The Cranberries rock on

From writing school essays to music history

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2012
LYLE MCMAHON

The Cranberries' lead singer Dolores O'Riordan explains how the band got back together for its new world tour.

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She turned up to the audition in her school uniform.  It was straight after school and she had just finished writing an essay. 

Little did the teenage Dolores O'Riordan realise where that band, then known as The Cranberry Saw Us, would take her over the next 20-odd years.

The answer, as anyone who remembers the mid-1990s will know, was everywhere.  From the time The Cranberries (O'Riordan renamed the band soon after joining) released their debut album, Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? in 1993, the band found themselves at the forefront of a new sound all around the world.

Now, the band has made a surprisingly early trip to Auckland ahead of a show here on Thursday.  New Zealand is the first stop on their world tour and the four-piece are using a Mt Eden recording studio to rehearse.

It is a return to the stage that has been a while coming, and the band are using it to look back at where they have come from, and it is quite a place.

With a debut album that flopped in England, caving under the weight of critical expectation, it was in the United States that the Irish band made their mark, all thanks to the hit single Linger - the first song they ever wrote.

"It was different to what everyone else was doing.  It was very hard to pigeonhole The Cranberries," says O'Riordan.

"And we were just huge, it was just sensational.  Linger was being played something like 10 times every 24 hours [on MTV]."

Writing, releasing and touring four more albums over the next eight years, with singles like Zombie, Ode To My Family and Salvation peppering the airwaves, it appeared to be the stuff of rock and roll dreams. 

But the bubble couldn't last forever and under the surface O'Riordan says things weren't as golden as they appeared.

"I worked myself into a frenzy. By 1996 I had a nervous breakdown just from working.  I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, just getting anxiety attacks and all of that stuff because I was doing too much, too young, all the time. 

"I lost reality... It's really like being on drugs, like being off your head - it's really strange.  Everywhere you go, people are looking at you, and you're on TV all the time and you walk into shops and you're on the magazines and it's just really weird because you are just a regular kid from a small town. 

"One day you were doing your essay and the next day bam."

It wasn't until 2003 though, that the singer called time on making music with the band. O'Riordan decided her two children needed more than a tour bus could give them. 

The pint-sized singer went on to make two solo albums "at home, just for the laugh" but told the band it was time to stop.

"I told the boys 'go ahead with your lives, don't wait for me.  I can't do this anymore; I can't go into the bus and drive my children around the planet. I need to stop'."

Now her kids are starting to grow up and "have their own things going on", the 40-year-old reconnected with her band mates in 2009 at her son's confirmation and says the reunion was the most natural thing in the world.

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"It was like no time had elapsed, it was so comfortable... We have a certain bond that we don't have with anyone else on the planet.  You just have that bond, that journey when you are in a band together."

And with the new album, Roses, ready to take to the stage in Auckland, it's a new outlook from an old band.

"For a while there our writing got really edgy... I've always written about experiences, so when your life gets a bit crazy, you start to write songs that are a bit edgy.

"[But Roses] is not all angry and "I hate being famous, I'm a rebel" stuff.  I've got over all that."

And 23-years on from the start, it seems The Cranberries are finally enjoying music and life.

The Cranberries live
Trust Stadium, Waitakere
Thursday, March 15.

- Auckland Now

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