some live shows?

MC: Great question. I don’t know. It’s going to have to happen in the next
month or two.

SE: What are some of the older songs you are rehearsing for the next tour?

MC: I’m sure we’ll be playing 74-75, Slackjawed and a handful of George’s

SE: Has TVT heard this yet?

MC: We are still waiting to get the word from them, but they have heard it.

SE: Any thing that you would like to say to the fans on the listserve?

MC: We are looking forward to playing some shows, and getting out on the
road soon.

SE: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure that
everyone will appreciate it!


From the Tuscon (AZ) Weekly website

The Connells
Still Life
TVT Records

THE CONNELLS may be letting their maturity show, but they’re still one of the
best, largely unappreciated pop bands to survive the mid ’80s. Still Life is
album number seven, whether it is in fact “lucky number seven” is a matter
for today’s increasingly fickle buyer’s market–it also marks 13 years since
The Connell’s debut. The presence of producer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Wilco)
is readily felt in the record’s countrified accessibility and bright polish,
especially on “Gauntlet” and “Circlin’.” The southern country REM-ish feel
that has always hovered in the wings of the North Carolina band’s earlier
efforts emerges fully on much of Still Life, but there’s no mistaking that Still
Life is closer to vintage Connells than anything they’ve produced in the last
five years. Fans of Darker Days and Boylan Heights will find The Connells
none the worse for wear, if not quite as enterprising as they once seemed.
You may not fall winded or be particularly surprised, but the Connells’ Still
Life will catch you with pop’s sweetest, tried-and-true embrace.–Lisa Weeks


From the May 30, 1998 issue of Creative Loafing:


Satisfying Sounds or Cliched Monotony?, Two Critics Dissenting Views On
the Connells New Release

By Stephen Brown Last year lead vocalist Doug MacMIllian lost his voice,
but now he and Raleigh-based sextet The Connells are crooning up a storm
on their satisfying seventh album, a soulful ode to love, life and sticking

It’s a testament to these strident songsters, whose anthemic guitar chimes
and smoothly cynical lyrics have branded a Southern-fried college-pop style
for over a decade, that their sound is still in keeping with “what the kids like

In the opening track, “Dull, Brown and Gray”, frontman MacMillian dives into
the transcendent “Crown”, with an irresistibly hummable chorus, imbuing
the spirit of Brit-rock combined with Green-age R.E.M. The pondering
“Gauntlet” evokes conflicting thoughts about a woman from the past
(“Everybody’s sweetheart/Everybody’s blowhard/Everybody’s fool”).

Perhaps the song “Still Life” best demonstrates The Connells’ newfound
momentum (“This still life has its virtues/Cause everything in motion leaves
or is just left behind.”). Peppering the album are George Huntley’s country
flavored ballads such as “Queen of Charades”, tinged with gorgeous female
back-up vocals.

Still Life is produced by Grammy-winning Jim Scott (Tom Petty, The Rolling
Stones), and the kaleidoscopic sound is crisp, clear, and catchy. Each band
member has a writing credit, including drummer Peele Wimberley (the
reflective “Bruised”), keyboardist Steve Potak (the harmonizing Beach
Boys-style “Glade”), and bassist Dave Connell (the mellow instrumental
“Pedro Says”). It’s refreshing to find that this enduring band has found it’s
voice again.

By Emmett Williams Music writers are destined to attach labels to everything
they hear; I hereby brand the Connells latest release Still Life, bland-rock,

You would think that after seven albums, the Raleigh sextet would show
some sings of musical growth. Instead they sound prophetic when o the
second track, “The Leper”, they sing “words/shattered words/and they all
amount to nothing.” This is just the beginning of a record peppered with
cliches and surface-scratching pseudo-poetry. Their meaningless words are
backed by the kind of uninspired rock and roll you can hear from any of a
million other American bands.

Singer/guitarist Mike Connell wrote the title track to Still Life after waking up
from a dream he was having about playing a show with Live. By the middle of
the song the listener is being put to sleep by the monotony of a song that
sounds much like the one before and after it.

I would like to be more journalistically artistic when describing the first
single “Crown”, but I have nothing more to say than it bores me and sounds
like everything else I hear on pop/rock radio. The chorus is mindless
(“Gonna claim/gonna name/gonna shout it out/gonna leave me out
again/gonna call, gonna call/gonna sound it out/something’s really here”)
and should fit in nicely with other bands that have nothing to say, i.e.
Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind.

The Connells seem to have found a formula back in 1984 when this sound
was somewhat new and it was called college rock. Unlike other
southeastern bands (R.E.M., Dave Matthews) who continue to evolve
musically, The Connells have no desire to leave their place of comfort,
instead staying happily staid.

This music is fine as an addendum to a mindless, drunken bar-room
experience, but that’s about it. It’s sad to see a band with some potential
refusing to find a new voice.


Favorable Still Life review from The Washington Post


By Geoffrey Himes

Friday, May 29, 1998; Page N09

At three separate points in their career, the Connells have seemed on the
brink of busting out of the alterna-rock underground and into mainstream
acceptance. The first time was 1987, when the jangly, neo-folk-rock of their
first U.S. release, “Boylan Heights,” won them well deserved comparisons to
REM. The second time came in 1993, when their fifth album, “Ring,” yielded
two college-radio buzz singles, “Slackjawed” and ” ’74-’75.”

The third time is right now. The North Carolina sextet has bounced back
from the underwhelming 1996 album, “Weird Food & Devastation,” with a
new disc,”Still Life,” that pulls together all the group’s assets — joyfully
harmonized pop hooks, chiming guitar figures and evocative vocals
stranded halfway between hope and disappointment. Whether it finds broad
acceptance or not, “Still Life” is one of the best examples of Southeastern
alterna-pop, a tradition that includes REM, Let’s Active, the dBs, the
Windbreakers and the Swimming Pool Qs.

