a short site about The Divine Comedy

'Casanova' Breaks A Two Year Silence

The Divine Comedy were formed in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland in 1989 as a five-piece, playing "the REM-tastic indie guitar twang thang," according to songwriter Neil Hannon. Their first demo found its way to Setanta managing director Keith Cullen, who, says Hannon, "wet his pants and immediately signed us."

However, after two EPs and a mini-album (Fanfare For The Comic Muse), the band split. Hannon says, "When the other members told me they were going back to university in Northern Ireland, I told Keith I was going home, too, but that I'd be back with a fantastic album." He returned a year later with Liberation, the first full-length Divine Comedy album which marked a radical change in style, with the chiming indie guitars being replaced by sweeping, orchestral pop.

"Prior to Liberation, Neil just wanted to be Ride," says Cullen. "When he wrote Liberation, he became himself. He introduced himself to Scott Walker and other less rock'n'roll elements of music and began to move away from the guitar." The new 11-track album, Casanova, breaks a two-year silence by Hannon. "I had mental constipation," he says, "Everything was going very smoothly between Liberation and the second album Promenade and then everything just came to a stunning halt. I had to relearn the whole system of writing and it took me four months after the Promenade tour just to get back to writing. Then, when I finally got to the studio, Setanta gave me so much money that I just took forever."

Casanova was recorded with co-producer Darren Allison over eight months in studios including Abbey Road, Moles and Mayfair at a cost of £100,000. The money was used to expand the number of occasional band members, hire a 40-piece orchestra and introduce brass and "strange percussion instruments" to the mix. Casanova is Setanta's most expensive record to date, but Cullen is happy with the project. He says, "Liberation sold around 20,000 copies, Promenade sold 30,000 and we believe this one will make the big jump. Neil always recoups from his records and he makes a living from music and not advances. £(?),000 was what was required, so we didn't worry about the money."

Casanova is being heavily promoted in the music press, and a full tour kicks off in May. The band are also working on a £20,000 promo for the album's second single Frog Princess and they appear on this week's Sky One pop show, Hit Mix. Recent pre-tour live dates have shown them to be an entertaining and accomplished three-piece, who readily win fans over through Hannon's dilettante-ish charm. And, with Hannon also supplying the theme and incidental music for Channel Four's award-winning sitcom Father Ted, it seems only a matter of time before The Divine Comedy start laughing all the way to the bank.

Sarah Davis
dotmusic 22/04/1996