Irish musical elements and references weren't particularly welcome in somewhere like Birmingham in the late 1970s and early 1980s – that's according to Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland, whose parents hailed from Mayo. Kevin was talking to Seán Rocks on Arena:
"It felt like we were kind of having to sneak it in. It wasn’t that welcome in England at that point. So, I think that’s one of the things that drove me to do it, you know? It was really important. I mean, the music was important as an influence. It was a massive influence on me."
When Seán mentions iconic Dexys hit Come On, Eileen, Kevin tells him that the song was written a long time ago by a different person. It was him, but he was someone else then. That sort of thinking is what informs the new Dexys album, The Feminine Divine:
"I’ve gone through a lot of changes, particularly in the last few years and it’s reflected in the album. So I can’t really relate to that guy. I mean, I’m very grateful for the past, but like I said, it was someone else."
The new Dexys album (they’ve lost the Midnight Runners somewhere along the way) has a throughline narrative telling a story that reflects some of the changes in Kevin’s life and that narrative, he tells Seán, will be seen in the live shows that the band will be doing over the coming months:
"The first half of the show will be the new album. There’s a female protagonist, Claudia’s coming from New York and we’re going to act the whole thing out like a theatrical performance. And then there’s an interval and we do the old stuff."
It’s been a busy time for Kevin and the members of Dexys. Last year, the band released a remixed 40th anniversary edition of their 1982 classic album, Too-Rye-Ay. A lot of older music gets remastered, but you don’t often hear of bands remixing their recordings, so why did Dexys gone down this route with Too-Rye-Ay?
"Look, Eileen was great and one or two others came out great, but there was a lot of tracks on the album that just, they weren’t mixed right. They just weren’t right. And I always felt a bit fraudulent promoting it. And it was ironic that that was by far the most successful album."
The engineer that worked on remixing the original recordings of Too-Rye-Ay told Kevin that all he was doing was making it sound "like it should have done". The remixed version of the album was duly titled, Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded.
"All you can hope for, you know, as a want of a better word, recording artist, band artist, whatever, is when you leave the studio to finish an album, you’ve got it as good as you can possibly get it. So with the first album – I'll come back to that in a second – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, we had that. Don’t Stand Me Down, the third album, we had it. 2012 and One Day I’m Going to Soar, we had it. Dexys Do Irish and Country, we had it. Too-Rye-Ay, I never had that feeling. It always bugged me."
You can hear Seán’s full conversation with Kevin by clicking above.
The Feminine Divine is released on 28 July and Dexys will play the 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin on 25 September.