The Clockworks: “The Galway influence is still there in the sense that we still feel like we’re in our own bubble a bit”

The Clockworks. Credit: Oscar J Ryan Photography

The Clockworks are a rock band out of Galway, but relocated to London, where they’ve been signed by Alan McGee’s Creation Records, but continue to forge their own path.

Deliberately located slightly outside of the natural musical heartlands of London, they draw disparate influences, feeling equally inspired by a range of different scenes. The live show, we’re told, is pretty epic, and they’re just been on Soccer Am in front of millions.

These guys are on their way…

Congrats on the new single. ‘The Future Is Not What It Was’ feels like a message for our time. At the risk of asking the obvious, what specifically worries you at the moment?

This song was written a while ago, and coincidentally it seems to be the right song for us to put out at the moment. We’ve had it recorded and planned for release in May-June since last year, but I think a lot of the ideas it touches upon are so prevalent in the public conscience now; one of the central ideas being that we may feel so much more advanced than 50 or 100 years ago, but a lot of the major issues are still the same.

To be honest, it feels like there is a lot to be worried about.

The murder of George Floyd is horrific and sickening. The Black Lives Matter protests that have followed Worldwide, and the increased awareness that they have provoked, are hopefully a sign of the door opening to elicit real change. As many people have rightly pointed out, well, publicized, overt acts of racism are the tip of a huge insidious iceberg of this discrimination. That’s extremely worrying.

COVID-19 of course is a big one. Because it has and continues to affect every element of normality, it feels like nothing is as it should be. Like most people, we’re just trying to keep our heads down and get on with it really. For us personally, it has definitely given us time to see family, take stock, make plans, and do some writing. We’re lucky to have had that opportunity, there are so many people who haven’t been as fortunate.

You seem to draw influences from that jagged, in-your-face Mancunian scene. Do you also look at what’s going on this side of the pond, and the recent rock success stories?

There isn’t really a precedent of many bands coming out of Galway, and I think this was great for us because musically we felt almost equally as removed from Dublin as we did from London or Manchester or New York. We took in everything, and it all felt like a possibility for us, because we never had the pressure of conforming to the norms of a scene. Galway has a small and strong community of artists who are all completely different, but supportive of each other. It’s great to see Irish bands making a splash over the last few years, and becoming part of the wider culture of bands and artists.

Coronavirus Shutdown: Day 92

I’d almost hesitate to say it, but things are starting to look a lot better. Three of the last four days in Ireland, for example, have had less than 10 new detected cases in total, and experts are starting to whisper that perhaps there aren’t really any active cases on the streets anymore, or at least very insignificant numbers.

That brings its own anxiety, of course. Like, should we go out any more than we have to? I mean, I certainly won’t be rushing back into the reopening shops on Grafton Street, but there is a sense that it’s okay to go out and enjoy the world just a little bit more, and it’s hard to know where to draw that line (within guidelines, naturally, but under the circumstances, it makes sense to be more cautious where that’s an option).

There has been a slight acceleration in things reopening, and I guess we need to see the fall out of that to know where we really stand. It’s hard to imagine being back in day jobs any time soon despite the improvements, at least for those of us who work in offices and are lucky enough to be able to do things from home. I’d anticipate August or so.

Things have slowed quite a bit at home. We’re kind of chugging along, and have added a couple of pet rabbits to the family (they’re great fun), but we aren’t really able to get our heads around any extras at the moment – things like DIY, which we hit hard at the start, have really died a death in the last few weeks. To be honest I’m tired, all the time, which is a real shame. I think its a combination of lack of variety and finding sleep hard to come by. What can you do.

Perhaps we’re over the hump.

Pauli: “In a funny way, I can see how the current situation might benefit a complete newcomer like myself”

In a funny way, amid all the chaos of the modern-day, new artists like Pauli represent hope, or more specifically the idea that lockdown will serve as a positive for some, a chance to break out of a shell.

Pauli has been making music and contributing to various projects for years, having started producing music as a child, but hi new EP ‘Isolation Station’ sees him emerge from the shadows and announce himself for the first time, a project born out of the isolation he’s been experiencing, and his take on others experiences, too.

I spoke to him to explore his own isolation, and what led to this moment…

Congrats on the debut EP. A strange time to release it, but what can you do! Did you do anything different because of the shutdown?

Thanks, James, I’m looking forward to seeing what the response is. To be honest, the lockdown is the thing that spurred me on to finally release some tracks. I had been planning this for a while but having more time on my hands to dedicate to doing it ‘properly’, coupled with a little spike in inspiration recently has helped me to make that final step.

