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The Return of Something Happens

Tom Dunne’s pop-rockers are making their regular nostalgic return next week, but haven’t ruled out writing again, either…

TOM DUNNE is best known today as a jovial presenter on Newstalk radio, but in the late 80s and early 90s his band Something Happens were at the forefront of a burgeoning Irish indie music scene.

Still active today – though infrequently, their shows an ecstatic celebration of what was – Dunne recalls the heydey fondly. “Getting started at all was our greatest achievement,” he jokes. “It was an incredible dream, getting to do things you only think people like Paul McCartney get to do.”

“It was taken for granted back then, for example, that being in a rock band meant doing certain things. We played in the National Stadium, and went to LA to record an album. Those kind of things don’t happen except for really huge bands anymore. Back then you just popped by a different country. It was almost expected.”

Something Happens picked up a huge record deal back then, with the pop-rockers signing up for Virgin to release debut album ‘Been There, See That, Done That’, and making a splash in the UK and the US.

The band even had their own self-penned magazine, writing stories of their times on tour, and once featuring Daniel O’Donnell on the cover. “We had a lot of time on tour, and it was something to do,” Dunne recalls, “getting down all the funny things that happened to us. The Daniel O’Donnell one was definitely a highlight. We used to sell them at shows.”

After several years of touring, the Virgin deal was eventually to turn sour: dropped from the label, Something Happens never reached quite the same heights as they had with their debut release, but continued released new music – much of it highly acclaimed – right up until 1997.

“We’d just heard that we were getting dropped, and I walked into the newsagent and picked up NME, and we were ‘single of the week’, which was a big deal back then” Dunne tells us. “We didn’t know about it. That was an odd week, and we felt a bit lost, I think. We ended up having a very long tail as a band.”

“Love and Joy”: Loah bares her soul in launching debut EP

Loah, photo by Caolan Barron

SALLAY MATU GARNETT – better known by her stage name ‘Loah’ – has been around the Dublin music scene for quite some time. In her current, solo guise, Loah debuted in 2014, but she already had experience working with Hozier and Kila under her belt. Now, having done gigs as far afield as New York and Texan industry festival SxSW, she’s finally putting her work down on record.

“I planned to record the ‘This Heart’ EP a couple of years ago,” Loah told the Gazette. “I had most of the tracks back in 2015, but when I went to record it I just had a bad feeling. I decided to wait. In June 2016 I went up to Hellfire Studios and spent a week there. I had planned on doing it all in one go, but I decided to take longer on the vocals, and worked with Ken McCabe [of Dublin act Come On Live Long] on sorting out the arrangements.”

Matu Garnett, from Maynooth, has long flitted between an astonishingly broad assortment of projects, which probably explains much of the time taken getting her sound down on record. Self-described as ‘Art Soul’, her music explores a wide mix of genres including funk, soul, jazz, blues and afrobeat. The entire process has squeezed between work as a pharmacist, and a period in which she was working largely as a screen actor, and making music around it.

“I was acting full time at the same time as recording in 2016,” she recalls. “I struggled to keep up my steam, I’m not sure I’d recommend it. This EP is quite out there. When I was a student I used to write really happy music, but a lot of what’s on the EP explores my internal fears. It’s a lot about insecurity. When I grew up, I told my parents I wanted to be a poet, but I’ve never felt entitled to be an artist, and in some ways I’m my own worst enemy. At times it’s direct, it’s spiritual, political and painful. Not everyone will get it, and that’s fine.”

BARE in the Woods: Building a Festival From Scratch

Peter Dunne, founder of BARE In The Woods Festival

Music festivals, it’s fair to say, are on something of a relentless rise. Combining a weekend of hedonism with the opportunity to see musicians that would cost far more to see individually, the events present a risky but potentially rewarding opportunity for businessmen.

With the country’s biggest festival Electric Picnic selling out before even announcing a lineup this year, newcomers have been consistently sticking their head above the parapet – alongside BARE, festivals like Live On Air and BD Festival are nudging into the scene. BARE in the Woods, a growing event in Garryhinch Woods, Portarlington, is perhaps the most successful newcomer.

“We launched in 2014 with a single day ‘taster’”, organiser Peter Dunne told us. “It was really just getting people to buy into the concept, but it was also great experience for us. It’s been a slow burner, but I worked a lot on the other side of things, as a band manager, and so I understand what it’s like. It’s a slow process building trust with the acts [it’s worth noting that a couple of new Irish festivals have shut down in recent years, often without paying the performers], we just make sure we send them home happy. Now we have a lot of acts emailing us asking if they can come back again.”

“For me, it’s like seeing the festival experience from the other side of the fence. There’s a lot of correspondence, and you really have to pull together,” he says of the process. “I’ve learned a few tricks, and we’ve brought a lot of experienced heads into our top team. We’ve been using a system called Mobstar [a musical talent platform], which has made it far easier to pick acts we’re interested in for the festival.”

