"wedded bliss" 

sometimes a hit song can be a dangerous thing. and for leonardo's bride - a mega selling ballad - brought good and bad fortunes.
'even when i'm sleeping' won the band an aria for best song of 1997 and has been covered by more than a dozen artists worldwide. it got the band airplay, sent them overseas, sold a container load of copies and put them on the map.

but it almost killed lead singer abby dobson.
in a whirlwind period, leonardo's bride jetting to europe for shows, america for meetings, asia for interviews. for 18 solid months the band were all over the tv, never off the radio and in all the papers. but when the wave finally broke, dobson fell hard.

'it was a long winter' the husky songstress understates. 'i was diagnosed with an immune system disease and told that i would need to go on seriously toxic drugs for the rest of my life and that from this point on in my life, i would only deteriorate.

'i decided that i wouldn't take that diagnosis. as far as i was concerned, they could all get fucked. and so i changed my habits in a very dramatic way and now i am no longer extremely sick and instead i am extremely well'.
and that's good news for everyone. because open sesame, the long-awaited sequel to their platinum debut 'angel blood', the sound is honey-eyed vocals and lush orchestrations but with a cracked and tender edge. the scars of the illness have given way to some beautiful songs written by dean manning. exorcised by abby dobson.

'i was trying so hard to be this pure instrument that sends love across the airways' dobson says, 'but it doesn't happen that way. sometimes you arrive at the studio and you feel wired or dark or intense. rather than trying to turn that around, i've learnt the best to use whatever you've been given. try and harness it without changing its course.

'during that 'angel blood' period i was bleeding myself dry and thinking i was really noble. now i look back and take the hint to maybe not try so hard. maybe i'll be supported anyway'.

manning's distinctive cover art for 'open sesame' is another pointer to the brooding contents. the opening song 'everybody wants to take you home' features the heartbreaking lament 'we stepped across the line/now pleasure's a crown of thorns/and pain is a valentine.
manning says the art - and the album - is about there being 'two side to every story'.

'at the end of 'angel blood', it was every man for himself. we were just hanging on, trying to survive. but i think abby getting sick turned the general vibe of the group into a very supportive unit' he says. 'when i listen to 'angel blood' i can hear the hard living in her voice. on 'open sesame' it's alot smoother and rounder. the whites are whiter, the blacks are blacker.

according to manning, life in the eye of the hurricane did not suit the band's laid back temperament. when it came to the big time, the bride balked.
'everything was happening so fast we really didn't get a chance to enjoy it', dobson says. 'all of a sudden everybody wanted us and people started saying things like 'well, there's no reason why you can't be number one in america and europe too'. and the whole time everyone was peddling so hard and we weren't actually going anywhere'.
what actually transpired reads like a fable. even to the band themselves.

'we used to laugh when we read about these bidding wars for bands because we've never been that kind of band. we've never had that energy', manning laughs. 'but there was this guy who was a major major fan who also happened to be the head of a&r at polygram records, america, effectively the biggest record company in the world. he wanted to take leonardo's bride under his wing. it was going to be his first big project. we jumped on a plane to come home and a few days later we got word he'd quit'.

a year on, fame's flirtation with leonardo's bride remains unrequited. 'our heroes are people like tom waits who just does his thing really cooly, makes great records which are never really chart toppers but still mean he can go to any city in the world and have 500 people show up to see him. i'd rather do that for 20 years than have 20,000 people see me in a year and then go away' manning says.

abby dobson shrugs like someone who has seen the underbelly of fame already.

'i've never wanted to be no. 1. i'd be happy with making the top fifty in different cities and travelling around the world playing good songs that aren't hits. i just want us to do some really special shows without having to be britney spears'.

- angus fontaine