GLEN HANSARD’S starring role in the 2007 movie ‘Once’ is semi autobiographical: the Dublin icon did in fact rise from playing his guitar on Grafton Street to headlining major stages, fronting The Frames, and eventually to New York’s theatrical stages, too.
The Riptide Movement – a somewhat more snarling, riff-loving outfit than Hansard’s laid back group – can trace something of a similar trajectory, though their reasons for taking to Grafton Street were perhaps a little more practical.
“We haven’t busked in a while,” guitarist and vocalist Mal Tuohy laughs. “We wrote our first album around the time that CDs were starting to sell a little less well, about ten years ago. We were a bit optimistic, and we ordered 10,000 of them. It was very naive, looking back.”
“They weren’t selling anything like enough in the shops, so we went out and played on Grafton Street as a way to sell the CDs. They were gone within the year, and we got shows in Russia and India out of it. I think we learnt to entertain on the streets, too, how to hold a crowd, so it worked out in the end.”
That debut album ‘What About The Tip Jars’ did chart at an impressive number 16 in Ireland, and everything the band have done since has done better. All three follow up albums charted in the top ten, including a number one with 2014’s ‘Getting Through’.
In a sense, though, the band have left the idea of an album behind them, at least for now. “People don’t really think in terms of albums anymore,” Tuohy says, with The Riptide Movement having released a flurry of singles over recent years. “In a way we’re an album band; each one if kind of a snapshot of two years of our lives, and we’ll probably have one out next year. It can be better, though, to release an EP with a couple of hits instead.”
“Six songs on an EP can give an idea of what we’re about, and it’s better for getting on playlists, connecting with Spotify, that kind of thing. To my generation, the idea of a CD is a bit foreign, you can’t put those one hundred or so tracks on a playlist from CDs. When it comes to albums, a lot of albums have streaming counts that are really heavily weighted to two or three songs. That’s after two years of your life, a two year cycle. It feels a bit strange.”
Recently, The Riptide Movement have also added an environmental element to their work, something which is slowly filtering through every aspect of their lives, too. Their track ‘Plastic Oceans’ has a message that is probably implicit in its title, but the band have gone out of their way to live that message, too.
“There are lots of small changes you can make,” Tuohy says, “and people are becoming more aware. For us, things like food packaging can be very bad when you’re on tour. We’ve changed our tour rider to say that there shouldn’t be any plastic, and that water should be served in glasses, stuff like that. On tour we bring our own bottles and cups, and have our crew doing the same. When you’re on the road all day, each having a few coffees, it adds up to a bit of a difference.”
Having come from street routes, that connection with the people and the adaptation required to survive is still there. It’s simply changed form.