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The Lee Harveys: Protest Punk.

AS THEIR NAME might suggest, Dublin punks The Lee Harveys – made up of musicians who have been hanging around the Irish punk scene since the early 80s – were originally very much about American political protest songs. An odd niche for a Dublin-based band, perhaps, if one most punks would agree offers fertile ground.

The band are angry, firing off two-minute, politically potent tracks on themes like Israel and Palestine, gun crime and a certain Donald Trump. Their latest EP, due shortly, is entitled ‘Resistance is Not Terrorism’, and – amongst other themes – rounds on Eurovision’s visit to Israel with an ‘alternative Eurovision’ track.

“One of things that I loved about the Dead Kennedy’s was the sense of mischief they had, and that’s what we’re doing here, throwing the cat amongst the pigeons,” guitarist Peter Jones says of the song. “It’s not against the Eurovision, it’s in support of Palestine.”

“We’re not against the Israeli people, we’re against what’s happening over there. I think it’s like holding the Eurovision on the Shankill Road in the middle of the troubles,” Bitzy Fitzgerald explains.

“We have submitted the track to RTE, but we haven’t had a response. I’m not sure we really wanted one. But the whole thing was to make a point about it, really, a bit of subversion and a bit of craic.”

There’s a real punk ethos to the way the Lee Harveys release their music, too, with circumstances seeing the band cram their new ‘EP’ with old classics because they can.

The Once: High on Harmonies

WITH DUBLIN TRADFEST heading into town in the coming week, the chance to explore folk scenes from outside our own borders is one that looms large. Newfoundland is an unlikely hotbed, and one of their hottest properties, The Once, are one of the acts from outside our own shores that will be dropping into Dublin.

Those Newfoundland origins are at the forefront of the band’s very existence, too. “Most of the people that came before us are immigrants that came from France or Ireland to Newfoundland,” Geraldine Hollett, one of the band’s vocal trio, explains.

“They brought the music with them. In the 90s there was a ‘Celtic Revival’ and that music is definitely influenced by the Irish. We even sound like you in certain communities. When we hit Wexford, we can find people that look like us.”

Their connections, especially on most recent album ‘Time Enough’, come not just from the music, but from a haunting, minimalist approach to lyrics.

“It’s a conscious choice, especially for this album,” Hollett says of the toned-down approach. “We wanted to make an intimate album. We wanted the meaning of the words to get into your head to haunt and then to comfort.”

“Mostly they were written for anyone who has experienced love, loss, anxiety, low self worth and apathy. So, everyone. It was difficult, yes. Stripping things bare leaves us so exposed. We aren’t that comfortable running around naked these days. But we know how important it is to be real. You do really question if it’s good enough. You have to trust that if it comes from a real and honest place, it will reach those it was intended for and not be hurt by the ones it wasn’t.”

Joshua Radin: From TV to Your Radio

Joshua Radin is one of those singers that a lot of people know without realising they do. A sentimental, storytelling singer-songwriter known for his living-room-like stage setup and soulful themes, Radin’s found a niche in TV music: the background to heartfelt scenes in medical dramas ranging from House to Grey’s Anatomy, and summer teen outings like One Tree Hill.

The Cleveland, Ohio Native’s biggest album came in 2008. Smash hit second LP ‘Simple Times’, sold close to half a million copies, and he’s been living on the same simple premise ever since.

“All my songs are pretty much journal entries set to music,” Radin tells us. “I think that’s why people respond to them. Because if you’re making yourself vulnerable as a writer, you connect to more human beings”

“I pretty much listen to my dad’s old vinyl collection. A lot of Beatles, Paul Simon, Sam Cooke, Van Morrison. My style hasn’t really changed so much over the years. I am who I am. I don’t have plans to change.”

The TV show appearances have drawn in much of Radin’s audience, and come almost out of the blue, perhaps attracted by the emotional and self-examining content of his music. This pours out in tracks like ‘I’d Rather Be With You’, the video for which was directed by Scrubs star Zach Braff, or the Sunday-morning happy buzz of album tracks like ‘Friend Like You’.

