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'Corrs In Effect'

Irish Folk Family The Corrs. Aka the Sex Nolans. Aka the Unlikely Eires to the Pop Throne. Words: Sarah Bailey. Photos: Sean Cook.

The last time Andrea Corr cried was in Madrid. What it was exactly that tipped her over the edge (a flight from Mexico? The accumulated stress of a year on the road? The giddy joy of topping the UK album charts?) seems hazy now. The only significant detail she can recall is her state of - how can we put this politely? - inebriation. Andrea is, as she puts it, "a love drunk".

"I feel love," she says, twinkling her dark brown eyes and managing to resemble Salma Hayek, Winona Ryder and Victoria Spice (in long-haired mode) with one flick of her Pocahontas mane.

"I was drunk and I was amorous and I couldn't understand why no one was feeling such love as I was feeling..." And at this precise moment I can't imagine either.

For three girls who could be the Nolan's unfeasibly sexy younger cousins (Irish, clean-cut, related), the Corrs sisters know how to drink. A day off in their punishing schedule is traditionally marked with one of the sisters' wine-soaked lunches, which begins at three o'clock in the afternoon, allowing the girls to imbibe for many a long hour and still be in bed to catch their beauty sleep.

Lest you need reminding, 1998 has been an extraordinary year for The Corrs. After eight years together, their 1997 album Talk On Corners went to the top of the UK charts and stayed there for five weeks. they are artistes of the multi-million selling worldwide variety, whose status as global icons of gorgeousness will be sealed when they become the faces of a top secret but incredibly huge ad campaign next year.

It'd be a grand thing indeed to go for a celebratory drink with The Corrs. In the studio today, they are in professional mode: faultlessly polite, obliging, pretty people. the girls floating hither and thither, trying out different, impossibly tiny outfits. Jim, the elder brother, lounges on the sofa with the saintly resignation of a man who's experienced two decades' worth of never being able to get into the bathroom.

There's something detached about them, in the way people are when they've spent the last four years schlepping the globe promoting their wares. For instance, not one of them has heard of, never mind seen South Park. A small sacrifice for international fame, sure, but significant in its way. When I ask Andrea what she thinks about Johnny Vaughan, she wonders, "is he very tall? Spikey-haired?" her memory is jogged by a photo in a magazine. "Yes, I know him! He's cute. he's very cute," she squeals. "He's very talented and he's cute."

The Corrs' story begins in Dundalth in County Louth. they were brought up in a Catholic household. the girls went to mass until they were 18, Jim sagged off somewhat earlier. It was a relaxed, liberal childhood and they're happy to report that they come without the religious hang-ups which have led other Catholics' pop careers to be marred with profanity and accompanied by ripping up pictures of the Pope.

Their parents were musicians who played in cover bands and kept a strict weekly observance of Top Of The Pops (mum used to scribble down the lyrics). the seed of the band was planted in 1990 when the four siblings auditioned for The Commitments. Andrea landed the role as Jimmy Rabbitte's sister (she later appeared in another Alan Parker film, Evita, as Juan Peron's mistress), the others had cameo parts. But more important than that, the four were spotted by John Hughes, the film's musical director, who became their manager.

The early history of The Corrs was not so lucky. record companies proved slow to pick up on their smooth blend of folk and pop. When they finally landed a deal in 1994, life became one long promo gig. the lowest point, all four agree, was when an American radio station got them to serenade one of their listeners in the pouring San Diego rain. Although when I speak with Andrea alone she recalls the ultimate Gigus Horribilis: "The audience had been fed a lot of drink to come and see us. Sharon was walking off stage when some drunk vomited on her. That was pretty humiliating," she looks aghast. "We eventually laughed our heads off at it. But at the time it was beyond, it was disgusting. it was hahahahaha!"

The first album Forgiven Not Forgotten (released in 1995), which has sold over two million copies, went nine times platinum in Australia and made them mega-stars in Spain. However, their breakthrough in Britain did not come until March this year and their St Patrick's Day Concert at the Albert Hall. suddenly their cover of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams was a giant hit, Talk On Corners was at No 1 and by the time What Can I Do? was released in August, The Corrs were fully-fledged TOTP babes. A new single So Young is released on 9 November and then they will take on America.

But first, let's get close and personal with the four Corrs on the Sky sofa...

Andrea, the wee 24-year-old goddess who fronts the band, has just had her arm punctured with inoculations and is consequently a bit sleepy today, curling up between takes, reading her Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novel and sucking her thumb.

Andrea shared a bedroom with Caroline and shows no shame in reporting that it was festooned with Nik Kershaw posters. "I loved Nik Kershaw, i mean I really loved him. oh and Depeche Mode and prince."

Andrea is a seductive stage performer. So, does working with her family inhibit her when she's giving it some on stage? "At the beginning i might have thought I wanted to express myself a little bit more and then thought, 'Oh my God, there's my brother!'" she laughs. "But not any more. Everyone's loosened from that."

But would the girls ever, say, do a Madonna and wear rubber and bondage on stage? "No, that's not us. Music is the reason we are doing this. We're not doing this to shock."

It takes a while to click that being cool and cutting edge is not even remotely an issue for Andrea. She's even happy to discuss her admiration for sibling power trio Hanson. "I think they're so talented. i think they're amazing." And she cannot possibly envisage how The Corrs might spend an evening of leisure with the rock brothers from oasis. "I wouldn't be on a night out with Oasis," says Andrea sternly. "If I was I'd tell them to lose their attitude. it's much too boring."