The best example of the new album’s virtues is “Bruised,” penned by
guitarist Mike Connell and sung by Doug MacMillan (actually, Peele wrote
“bruised” – Art). Opening with a catchy guitar riff, it evolves into an elegant
mid-tempo melody that hints at both the shame and pleasure in the line,
“Hey, ain’t it funny, everybody sees how my skin shows.” Several numbers,
such as “Curly’s Train” and “Glade,” dip into Uncle Tupelo-style
alternative-country, but the best numbers, such as “Circlin’ ” and the title
track, boast the jaded, ironic take on the Byrds and Beatles that defined
Southeastern indie-rock in the ’80s.


Still Life_is reviewed CMJ Online with Real Audio samples of “Crown” and
“Queen of Charades”.

Listening to this seventh album from college radio staples the Connells is
like reading a letter from a friend you haven’t seen in a while — it sounds
instantly familiar while offering a few interesting surprises. Much of Still
Life, such as “Curly’s Train” or the pedal steel-driven “Glade,” shows the
Raleigh, North Carolina band combining its strong melodic sensibilities with
a rootsier approach than its customary jangle pop. Vocalist Doug MacMillan
occasionally tackles topics that wouldn’t be uncommon to country music, yet
he brings a soulful edge to his stories of loss and regret. The thoughtful
pop-rock tunes here sound like what you’d expect from these old friends,
but Still Life’s best surprise is the delicate “Queen Of Charades,” which
combines MacMillan’s falsetto with organ and understated percussion. —
Wendy Mitchell


Salon Magazine

The Connells

BY GAVIN McNETT It’s amazing that the Connells have been allowed to get
away with it for so long. The trumpeted global marketplace, after all, rules
the rock ‘n’ roll game no less than it dominates the telecommunications,
slag-iron and kiddie-lemonade-stand industries. These days, it’s our habit to
gild and enjewel a couple hundred hypercareerist music androids while
letting everyone else get wiped straight out of business. So whereas there
once used to be lots of goodish, low-key rock bands around, supporting
themselves comfortably through hometown gigging and the occasional
record ‘n’ tour package, now there are mostly just serfs and lords. Barring,
that is, the stalwart Connells. These guys, lucky curs, can still pull in the
multitudes for a hometown gig.

They deserve it, too. “Still Life” is pretty much like all their other releases:
Engaging, unmistakably Southern guitar-rock with smart, darkish lyrics and
an irreproachable melodic sense. “Crown” and “Bruised” hit the hooks
jackpot here, while “Dull Brown” and “Grey” and “The Leper” could put in a
strong showing in the post-Hootie, pre-post-Ben Folds collegiate-hit
sweepstakes. The Connells, however, unlike the previous, lack smarm —
which’ll only hurt them in the end. Pray the end isn’t close: “Still Life” is LP
No. Seven, in Year No. 14. Would you quit a gig this cool?


Connells avoid pitfalls in creative ‘Still Life’

Connells: Blend a diverse mixture of musical styles on their seventh album,
‘Still Life’

By JENNIFER PFEFFER Cavalier Daily Senior Writer

With “Still Life,” the Connells’ seventh album, the band proves its music is
anything but tired. While the diverse mix of songs is not wholly original or
creative, the album’s sheer variance makes it a worthwhile experience.

Formed in 1984 at the University of North Carolina, the six-member band
gained a loyal following in the late 1980s. Mainstream success came to the
band in the early 1990s with the advent of the grunge music scene. Brothers
Mike and David Connell started the band and over the years added
guitarists GeorgeHuntley and Doug MacMillan, drummer Peele Wimberly and
keyboardist Steve Potak.

Because many contemporary bands in the alternative scene fall into the
Hootie and the Blowfish rut, “Still Life” comes at a time when creating new
sounds is critical.

The Connells prove on the album that their substantial musical experience
makes them innovators, not imitators. They avoid falling into the trap that
catches so many other bands — that of patterning every song in the same
manner, making the tracks indistinguishable from one another. It is
wonderfully refreshing to find a band that is not afraid to break a mold.

The music on “Still Life” ranges from the country-like “Curly’s Train,” to the
folksy “Queen of Charades,” to “Soul Reactor,” which sounds as if it could
have come over with the British Invasion.

While these three experiments are interesting, “Queen of Charades” stands
out among them. At first, this song seems too simple, but the simplicity
actually conveys the song’s beauty.

Forays into different types of music — like the instrumental “Pedro Says” —
do not mean the Connells have departed from their roots. Most of the
album’s best tracks fall into the alternative genre. The first track, “Dull,
Brown and Gray,” enjoyably exemplifies their alternative feel with a good

The album’s downfall, however, occurs in songs such as “The Leper.” The
cut features a dull whine that annoys, rather than appeals.

Fortunately, these songs are few and far between. Listeners will find
themselves singing along to “Still Life”‘s catchy tunes; vocalist Mike
Connelldelivers the lyrics clearly and intelligibly. While his voice is not the
best on the music scene, at least he does not try to mask his shortcomings
with droning word-slurring.

Every member of the multi-talented Connells plays an instrument and has
penned at least one song for the album. The Connells work hard for their
music, having toured almost continually for the past three years. They
created this album during a time when constant touring had burned them
out and health problems plagued MacMillan. The band nevertheless
persevered and created this respectable piece of work.

The Connells lend a refreshing maturity to their music thanks to the
extensive touring that many younger, emerging alternative bands lack. “Still
Life” is a welcome change from the misguided music Hootie wannabes
simply create for the masses.

Grade: B+


From the Charleston, W VA Daily Mail

“Still Life”, The Connells (TVT)

Another great disc from one of the best (and most-often overlooked)
originators of the jangly pop sound. At its best, the North Carolina group, led
by brothers Mike and David Connell, writes brilliant pop songs that are both
buoyant and introspective.

