Fiachna Ó Braonáin and the Hothouse Flowers started out so young that it’s easy to forget they’re part of a mass of brilliant 80s bands, still flying along in front of audiences that, it seems, have grown to appreciate them ever more as the years have passed.

Breaking from a UK tour to talk to the Gazette, Ó Braonáin talks about his music with a passion that shines through: a heartfelt belief, it seems, that the band’s output now is as good as it has ever been, both live and on record.

“Every show is different. We dispensed with the notion of setlists a long time ago, so we fly by the seat of our pants, and take musical risks. It keeps it all very much alive,” Ó Braonáin says. “We know every song we’ve ever written, ready to go. At a certain point you rely on your collective musicality.”

“Look, there’s a lot of the same songs that get played most nights, the ones people want to hear, but then there’s a vast catalogue, and there’s always somebody shouting for something at the end of the night, but that’s a good situation to be in.”

“We don’t overtly bring our solo stuff back with us,” Ó Braonáin says of his recent departure, briefly, into his own private world, “but perhaps we do indirectly. These days we rely on our own energy, our own social media. I think the songs are as good as they were 35 years ago when we got the big early hits, but I find there’s a lot of affection amongst our fans for our newer stuff, too.”

“We’ve recently committed the records that we own to vinyl for the first time ever. Things have a funny half life these days, things can grow in time, and we’re enjoying playing songs from all the albums. We feel spoiled for choice.”

Hothouse Flowers are heading for Forever Young shortly, as part of a nostalgia-heavy line up, and Ó Braonáin sees it as a great experience, if a slightly odd fit.

“We had a formal break for about a year and a half in the mid-90s, and we’ve kept going since then under our own steam,” he says. “We’re constantly playing. Maybe we’re a bit different to some of  the bands that are coming back for events like Forever Young, because we’ve always been playing. I suppose you think back to the 80s, which was the most uncool era ever, and at the time we were looking back to the 60s.”

“I’ve huge affection for that era now. There’s obviously a cohort of people whose kids have all grown up who can get out and enjoy this stuff again. The festival is beautifully organised, and they’re great people. And you get to see people like Tim Wild and Heaven 17 again. They’re very warming occasions, and we tend to tap into our traditional roots at these events, which seems to connect.”

As for the future, songs are seeping into the soundchecks. “I’ve been recording the soundchecks to get the little bits of new songs,” he says, “and I’ve been writing on my days off. I get very little time for this stuff at home, so I’m busying myself on tour. There’s some amazing stuff going on in the Irish folk and trad world at the moment, and it’s great to be part of that, too. Since we started, it’s gone from the likes of Planxty to the torch being passed on to people like Lankum and Lisa O’Neil. I love what they are doing.”


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