Hvmmingbyrd: “We felt like writing a love song to the women in our lives, something tender.”

Dublin duo Hvmmingbyrd only started out in 2016, yet their steep learning curve, delicate harmonies and intensely moving sound has quickly established them as a real Irish act to watch.

Deborah Byrne and Suzette Das’s music has featured on TV shows Made In Chelsea and Striking Out, as well as on H&M’s playlist, despite their having released less than half a dozen tracks to date. With the duo working as a self-producing DIY act and proud perfectionists, an average track takes hour upon hour of studio time to construct.

“I’ve learnt not to put anything out until we’re completely happy with it,” Byrne tells us. “That’s been an important lesson. Papillon, which we put out in March, I still love that. We’re new to production, so it takes time, but it’s important we get it right. We find it very hard to let go of a song.”

Their latest, ‘Prisms’, came in the wake of the Belfast rape trials, and explores the darkness faced up o by many women in 2018, and the slow process of being able to speak out. It’s a subtle track, its lyrics loaded with love for women, but dripping with angry undertones come the chorus, and crammed dense with meaning.

“It started in March. The rape trial really upset us, and we went to the protest,” Byrne explains. “We left really moved, there were a lot of people in tears. There was a lot of anger and sorrow for the woman involved, and a sense that things might change. Pretty much every woman has experienced sexual attacks to some extent.”

“We felt like writing a love song to the women in our lives, something tender. It’s all lovely in the bridge, just hinting at the dark side, before going into full-on darkness at the end. It’s about the idea that sometimes the brightest lights can attract the most darkness if that makes any sense. It’s tender, but there’s anger there, too.”

“I feel like there’s been a shift, particularly in the last year or two,” Byrne adds. “The Me Too movement and the way people talk about sexual violence has really changed things. We feel a bit more empowered, but there’s still a lot of pain about stuff that has been left unsaid for so long. As weird as it sounds, it feels strange to be heard.”

Deep Sky Objects: “Ed Smith on Today FM described us as being a blend of The National and Royal Blood. We were delighted with that”

Kerry act Deep Sky Objects are a three-piece rock band who take their inspiration from a host of big-name , ‘atmospheric’ acts like The National and Radiohead. 

Based outside the core of Ireland’s music scene, they’re working their way into consciousness with a series of gigs, a recording made in Berlin, and a softly-softly approach to breaking through. I spoke to Kevin ahead of their Whelan’s gig as they tour new single ‘Nothing To Lose’.

First of all, introduce yourselves – who are Deep Sky Objects, and what can we expect from you?

We’re a three-piece rock band from Kerry, based in Cork currently. We’re fans of all different types of alternative indie/rock, from The Smiths, The National and Radiohead. So if we were to define a sound to expect then it maybe somewhere in the middle of those perhaps!

What were your backgrounds, musically, before forming this band?

Before forming the band we were playing our own instruments since our early teens, with the exception of Thomas who took up drums at seven years old. The three of us have studied music in some shape or another. Myself and DD studied Music Technology in UL and ITT while Thomas is currently studying music at CSN. We were all in different bands over the years before forming Deep Sky Objects.

I understand you’ve been recording in Germany recently. How did that go?

It was great! Berlin is a wonderful city and we felt really at home there. We recorded all of our releases in Cork with Ciaran O’Shea (previously of Cyclefly) at Whitewell Studios near Cloyne. Since then he moved to Berlin so it only felt right for us to go with him again on the new single. The studio was situated in this old communist block on the east side that had studios and rehearsal spaces on every floor. The street was called ‘Frank Zappa Strasse’ so it really speaks for itself!


You were at ‘Music Cork’ recently. The industry side of the game, I suspect, can be both useful and tiring. How do you find those kinds of events?

I first attended Music Cork in 2018 and I didn’t know what to expect as it was first time attending a music conference. Since then I can’t recommend enough for artists to attend these events. I met so many people in the industry from managers, promoters, bookers and publishers. It was the sort of event you could go up to anybody and say “Hi, My name is…” and make a new contact. Personally, I really enjoy the industry side of music. I’m a bit chatty so it just feels natural. The band tend to let me take care of those side of things.

Olympia: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”

Aussie quirky-pop singer Olivia Bartley – better known by her stage name ‘Olympia‘ – has an unusual approach to songwriting. Inspired by art and abstract concepts, her tracks draw from concepts like a New York Times article about fake asylum seekers, or the futility of materialism and lust for what you can’t have.

It’s pop with depth, and it’s coming to Dublin in the coming weeks, with Olympia due to support Julia Jacklin at Whelan’s on March 30. I caught up with Olivia before one of her first ever European tours got underway…

I understand these are some of your first European shows, so first of all, welcome. Do you have much idea what to expect when you head for Ireland? What are you hoping for?

