Veteran Dublin band Sack are back with a re-release of their classic second album Butterfly Effect, new gigs and a fresh attitude. Guitarist John Brereton talks to Alan Corr about a band reborn

It was 1995 and Dublin band Sack were burnt out. After moving to London and scoring rave notices in the UK music press, signing to a local label, and mixing it with the Britpop girls and boys in Camden, it was time for a rethink.

They'd already released their debut album, a collection of bulletproof guitar songs called You Are What You Eat and been memorably described as "Frank Sinatra fronting The Pixies".

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Sack was and still are guitarist John Brereton, Tony Brereton (drums), Ken Haughton (guitars) and bassist Derek Lee but then as now the ace and joker in the pack remains mischievous and theatrical singer Martin McCann, one of the best voices and front men in Irish rock.

Together they fought the good fight and made the most of the mad swirl of Camden in an era when guitar music was back but as was often the case, the band most likely to in Dublin didn’t cut it in London.

A quarter a of a century since those heady days, John Brereton is philosophical. "We had a great year in London. Our label shared an office with Blur’s label," he says. "We’d hang out in the pubs in Camden and any given night Jarvis Cocker of Pulp or Elastica would be there.

"It was great craic, but we found it hard trying to break through being at Irish band," he adds. "It was tough going and we ran out of money, so we came home."

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Back home they dropped their keyboard player and recruited guitarist Dave Dorgan (formerly of Candy Apple Red and currently in Fans of Adventure) and entered a makeshift studio in the bowels of an old building on Dublin’s quayside with a fresh attitude and sense of vigour.

"We were really into bands like The Boo Radleys, obviously a bit of Britpop as well, I mean Blur were a guitar band," says John.

"Dave Dorgan was a big Tom Verlaine fan as well so there were elements of Television, bits of Pavement and Pixies as well - so a mish mash of English indie and American alt-rock with Martin McCann crooning over the top."

The result was Butterfly Effect, an exhilarating tangle of melodic guitars and whip smart vocals that remains one the key Irish albums of the era and now to mark its 25th, it’s been remastered and re-released for the first time on vinyl with new artwork.

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It is a record well worth revisiting. If You Are What You Eat was a political affair influenced by the satirical rage of Cathal Coughlan of Microdisney and Fatima Mansions, Butterfly Effect was an an elegy that dwelt on themes such as romantic love, loss of innocence and that old rock and roll mainstay of gleeful self-destruction.

However, it is Sack’s best known song Laughter Lines, a graceful ballad of rueful regret, that remans the jewel in the crown of a hugely impressive album.

"It’s bittersweet that song and of course Morrissey said it should be No. 1 forever," says John. "That was a great compliment. Martin was always a huge Smiths and Morrissey fan."

Album opener Climb Mine Powerhouse is about the Brereton brothers’ childhood memories of growing up in Santry in North Dublin and running wild in the fields behind their boyhood home.

"We used to catch the coal yard horses there and we would make up reins with a rope and ride them around. Pony kids they called us," says John.

"That field was where we played football, we caught pinkeens and then they built the M1 through it - that bit under the flyover is where we used to play. There was also an ESB powerhouse there and we used to climb on top of it. That’s literally what that song is about."

Butterfly Effect was extremely well received by the local music press, but sales and success didn’t follow. However, one famous fan came calling again when Morrissey invited the band to support him on his 1999 Oye Esteban tour of Europe, the UK and Ireland, and the US.

Recalling those gigs, John says, "On tour he was the ultimate professional and he kind of kept to himself most of the time but not all of the time. We did fifty dates with him on the first tour and there were a few times where he was side of stage, like in the Olympia in Dublin.

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"In Holland he got this white towel and got someone to sew black feathers around it and he wrote "Diva’ in black marker and gave it to Martin. That’s in a frame in Martin’s house. That’s a keepsake and a half!"

Butterfly Effect was followed a few years later by Sack's third album Advenura Majestica, which if anything, further honed Sack’s gift for melody. However, the band never fell out or officially split up.

They returned last year with new single What A Way To Live on their new label Dimple Discs (also home to Cathal Coughlan, Eileen Gogan, Damian O’Neill and the Monotones) and they’re already working on a new album.

A sign of the high esteem in which Butterfly Effect is still held is the fact that it features on Tim Burgess Listening Party this Thursday night at 8.00pm.

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"We’re delighted with that," says the ever-ebullient John, who spent years in the trenches as a booker in Dublin venues and is the mastermind behind the annual Dublin David Bowie Festival.

"It’s hard re-releasing an album. It doesn’t have the same newsworthiness of as the new Fontaines D.C. album. This is not a vanity project. It might be if we were doing it ourselves, but Dimple Discs are doing it and they see the merit in it.

"We knew back then that we’d made a really strong album. It didn’t get much play when it came out. Only a few hundred CDs of it were released in Ireland and it didn’t get a release outside of Ireland.

"We were a bit disappointed when you know you’re sitting on a good body of songs, but age hasn’t withered them. If Butterfly Effect was released now by a bunch of 19-year-olds it would get an incredible hearing."

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2

Butterfly Effect is out now on Dimple Discs. Sack play Mike The Pies, Listowel on May 13th and the Workman Cellar in the Workman’s Club, Dublin on May 21st. Tim’s Listening Party for Butterfly Effect is this Thursday, May 12th