This fast-rising Cork three-piece Toy Soldier face the same issues most non-Dublin based acts come up against: it’s difficult to break the capital. Toy Soldier’s profile here is growing though, with their brilliantly vocal-led electro rock style grabbing plenty of attention as they start to work the gig circuit. Ciara Budds is the lady behind those vocals, while Cian Walsh (synth, guitar and vocals) and Fergal McCarthy (drums and an impressive line in live production) offer some hefty back up.
I first came across Toy Soldier playing in a pub in Dingle as part of that wondrous televised music festival Other Voices. The thing with Other Voices, though, is you rarely see a poor performance. It has one of those magical vibes that seems to have musicians playing out of their skin, and while Toy Soldier impressed me, Wild Beasts and Spiritualized were just around the corner, and for a month or two afterwards they slipped my mind. I looked them up later, though, and then checked them out live again, and found the quality of this three-piece’s live performances doesn’t shine solely at special venues.
Their style can be gorgeously restrained, with a dub-leaning vibe to tracks like the mellow ‘Summertime’ alongside livelier and more accessible angles, such as in the lively dance floor beats of ‘Sunset Girl’, in which Cian’s vocal takes the lead. Like most bands capable of switching styles almost effortlessly, that leads to a buzzing, interesting live set up. The videos, incidentally, look far more MTV ready than you’d expect from a band with a mere 1600 Facebook followers, and suggest a band that is taking their career extremely seriously. They certainly have the vibe and the technical ability to do it; it can only be a matter of time.
The début album ‘Calling Up The Dusk!’ is just around the corner, and we suspect that it might rapidly make this band a lot more high-profile than they currently are: the releases to date have been highly skilled, and nicely balanced accessible and stimulating. The live production from Cathal is the kind of stuff that has indie-music lovers referring to DJs as ‘Pill Popping Jukeboxes’ (copyright Jet circa when they seemed decent-ish), and that voice… breathtakingly exceptional in a way that hasn’t quite been captured on record… yet.
And the flip side?
What’s not to love? Toy Soldier are a young Irish band with an exceptional vocal ability and a nice ear for a tune, and deserving of a good deal more attention than they’re currently eking out. That might only be a matter of time; looking ahead, let’s hope they’re not the next in a line of Irish bands heading east to develop their careers, if only because they’re a stronger live act than many of the bigger names on the Irish scene right now. Their professional outlook suggests such progress isn’t beyond them.
There are a few gigs coming up over the next few weeks in support of the new album, including the official launch in Cork (September 20th), a follow up in Whelan’s, Dublin (September 25th), and The Quays in Galway (September 27th). They’ll also be a couple of London dates – a sign of ambition – taking place in the second weekend of October.