Building on a recipe that peaked with 1993’s fabulous “Ring” LP, “Dull,
Brown and Gray” and “The Leper” charge out of the gate with the kind of
magical, uplifting energy that sounds fresh no matter how many times you
cue it up. The latter tune, in particular, is made for radio, with layers of
guitar, Hammond, and glorious harmonies.

When the band strays from its pop formula, the results are mixed: the mid-
tempo “Still Life” works well, and the band even manages to put its stamp
on a pedestrian country-rocker like “Curly’ Train,” but both “Circlin'” and
“Gonna Take A Lie” — upbeat tunes with a slightly different twist — aren’t as
potent. Still, amid a sea of imitators, The Connells continue to churn out
some of America’s best pop.


Review from Music Monitor

The Connells
Still Life
by Adam Jackson

The Connells’ seventh album, Still Life is the band’s strongest, most
enjoyable work to date. It is also their most collaborative effort, suggesting
that after 15 years, the Connells may only now be hitting their creative peak.
Still Life has all the traits the band has always offered and adds several key
elements, first among them the aforementioned collaborations. Mike
Connell, who dominated the writing credits of early albums, wrote about half
the songs here, so not only do we get the very best of his familiar,
distinctive style, the rest of the band gets a greater chance to share their
ideas and personalities. The result is their most cohesive record.

By increasing each member’s creative input, the hidden charms of previous
records become the obvious pleasures of Still Life. Where previous albums
stayed true to their jangly, folk/pop roots, adding hints of country or
psychedelia or R&B, The Connells now have the confidence and experience
to actually write a country song like guitarist George Huntley’s jaunty
hoedown “Curly’s Train,” or vocalist Doug MacMillan’s slow-groovin’
“Gauntlet.” Keyboardist Steve Potak’s “Glade” is the best Paul Westerberg
song since the Replacements, and bassist David Connell’s “Pedro Says” is
the perfect coda to a superior pop record.

From the back of the pack, or actually the back of the stage, however,
comes the biggest breakthrough on Still Life. Drummer Peele Wimberley
offers “Bruised,” a pop nugget that could have been written in the ’60s and
later covered by Alex Chilton, and “Gonna Take A Lie,” a propulsive,
harmony-laced rocker. These songs suggest that Wimberley could be a
source of much great music on future records.

All the attention to collaboration aside though, Still Life just sounds good.
The Connells have found a place where every shiny pop song has a
yearning sadness buried within and every lament derives some joy simply
through its release. That’s a place few bands find. By using all their
resources, on Still Life, The Connells have done it.


Review from

The Connells, “Still Life” (TVT)
(2 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Anyone afraid that longtime twangmasters the Connells might be a bit down
after their enforced musical sabbatical (necessitated by singer Doug
MacMillan’s recent stomach surgery) can rest easy the band’s seventh
album, “Still Life,” is another fine slab of accomplished and upbeat
down-home pop. But then, the Connells have been making this kind of
Southern-fried indie rock since the mid-’80s, and although they’ve managed
a few college-radio standards (like 1993’s “Slackjawed”), they mostly remain
an underground phenomenon. Still, the band is consistently enjoyable, and
never more so than on “Still Life.” MacMillan’s casual, homey vocals are as
comforting as an old cardigan, and after almost 10 years of constant touring,
the band’s musical proficiency is at an all-time high. Taking advantage of the
extra practice and recording time, producer Jim Scott really gets them to
shine on songs like country- tinged “Dull, Brown and Gray” and the
anthemic “Crown.” Overall, “Still Life” frames a sharp pop band that never
lets its reach exceed its grasp the only problem is, sometimes you wish this
talented team would reach a little further. Peter Terzian


Review from the Toledo Blade 6/14/98

“STILL LIFE.” The Connells (TVT). The Connells have been around for more
than a decade, and haven’t advanced much since then. That’s not an insult –
they’re pretty darn good at the brand of melodic Southern pop they’ve
played all that time. There are a couple great songs here, like “Dull Brown
and Gray” (a meditation on Appomattox) and “Crown.” On the whole it’s a
workmanlike performance, consistent, predictable, and enjoyable. – JOSHUA


From Creative Loafing:

The Connells — Still Life (TVT).

These North Carolina inheritors of the pop tradition of Britain’s Searchers
and New Zealand’s Bats are at it again. These sublime exponents of Carolina
pop are among the best at their game. Lots have tried (like last year’s
Teenage Fanclub’s Songs from Northern England), yet few succeed.

This album backs up a bit from their previous release when they tried being
someone or something else, and now takes them back into familiar territory,
though there are a few pleasant instrumental (and vocal) twists with added
organ textures on “Bruised” and tinkly piano on the syncopated “Curly’s
Train.” Still, the album’s standout song is the title cut, while the overall
package jets smoothly along with changing rhythms, textures and the
Connells’ ever-present vocal harmonics.

This recording portends the rebirth of the band, as, right after their
previous release, they took an enforced hiatus due to vocalist Doug
McMillan’s bout with surgery. Like many groups from here, they’re more
popular in Europe, but this recording may give them additional attention
back home. Their catchy tunes and crisp arrangements explain what pop’s
all about while the members themselves, whether they like it or not, are as
clean cut as you can get. Though perhaps that’s a problem in some locales,
they can’t help being themselves. Hoping to regroup and begin anew, the
Connells have come up with an album full of snappy, pleasant, witty, catchy
tunes.[3 stars out of 5] — Lew Herman


allstar rating: 6 (out of 10)