Was this opportunity a kick up the rear in some senses?

Exactly right. In many ways, I was ready for this for a while now. I have been writing music for many years already, and getting better and better at home recording and production recently. With so much more time on my hands, and not having the distraction of pubs and attending gigs and whatever else, I didn’t have any excuses left. The time had come!

Obviously the music industry is differing at the moment. Can you see some benefits, too, given the impact this shutdown has had on you?

In a funny way, I can see how the current situation might benefit a complete newcomer like myself. With live events cancelled for the foreseeable future, it gives me a chance to build a following through my EP release first. I don’t have to scramble for stage time and gig opportunities, which is already a competitive marketplace, even for established acts. This way, I have an opportunity to hopefully build a bit of a following over the next few months and build some momentum that way, and be prepared for when gigs finally get going again.

Sounds Of System Breakdown: “The events of the past few weeks have reinvigorated the case for protest music”

Sounds Of System Breakdown‘s self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the sounds of my early years in Dublin. Encapsulating the gritty urban-ness of the less-touristy aspects of the city, it was a shining electro-pop record riddled with enthralling beats and whip-smart lyrics.

They’ve been relatively quiet in recent years, being spread as they are between a houseboat outside Dublin and a new home in London, but recently returned with new single ‘Connect With Me’.

How much do I personally rate this band? They were my wedding band, playing exclusively their own material. Here’s what they had to say around the launch of the new single.

Welcome back, lads! It’s been quite a while. How does it feel to be working together again?

I guess we never really stopped, we just had to slow down a bit as other life events took precedence. It’s great to have three pairs of eyes and ears on everything again. Honestly, there’s a great feeling of focus now – I think a bit of distance from the last few records has given us a better understanding of our sound.

It must be quite difficult given your disparate living situations. How do songs like the new single come together in practice?

It was kind of iterative. I’d usually demo something, then Ed would do a rough drum take, Richy would try some vocals on top. Then after a few listens we’d chat about what worked and what didn’t. We avoided preciousness wherever we could so you’ll hear a lot of the demo stuff in there, mixed with better quality recordings. It was about keeping whichever take had the best energy.

Can you tell me a bit about the story behind the single?

It came from the bass line – everything else came from that in a really instinctive way. The lyrics are supposed to be little snapshots of memories all jumbled up together. The words feel secondary to how the meter and sounds elaborate on the rhythm section.

RunOffBroke: “Berlin was crazy, we had some rough times out there but the effects it had on our music is something I’d never change”

RunOffBroke might be one of those artists to emerge from lockdown more complete, more ready to face whatever the music industry evolves into.

Filtered through young creativity and a period living in Berlin, Jordan Wilson dabbles in house and afrobeat sounds as well as his rapping, working regularly with producer NINETY7HERTZ to produce what’s turned out to be a heap of recent material.

Back in Ireland after those Berlin escapades, he talks us through what it’s all been about…

You seem to be firing out the singles at the moment. What’s brought on the creative period?

We just decided that it’s time to start working as hard as we can. If we really want this music to go where we want it to, then we need to keep the work rate high. NINETY7HERTZ and I are honestly lucky that we’re in this quarantine cause it gives us a lot of time to work on new material, new songs are being made every day and that’s not gonna stop for a long time!

For your latest single, about a conflicted relationship, is there a particular story behind the track?

I’ve definitely been in some situations with some crazy ladies, I’m not gonna say any names but they know who they are. It’s a strange thing because inherently for all of us in abusive situations we can find ourselves holding onto the rare good times you have in them and that’s basically what the songs about! But look we can go deeper about that over a few drinks.

What’s your typical process for putting a track together?

97 starts making a beat and then we need to get down a chorus, that’s what the whole song is based off. Whatever I end up writing the chorus about is what the song will be about! I feel like that’s the best way to do it cause if you start off writing verses then the main part that carries the song has to be based on too much information and things just get messy.

Mark Knight big on Dublin connection

Superstar DJ Mark Knight, a mainstay of the house music scene, is one of the abundance of cancelled shows that won’t be showing up in Dublin in the coming weeks. The beatsmith is used to the mass audiences of Ibiza and London, however, Knight has a special affinity to our capital.

It’s an affinity that plays out in the way he performs, too. Dublin’s club scene is mediocre by international standards even at its peak, with early closing hours and small-scale venues far behind pubs as a priority. Knight makes a point of dropping in regularly, however, playing smaller venues than he’d normally grace purely for the love of the place.

