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Odd Numbers: “I could easily spend a couple of hours searching for old soul or jazz samples to flip”

Odd Numbers is the stage name of Odhran O’Brien, a Carlow man currently working hard in the sparkling North Dublin Irish hip-hop scene, where his debut album ‘The Golden Éire Tapes Vol. 1’ serves up a shiny collaboration with many of the scene’s stars.

O’Brien’s role is in laying down the beats, with the likes of Hazey Haze, Local Boy, Sea High and Wallfella offering the lyrical backdrop. The result is a little like a compilation, held together by Odd Numbers’ consistently memorable backdrop.

“The idea was born from my goal of working with as many artists as I could” Odd Numbers explains. “I love collaborating with other people, not only because I can tap into their fanbase and connections, but because they can bring a whole new energy and feeling to a project. It also challenges me to create styles and sounds that I wouldn’t normally consider so I’m inadvertently levelling up my production skills in the process.” 

“Everyone involved in the project are artists that I’ve held in high regard for their creative output. A number of them are friends that I’ve made through gigging, while others are just dominating the scene in their respective areas.”

“Aside from the features, I really owe it to the Arts Council for bringing this project to life. It’s been a tough time for everyone involved in the music industry recently but they’ve been monumental in supporting independent artists like myself. It fills me with pride knowing that they saw promise in a collection of underground rap tunes.”

O’Brien is particularly taken with the local hip-hop scene in Swords and other areas of Dublin, and hopes to work towards expanding what’s going on.

My Top Five Books of 2021

Back again with my one annual post; not New Year’s resolutions, or more music interviews, or anything like that, but an aside into the best books I’ve read all year. I’ve actually read less this year than normal. In fact, I’ve only recently found myself able to read at ‘book length’ again when I’m not required to by my work after our daughter arrived: I was so tired I read almost nothing of note for three months.

Nonetheless, I got through 45 or so books, so the top five is still a fairly high bar, and I found this a little difficult to whittle down. There’s been a lot of sport and music, a couple of dozens novels, and some books that I only read at all as I was reviewing them (none made the list – make of that what you will).

Here are the top five…

(while you’re here, check out my top books from previous years: 2020, 201920182017, and 2016).

Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd by Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson is one of those authors who I borderline ‘follow’ – at least to the point where if I see a title I haven’t read, I will grab it. He’s a surrealist, and a brilliant storyteller with it, taking these quirky characters through tales usually set in Sweden that are, underneath it all, ridiculous, but compelling nonetheless.

In this one, Jonasson creates a ‘son’ character who is ‘disposed of’ by his unloving father in the middle of African Savannah, but returns to haunt him, combining with other characters from the dad’s pretty aggressively miserable life to ruin his business years later. Alongside this, the group come up with a planned business to take revenge on behalf of others, a popular if controversial model which takes them in all kinds of ridiculous directions. It’s silly, but I absolutely love it.

Bobby Gillespie: “I sing about pain, suffering”

Primal Scream frontman and iconic rock vocalist Bobby Gillespie has taken a long-building aside with his latest release, a collaboration with the frontwoman of French band Savages, Jehnny Beth.

Gillespie’s typical style is set aside on the record, which is more slow-paced yet lyrically cutting, play off emotional heartbreak and making use of a dynamic that essential fuses the two vocalist’s bands, but creates a hybrid with a mellower tone and poetic lyricism that falls slightly outside of either of their norms. The result, new album ‘Utopian Ashes’, is something Gillespie is exceptionally proud of.

“I think I wrote the majority of the lyrics. I know the concept came from me,” he says. “When you write songs, it’s a mixture of autobiography, fiction, observation and life experience all mixed up to tell a story. Jehnny Beth’s background is in theatre, so she sees it as characters, I think. My aesthetic comes from somewhere else, I like to sing about things that I’ve experienced, I sing about pain, suffering… I think I have poetic license, to use an old cliche. I can take incidents from real life and dramatise them.”

“There are many literary techniques that can be used to cover your tracks. I want people to hear it and know that I mean it when I sing, that there’s a meaning, a lived experience and a pain behind it. I hope that other people can relate their own experiences to the songs.”