And as for plans for the future? "It's to do what we're doing. To remain intact and happy. And ultimately to fall in love and have babies. Just like everybody else, really."

One last question. has she ever slept with a groupie? "Absolutely not."

Jim, the 34-year-old businessman of the band, is openly ambitious. "I'm always hungry for new chart positions," he admits happily. when not being photographed, Jim wears twirly eye-glasses of a distinctly rock star variety and seems vaguely aware that being in a band with his sisters has inhibited the more Spinal Tap-ish aspect of life on the road. "We do go mad from time to time," he says quietly, "but when we get into our hotel rooms, we generally just go to sleep in our beds. we're so tired. we're not really into throwing television sets out of windows."

A Bacardi-and-coke kind of a guy, Jim also admits to being a Love Drunk himself and when, by the by, I ask him what he thinks of television's bubbliest blondes, Denise Van Outen and Zoe Ball, his eyes glaze slightly. "I'd love to take the two of them out some night and just go for a few drinks. i think they'd be a great crack..."

Natalie Imbruglia scores less impressively on the Jim-ometer: "I think she's a great stage performer. She sings very, very well, but I'm a little dubious about some of the clothes she wears. They're a little too masculine for my liking..."

As the band's resident party animal, I ask Jim f the world of The Corrs ever overlaps with drug culture? "Everybody in the world comes into contact with drugs at one point or another and that's certainly been the case with us, but it's down to individual choice whether they want to pursue that line - excuse the pun - hahahaha. Er, drugs, certainly, as a whole, aren't for us. Simply because our lifestyle can't include drugs, we wouldn't be able to burn the candle at both ends. Sorry, we're too boring!"

As for the issue of sleeping with a groupie? Jim takes a while to consider his answer. "I've been very interested in getting to know one or two people that I've seen in the audience, but I know it's a big risk. You don't know where it could lead..."

"I don't think any of us are flirtatious," says Caroline, staring at me earnestly with her pale, wide-spaced Cameron Diaz eyes, before a giggle appears on her lips. "I think we all take our turns in flirting. especially when we were younger. Who doesn't flirt?"

Caroline is the most tomboyish of the sisters. While she was growing up most of her friends were boys. These days she is The Corrs' drummer - a very sexy role in Sky's sordid book. "I think it is. For a girl it is!" she grins delightedly. An old boyfriend taught her the ropes when she was 18. "We all thought, 'A girl drummer. That's a great idea.'"

As to whether The Corrs will ever raunch up their act, Caroline thinks not... "It's been overdone. There's too much flesh already happening. Sometimes it can be a little tacky." When I ask if The Corrs have ever been invited to pose in swimwear on the front of Lad Mags, she nearly falls off her chair. "We're not that type of band. If someone rang up our management and said that, they'd laugh their heads off. It's just not out thing."

Still, Caroline has the greatest respect for All Saints, bra straps et al. "I think they're all gorgeous looking. really natural. But I'd like to see more girls play. It seems to be all the men playing still."

One of the two Corrs siblings to be spoken-for, Caroline has been dating boyfriend Frank, a property developer, for a year. One sense's that it's to Frank's advantage that he's prepared to hop on planes at a moment's notice to visit his beloved. "You don't want someone crying at home, 'Oh I never see you.' There's no point crying about it. you've got to make the effort," says Caroline firmly.

And has she ever slept with a groupie? "Never in my life. Sleeping with a groupie. Hahaha! That would be hell. I'd never do that."

"I wasn't particularly naughty, more non-conformist than naughty," Sharon begins tantalisingly. if you had to pick a dark horse in The Corrs, it would be Sharon. She smokes, has a voice that sounds like cigarettes and was suspended from school twice. "It was because I mitched (bunked off). I only did it twice and I got caught twice. That's me all my life. i always got caught and I rarely did anything wrong," she complains, not altogether convincingly.

At 28, Sharon is the oldest of the girls and despite being the violin player, seems to be most likely band member to evolve into a fully leathered-up rock chick. "I like the heavier image of rock. I love The Stones. They've got something I don't think anyone else has or will ever have. Mick Jagger's born for it..."

Sharon has no truck with the idea that being in a band with your family might inhibit the pursuit of the more decadent pleasures of the road. "If you can't stand on your own and decide to do what you want to do, then you're a bit sad. If I was of the personality that wanted to go round spitting and drinking copious amounts of alcohol and doing lots of drugs then I'd be doing it..."

Sex then? Sharon's been in her current relationship for over three years now. She and he (she won't say who) met on the day The Corrs shot their first video (for Runaway). Her views on sexual attraction are very definite and go something like this: "What turns me on is when I see a man being a man and not being... all liberal and understanding and bohemian because of something he's read in a magazine. i don't mean chauvinism or macho. I mean standing up like a man and appreciating me as a woman."

So, has she ever slept with a groupie? "I don't think that question is appropriate."

It's time for the final set of photographs. Andrea wants some music on. She's particularly keen on The Wallflowers and even more enthusiastic about frontman Jakob Dylan. "Yum, yum," she declares and proceeds to mouth the lyrics foxily.

Jim's on his mobile while the others prance about in front of the mirror and act a bit giddy. I ask Andrea if she ever wishes she was in a more dangerous band? "I never do. Life's dangerous enough. To become truly successful without ever having been sensationalist at some stage in your life. now that is shocking isn't it?" Watch out America.

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