In the 1980s the New Wave English trio When in Rome broke through with the megahit song and video, “The Promise.” Sadly, after just one album, the original lineup parted ways.
A few years ago, keyboard mastermind Michael Floreale reactivated When in Rome — now dubbed When in Rome II — bringing vocalist John Ceravolo into the fold and taking the band’s sound to more organic and fleshed-out heights.
Mr. Floreale and Mr. Ceravolo discussed the name change, why “The Promise” resonated with so many people and what the future holds.
Question: Why has the band added a II to it?
Michael Floreale: We basically reached an out-of-court settlement with the original members. The original band broke up in 1990, then there was a long period of inactivity. I reformed the band in 2006. At the time the two other singers weren’t involved in music. I needed a new singer and found John Ceravolo over here [and then] trademarked the name, toured, did a new album.
Then the two other singers decided to reform and get back together again. So in order to sort of move on, we decided to call ourselves When in Rome with the Roman numeral II. They would call themselves by their names and state they were original members of the band. Legally, we are now When in Rome II.
Q: But is there still a little bit of uneasiness among the two bands?
MF: They have not accepted the new terms. It is a bit disappointing because we had a legally binding agreement, which is an injunction. If you break that injunction, you are in contempt of court. So from now on people know that we are the second version.
I thought it was a gesture so no one got confused. The problem we are having right now is the other members are not sticking to their side of the bargain. Hopefully they see the error of their ways so we can just make music [and] play live.
John Ceravolo: What a concept.
Q: John, did you feel pressure coming into an established act to be the new lead singer?
JC: Initially I did. It was daunting at first. I think anyone in my position would feel that. But Michael has been a great support. Also, we have been able to tour with some great people like Dramarama, became great friends with them. The support of other touring bands helped me understand that I belonged here.
Q: The end of 2015 saw the release of a new CD, yes?
MF: Yes. It came out late in the year. It had been held up for a couple years. We have got it in a couple movies. This year we are pushing on and actually working on a new record as we speak.
Q: What has the reaction to the new songs been?
JC: The feedback that I have been exposed to is pretty positive. The general consensus is that we’ve done something pretty special. We were really motivated to make a record that would lift people, give people hope.
Q: “The Promise” was such a huge hit and remains beloved. Why do you think that song connected with so many people?
MF: I think it’s the lyrics. The lyrics resonate. The break in the chorus is kind of unusual. It stands out. People have either had a baby or lost someone who died. They relate to those lyrics. I think that is why it still resonates.
JC: It is just one of those perfect storms where all the elements collaborate in a way that touches people.
Q: You are touring with Bow Wow Wow, Missing Persons and Trans-X. Is there any competitiveness among the bands?
MF: No. There is no animosity. We all get along. We are all thrown into this, and we are all just musicians that want to play really. Never had a problem.
JC: We have to hide our beer from certain bands. [laughs]
MF: The moral of our tale would be hide your beer! [laughs]
Q: What is coming up this year for you?
MF: I don’t know yet. The last two years we have been traveling with great bands like Missing Persons and Dramarama. Maybe this is the year we can put together a few months of shows.
Q: What do you guys do away from When in Rome II?
MF: I write music for the people that pay me, really. Music, television, video games. Lots of audio work. Staying in tune with all the latest software.
Q: Has technology made making music easier?
MF: Yeah, but it is still a challenge. Because you still have to be creative.
JC: It hasn’t made making great music easier. I think you have to have a special connection to music. I don’t think there is any technology that can emulate that. I think there is something universal that has to happen. I’m in awe of people that can write a great lyric. There is no plug in for that.
MF: All I do is sit at a computer and write music. But there are two things you’ll never replace. One is a vocalist, and one is a guitar player. That is where songs come from most of the time.
Q: You’ve also redone “The Promise” recently?
MF: When we do it live it’s amazing. Everybody loves it. It is slower but it’s faster. It’s weird. It’s got more energy to it. I guess it’s because it’s fresh.
JC: You know the Tears for Fears song “Mad World”? It was redone and took on a whole new life. We feel like the new version is our “Mad World.”
The new CD, “When In Rome II,” is now available on iTunes.
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