Built from the land: Daithi’s journey from reality TV musician to unique dance star

Daithí – Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

AT 27 YEARS of age, Clare musician Daithi O’Dronai has already been through more phases of his career than many manage in a lifetime. Developing from a young fiddle player to a reality TV show star, then onwards to a Sony-signed, offbeat-pop performer and finally a unique and soulful dance act, he’s a hard man to pin down.

Recently relocated to Dublin, the man who simply uses the stage name Daithi’s latest incarnation is nevertheless a profound tribute to the rural roots that connect him tightly with the Burren, and Irish landscape.

“When I was writing the pop stuff I was doing my best to write these perfectly little three-minute pop songs,” Daithi explains of his Sony album, and subsequent departure from the label. “I lost my angles. I enjoyed it at the time, but I kind of lost my identity,” he recalls.

The departure from a major outlet like Sony was, no doubt, a tough call, but one Daithi made on the basis that he didn’t feel able to create things with purely commercial aims like radioplay in mind. His next single – a sentimental track called ‘Mary Keane’s Introduction,’ based around a dance remix of an interview with his 90-year-old grandmother – ironically turned out to be his most acclaimed.

“It was a sign,” he said. “The new record leans more heavily into that idea. I was at a point where I wasn’t even sure I was going to keep making music after Sony to be honest. The thing I fell into was the idea that I was working towards a success of some kind. I’ve started releasing what makes me excited after that track. That seems really simple, but it was a revelation to me.”

“Power, belonging and the need to be heard:” an introduction to Irish hip-hop

 

Photo by Emma Hopkins

From creeping into the mainstream through the likes of Rubberbandits, Super Extra Bonus Party and featuring in Love/Hate, to the Rusangano Family’s debut album taking home the Choice Music Prize earlier this month: the rise of Irish hip-hop has been as dramatic as it has been unlikely.

It helped, of course, that the rise of the scene fell alongside a massive recession instigated in part through regulatory failure, repressively rising urban rents and mass social protests. Angry, pointed voices sat naturally with their new audience. As Dublin-based hip-hop star Temper-Mental MissElayneous tells it: “It’s hunger that’s causing hip-hop’s boom. It’s also identification with the social dynamics of the birthplace and creators of hip-hop, and a willingness to learn and lead. But we value cultural identity and the lyrical Irish roots: saints and scholars. Poverty, loss and grievance.”

While on the poppier end of the spectrum, Temper-Mental embodies much of what’s strong about the budding Irish scene: a distinctly locally-accented sound, quick wit, cultural references and original beats. In ‘Create the Pain to Alleviate It’, she shows her depth, with the imagery of rotting apple cores set against a world of social and gender politics: “questioning, self loathing, dissatisfaction, doubt… We refuse to believe we’re animals yet… Poets once honoured are now in McDonalds, a dozen a dime.”

Temper-Mental identifies many of the topics of Irish political discourse as her themes, singling out misogyny, heterosexism, God, transformation and pain as her core elements.

“It’s a cultural revolutionary movement,” she explains. “It’s on the concrete, on the corner, it’s in classrooms, yards, youth clubs, community art centres, it’s in prison, in the bedroom studio, on the stairwell, down the lane and held privately in a heart’s rhythm waiting to be translated to words.”
A distinctly accented, smart-quipping artist who rose alongside Temper-Mental MissElayneous at the height of the recession in 2011/2012,
Lethal Dialect has a harsher dynamic to his sound and also cites local cultural figures as key influences in his lyrics, nodding in particular Irish folk star Damien Dempsey.

Despite being three albums into his career, the rapper admits “I’m only really finding my own sound now. There’s some old stuff where you could nearly tell what I was listening to at the time.” His north Dublin lilt and conceptual approach to albums, however, have often stood out.

Overpriced: How Ticket Touting is Pushing Out Irish Punters

A Face in the CrowdISSUES SURROUNDING TICKET RESALES are growing again in Dublin, as the highly-profitable secondary ticket market ramps up for the summer peak.

Ticket touting remains legal in Ireland, though Fine Gael TD Noel Rock recently put forward a motion looking to criminalise the resale of tickets at above their official price. Since his tabling of the bill earlier this year, Rock has received protesting submissions from the likes of the IDA, Ireland’s Foreign Direct Investment body. The IDA highlight the value of the companies leading the market – some of whom have Irish headquarters – to our economy.

For punters, though, this is a growing problem. Companies such as Viagogo and Seatwave (the latter a Ticketmaster-owned company whose resale options appear on the Ticketmaster website, highlighted once the original offering is sold out) are highly profitable agencies. Intentionally or otherwise, the companies seem to incentivise the buying of popular tickets for the explicit purpose of resale.

This is particularly prevalent with big-name gigs. A ticket for U2 in Croke Park this summer, for example, starts at €240 on Seatwave at the time of writing (face value €44), and goes up as high as €1,000 (face value €200). Ed Sheeran – who has personally spoken out against above face-value reselling this month on his Twitter account – has seen tickets for his 3Arena date listed at over €600 each (face value €77), while a ticket to Ireland’s potential Six Nations decider against England will set you back almost €1,200 after booking fees (face value €60).

