I’ve known Eoghan for quite a while, first through his blog ‘The Point of Everything‘ (now on an indefinite hiatus), through which he gave me much-needed perspective on a lot of good things coming out of Cork and the rest of the country, and later through working together on the now defunct De/Code. His work eventually led to a full-time role at a newspaper, which he richly deserves, but there’s no doubt he’s kept his shoe in music wise down south, not least in releasing ‘We Play Here’, the physical manifestation of his love of the Cork music scene, through two issues in Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014 (you can, and should, still buy copies over on his website). Eoghan’s amongst the most hard-working music-loving journos I know, so it made total sense to ask him what’s getting him excited right now, especially in Cork, and how he feels the scene is holding up:
Let’s talk a little about Cork music. Obviously there are some limitations in terms of touring artists etc, but things seem to be going well down south. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the scene at the moment in your view?
I think the diversity of the Cork scene has been pretty evident for a few years. People in bands have their own tastes and are able to find likeminded people to go further with their sound. The likes of Hags, who have released one single to date, are still finding their feet after more than a year, and are delving further into Weezer-cum-Hookworms stuff. Altered Hours have been one of the best live bands in the country and have developed at their own pace. They were the first Cork band in years to play a slot at Live at the Marquee two years ago, supporting Bell X1, are playing to packed venues in Cork whenever they play these days, and are finishing their debut album. There’s years of gestation in there, but I don’t think there’s much pressure. Another Cork band finishing up their album is The Great Balloon Race, who have an excellent, enthralling live show. They kind of sound like a less loved up Grizzly Bear. I doubt they’ve had too much coverage outside of some blogs and local papers down here, but there should be a clamour for their next tour. They showcased the new album upstairs at the Oliver Plunkett last week and it was supposed to have been amazing, intense and everything I would have expected.
Are there any particular Cork acts coming through that we should keep an eye out for?
Great Balloon Race. Hags. Morning Veils. Partisan Crowds. MKAI. The Careers. Laurie Shaw (Prodigious is an understatement for this guy). Grave Lanterns.There are also so many DJs around that it’s hard to keep up.
Where would you recommend as ‘must see’ places on the Cork music scene?
I think the Triskel Arts Centre is an arts hub for new ideas. You have writers, film people, comic book creators, musicians, journos, coffee and food lovers, theatre creators, photographers all congregating under its various roofs, making new friends, creating new ideas. I think it’s the most important cultural place in the city – and it just so happens to house Plugd as well, the best little record store in which you can be insulted for liking ‘indie schmindie’ music. But Albert and Jim are stalwarts of the scene and do so much good for up and coming acts. Camden Arts Palace on the quay was doing some good stuff but that’s come to an end, I think, because the building, which had been in Nama, has been sold. So that’s a blow. Also, the Kino had reopened as an all-ages events centre but that was shortlived. So there are ebbs and flows in ‘arts centres’. Hopefully there’ll be more ebbs this year.
Coughlan’s has become the gig venue of choice in Cork, having only opened a couple years ago. It won venue of the year in 2014, and has a nice vibe to it. The people behind Coughlan’s are going to be doing the programming for upstairs at the Pavilion whenever it reopens, so I expect good things.
Down in Clonakillty, about an hour away from Cork city, lies De Barra’s Folk Club, my favourite music venue. it’s aching with history, with photos of so many stars from the 60s to the present day adorning its walls. There’s nothing fake or forced about the place, it’s all genuine. If a band you likes plays there, chances are it’ll be the best gig on their tour. Jape playing a solo gig at De Barra’s late in December 2006 is probably my favourite gig of all time.
A while back you launched We Play Here, and documented the Cork scene quite thoroughly. No doubt you were greeted with the same ‘print is dead’ reaction our project has garnered from certain quarters recently (side note: The Sunday Business Post – grateful as we were to be featured – focused heavily on their disbelief!). How did you find the experience? Did they sell well? Will there be an issue 3?
