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Scarlet Rebels: big songs for polarised times

Scarlet Rebels
(Image credit: Dean Chalkley)

There are numerous highlights on See Through Blue, the second album from Welsh rockers Scarlet Rebels. One of them is the anthemic These Days, and set among its reflections on our polarised times is the simple yet telling line: ‘I’m neither left nor right’. 

“I just wrote what I was seeing when we were locked down,” says their singer Wayne Doyle (a sensitive soul). “It seemed to me you either had the very hard left or the very hard right making a noise, and then there’s the people in the middle – the silent majority – who can take some things as read, and don’t get overly offended or pissed off, they just get up and go to work every day, and carry on.” 

That said, Doyle is well aware that, for many, there’s plenty to be pissed off about these days. The album cover features a Boris Johnson-type figure casting a demonic shadow, and the angry title track takes aim at the UK’s leaders. 

“Nobody’s holding these people to account,” Doyle says, aghast, “and the whole thing stinks to high heaven. Boris is almost like The Teflon Don, almost untouchable. It’s utterly bizarre!” 

Wayne and his drummer brother Gary spent much of the 2010s in rock trio V0iD, and were pretty untouchable themselves; their commonplace band name (and the daft way their then-management styled it) ensured that, despite three albums and relentless gigging, they were virtually ungoogleable for any would-be fans seeking them out. 

They changed the name to Scarlet Rebels (after the Scarlets, the rugby team of their home town of Llanelli, and ‘rebels’ because, well, rebels are cool). And, lo and behold, the Facebook ‘likes’ surged.

Joining the Doyles in the expanded band are bassist Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde and guitarists Chris Jones and Josh Townshend (he’s the nephew of The Who’s Pete, but they don’t make a big deal of it). 

“Josh is into things like Radiohead and The Strokes,” says Wayne, “and Chris has a really good sense of proper old-school guitar rock like Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC. My biggest two influences are Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and when we blend this all together it just makes the music that we make.” 

Made with veteran producer/Llanelli legend Tim Hamill, See Through Blue is a step up from formative 2019 debut Show Your Colours, and won the band their deal with the prestigious Earache label.

Social issues aside, the five-piece know their way around chant-along NWOCR rockers (I’m Alive, the single Take You Home), and Bon Jovi-ish lighters-aloft moments (Leave A Light On). The powerful I Can Sleep Now was inspired by Doyle’s recent divorce. 

“I just put it all out there on that one,” he says. “It’s the best song I’ve written.” It’s hard to argue with that. Scarlet Rebels played their biggest show in August, on the undercard at Those Damn Crows’ Cardiff Castle date, and with the album due in January and their own tour dates to come, 2022 might just be theirs for the taking. 

Grant Moon is the News Editor for Prog and has been a contributor to the magazine since its launch in 2009. A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.