The Connells
Still Life

The always agreeable, North Carolina- based Connells are long overdue for
a commercial breakthrough. Years of pleasant, if not always memorable,
college pop have thus far yielded one classic (the mid-’90s semi-hit
Slackjawed) and numerous comparisons to Hootie and the Blowfish, whose
Cracked Rear View could often seem like a less- edgy Connells homage.
While the band’s umpteenth album, Still Life, is unlikely to quash the Hootie
comparisons, it brings into vivid relief the oddly depressing fact that, while
Hootie has become edgier lately, the Connells have grown less so. Full of
the peppy, brief (no song even reaches four minutes), harmony- heavy love
songs that the Connells do almost as well as anybody, Still Life feels overly
safe, as if they know they may be on the verge, and don’t want to stray too
far from what they’ve always been. Though their caution is understandable,
it certainly isn’t the stuff from which classics are made, and while Still Life
may succeed in making them as famous as they deserve, anyone seeking
the definitive Connells record will be waiting still. -Allison Stewart


From Mr. Showbiz…

Don’t pity the Connells. Sure, they may have been tagged as wimpy rockers
when their first record came out, but that was 13 years ago already. Face it,
these North Carolina jangle-rockers are still going strong, while many of
their more blustery contemporaries have long since become hardware
clerks, auto mechanics, or CPAs, depending on their particular vocational
disposition. On Still Life, the Connells’ seventh album, the guitars sport a bit
more edge, but Doug MacMillan’s vocals still sound weak in spots, and
about half the songs, though pleasant enough, could benefit from additional
melodic or harmonic tension. Curiously, though, this 13-song album gets
better as it goes along, with the best (and most offbeat) cuts coming near
the end-not exactly a marketing man’s dream.

Looking for a hit single? Track 11, “Gonna Take a Lie,” is a killer slice of
organ-fueled power-pop with a Tom Petty bent. “Circlin’,” which precedes it,
uses a falsetto harmony vocal to create a Stones-y “Beast of Burden”
sound, while “Queen of Charades” comes off like a great lost Nick Lowe
tune. And “Pedro Says,” the instrumental closer, sends the listener off into
an oddly Cure-influenced dreamland. Earlier on, the CD gets bogged down
by too much by-the-numbers pop material, although “Curly’s Train” hearkens
nicely to the Monkees’ country-ish material, and the title track provides an
eloquent defense of stylistic steadfastness-clearly an important concern for
the band. While others continue to chase yesterday’s trends, the Connells
have managed to maintain their sound and their following. -Bob Remstein


Lexington, KY paper
Critic’s pick

The Connells’ new album includes quirky lyrics,”paranoid fun” — and a
country polka.

By Walter Tunis

For a band that got the jump on the alterna-pop movement by a good five
years, the Connells seem to be standing the test of time just fine. After six
albums and 15 years of massive touring, this North Carolina ensemble still
uses the most basic elements of pure pop magic to fuel its best work.

The Connells’ newest album, Still Life, isn’t likely to change that scenario
one bit. Musically, the record is as strong as any of its six predecessors. It’s
drenched with great songs, terrific hooks and a completely credible balance
of edge and lyrical mischief. But it also isn’t the album that is likely to break
the band through to the next commercial level that many felt it should have
conquered long ago.

The bulk of Still Life comes to life by picking up where the Connells’ last
album, 1996’s Weird Food & Devastation, left off. The songs dabble in a
fuller sound with keyboardist Steve Potek taking a far more prominent role.
Couple that with more of the psychedelic touches that peppered Weird
Food and you get the drift of where the 1998 Connells are heading.

These shadings come into play on Curly’s Train, an unusually carefree
outing that turns into a bizarre country-flavored polka. Just as appealing is a
delightful bit of paranoid fun called Glade.

If there is a constant in the ebb and flow of the Connells’ pop matrix, it’s
singer Doug MacMillan. For years, MacMillan has been the antithesis of the
post-punk vocalist. He doesn’t surrender to angst or anger, but merely to

The Connells’ music weaves all kinds of unobvious musical outlines and
lyrical sentiments into a big and very welcoming pop fabric.


Here’s another review of Still Life. It is part of this week’s issue of the War
Against Silence

The Connells: Still Life

If Crowded House has come to define, for me, a British variant of pure pop
championed at other times by Squeeze, XTC and the Beautiful South, the
Connells have long seemed like the American archetype to succeed REM, at
least in my private world, where REM stopped mattering around Life’s Rich
Pageant. Back when I discovered them, with 1989’s Fun & Games, their third
album, they were mired in the most tenacious kind of obscurity, too
self-contained to be superstars, but too balanced to be proper cult figures.
Still Life is their seventh album, the original five-man lineup changed only,
since 1984, by the addition of keyboard player Steve Potak in time for 1993’s
Ring, and as far as I can tell they have not budged much more than an inch
along any axis against which it would be meaningful to measure them. They
are still on the same label, they still play the same sort of dizzyingly
gorgeous, faintly bluegrass-infused guitar-pop, they are still mired in
tenacious obscurity.

I strongly doubt, at this point, that anything you or I do is going to disturb
this evidently-comfortable stasis, and thus I commend the Connells to you
only for your own good. There are few bands as reliable, so if you’ve missed
the Connells up until now, I don’t think it makes much difference which
album you begin with, and this one is as good as any. The essential core of
the Connells experience, for me, is that listening to their songs is like
handling a stone smoothed by centuries of ocean tides. Rock has had an
erratic relationship with swagger and stridency, sometimes cultivating them
and at other times trying to cover them over with thick layers of make-up,
but Connells songs seem to have had all the rough spots worn off by the
simple act of fretting over them until there’s not a single note left that mars
the surface. At worst they’ll seem bland to you, at best elemental.