I am so happy to be playing Ireland – I have heard Irish audiences are wonderful (and I’m truly not making that up). How else should I prepare – would watching the Commitments again help?

Who knows, maybe! Congratulations on the award nominations recently. How seriously do you take the awards and acclaim side of things?

Thank you! Well I am my biggest critic, and I’m still waiting on an award from myself – so plenty of work to do.

Say Sue Me: “It was like being naked, to express my thoughts in the language I know best”

Hailing from the bustling but relatively musically quiet South Korean port-town of Busan (where I once ate some of the weirdest seafood I’ve ever come across), Say Sue Me might sing in English, but when they drop in on Dublin in May, they’ll be a long, long way from home.

It’s rare that a South Korean act make it to our shores, and rarer still that one is backed by niche indie label Damnably, and featured on Pitchfork. They might be playing the modest Grand Social venue, then, but Say Sue Me are well worth a night out. I talked to vocalist Choi SuMi ahead of their show… 

Note: there’s a little ‘Konglish’ in the replies to this interview, which I decided to leave in, as it’s all fairly easy to understand, and adds colour to the interview, I think. 

I look forward to seeing you in Ireland – what is it like to come and play shows so far from home? 

We look forward to seeing you, too! Every time we tour overseas, it is always wonderful to know that there are people who listen to our music in such a far away place. It is difficult to go so far, but it always feels better after the performance.

Do you have any special expectations for this tour?

We go to Ireland for the first time. Trying for the first time is always exciting. 

I remember my life in Korea (I lived in Seoul for two years) as being a lot about drinking. You write a lot about drinking. Do you enjoy the feeling of fun this gives your songs? 

There was a time when I drank lots of alcohol. I can not help but the lyrics contain things that have dominated me at the time of creation. It is good to remember myself at that time.

Most of the world sees Korean music as K-Pop. You are certainly not K-Pop. How do you see that kind of music?

There is a reason for the world to pay attention. It is a great ability to grasp the taste of the public in a rapidly changing world.

Obviously most of your shows take place in Korea. What made you decide to sing mostly in English? 

At first I tried to write lyrics in Korean but it was too difficult. It was like being naked to express my thoughts in the language I know best. I chose the easy way to complete the song.

Gilbert O’Sullivan: Still Firmly Rooted, Naturally.

IN THE 1970s, flat-capped crooner Gilbert O’Sullivan had quite a reputation. Seen as something of a thinking man’s Elton John, or a modernised lyric-writer aping Randy Newman, O’Sullivan delivered snappy pieces of melancholy pop with poetic twists, cleverly touching off issues like poverty and heartbreak all at the same time.

19 albums later, and O’Sullivan’s back in the limelight: his new self-titled release has been BBC 2 Album of the Week, won broad critical acclaim, and seen the Waterford-born singer – raised in the English industrial town of Swindon – enjoy something of an Indian summer.

Beneath the pop melodies and affecting love songs, O’Sullivan’s always had a bit of a political bent, as it happens. It’s unchanged in years, and like his songwriting, the best of it is quite indirect, obliquely leaning on politicians, or directing eyes to injustice.

“I’ve always done it,” O’Sullivan says, “but I’m not there to preach, so I prefer to be a little subtle. I have songs about 9/11, songs about terrorism, and poverty in Africa, and on this album, Donald Trump. I’m not there to tell people what to think, though. I’d never get up on a podium at a political event or anything like that. I don’t think it actually helps anyone.”

After nearly 50 years in the business, the 71 year old certainly knows the impact of his songs, however. ‘We Will’ is one of the great takes on personal darkness. He also has the subtle cultural attack and gentle poetry of ‘Nothing Rhymed,’ and the brilliantly gentle ode to loss ‘Alone Again, Naturally’. O’Sullivan has affected much, but, in terms of songwriting, he’s little changed.

“I follow the same process I always did,” he tells us. “I write the melody at my piano. In the past, that was a dirty old stand up and it’s a bit better now, but I still do it the same way, recording the music onto a boombox as I go.”

“I don’t add the lyrics until I come to record a song. For this album, I had all the music, but spent two months writing the lyrics before I went into the studio. I had played through the music for the record company, BMG, just singing whole-hearted gibberish over the top, to check they wanted to be involved.”

“The lyrics come last because they’re always changing according to the time. Once they’re recorded, they stay the same, but before that they keep evolving. I often have two or three different versions of a line going into the studio. Otherwise, lyrics can be out of date.” He now has his own personal studio in Jersey, the only high-end one on the island, where the most recent record was recorded.