“The TV stuff comes about when I release an album and then get contacted by someone who wants to use a song in something,” Radin explains. “It’s great exposure for someone like me who is completely independent, because I don’t have the label machine pushing my songs on to the radio.”

The Ten Best Acts I Saw at Boomtown Fair 2018

Wow, what a festival! I’m hoping to get to a full review of the madness that was Boomtown 2018 later (because a review would only be at most half about music, which is a great sign for a festival in my view), but for now I’m going with what’s become the traditional ‘best bands’ post, which, to be honest, I write as much for the benefit of my ailing memory as anything else.

As you’ll probably gather from the below, I’m not someone who was drawn to Boomtown by its massive beat-driven lineup, though I did enjoy a few non-descript DJs later in the evenings. I found the glory in it to lie largely elsewhere, from obscure tents where 40 people watched gorgeous jazz sets, to comedy guitar northerners playing to mud-splattered courtyards. In fact, I approached this in a different way to almost any other festival I’ve ever been to.

We skipped out on Gorillaz after two tracks, as we couldn’t get close enough to the main stage to hear them at a decent volume (perhaps the festival’s only major flaw aside from uncontrollable weather was the main stage sound). I only saw three acts that appear on the top five lines of the line-up poster (see right). But this was all kind of epic. Here are my highlights, from the obvious to the less so…

Sleaford Mods

Sure, I’m probably telling you nothing with this one – the secret’s long since out – but what a band, despite one of the two of them basically spending the whole set pressing play on  Macbook. Charisma by the bucketload, controlled anger and viciously brilliant lyrics that forcefully takedown culture’s ills. I could watch Sleaford Mods running commentary on British culture unfold for an age, an hour wasn’t enough…

Capdown

I used to watch Capdown play tiny pub back room stages in Salisbury as a teenager and bounce like an idiot, so I headed along to their set on Saturday night largely for the nostalgia trip. Little did I know they’d grown wings, converted the always excellent buzz track Ska Wars (below) into a real belter, and were now able to fill a really quite chunky stage with manic fans. It went off. Class.

Abner Browns: The Little Barbershop that Can

A Face in the Crowd

AN UNLIKELY and in many ways unintended success story in the heart of Rathmines, Abner Browns Barbershop – opened just five years ago – has become a fairytale at the heart Dublin music.

Today, the venue is hosting regular bring-your-own-beer events and expanding into festivals, documentaries and more sizeable venues, but the musically-themed barbers started out as owner Dave Judge’s post-crash last resort.

“I’d been a businessman for 20 years, and I lost everything in the crash,” he said. “Everything except the shop. I didn’t have a penny, and I picked up some records on sale in a local shop in Rathmines, hung a guitar above an old couch, and opened up the barbers.”

“The first gig happened really quickly. It was a Canadian singer called Blair Packham, who came in for a hair cut, talked about his music and we decided he’d play sat on the couch the next Saturday. Another guy saw him, and came in the next week. Within four weeks, I had people in every weekend playing music. It started so fast, and to this day I’ve never asked anyone to play. They always come to me.”

Judge himself used to play in bands, but describes himself as “a general businessman” who left music behind years ago. “I’m organised and good with people,” he explains. “A lot of musicians aren’t, their brains work in different ways, so we fit well together. People say I’m one of those people who gets stuff done.”

The process has been entirely organic – “it’s great marketing,” Judge admits, “but that’s not why I do it. I love it. Almost every gig someone will come up to me with an idea about monetising the shows, but it’s a community thing. I don’t want to turn it into something else.”

In the few years that it’s been going, Abner’s – currently temporarily shifted a few doors down from its normal location on Rathgar Road for the duration of a roof replacement on what Judge jokingly calls “the mouldy green room” – has had some serious highs. Michael Stipe of REM dropped in a couple of years ago having heard about the place, while Northern Irish pop-rockers Ash are amongst the acts to have played for free on a floor cleared of its hairdressing equipment.

