One of Australia’s most travelled bands, Rough Red has taken its original brand of folk/roots/world music to Europe seven times, performing at some of the world’s great music festivals, including Bardentreffen in Nuremburg, the Montreux Jazz Festival, Brosella Folk Festival in Belgium, Galway Arts Festival in Ireland, Vikedal Roots Music Festival and the American Festival in Norway (twice), Skulefestivalen in Sweden (twice) and the Skagen Festival in Denmark (five times). Proudly, Rough Red has pioneered the way for many Australian acts in Europe, being the first band from down under to play Skagen, Vikedal, Brosella, American and Skulefestivalen. These festivals now regularly program Australian acts.
The Reds have released eight albums over two and a half decades, with songs that reflect the band’s Australian heritage and extensive travels. Their records reveal a quintessential brand of contemporary folk music which includes all their trademarks of fun, pathos, soaring harmonies and fine musicianship. Plaintive tales of love and war, homages to national treasures, manic mandolin and accordion-infused stories of pirates and the sea, with the occasional divergence into the world of country music (the latter resulting in a no. 5 hit on the ARIA Country Music charts).
Reviewers have said this about the band…
"Exuding larrikin tradition, they have a healthy disregard for political correctness and a flair for social commentary. Extensive touring in Europe has also given them insights beyond Australia's shores. As their name suggests, Rough Red have a knockabout, robust approach to music-making, but they are also capable of considerable sensitivity. On one hand, they’re your quintessential macho Oz band, with pointed Aussie accented folk/rock statements, and yet, paradoxically, they’re a well-kept secret at home compared to Europe. On the other hand, the band also has a SNAG side that’s expressed in genteel balladry with country sensibilities…with musical allusions as far apart as Dylan and Balkan gypsy music. The fact that all five members are singers and songwriters with musical outlets outside of Rough Red might account for the band’s wide range of references and material and its polished vocal harmony.” (Rhythms)
“Rough Red combines the stridency of Redgum and nostalgia-evoking capabilities of Weddings Parties Anything with the sensibilities of Eric Bogle.” (Weekend Australian)
"If the Pogues met Weddings, Parties Anything in the strange netherworld of musical description, there would probably be either a massive piss-up or an all-in brawl. Or, the Brisbane band Rough Red would emerge solid, celtic, and dagnabbit funky with an emerald heart and a brawny Aussie exterior." (Drum Media, Sydney)
"It's refreshing when an unconventional band like Rough Red come along, this five-piece band are not afraid to defy current musical trends and remain confident in their own unique style. The group's nonconformist style sets them apart from many other Australian bands on the international music scene. Rough Red has demonstrated around the world that quality music doesn't always come in a conventional package." (TNT London)
“When you are enveloped by the staggering, gutsy tight-knit harmonies, you realise you are in the presence of a talented band in full control of their melodic powers.” (Trad & Now)
In recent years, the individual members of the band have all been involved in solo and other side projects, which have resulted in a further dozen albums produced between them, all critically acclaimed, and a further trio of Euro and UK tours. Rough Red’s members have undertaken musical adventures as diverse as sharing the stage with folk legends The Dubliners, to supporting rock royalty Status Quo on a 31date arena tour!
Frontman John Fegan has released a couple of solo albums, and more recently a book, a funny, fascinating tome detailing the adventures of the band on the road. It is entitled ROUGH RED – A REMARKABLE JOURNEY. He also put together The John Fegan Band, a great bunch of players who perform songs from John’s solo records plus Rough Red songs.
Drummer Dave “Mash” Parnell has released one solo record, and has been actively involved in the production of all of the other members’ releases. He is also highly in demand as a live engineer. Together with guitarist Steve Tyson and bassist John Barr (JB), he formed the twentysevens which recorded three albums in the mid-naughties.
Steve has released three solo albums, and a series of singles with his touring band The Train Rex, which includes JB, honorary Reds’ guitarist Ian “Sal” Shawsmith, and occasionally Mash. They are still actively performing and are about to release a new album.
Keyboard /accordion player Peter Harvey has released three solo albums, and has also been active in signing and producing new acts for the band’s Red Music label.
JB also has a working side project called Code Blue, a trio playing gigs in and around Sydney.
Whilst the tyranny of distance and their solo projects dictate that Rough Red does not get together to play live very much these days, the band philosophy is “never say never.” A disparate bunch of characters, there is a special bond personally and musically between the band members. It’s possible that connection may – just may – bring together these five creative souls to make some new music sometime in the future…
John Fegan: vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar
Steve Tyson: acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, 6-string banjo, bouzouki, vocals
Peter Harvey: accordion, keyboards, mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals
John Barr: bass guitar, vocals
Dave Parnell: drums, acoustic guitar, nylon-string banjo, vocals