“I’m not nervous about releasing records anymore. I hope I don’t sound egocentric, right, but I really believe it’s a very strong piece of work. It’s good art, I’m very proud of it, and I’m just glad that it will finally be released, out in the world, where I hope people enjoy it, and it means something to people. It’s the music that I should be making at this point in my life. It’s a serious, grown up record and I’m very proud to be involved in it, and of everyone else involved in it. It’s stellar work. I can’t wait for it to be out. I was able to express a lot of the stuff that I really wanted to say.”

In recent years, Gillespie has become every more politically vocal on social media, and he’s keen to emphasize his regard for Ireland, and his dislike of the current UK elite.

Post-Party: “There’s definitely Something big on the horizon”

As one of those acts that were just building up a head of steam when the music industry shut down entirely at the start of the pandemic, Post-Party have been thrown into an interesting time of career conundrum. How, for example, do you maintain a reputation as a massive live band, whilst keeping your name out there in the midst of an enforced sabbatical?

It’s turned out they have the answers. With latest single ‘Wasting Time’ lighting up Spotify playlists and previous effort ‘Being Honest’ featuring on cult TV show Made In Chelsea in recent months, the Dublin four-piece are building towards something bigger than a single, and have uncovered a passion for video production along the way, too.

“There’s definitely something big on the horizon,” they say. “In terms of new songs, we have loads in the bank, we’re just waiting for the right time to release them into the world.”

“It usually starts out with one of us writing the bones of a song, and bringing it to someone else in the band,” they say of the process of producing their music. “They may add more ideas. We usually jam it out in a rehearsal and see how far we can get with it, and if we’re happy we’ll bring it into Logic and start to fine line out parts separately. Keelan will then add his magic touch and we’ll have a great sounding demo that can communicate our ideas fully to our producers.”

Returning to that production process, and the stage, will be key for the boisterous pop-rockers. “It’s definitely not been fun,” they say. “We went from playing Electric Picnic and supporting Miles Kane to not even being able to see each other. We’re gonna be rehearsing together constantly for the next couple of months until we finally get back to gigging.”

“When you want to release music at the highest quality, the industry is very financially straining, especially when there’s no live shows. The only real source of income for artists is sync deals and streaming revenue. Although these days, with a DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] and a great producer, you can do anything.”

Baba Music: “As a woman I have found you have to fight and fight to be heard”

Lyndsey Putt Photography

Siobhan Lynch – or Baba Music, when she’s performing – is keen to be an icon for social change, and that filters through to her music. Self-examining but also socially conscious, she writes music that reflects where her heart sits, and explores her impact on the world, and the world’s impact on her.

In new single ‘Keep You Safe’, for example, Lynch reflects on the vulnerable and how she can be there for them, pouring her beliefs into the words she delivers.

“‘And they try to shame the skin you’re in, until you shed. Black, white, fat, trans, perfect 10, they’re afraid’… I love these lyrics from the new track ‘Keep You Safe’,” Lynch tells me. They came to me really quickly after writing the melody.” 

“As a woman I have found you have to fight and fight to be heard and listened to. We are always too fat, too skinny, too loud, too quiet. The list goes on. So for me, accepting that this might be a fact of life gave me a certain freedom, I could let myself off the hook a little, everything wasn’t always my fault. Unfortunately it is a way of the world, not to say that it’s right or should be tolerated but to think in those terms, makes it easier to keep fighting to be heard…”

It’s not just the single that will reflect these beliefs. As Lynch moves forward – both back towards performing live, and with the production of a record she hopes might appear some time next year – she will continue to address her own realities deeply within her music.

“I find it difficult to write about anything that hasn’t affected me, everything I write about are things I’ve heard, seen or felt.” Lynch says. “I am an extremely curious person, I go to counselling once a week and I love finding out about what makes me feel a certain way, or why I might behave or react in a certain way and that really helps my writing.” 

Three Underneath: “A lot of my lyrics are sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek or at the very least, cynical”

Dublin rockers Three Underneath have been one of those slow-building bands, a set up that have taken six years to get a debut album, preferring to make their noise live instead.

It’s paid off, too, with their ambitious self-titled debut album launched recently to ample comparison to the Foo Fighters, and a digital version (click the name above) available with a full digital ‘festival’ on their website. I spoke to them about it all just as the album came out…

First of all, talk me through the debut – a long time coming, what can we expect?

