Londonderry, Northern Ireland group Rare were formed by Sean O’Neill (having reverted to the Irish spelling of his first name after the break-up of the Undertones) in the early 90s. He had recently left That Petrol Emotion - the group formed in the wake of the Undertones break-up with brother Damian O’Neill - stating that he was tired of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It was not long, however, before he chose to return to music. ‘I was a bit wary after leaving the Petrols. I sat around doing nothing in Derry for a while. This wasn’t difficult because there is really nothing to do there at all.’ Maintaining a job as music technology teacher for the unemployed at Derry’s Nerve Centre community base, he soon made the acquaintance of local musicians Mary Gallagher (vocals) and Locky Morris (guitar/keyboards). The intention was to combine rock dynamics with dance elements. Such a marriage was not new to O’Neill, That Petrol Emotion having been among the first to attempt a crossover with songs such as ‘Groove Check’, but Rare are a more purposeful attempt to accommodate both strains of music. The line-up was completed with the addition of drummer David Whiteside, with Rare playing their first shows in Northern Ireland in 1992. A one-off 12-inch single was then released on Setanta Records in 1993, but it attracted scant press coverage. The group continued to play irregularly, but no more was heard of them until Equator Records’ A&R executive Dave Long saw them at the Cork Rock Festival. He was impressed by the group’s ambient, rhythmic dance-rock, which displayed several similarities to the trip-hop atmospherics of Portishead. The group’s debut single, ‘Something Wild’, and Peoplefreak confirmed that O’Neill’s acute songwriting talent is able to prosper in whatever genre he seeks to work in.
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