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Ham Sandwich

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Taking it slow: Ham Sandwich’s unstoppable plod to the top

Ham Sandwich (photo by Dara Munnis)

Almost two years on from their number one album ‘Stories From The Surface’, the Kells indie act are riding slow and enjoying the view…

HAM SANDWICH have never been a band to rush things. After their Irish number one album ‘Stories From The Surface’ – their third full-length – saw them reach their highest ebb so far back in Spring 2015, the Kells act stepped up to larger venues as opportunities rushed before them.

They’ve never been the type of band to ‘cash in’, however. It’s taken well over a decade to get to three albums, a journey that’s taken the five-piece to a host of the UK’s biggest festivals. Their laidback outlook still finds them, the night before our interview, performing secret shows at short notice in the heart of Dublin, essentially for the sake of performing.

Niamh Farrell, an iconic frontwoman on the Irish indie scene, tells us where things stand in 2017:

“We’ve started working on new music, but we’re not the kind of band to put anything out until we’re really ready,” Farrell explains. “But we’ve been down to Dingle recently for a weekend to work on a few songs and spend some time as a band, to really gel. We don’t know when the next album will be, but we never really did. We’ll have to see how it goes.”

“What we have so far is a lot groovier, a lot funkier,” she says of the progress already made. “We just do our own thing. We even had a time apart before, but it was just to do our own thing. People misconstrued it as a break up. It wasn’t, it was more refreshing ourselves over that Christmas. We were really buzzing after some time apart, it really helped us move forward.”

Part of Ham Sandwich’s appeal has always been their willingness to do things slightly differently, from some of their earliest album performances involving guerilla gigs in the streets of Dublin, to Farrell’s famous Hot Press cover, nude aside from a coating of copies of the magazine.

State of the Nation: Aidan Cuffe (GoldenPlec)

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While the point of ‘State of the Nation’ has been to examine the ups and down of the Irish music scene at present, I could hardly leave out projects just because I’m part of them, could I? Aidan Cuffe has been running GoldenPlec as the most all encompassing of acts of love for the Irish music scene for 13 years. That’s expanded to include festival stages, links with the Irish Independent, some huge name interviews, and of course the very magazine that Stephen Byrne and I now head up. Unsurprisingly, the man has plenty to say about progress in Irish music, and his own role in it…

GoldenPlec is one of the biggest and certainly one of the most all-encompassing music sites in Ireland at this point. What were the key steps in getting there?

It’s not easy getting through as much stuff as we do, but getting from where we were 10-13 years ago when we started out to where we are now has been relentless hard work. For me personally it’s a daily sacrifice to keep the site up to date. Over the years we’ve built up some great relationships with bands, promoters, brands and PR and we couldn’t operate as we do without those relationships. We have a built up trust and in this industry, trust goes a big distance.

There’s a fine line between supporting a scene and the virtual version of standing around waving pom poms. How do you stay the right side of that?

Honesty is our only policy. I have no interest in telling a band they are great for the sake of it. Our writers are asked to purely write what they feel about the album, but to back it up with valid and constructive criticism or praise. If you can’t back up what you’re saying, don’t say it.

It’s actually a hard line to draw, everyone wants coverage and we’re one of the places where a lot of bands get a lot of coverage but album reviews are subjective, it might just be that the person reviewing it just didn’t like it. Sometimes I wish we were a blog and we only posted stuff we liked, because we would be able to be universally positive. It’s hard telling a band who have put blood and sweat into their work that the person who reviewed their material just didn’t like it, even the most constructive of criticism can be stinging and it’s hard seeing the dismay in their social posts or if you meet them in person.

What are the biggest good and bad sides of the Irish music scene right now?

Well Irish music probably couldn’t be in a better place. There is so much good stuff out there right now, the quality of releases Irish acts are producing is international quality and there is so many outlets for music in Ireland.

We’ve got great independent record stores, we have a thriving multi-genre scene with quality oozing out in all kinds of different types of music, where before there might have been a slight lean towards indie music we have everything from pop, rock, metal, folk and more all bursting through with great tracks.

Ham Sandwich hold the #1 spot right as I type. That to me isn’t just a great story, it’s a validation of the quality of their music that we’ve been banging on about for years. Sometimes you feel like a broken record talking about the same bands. We were supporting Kodaline when they were 21 Demands. They played a show in a local community centre in Swords way back when they were honing the sound that’s now pretty much a global phenomenon. 10 years ago Delorentos played a charity gig for us in the Sugar Club, we thought back then they were the business and now Ireland is properly taking notice.

I guess that’s the only bad side of Irish music. Sometimes we take a decade to realise as a nation we have world class music in our back garden. That’s why I love festival like Knockanstockan, Vantastival and BARE in the Woods and more. They have all the bands you’re going to be listening to in 5-10 years playing now, growing as artists and showing anyone who will listen why they deserve that place in your earbuds.