Yes, a long time coming! But this is our calling card. Our real debut! There’s 11 tracks total. A couple are written upon early demos, but most of the album was written last year. We were delighted to get to work with Aidan Cunningham [Overhead, The Albatross and The Scratch] because he has a really unique, analogue sound. A lot of the album was recorded at my home studio which is all digital, so him mixing the vocals and then mastering the whole thing made everything beautifully balanced out. Legend!

What will you consider a success for the record?

We’re giving the album away for free! The digital version anyway. Not “pay what you like” either, completely free. We’re pressing 1000 copies of the physical album, in high quality print, limited edition. I have no doubt these will sell out, but a true success will be hearing the songs sung back at our live shows. The album inlay has gorgeous artwork and all the lyrics printed. The record is the homework! Get learning…

Let’s allow for short attention spans… if listeners are going to check out one of your tracks, what should they listen to?

My personal favourite is ‘You’ve Been Had’, the intro track on the record. For our YouTube fans, that’s the “Bank Robbery” video. But I’ve been told by many that ‘All You Can Do’ is the catchiest. That was a really early demo that we then worked on again last year.

Crowded House: “We were trying to get back into that almost teenage mindset of making a racket with an electric guitar”

Nick Seymour, bassist in Australiasian stars Crowded House, has been riding the coronavirus outbreak with us here in Ireland. A long-time resident of Sligo, Seymour and his band were making a new record when the coronavirus crisis hit, and Seymour steamed home to Ireland’s west coast, while the record production went on digitally. 

The band are highly international in their approach now, but their first record in a decade, ‘Dreamers Are Waiting’, is nevertheless atypical of their approach, and saw the incorporation of new members.

“We started out recording the album in November 2019,” Seymour explains, “in Los Angeles. We went into a rehearsal room and tried to make sense of some of the ideas being tabled as potential songs, and jam our way into arrangements and so on. We had to integrate Neil [Finn]’s two sons and Mitchell Froom, who we’d only ever done pre-production before.”

“We were trying to get back into that almost teenage mindset of making a racket with an electric guitar. We were rehearsing and recording a little in this vintage studio, and then we moved to United Studio on Sunset Boulevard. That was meant to be the clincher studio with the serious takes.”

That wasn’t how things worked out, however.

“We realised the stuff we’d recorded in Valentine, this locked up museum-like studio, were as good as they were going to get, so we started working on those and tracked a few new songs. And then covid happened, and we started to realise it was a bit every man for himself in the US, the law of the jungle.”

Bobsleigh Bob: “the closer you look the more detail you see”

Measuring a coastline is one of those long-standing abstract problems. The length, ultimately, is what you want it to be, depending on whether you measure the broadest shapes of a headland or the edges of each tiny angle. And whether the tide is in or out.

That seems to be where Bobsleigh Bob is going with his debut album, aptly titled ‘How To Measure A Coastline’: an album full of playful but abstract takes on life and how to cope with its changes and its progress, glancing at the obvious and the more subtle along the way.

“The album actually started title-first and then I worked back from there,” Rob Davis, a Dubliner based in Limerick, tells us. “I heard a conversation on a podcast (I think it was ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’) about how difficult it is to measure coastlines, and how the closer you look the more detail you see. That idea that we can step back and see a simple picture, or lean in really close and get a very different and complicated answer really stuck with me.”

“I happened to hear that at a time when I was getting back into making music for the first time in years. So I sat down and started playing with the idea and tried to musically represent that coastline dichotomy with long sweeping sounds contrasted with more detailed complex ones. The result was a sprawling 10 minute instrumental piece which I called ‘How to Measure a Coastline’, which over the following couple of years slowly became the song ‘Twine’ from the album.”

“It made me think about how the same applies to everything that we do; relationships, everyday decisions, work, the list goes on. So then when it came to lyrics, that led me to draw on relevant stuff for inspiration. And again that started with ‘Twine’. “I’ve asked you twice, I’ve asked you kindly, I’ve asked you not to look too close. There’s too much detail and too much time, too many corners and too much twine.”

Davis’ album was penned over a three-year period, but emerges into a world where live shows are just about to reopen, and that’s something he’s particularly looking forward to, despite the record being full of self-examination.