If you’ve been buying Connells albums before now, this is no time to stop.
Doug MacMillan’s voice is still frail and angelic, Mike Connell and George
Huntley’s guitars still know more major chords than the rest of the universe
can fit into the scale, Peele Wimberley’s uncluttered drumming still propels
songs at an unhurried trot. 1996’s Weird Food & Devastation was a little
more amplified than Ring, and Still Life, while reverting to more restrained
packaging, doesn’t forget any musical lessons. The credits, traditionally
diligent about identifying individual authors of each song, this time retreat
behind the All songs written by The Connells dodge, but the only possibility
this raises is that somebody other than Huntley has learned to write in
Huntley’s unmistakably goofy polka-esque style, well enough to contribute
the rolling piano-hall stomp Curly’s Train and the slithery lullaby Queen of
Charades, and they’re embarrassed to admit it. The high points, for me, are
the mordant gloom of Dull, Brown and Gray, a sequel of sorts to Fun &
Games’ Uninspired; the guitar hooks in The Leper, which are only processor
tweaks away from sounding like Big Country; the chiming harmonic runs and
haunting pathos of the slow, surging Bruised; the distant Ben Folds echoes
of the piano on Glade; the Hammond whir and deliberate catharsis of Soul
Reactor; the drum rumble and leaping choruses of Crown; the fluttering
falsetto harmonies of Circlin’; and the off-center snare cadences of the
muted concluding instrumental, Pedro Says. I wouldn’t call any of these
touches new, but when I want new, there are other places to find it.


From Musician Online

Writing a hit song-i.e., the act of creating an emotionally stirring chord
progression, an infinitely catchy melody, and compelling, insightful lyrics-is
perhaps the high art of a musician’s job. In fact, it is one of the main reasons
that so many of us join bands in the first place: We want to play songs that
we create in hopes that other people will like them. The problem is that
bands have creative hierarchies, meaning that the most prolific songwriter
usually ends up writing the songs and running the show. But is this a good

When Mike Connell started writing songs as a distraction from law school in
the late Seventies, he probably had no idea he’d be doing it almost two
decades later. His band, the Connells, an aggressively melodic folk-pop
band out of Raleigh, North Carolina, came together in 1984. Today, after
seven albums and fourteen years, Connell is still at it, scribbling chord
progressions, scripting out lyrics, and performing in front of modest but
enthusiastic crowds from coast to coast.

For most of that time, Connell has served as the band’s principal source of
material. When songwriter George Huntley joined the band, Mike conceded
a track or two per album, allowing Huntley to bring in songs of a contrasting
style. “I was okay with George’s participation,” says Connell, “so much as I
liked the songs he came in with.” There was a point, Connell recalls, when
Huntley tried to wrest more control of the writing. “I said to him, ‘Yeah, I
know you write songs, but this is my thing.'” Huntley eventually took the
songs that were unfit for the band and recorded a solo album.

Over time, as the Raleigh boys have tried unsuccessfully to crack the
mainstream, Connell began loosening his grip on the songwriter chores,
allowing his bandmates to come into recording sessions with more of their
own material. The levee broke in 1997, when band morale ebbed during the
sessions and tour for Weird Food and Devastation (TVT); the members came
within inches of calling it quits before deciding it was time for a major
change-which meant that Connell would open the floor to all potential
contributors. What did he have to lose?

The resulting new album, Still Life (TVT), showcases thirteen tracks-with only
five songs credited to Connell, the fewest in the band’s seven-disc history.
“I guess there’s some idea of fairness,” he says, “that after all this time
some of the guys get to hear their own songs done up by the band.”
Drummer Peele Wimberley agrees. “I work every bit as hard as the other
guys, so I feel I should have some input onwriting.” In fact, all five members
contributed tracks to Still Life, bringing the band-a longtime songwriting
autocracy-to a true meritocracy in the course of an album. “The changes in
songwriting responsibility bring changes to the dynamic in the band,” says
Wimberley. “Now everyone feels more involved in the whle thing, and we
can start looking forward to that point in the set every night where our
songs come up.”

The equal-footed making of Still Life also helped band members earn each
other’s respect. Now, rather than viewing the band as a showcase for
Connell’s material, they appreciate each other’s abilities and strengths.”I
think we’re more mature because of Still Life,” says Wimberley. “I learned
some things about myself and I learned how I could be more respectful of
the other guys. We all benefitted from the experience.”

By – Bob Gulla


From Consumable #148, 7/14/98

REVIEW: The Connells, _Still Life_ (TVT)
– Joann D. Ball

After a much needed break, Raleigh, North Carolina’s all around good guys
The Connells return to the forefront of the pop-rock vanguard with the
bright and focused _Still Life_ . On their seventh release, The Connells
capture the essence of thirty-something life and deliver a record that
celebrates maturity, love, friendship, fellowship and fun.

_Still Life_ would probably never have materialized had it not been for the
honest soul searching and tenacity of the band’s six members. After nearly
15 years as one of the brightest stars among the original alternative/college
bands, The Connells have consistently delivered outstanding records and
entertaining, high-energy live shows. But after a trying period of extensive
touring for their last two releases, 1993’s _Ring_ and 1996’s _Weird Food &
Devastation_, the band succumbed to a serious case of artistic and physical
burnout. in early 1997, the _Weird Food_ tour came to a painful end when
lead singer Doug MacMillan was diagnosed with diverticulitis, which
necessitated surgery.

But in the midst of adversity, The Connells found strength in their
friendship, their hometown and the music which initially brought them
together. _Still Life_ reveals a healthy and happy band that is brimming with
energy, enthusiasm and confidence. The record opens with “”Dull, Brown
and Gray” which is anything but that, given the trademark whirling and
twirling guitars of MacMillan, Mike Connell and George Huntley. And the
rhythm section of drummer Peele Wimberley and bassist David Connell is
ever-tight and solid under Steve Potak’s swirling organ. The fact that things
aren’t as bad as they seem is an ongoing theme on this record, evident on
the punchy second track “The Leper,” and the upbeat “Bruised.” Huntley
spins his usual folksy fun tales on “Curly’s Train” while the mellow
“Gauntlet,” one of two tracks penned by MacMillan, has a sensitivity and
directness that is incredibly moving.