There won’t be an issue 3 purely because everybody is busy with other things – and some of the core creators are no longer living in Cork. I think the two issues stand on merit though. We made the zine before The Thin Air and GoldenPlec went physical too, so yes I will say that We Play Here served as inspiration for them. Ahem. I’d like to do another magazine, but the effort involved is huge, and if you’re one of the ‘creators’ you’re thinking – and stressing – about it non-stop. It’s a massive commitment.
I do think it’s interesting that those two web-based publications have gone physical in the past year – and for free too. That’s impressive. The thing is, I think reading music magazines is the exception rather than the norm nowadays. NME’s sales have tanked in the past three years, Mojo and Uncut are pretty stale (though there is still some great writing in all three of the magazines), Rolling Stone calling itself a ‘music bible’ is a joke. The Wire is great, though I wish it wasn’t so staid. Pitchfork has launched a magazine – well, it’s calling itself a quarterly because it’s Pitchfork – which is good; nice design and long features – something like 40 pages on Beck in issue 4. You can buy it from Rough Trade online for about €15. So there’s plenty of good writing out there, but I just wonder if the man or woman on the street is actively aware of them or do you have to shove it in their faces.
Is the Irish music scene too Dublin-centric?
In terms of coverage? I mean, it is and it isn’t. When I was doing We Play Here 1, coming up with the idea, letting it gestate, that was one of my main drivers: Why aren’t Saint Yorda (now broken up, alas) getting more love? The Dave Nelligan Thing should be talked about by loads more people! Private Underground Residence released one of the best albums of 2013 but you wouldn’t know it, because it got covered by only about three blogs or something. That sort of thing probably comes back to the band maybe needing a little more knowledge of PR (crap that PR and being in a band go so hand in hand nowadays), and maybe more gigs in Dublin to get their name out there. So I’ve mellowed a little since then, realised that not every band coming from Cork is the best thing ever – though Altered Hours are the best live band in the country; I’m adamant about that. But Dublin has nearly half the population of the country living there, more media folk, bloggers, fans, and loads more venues. So of course, in that sense, the music scene is Dublin-centric. But as bands featured in the zines pointed out to me, Ireland is too small to have one city as a whole, all encompassing scene. Carl O’Brien in the Irish Times at the weekend was writing about being a Cork person living in Dublin (the IT had a whole series on Cork. I thought it’s patronising, like ‘look at the little city down there, isn’t it cute? Let’s write about it’) and said Cork suffers from an inferiority complex, and wants Dublin to tip its hat to it more. I think there is a bit of that, alright, but I’m sure Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool, Norwich etc all think that London isn’t the be all and end all either. So it’s natural for a second city to feel a little annoyed about a lack of coverage and acknowledgement.
Music’s financial crisis is well documented. Are gigs down your way well priced do you think? And in general? What about physical releases?
How do you consume most of your music now?
What tips would you give to a new band in terms of grabbing the attention of bloggers and writers?
Make good music should be tips 1 through 9. I think most bloggers listen to all the new music they get sent (if even for a few seconds) so that does count. If the music sucks, you won’t get very far. Even though it didn’t seem to matter for Kasabian and the Enemy … Personable emails are always good. Some bands pay ridiculous amounts for a PR company to get them ‘exposure’ but really if you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to worry about that. Build your reputation first. Let them come to you. I’ve found so many new Irish bands just through people tweeting about a great show by this unknown band they’ve just seen. Have good press photographs ready to go too. An Instagram picture of you and your bandmates drunk won’t cut it.
Let’s flip the question, too. Music writing is obviously a passion for a lot of people, but very few are making worthwhile money out of it. You’ve done well in moving on to professional journalism. Do you think writers should write for free? Are most blogs worth reading?
I’ve worked in a newspaper since 2011, so apart from my blog I haven’t written for free. Newly trained journalists just out of college want whatever they can get so are willing to work for free, whether it be through internships or whatever. I know some people who’ve had great experiences on internships. But I know just as many who haven’t. So it is what you make it. I think Sarah Doran pretty much summed up my thoughts on it.
What are your plans for The Point Of Everything over the coming year? You seem to have been pretty quiet for a while now…