Laoise Fitzgerald: “I find piano playing to be a very cathartic experience”

Laoise Fitzgerald is just a few tracks into her career, but that’s just the public facing side. Behind the scenes, her inventive approach to composing piano tracks and stark, slightly lo-fi sound has been brewing for quite some time, and the debut EP ‘How To Swallow Spiders’, featuring single ‘You Fall Like Snow’ has the feel of a far more established artist.

On it, Fitzgerald’s vocal is the star, distinctive and memorable, while the musical backdrop draws on classical and modern techiques to produce a delicate soundscape that feels like it’s borrowed a little from music hall, a little from jazz and a little from folk. The end result is not a million miles from the quirkier end of the Scandinavian repetoire – a little Bjork, a little Lykke Li, but with far less of a nod to modern quirkiness.

Hard to describe, in other words, and I hope Laoise won’t read the above and think I’m misrepresenting her. You should probably give it a listen! I talked to her ahead of the EP launch, and the backdrop to her music is nothing short of fascinating…

Congrats on the debut EP, obviously a big milestone. Can you tell me how it came together?

Thanks so much!

The songs were written during lockdown, I guess I had the time to write and reflect and work on lots of music then. After a while I realised I had material that I felt really good about and that fit together as a cohesive body of work so I thought… Maybe this could be an EP!

I had composed everything at the piano and initially shared the songs with a good friend and brilliant musician Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz who helped me develop the arrangements. Then it was a case of workshopping the songs with other musicians, before recording at Black Mountain Studio in Dundalk with engineer Alex Borwick, who helped transform the music into what you hear on the recordings.

I understand ‘You Fall Like Snow’ is a letter to your young self in musical form. What kind of story did you want to tell there?

I wrote ‘You Fall Like Snow’ as a lullaby to my infant self. It is a story of resilience, reassurance and learning to re-parent and look after yourself. It is a story of the joyous realisation that it doesnt matter what has happened to you because you can still look after yourself and care about yourself. 

I was exploring the psychotherapeutic ideas of Internal Family Systems at the time. The idea that I could care for the parts of myself that I felt most averted from was monumental. The song became a self soothing practice to play at the piano. 

Are your songs generally very inspired by your own life experiences?

I guess so. I think songwriting and composing is what I rely on most to understand my life experiences. I have been doing it for as long as I can remember. I find piano playing to be a very cathartic experience that feels mindless but takes a lot of concentration. When I am overwhelmed or confused, playing will help soothe racing thoughts. 

I have always enjoyed writing in various forms like creative writing, poetry and songwriting. I write a lot of streams of consciousness that are 90 percent nonsense. Now and then I write something that I think could make a nice song.  

There seems to be a lot of complexity in your music, especially in terms of the mixed instrumentation. Do you have a background in composing in the more classical sense?

When I was a young child I began my music learning in the classical world. But traditional western classical composition never resonated with me. It felt rigid and too prescriptive. I came across Derek Bailey’s philosophy on non idiomatic improvisation and that has become the basis of my creative practice. Non idiomatic improvisation emphasises spontaneity and intuition in playing. This is the compositional tool that is the basis of all my work. On the EP you can hear 6 fully formed tracks but they all started as improvisation sessions at the piano. 

What do you hope might come from the EP?

I hope people listen to it and resonate with it. It feels really exciting to finally have a completed body of work that exists in public. I am very excited to play the music live.. So I am hoping for lots of gigs.

How is your live set up looking, and how many tracks do you have ready to use in it?

Ive been working on the live setup with 3 great musicians. Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz, Callum Browne and Daniel Kearns. We’ve worked through the full EP so that’s 6 tracks ready to go. 

How do you set up live, in terms of accommodating the varied instrumentation?

So there are a couple of different variations of the music that I can play live. Most ideally I play with a band which consists of Kaitlin playing cello, Callum playing guitar and Dan playing drums. I play keys, synths and use a laptop to include some of the more atmospheric elements you hear in the recording. Between us we have developed a nice balance of improvisation and experimentation between the songs using tools like feeding the cello through pedals and including some live electronic elements. I can also play the EP with just the piano but it’s a slightly different experience! 

How much ‘Dublin’ is in your music?

It has become more present in my music as I realise that Dublin is becoming more unliveable. There is an ever present sense that there is no future for a young artist in Dublin. As cultural and artistic spaces dwindle and access to affordable and reasonable accommodation becomes scarcer, I am battling to exist in the city I was born in. The impact this has on my mental health and personhood inevitably seeps into the music I write. The rose tinted image of growing up close to the ocean in a vibrant, creative city is progressively dissolving as I realise that I will likely have to move elsewhere to attain financial and housing security. 

Groundhopping: Aston Villa (v Brighton, Villa Park)

Competition: English Premier League

Date: 28 May 2023

Result: Aston Villa 2 – 1 Brighton

Tickets: £39.50 (adult), Doug Ellis Lower

Attendance: 41,925

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆☆

The Game: With Villa needing to win (or some complicated stuff involving Spurs and Brentford’s results if they didn’t – both won as it turned out) to qualify for Europe for the first time in 13 years, this was a game that I simply had to get over for, the culmination of a season that for Villa has had a redemptive story arc worthy of a full season Netflix series.

To say Villa fans were up for this is a huge understatement. Two hours before kick off, the team coach was welcomed into the club car park by thousands of fans chanting and a few flares. The ground was packed half an hour before kick off, and the atmospehre was electric in a way I haven’t expereinced at Villa in a very long time, probably going back to cup games in the late 00s (I don’t get to a lot of games, to be fair!).