“It’s a special connection,” he tells me. “My wife’s from Dublin and I’ve been playing there for 15 years, I always have a great time. This year, I’m mainly focused on my business, Toolroom, and things related to that, but the Dublin date [which would have taken place in April] was an important one personally.” 

“Toolroom has fed into my music now. I come across so much different music because of my job. When it comes to playing live, I play about 50% my own stuff, and probably about 85% of it overall is Toolroom stuff. That’s how it should be, I think. The balance with the label has allowed me to play maybe two weekends a month, which is a really nice balance when you have a family and you only want to spend a certain amount of time playing at clubs at 3 or 4 in the morning.”

“I like playing small venues. You can’t just go in with a sledgehammer, you have to massage people a little, and it gives you a chance to do long developing sets that are a journey from beginning to end. It’s something a bit different.”

Knight’s previous lifestyle is one of the things that has been, at least temporarily, lost during the shutdown, along with his tour. It’s also something that indicates the strength that can – but doesn’t always – exist in creative arts. While he can’t play live, he’s putting together videos connecting with his new record, and keeping an eye on the future of Toolroom, including the label’s new development pipeline, Toolroom Academy.

Isaac Butler: “I found my sound in LA, working with the other musicians opened my eyes”

Isaac Butler shot to prominence when he released ‘Moon Song’, a track that he tells me he didn’t really expect to go too far. Now with almost a million streams for that debut, he’s worked with Adele’s session musicians, developed a new style, and featuring on The Bachelorette.

Determined to make the most of his unexpected break, I caught up with Isaac as he made the most of lockdown, streaming and writing his way through our new circumstances…

Hi Isaac, first of all, how are you, and how are you finding this enforced break? Are you making use of it musically?

Hello! I am very well thank you. Yeah to be honest I’m finding the break OK. At the start I was freaking out a bit at having to cancel shows and all the festivals being called off. I also had a few supports slots lined up that obviously aren’t happening, but I’ve kept very busy over the last few weeks writing with people over zoom and keeping active on social media.

At the beginning of the lockdown I did a YouTube series under called ‘Distance Doesn’t Divide’ where I basically got each member of my band to record themselves in their bedrooms playing their parts in each of my songs. I then put all the videos together into a split screen video and posted them on YouTube. It was great craic and people seemed to enjoy them. I also got my first brand collaboration with River Island! I did a live stream gig on their Instagram and they sent me out some lovely clothes. So I can’t complain!

‘Moon Song’ was clearly a huge success for you. Were you surprised by the traction you could get with a debut single?

The reaction to ‘moon song’ was amazing. I put the song out with no real expectations. I was toying around with the idea of releasing original music so I played a few songs for my music teacher who I stayed in contact with after I left school.

Pretty much immediately after he heard ‘Moon Song’ he said we have to get that recorded, so he called up a friend of his Billy Farrell a well known Irish producer to help out. We recorded the track in a few days and I made a really simple music video with a few friends, and the rest is history. It continues to be the song the people know me for which is funny because I just put it up for the sake of putting it up, there was no reasoning behind it, and today it has just under a million streams, pretty crazy.

Eden Isle: “We live to perform for an audience: to deliver emotions and see them mirrored on the crowd”

Cork rock band Eden Isle are a rising name in the city, but bring with them ample experience from various projects that preceded them.

Drawing in range of rock-tinged influences, the band pride themselves on their live show. I checked in with them as they launched new single ‘Four Leaf Clover’.

Congrats on the new single. Can you tell me a little about the story behind it?

Four Leaf Clover is reminiscing about old friends and scenarios, waking up after great nights together and how you’ve changed as people.

Your band name and some song titles have a distinctly ‘Irish trad’ feel to them. Is that a conscious thing or just a natural impact of your environment?

The band name is based on our happy place as in our band room and creative space.

How did you all meet and become a band?

Ame and Kev met originally (after Ame was looking for a singer) then Kev brought in a new bassist, Carl. After a while Ame brought in Ed and Carl brought in Shane, that is how we formed as a band. Blackpool rehearsal studios is where our band was born.

How do your tracks typically come together?

Being a pianist and guitar player, track ideas would usually start from me (Ame). Since we got Shane in, he has been in the same role as Ame: a music-ideas initiator.

Ed and Carl are precious in their structuring our ideas and not alien themselves in creating and sourcing them as well.

Usually, Kev comes last but definitely not least: he adds the lyrics, ideas and helps us structuring as well. This is rather a collective effort and we love the process of music creation!