A film about the barbers entitled ‘More Than A Barbershop’ – actually the third to be released, alongside regular footage of in-house gigs – is currently doing the rounds at film festivals ahead of public release next year, and Judge’s influence is quickly growing beyond his own walls.

Ash. In a barber shop. Unreal.

A post shared by James Hendicott (@jameshendicott) on

In Concert: The Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community

in-concertJust a quick post to draw your attention to this book, ‘In Concert, Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community’, produced by Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy of Hope Publications, for which I wrote a short article sometime last year.

In it, loads of Irish music folks from the world of journalism, gig promotion and of course bands themselves (myself included) talk about their favourite gig to take place in Ireland. All the profits go to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Syrian refugees.

As Niall wrote ahead of the launch, the book came about as a result of seeing pictures from the town of Aleppo, which as you’re no doubt aware has been absolutely bombarded over the past five years.

I’ve ordered my copy, and was lucky enough to see the book in draft form ahead of publication. It’s a real ‘who’s who’ of people involved in music over here (well, and me!), with over 100 different contributors talking about gigs spread across several decades. It goes without saying, none of us were paid for our contributions (charity being a special case!), and while there’s a number of more obvious contributions (yes, it features U2 several times), you might learn a little bit about some less-publicised Irish acts, too. I wrote about Dropkick Murphy’s – you’ll have to read it to find out why.

Grab a copy at the link above for €15, and you’ll get a great read and be doing a little bit of good along the way…

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.

Music Alliance Pact: December 2015

music alliance pact

Kingdom of Crows have just released their debut album ‘The Truth Is The Trip’, which is available as a free download here. They first came to my attention through a gorgeous cover of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’, and remind me a little of the operatic, dramatised styles of the likes of Placebo and the acts that soundtracked Donnie Darko: deep, brooding rock.

‘Elizabeth’ is taken from the album, and you can grab it below alongside sixteen other tracks from around the globe. Why wouldn’t you…

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 17-track compilation through Dropbox here.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing
Kingdom Of CrowsElizabeth
A dark, conceptual rock band working with soundscapes that fall somewhere between Placebo and Kate Bush, Kingdom Of Crows are a Dublin act on the rise. Debut album The Truth Is The Trip arrived on Halloween, and its heavy yet stripped back sound is making suitably slow-building waves. One for a moody day staring through rain-spattered windows.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Rubin y Los SubtituladosAdiós, Torino
This year marked Zonaindie’s 10th birthday, so for this last MAP of 2015 we wanted to share a track from Rubin y Los Subtitulados’s first album, Esperando El Fin Del Mundo, which was released during our first year as a music blog. Adios, Torino is a beautiful ballad and one of our favorite songs by this great songwriter from Buenos Aires. We recommend all of his discography, which is avaliable on Bandcamp.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
JaalaSalt Shaker
Salt Shaker is the second single from Melbourne art-punk Cosima Jaala’s debut album, Hard Hold. It tracks the troubles Jaala has coming to grips with her upbringing in a far-flung suburb on Brisbane’s coastal fringe. The lyricism of this track is emblematic of the raw earnestness you hear across the entire album, with Jaala seemingly pulling melody out of thin air. The unpredictable spikes and troughs keep you engaged throughout, as if you needed any more reason other than her finely executed vocal gymnastics. The track is a refreshingly honest account of a troubled time that avoids indie tropes and turns complex emotions into a beautiful song.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Alice CaymmiComo Vês
Como Vês is the opening track of Alice Caymmi’s 2014 album Rainha Dos Raios. Born into a family of famous musicians, Alice is surrounded by some of the most prominent artists in Rio de Janeiro and contributes to Brazilian pop music (known as MPB) with contemporary electronics and experimentation.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
TennysonLike What?
Tennyson are the adorably young brother and sister duo Luke and Tess. Creators of playful electronic music, they recently appeared on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs series and come from the same management camp as Hemsworth and BADBADNOTGOOD. The young people will take over the world.