In the case of J.Cole, whose 3Arena date sold out shortly after going on sale in late February, tickets were on Seatwave ahead of the show’s swift sell out. With such a quick turnaround allowed, and highly inflated prices, it’s hard to believe these tickets were not bought with profit in mind. In some cases, the reselling company stands to make more in resale fees than the total original ticket price.

Overhead, The Albatross. Savage.

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Q & A: Amanda St John

amandastjohnFrom a cover band star to the release of acclaimed, self-penned debut album ‘Grow’, Amanda St John’s transformation owes a lot to a near death experience, one that forced her to reconsider her musical direction and put everything on the line. A lesson in making the best of a bad hand,  results so far include a funded tour and becoming the unlikely star of an Australian advertising campaign. I caught up with the soulful Antrim native ahead of her Dublin gig this weekend…

– You describe a life changing moment that got you performing your own work after years of playing covers. What happened, and how did it change you?

I had a near-death experience in a car accident about 6 years ago when my car went 300ft over the side of a mountain close to where I live. I was unconscious with a bad head injury and no pulse when the emergency services arrived. This sounds very dramatic but I remember a battle within myself to live or die and I fought for my life. I vowed that if I got out of it that I wouldn’t waste another moment and that I’d live my life to the fullest. It changed me in so many ways as it gave me a better perspective and gratitude for life which has liberated me from my negative thinking and the feeling that I’m not good enough that held me back for years. In a funny way it has been a very positive and inspiring experience for me.

– Did you have much of your own music before you had your accident?

I used to write a lot when I was in my teens and early twenties but it was always such a struggle. I used to try so hard to write a song and come up with ideas and I literally thought that they were all rubbish so I lost my confidence and just stopped. I spent the next 15 years singing in cover bands and I had only started writing again shortly before the accident (about 10 years later) but again I was still finding the writing process and completing songs quite difficult. Since the accident I have totally committed to myself for what feels like the first time and the difference is staggering. It’s like someone’s opened the flood gates and I can’t stop the ideas coming now! I had only recorded rough demos too so it’s only since the accident that I’ve pursued it as a career and got proper recordings out there.

Andy Wilson and the Longshots: on football, music and Euro2016

andywilsonLast month, I put together an article for Bandcamp on the Euros and music, which was a whole lot of fun, and is due to run in another week or so. For that article, I interviewed ten different acts from all around Europe on their take on football, the story behind their songs and a few other things about France 2016. One particular interview stood out, so rather than take just the best few lines from it and leave things at that, I thought I’d throw it up here. Here’s Andy Wilson and the Longshots talking about Ireland and ‘Summer of ’16’

Tell me a little bit about ‘Summer of ’16’

I wrote the song immediately after we qualified. We qualified on the Monday night after the Paris attacks, so I suppose emotions were running high. By Tuesday night, I had most of it written and finished it within the week. I had loads more verses, for example the topical easter verse‘ In the easter of ’16, we rebelled against the queen, well actually it was a king, but that doesn’t rhyme with green’. But I managed to shape it into what it is now. It comes from my love of the songs that were around in the early 90s. Liam Harrison’s give it a lash Jack. Joxer goes to Stuttgart by Christy Moore. It’s not the same now, the game has changed, Ireland has changed. There hasn’t been a decent one for a while. ill Thraps were good in 2012 with ‘We All Get Nil Together’. Shows how optimistic we were then. There’s a slightly stronger sense of optimism this year. I thought I’d at least have a go. I was laughing out loud while writing it.

I sat on it for months though, wondering what to do with it. Almost forgot about it really. I sang it for a friend, Chris, before Christmas, who absolutely loved it and kept asking me when I was gonna record it. By March he was really starting to get on my case. He gave me a ticket to the opening Cork City game of the season and we went as neutrals (he’s from Wexford, me a UCD fan from Dublin). After the game, we’d had a few pints and there was the opportunity to play a song in the pub (the beer garden in Turner’s cross, where I very rarely have a pint). After 4 or 5 pints I find it difficult to not seize such an opportunity. It steadies me! So I told Chris I’d play it, got up, and did it. The reaction was fairly shocking. Everyone loved it.

I’d watched the draw in my local, Coughlan’s, where I’d watched us qualify and where we made the video. It’s more of a rugby pub than a soccer pub, so there wasn’t a huge interest in the draw. As i sat at the bar I felt like the only one who cared, until in came Ray and Geraldine Barron, husband and wife, professional musicians and very nice people. While we sat at the bar watching a difficult draw transpire, I lightened the mood by reciting the verses I could remember from my song and it helped us settle the nerves. I’d done a little recording with Ray before and really enjoyed working with him, so, months after sharing those nervous moments in Coughlan’s, filled with confidence that the song was worth putting down, I called Ray and asked if he’d help me out.