With 13 well-crafted songs, _Still Life_ has an eveness that makes it a
delightful listen. Without a doubt, The Connells have returned to the musical
high road they’ve always claimed as their own with intelligent and sincere
lyrics and inspired musicianship. Each of the six members of the band
contribute at least one track on the record, making it a truly collective
project. For the first time in years, The Connells are positive and optimistic
about the future of the group. And rightfully so, because given all that
preceded it, _Still Life_ is one hell of an accomplishment.


Addicted to Noise article

From the 7/10/98 “Music News of the World:”

Connells’ Risky Behavior Spurs Creativity

Harrowing European train experience inspires track on pop-rock sextet’s
new album.

Contributing Editor Colin Devenish reports:

Getting acclimated to customs and common practices in foreign countries
can be disorienting. In the case of Mike Connell of the Connells, his
unfamiliarity with auto trains in Europe nearly cost him his life on a concert
tour a few years ago.

In 1995, Connell, guitarist and founder of the six-piece pop-rock group, was
traveling with the rest of the Connells over the Alps in an auto train — the
overland equivalent of a ferry that allows you to transport your vehicle from
one point to another without driving it.

“You sit in your damn car, and you’re not supposed to get out,” Connell, 34,
said. “The instructions are in German, and we didn’t know what the hell was
going on. We thought we’d take in the night air.”

The musicians left their auto as the train approached a tunnel. Connell said
it would have been a tight squeeze to say the least. “Our tour manager Curly
is from Scotland and a little more abreast of the [auto train] situation,” he
explained. “He freaked out and started yelling at us.” They returned to their
car with little time to spare.

Despite such harrowing circumstances, the escapade spawned the
deceptively sweet-sounding “Curly’s Train” (RealAudio excerpt), a song that
chronicles Connell’s close call. It’s one of the tracks on the band’s seventh
album, the recently-released Still Life, produced by Jim Scott (Rolling
Stones, Tom Petty, Wilco).

When not jeopardizing life and limb, the Raleigh, N.C.-based Connells have
spent the past 14 years crafting squeaky-clean rock tunes in a pop vein,
most successfully with tracks such as the sing-song “’74-’75,” off of 1993’s
Ring album. The sextet is a longtime favorite on college radio since the
release of its early albums, including Fun & Games and One Simple Word.
They have been touring this year for the first time since a case of
diverticulitis forced singer Doug MacMillan off the road during the tour for
1996’s Weird Food & Devastation.

In a first for the band, each of the Connells penned at least one song onStill
Life, which includes compositions by singer MacMillan, drummer Peele
Wimberley, keyboardist Steve Potak and bassist David Connell, Mike’s

Guitarist George Huntley has been a regular contributor to the Connells’
repertoire. He shaped a pair of songs for the new LP, including “Queen of
Charades” (RealAudio excerpt), which he said he constructed in layers, with
each new addition tacking on a different meaning to the track.

“It ended up being like a sculpture,” Huntley, 33, said. “I chiseled on it for a
long time. It started out being about the band, and then it became about me
and my wife, and then it evolved to have a sort of a Princess Diana meaning
for me.

“I was working on the song when I got a phone call that she had died. She
just literally walked into the song.”

As usual, Connell wrote the lion’s share of tracks for the LP, including the
harmony-laden song “The Leper,” which deals with the feeling of being just
a little bit behind or outside the pack.

“I thought about the idea that leper colonies used to exist, and how lepers
were ostracized. I had the outcast idea and I used that … to indicate the
narrator was sort of out of step with people around him,” Connell said,
indicating that the narrator’s position is sometimes not so far from his own.
“Generally when we get back from a trip it takes a while to get back in sync,”
he said. “I’m not quite as socially adept as some people I know.”


NYPost Online



What makes the Connells’ “Still Life” as good as it is is that the band
obviously had a war chest of tunes and the ear to cull the best. Songsmith
Mike Connell wrote six and each of his five bandmates contributed at least
one song, giving the album a rare feeling of stylistic diversity and making
for a very listenable pop album (which also taps a little bit of country). The
melodies are all catchy, and the lyrics are consistently upbeat. This is a disc
that says the band’s previous disc, “Weird Food & Devastation,” was the
anomaly in an otherwise stellar career.

Houston Press

The Connells
Still Life

By most accounts, Ring was supposed to be the Connells’ last gasp after
almost a decade as the South’s second-string R.E.M. That was five years
ago. And by now, the durable North Carolina outfit’s repeated claims of
inevitable disbandment are about as believable as the O.J. verdict. That’s
fine with the quintet’s fans, many of whom reside an ocean away.

Founded back in 1984 by brothers David and Mike Connell, the Connells
have reaped a fair share of critical praise, but their brainy, unimposing
formula has also been ignored, dismissed and largely taken for granted.
Lately, such professional heartbreaks have been compounded by a pair of
personal setbacks: Last year, lead singer Doug MacMillan required surgery
for an intestinal ailment (he has since fully recovered); and, most recently,
bassist David Connell lost his wife to a long illness.

But unlike 1996, with its dreary, encumbered Weird Food and Devastation
CD and equally lifeless tour, 1998 finds the Connells in a decidedly upbeat
mindset. And to celebrate, they’ve just uncorked Still Life, album number
seven of lyrically obtuse, fundamentally catchy, diametrically durable
folk-and-rock-leaning pop — and not a live album or greatest hits collection
in the lot. But then, the closest the group has come to a hit was ” ’74-’75,”
which caught on huge in Europe some two years after its release on Ring.
Boasting perhaps the band’s most stunning melody line in a career full of
them, and lyrics furbished with colorful, if cryptic, scrapbook remembrances,
the song might have fared better here if it hadn’t been forced to compete
with the Singles soundtrack, among other things Seattle.

But today, with grunge’s threat pretty much out of the way and craftier pop
acts logging hits (think Semisonic, Fastball), the door may have opened a
crack for the Connells. And, as with all the group’s albums since its frenzied
1986 debut, Darker Days, Still Life abounds with hooks of the sort you’d have
to be under sedation not to appreciate.