Corner Boy: Taking Folk’s Unconventional Path

WEXFORD four-piece Corner Boy have given up on music’s well-trodden trails. That’s not a bad thing: with the long-awaited release of their third EP around the corner, the imaginative folk act have settled on slow-dripping their music, and making the most out of the opportunities that it throws up. Instead of recording records or seeking deals, they’ve traveled the world in the back of a transit van.

That’s involved shows in North America, South Korea and the Middle East, a show at half time in the All Ireland final, and a trad sit-ins in Paris. “It’s been about getting out there and getting involved for us,” frontman Mick D’Arcy explains. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate with opportunities.”

“Even in the first year after we formed, we played the Late Late Show and half time at Croke Park to 80,000 people. All these things you’d expect more established bands to do after a few years. People just took to us straight away.”

“If you look back at our early music, though, it’s very obvious where our influences were. We decided we’d take some time off about three years ago, and we went out into the world, took whatever opportunities that came our way. It was about travel, meeting people, new cultures, and using that to inform our music.”

“All of that travel is the experience that has influenced our sound now. We’re incredibly happy. We have, I’d estimate, a 30-40 song backlog. We have a lot of material to release.”

There’s also a cyclical nature to the new EP ‘Goodbye Old Holy’, in that it returns to the scene of one of Corner Boy’s early successes. The band won the Red Bull Bedroom Jam in 2013, just as they started out. The contest that had a prize of recording in the famous Grouse Lodge Studios in Westmeath. They loved the place, and returned again for this record, with Dropkick Murphy’s producer Ted Hutt on the sound decks.

Peter Broderick: “it’s difficult to find a place of solace and quiet, and I appreciate music that facilitates this”

Peter Broderick (by Declan Kelly)

American-born but Galway based composer Peter Broderick is a bit of an international enigma. Despite relocating to Barna, the contemporary composer has found his career has taken on a highly international flavour.

Broderick was key to the way fantastically inventive Danish act Efterklang converted their more orchestral edge into a live setting, and has also worked with the likes of Yann Tiersen, Phillip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran.

His most recent project is the construction of a score around the short film ‘Two Balloons. The collaboration with director Mark Smith has a nice sense of symmetry to it, in particular as the movie is part-inspired by an earlier piece ‘More Of A Composition’.

The soundtrack was released as an EP in November 2018, and is entitled, memorably, ‘Techno for Lemurs’. Two Balloons i showing as part of the Dublin Film Festival’s ‘Fantastic Fix’ this year, on February 23. I asked him about the composition, life and his earlier work…

Congratulations on the score. I understand you worked closely with the producer to break this down almost frame by frame. How complicated does that get, musically?

When it came time to fit the music to the picture, it really was just a matter of watching the film over and over again while playing the piano along with it, getting a feel for the rhythm of the story. The timing of different chapters and certain particular shots in relation to the music felt very important . . . but it was just a matter of repetition and practice until it felt just right.

I believe Mark Smith searched you out to write the music for this movie. What did you think of the film when he did so?

When Mark first reached out to me, he hadn’t even started shooting the film yet. He just had the story in his head and he seemed to know from the beginning that he wanted this particular melody from a song of mine to be used in the film. At that point, I didn’t really know much about the project, but I loved Mark’s enthusiasm and sincerity from the beginning, so I agreed to work with him from the start purely based on those things alone.

Valeras: “If it wasnt for The Rock Academy then we wouldn’t have met”

Reading youngsters Valeras are setting off on their first ever headline tour, having met at a weekend rock school in their distinctly guitar-loving hometown, and supported The Wombats, The Amazons and Demob Happy. 

Their hooky sound and deeply-personal lyrics have the band labelled as one to watch by BBC Introducing and Radio One, as well as being regulars on the lesser stages at Reading Festival. I caught up with them before their double date with Dublin later this month…

I understand this is your first headline tour. How does it compare, psychologically, to the various support slots you’ve been playing before now?

There’s slightly more pressure to getting everything the way we want it to be, but also there’s a lot more excitement because its our first headline tour. 

You quite literally went to rock school. Put aside our movie images for a minute… how well does that work for prespective musicians?

We went to more of a summer camp, it was only for a weekend and it was just like one group per day. It wasn’t quite a rock school but it was a good organisation for young people to meet other likeminded musicians. If it wasnt for The Rock Academy then we wouldn’t have met. 

Are you thinking about an album at this stage? Do you have any idea what it would be like?

We’re always writing and looking to release new music as it comes, so we’ll see where this year takes us!