The Winter Codes are a folk duo fronted by Barney Murray, who also fronts Celtic punk band Blood Or Whiskey. Their new record, due out in August, is a tribute to the other member’s brother. David Walshe’s sibling Paul Walshe passed away a decade ago, and ‘Set The Darkness Reeling’ is a tribute to his memory.
Collaborations on the record include Daithi Meila from the Irish/ bluegrass band Jig Jam, folk singer Lisa Loughrey, and engineer Sean Montgomery. I spoke to the pair ahead of its release…
First of all, congrats on the new outlet. How does it differ from Blood Or Whiskey, style wise, from your perspective?
This album is way more folk-y than previous stuff. It is much less Punk and way more Pop influenced. It could be called Trad/ Pop.
I understand the whole record is a tribute to David’s brother. Did that make it emotional to record?
It did make it emotional for us, because I think that in the back of our minds we were thinking “what would Paul think of this?” I think that he would be very happy with the way it came out . We still miss him, he was a great brother and friend as well as being a brilliant musician.
Is any particular track on the record the most personal to you, and why?
The most personal track on the album for me is Friend In Tullamore. It is very autobiographical for me. I moved from Leixlip to Tullamore years ago and I feel that it was the town that gave me a second chance and maybe the song is my way of saying thanks for that.
What can we expect from the full length album when it comes out?
I think you can expect an album which is mostly original stuff from us with a few traditional songs thrown in. We try to keep our music upbeat, catchy and fairly sing-along because that is the type of music that we like to listen to ourselves. We put huge effort into getting the sound right and I think it shows when we listen to it now. The new single to be released along with the album is ‘Troublesome Girl’.
How did you use Paul’s music in the record?
We were able to use Paul’s music on the album because we had made rough demos of the songs (usually into very basic recording equipment), which the sound engineer was able to adopt and mix into some of the tracks. He did a great job mixing it all together, it can’t have been easy and we are delighted with the way it came out.
How have you adapted or used the folkier elements of the record from classic Irish tracks?
We used a lot of folk instruments on the album. We had some great people in the studio with us. Many of them were traditional musicians in their own right. They were a joy to work with.
You shot the video for your single in the Cobblestone, which of course was only saved from becoming part of a hotel by a campaign a few months back. How valuable are those kinds of spaces to musicians?
We shot the video in The Cobblestone long before the controversy over making it part of a hotel erupted. There was a big outcry and the whole idea was shelved, thankfully. I think it is very important that these type of establishments are protected, there aren’t that many of them in Dublin so I think we should hold on to what we have.
Tell me about the collaborations on the record and how they happened…
There were many collaborations on the album, but the one that stands out is the folk singer Lisa Loughrey singing ‘Troublesome Girl’. What happened was that we had done it with me singing it and we thought we needed someone else instead so we contacted Lisa to see if she knew anyone who would fit the bill. None of them were suitable and then we had the brainwave of asking Lisa to sing it herself. She sang it so well and really made it her own. She was great to work with. The title of the album, ‘Set The Darkness Reeling’, was taken from a line in that song.
What are your hopes for The Winter Codes going forward?
Our hopes going forward are to get the album out to as many people as we can. We have been getting positive feedback already. It’s actually two years later than we hoped to bring it out but with covid the whole thing got delayed. I would love to see the album do well and maybe make another one sometime in the future.