Sharp craftsmanship dominates Still Life, from the signature Connells’
ascending-descending chord progression and bulky Hammond B-3
enhancement of the leadoff “Dull, Brown and Gray” (a bracing, minor-key
lament plopped, oddly enough, in a hazy Civil War-era dreamscape) to the
bouncy, infectious “Curly’s Train” (about a near brush with disaster on a
Scottish auto-train) to the no- frills college rock and canny self-analysis of
“The Leper” and “Still Life.” Particularly poignant is the latter, with a piano
intro seemingly on loan from Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and
a memorable chorus that hinges on the lucid assertion, “This still life has its
virtues / ‘Cause everything in motion leaves or is just left behind” — which
guitarist/songwriter Mike Connell insists came to him in his sleep.

As sharp-witted and quality-minded as ever, the Connells seem unable to
make a lousy album, even if they haven’t made a truly great one since, well,
Ring. But this time around, the group is actually anticipating Still Life’s
follow- up. Self-proclaimed career pessimists, the Connells finally may be
realizing that a little positive thinking can go a long way. Let’s just hope the
bank is en route this time. (three stars) -Hobart Rowland

CDs are rated on a one to five star scale.


From the August 14, 1998 issue of _Goldmine_ (#471)

The Connells
Still Life
TVT (TVT 9030)

Funny how the stuff you grew up listening to sticks with you. Those of us
who came of age during the mid-60s — British Invasion et al — were
terminally smitten by straight-forward, melodic pop. So amid the angsty roar
of the ’90’s it’s not a guilty pleasure reflex kicking in, but an article of faith
asserting itself, when your face involuntarily creases and your pulse
reassuringly quickens at the sound of a jangly guitar riff, a heartbeat bass
thump and clear-throated vocal harmony.

North Carolina’s Connells have pursued the pure pop muse for a decade
and a half now, and while some have accused the band of sounding
formulaic, a counterproposal along the lines of “consistency is virtuous”
seems equally valid. Crafting gorgeous, expansive pop songs that are
immediately identifiable as “Connells music,” principal songwriter Mike
Connell has a unwavering vision that may hew towards the comfortable end
of the spectrum, but no one ever said that refining what one knows best
and enjoys is a sin. In fact, it takes a lot of guts to keep writing, recording
and touring as one industry trend after another passes you by. Despite
having a solid fanbase and routinely selling out gigs here in America as well
as notching up several chart hits in Europe, massive commercial success
remains elusive for the Connells.

Music biz vicissitudes aside, Still Life is no stylistic departure; it arrives like
a letter from an old friend. The only unexpected element is the absence of
songwriting credits; 1996’s Weird Food and Devastation listed compositions
by vocalist Doug MacMillan, drummer Peele Wimberly and guitarist George
Huntley in addition to those by guitarist Connell (Huntley, who issued a fine
solo record a couple of years ago, has always had a couple of his songs on
Connells albums). But it’s a seemless, flawless set of tunes, so maybe the
unified group identity is apt. “Dull, Brown and Gray” opens the record in
classic Connells style: midtempo folk-rocker with just a touch of grandiosity,
featuring piercing lead jabs from Connell over rich organ swirls as
MacMillan warbles in his rich, engaging tenor. “The Leper” is up next,
sounding uncannily like it was torn from the Arista-years Kinks songbook,
followed by a waltzlike, slightly countryish “Bruised.” And the gentle
pleasures just keep coming… a moody, balladic “Gauntlet”… the uplifting,
anthemic “Circlin'”… the sweetly spectral closing instrumental “Pedro Says.”
Whether listened to front to back, or on “shuffle,” Still Life casts the kind of
emotional glow that suggests a band wholly content with itself. And it piques
a deep response within the listener attuned to great, classic pop.

Personal disclosure note: having enjoyed the Connells since before they
even had a record out— the proverbial “I saw ’em when they played for 20
people in a tiny club” syndrome— I remain fiercely loyal to them. Not
necessarily the stuff of journalistic objectivity, huh? Venerable avant/punk
fanzine Forced Exposure even concluded a lukewarm Connells review it ran
back in the late ’80s with the sarcastic tagline, “North Carolina-spawned
Fred Mills rock.” Looking back now, however, as I check my pulse and note
the big grin on my face while Still Life spins, I think I’ll take that as a
compliment. (TVT, 23 E 4th St, NYC 10003) — Fred Mills


From Rocktropolis allstar news 5/22/98:


The North Carolina- based indie pop band the Connells will be covering the
Nick Lowe hit “Cruel to Be Kind” for the soundtrack to the forthcoming black
comedy Dead Man’s Curve.

The soundtrack, which is due out in the fall on TVT Records, will also feature
such previously released songs as Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the
Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma,” and The The’s “Dogs of Lust.” The rest of the
track listing has yet to be finalized.

“Everyone in the band has always been a fan of Nick Lowe, and we were
fortunate enough to meet him and become friendly,” says Connells frontman
Mike Connell. “We spent some pub time with him in Wales in 1990 when we
were recording One Simple Word, and in 1995 we played a couple of shows
with him in Amsterdam and in Brussels. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to
be able to do a version of ‘Cruel to Be Kind.’ I first heard the song in 1979
and was hooked.”

The film, which is written and directed by Dan Rosen (The Last Supper) and
stars Dana Delaney (Fly Away Home, Exit to Eden), Matthew Lillard
(Senseless, Scream) and Michael Vartan (The Myth of Fingerprints, The
Pallbearer), is about a couple of college students trying to get A’s by
pushing their roommate to commit suicide. Dead Man’s Curve, the film, is
expected to hit the theaters in the fall via Trimark Pictures.

