Raglans have been mainstays of the Irish music scene for some time, and they’re also an interesting quirk in it: something of a throwback to the heyday of indie, with infectious songs, undeniable Brit-pop influences, a cult following, and a confidence that can be utterly infectious.
Take their recent return: Raglans departed the music scene for several years to live their own lives away from it all. It’s a kind of unspoken battle in music circles sometimes: it’s essential to have something interesting to write about, and sometimes that involves stepping away from the grindstone (I know, because the same applies to writing), but stepping away from the grindstone can also be a route to loss of momentum, especially difficult to do when things are going well.
Nevertheless, Raglans did it, and now they’re back, loaded with energy and ready to deliver a sparkling new album following the release of single ‘One More Drop’ in late January. Frontman Steve Kelly told me about their plans…
You’re fresh back from a long period away from music. How has that been, and how has it fed into the new record?
The time away was essential for me personally, it’s important to scratch another part of your brain sometimes. I can’t speak for the other lads but we have always considered it a marathon and not a race, we never blinked at the idea of slogging it in the back of a van for months on end to play shows and grow the band so we could keep doing what we love to do. Now we have a fresh perspective, in our songs and in our minds but the goals remain the same. Create, perform, travel, enjoy!
How did you spend that time away?
I went to Spain, where my family emigrated in 2013. I set up a business with my Dad and brother which was a brilliant experience, I tasted a brand new type of life and culture and wrote lots of new songs for many new albums.
Do you feel differently about all this than before the time away?
Yes, I’m sad to see so many of our contemporaries and friends no longer performing together – The Strypes, The Hot Sprockets, Otherkin, Enemies to name but a few. It seems unfortunate that in many cases, economic realities can disrupt what seems like a foregone conclusion. We are seeing currently how fickle the world is anyway, so it’s a shame we are deprived of the great works of some great collaborative artists. We believe in what we do so we continue, we set no targets other than enjoyment, and have never been rich so it’s grand like.
What does the return mean – I understand there’s an album on the way. Is it fully back to the grindstone?
Yes, we currently share a space with Fontaines DC and as they are globetrotting and lording it, we have the run of the place. Great set up! We have close to 30 songs we are figuring out how to whittle down, maybe a ‘Use Your Illusion’ buzz, who knows. We would like to be much more prolific in our releasing of music
What should fans expect from the album compared to your previous work?
Everything you liked about us and more
Can you tell me a story behind one of the songs that’s on the way?
One of the next ones you will hear is called ‘Middle Class Couple’ and it’s about my time spent dealing with Brexit loving UK expats in Spain, full of fake knowledge and living in a bubble. Keep your ears peeled.
Are there any strong lyrical themes to watch out for on the record?
If life means nothing, why is there love?
Your reputation in the live arena is quite substantial. Do you prefer that side of things?
Not right now – generally yes, travelling and meeting everyone on the thoroughfare is the dream and I can’t wait to get back at it. We feel like we haven’t gotten to show our full set of weapons regarding songwriting and releases so that’s the focus right now, once Heavy Medicine is finished, we want to play it to anyone who wants to hear it.
Your streams have topped five million now. Almost as many people as live in Ireland. That must feel quite surreal if you think about it?
It’s a great validation of your passion and commitment to your passion and commitment. Thank you to anyone who listens
We’re all being hit hard coronavirus, how are you coping individually and as a band?
I’m at home in Dublin staying indoors writing and recording and cataloguing music. Creating is the best distraction.
Are you tempted to write a coronavirus song?
Already have mate, a couple.
What are your hopes for the future?
That my family remain safe and happy and everyone continues to live in a world where they can make their own choices… and Oasis do 1 more gig.