The Connells, who are currently awaiting the release of their seventh album,
Still Life, on TVT Records on Tuesday (May 26), will be kicking off a U.S. tour
on Friday (May 29) at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., and will be on the
road throughout the rest of the year.
-Tina Johnson


From the Red and Black, the University of GA newspaper.

The Connells pop into 40 Watt tonight

Staff Writer

There have been darker days for The Connells, but drummer Peele
Wimberley is looking to a brighter future.

“We’ve seen a lot of different bands come and go, and I guess two or three
trends,” Wimberley said. “Now we’re kind of back to bands with pop songs
getting airplay and being successful. So maybe we’ll have a chance at a hit
this time.”

The Raleigh, N.C., band has had its ups and downs, hitting a low point in
1996 during the recording of “Weird Food & Devastation,” an album
Wimberley said wasn’t very well received.

Having set its frustrations aside, The Connells just released “Still Life,” the
band’s seventh album in a 14-year career.

“Mike (Connell) only wrote about half the songs on this record, so there’s a
bit more diversity in styles,” Wimberley said. “For some reason, people don’t
seem to think we’ve lost anything by having more diversity.”

He attributes this to the fact that the band members have influenced each
other’s song writing over the years.

The band has also recorded a cover of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind” for
the upcoming film “Dead Man’s Curve.”

Despite the band’s current successes, Wimberley said his biggest fear is
going the way of The Embers, which made its fame playing the shag scene.

“They had their big regional following back in the ’60s and early ’70s. Now all
they do is go play whatever they do at these little clubs,” he said.

“I don’t want to turn into that. I’m much more ambitious than that.”

Among his ambitions is a transition from an apartment to a house, which he
said can be attributed to a much-desired “big payoff.”

“It really is disenchanting when you’ve played with a number of bands who
have gone on to sell lots of records,” he said.

“At some point, we’re either going to have some success that’s going to
give us an opportunity to feel more comfortable with our lifestyles or we’re
just going to be like, ‘OK, we’re beating our heads against the wall. Let’s just
move on and do something else.'”

Wimberley hopes that the fans will focus on the new album, instead of past
hits such as “Stone Cold Yesterday,” which the band has played at almost
every show since 1990.

After playing a recent gig in Washington, he said a few people told him they
wanted to hear more old songs.

“I can appreciate how they feel, but we have to move on,” he said. “I don’t
want to be The Connells’ greatest hits machine for the next 30 years.”


from allstar Daily News – 11/19

The Connells Officially Lose Drummer, Ponder The Future

A syndrome may be sweeping the South, and it involves drummers from
well- established southern rock bandswith seemingly impermeable lineups
jumping ship. R.E.M. were the first victims just a little over a year ago, and
now the Connells have been stricken as well.

After 14 years of manning the skins on some of the best southern, jangly
pop-rock of the last two decades, drummer Peele Wimberly gave notice in
July that his stint with the band was over. But it wasn’t until the Connells
played their last show with Wimberly, at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, N.C.,
a few weeks ago, that it all became official. According to guitarist and
founding member Mike Connell, Wimberly’s reasons for quitting were a bit

“His explanation to the band was that he hadn’t been happy for the last few
years and was ready to move on,” says Connell. “He didn’t elaborate a whole
lot. He did say something about a certain cynicism pervading everything,
and that he found that a little tiresome, but he wasn’t too specific.”

Additionally, the band was quite shocked to learn that Wimberly hadn’t been
enjoying himself as far back as 1987’s Boylan Heights, the band’s college
radio breakthrough, after an interview the drummer gave to the Raleigh
News & Observer, the band’s hometown newspaper.

“My question — what I didn’t ask him but maybe someday will — was: ‘If you
are miserable, why you would you stick with something for that many
years?'” says Connell. “What a martyr.”

The band’s first inclination, Connell admits, was to hang it up, but it was the
fans that talked them off the ledge. “We gave [breaking up] some serious
consideration,” recalls Connell. “I think we had, at one point, determined to
throw in the towel after Peele’s last show. But the shows that we played
leading up to that show, people were coming up to us saying things like,
‘You really need to consider what you are doing. Find a new drummer and
keep going.’

“So we sat down after Peele was gone and [pondered the question], ‘Would
the record company put us back in the studio?’ Once we’d gotten an answer
that the label wanted us to make another record, there was certainly some
incentive to give it another go.”

So instead of retiring to a more Bill Berry-like, carefree lifestyle (well, less
the fat bank account, of course), the band find themselves in the process of
demoing songs for a new record — their seventh in a long line that includes
such favorites as 1989’s Fun & Games, 1990’s One Simple Word, and 1994’s
Ring, which spawned the band’s most commercially successful single,

“”74-’75’ demonstrated that something really improbable can still happen in
this business, so maybe a similar thing can happen again,” says Connell,
when asked what the motivation behind making another record stems from.
“I think we would have hung it up a few years back if that hadn’t happened.”

The band has not decided on a replacement for Wimberly and probably will
not do so for awhile. The plan is to enter a recording studio in February and
borrow a session drummer from a local North Carolina band before deciding
on a permanent replacement. “The idea is for the five of us to get our ducks
in a row and then, once we have a fair number of songs in some sort of
working order, bring in a drummer,” he says.

The Connells have two albums left in their contract with TVT Records, for
whom they have recorded since 1986. Like R.E.M., the band may take this
drummerless opportunity to reinvent themselves on their next record. “In
fact, I wouldn’t mind departing from what we’ve been doing to some extent,
and if it means not having drums on every song, I don’t know,” says Connell.
“At this stage our thoughts are pretty ill-formed. But in some ways, it’s a
good opportunity to shake things up a bit.”

And for the myriad fans who have been viscously loyal to the Connells over
the years, no worries — it will take more than an unexpected departure of
one member to put them to rest.

“I don’t know what could kill this band,” says Connell.”We’re kind of like
Rasputin — we refuse to die.”
– Kevin Raub


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