Thankfully, the game lived up to it. Brighton are a remarkable club, considering their resources, and this match was properly toe-to-toe from the off, with Villa scoring two early-ish goals, from Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins, both assisted by an absolutely marauding local lad Jacob Ramsey, suddenly a really key player in a side transformed by Unai Emery.

Brighton got one back through Undav, but while they threatened, there’s a change in feel around Villa at the moment, a lack of the vulnerability that long felt like it lingered in the background of these kinds of games, and I felt we were more likely to add another than they were to score. That final whistle – after which I had to almost sprint to the exit to catch my late flight back – was nothing short of ecstatic.

The ground:  I love Villa Park and have attended dozens – possibly over a hundred – Villa games over the years, but this was the first time I sat in the Doug Ellis stand (I’ve been in all the others). I think the atmosphere was electric everywhere today, so it didn’t matter too much where you were sitting, but this was fiery fromt start to finish. Love the feel of Villa Park, too, and the mixing of Brighton and Villa fans outside without any issue was nice to see.

Extras: I couldn’t resist the end of season shirt prices (£20 for the away), and found a programme from a 2008 game against Ajax I attended in the charity box alongside the matchday programme, so pleased with that. The currywurst van was good, too.

Assorted asides: European football, baby! Sure, it’s not the Champions League, but if you flick through my groundhopping posts, you’ll see I’ve a bit of an affection for the Europa Conference League, so I’m all for this.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 13. Home wins: 8 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 38. Home goals: 26. Away goals: 12. Goals per game: 2.92


YourCuzMarcus: “a lot of people feel like they would have a better life elsewhere”

A beat-inspired artist with a DIY ethos and strong connections in the Irish hip-hop scene, YourCuzMarcus has a growing live following and captures a gritty, memorable side of Dublin in the video to his latest single ‘Homecoming’. He’s returning to the live scene after a period of absence by playing The Soundhouse this week, and I caught up with him ahead of the show…

Hi Marcus, thanks for your time! ‘Homecoming’ is about Ireland’s recent history with emigration. How do you view that situation and what made you write about it?

I think it’s something that’s become normalised in Irish culture. There are very few affordable places to rent on the market and a lot of people feel like they would have a better life elsewhere. I have friends who have left Ireland and never come back, which is sad but understandable. I think it’s important to note the good things about Ireland too. It’s a great hub for creativity for example. If we can figure out a more inclusive housing policy I think it could become a great place for young people. 

The music video is, I understand, something you put together yourself. What were your aims when you did that?

It’s something I always wanted to try. I have a camcorder at home so I just started filming one day. I didn’t really have a concept for the video or any notion of how it might turn out. I ended up really liking the finished product so I decided to release it as the music video. It shows the Dublin that I know and love so I think it’s quite fitting.

Hip-hop inspired music has really taken off in Ireland in recent years. Is it a more welcoming scene, do you think, than it used to be?

Yes, absolutely! This is something I’m passionate about. Although I’m not a rapper, I do take a lot of influence from Hip hop and I know a lot of guys involved with the scene here in Dublin. It’s in a really healthy place. It’s created space for hip hop artists to break through into mainstream Irish culture and beyond. There are so many avenues people can take too. We’re seeing a lot of the guys involved becoming managers, journalists, producers, videographers, promoters…the list goes on. Irish hip hop is a great scene to be involved with at the moment.

Do you feel your sound has moved on since you released the likes of ‘Obey’?

I think it has. I feel like my earlier music had a very polished indie sound. As I’ve grown as an artist I’ve begun to take a more hands on approach to the production side of things. This has resulted in a sound that’s more lofi and a bit grittier. I really enjoy it and it means I can work on songs at home, programming drums and playing around with different synths.

Christian Cohle: “Suddenly I felt like I had lost something. It was really disorientating”

Christian Cohle‘s wordly-influenced, deeply personal new record ‘Wetlands’ explores, in an imaginative and emotive way, the break up of a long-term relationship. Specfically, it explores the break up of what had become a long-term relationship withhis partner from Korea, and as such, incorporates soundscapes and field recordings taken from South Korea and Japan that give a real sense of place.

With something of a concept album vibe, ‘Wetlands’ is a journey for the listener. It’s fair to say, perhaps, that it was a journey for the author, too. I caught up with Christian around its launch to hear all about it…

First of all, can you tell me the story behind WETLANDS – how did it come about, and what side of you does it reflect?

It came about , after I returned to Ireland in 2020 feeling like my relationship with my girlfriend was ending. I had come back from spending time with her in Tokyo and Seoul. We had been doing long distance since she had moved back home to Korea in mid 2019 and I was beginning to feel a shift.

It happened in what all seemed like a pin prick moment, where suddenly I felt like I had lost something. It was really disorientating. That’s why the record begins in a really disorientating, anxiety inducing manner.

The story of WETLANDS itself spans over a few years actually. Built from memories and flashbacks to our early days together, present moments of my own pain and exhaustion seeing it all fade away, to lastly shedding light on things too as far as a year after the break-up.

I don’t know what side it reflects,honestly… It’s just a very personal record.

It’s a brave decision to base an album around something traumatic like a break-up. Has your ex-girlfriend heard it?

She has. We listened to it together once, it was emotional and so surreal.

Have you found the process therapeutic, and do you think you will continue to enjoy playing it in the long term?

The reason I began making this record was purely for the therapy of it all. Music has always been that outlet. When I make music, I’m forced to be honest with myself.

Yeah I think I will have no problem continuing to play them. Fingers crossed ha!

I’ve seen the show advertised around town in poster form, which is nice and old school. Have you found that kind of promotion still works?

That’s cool that you’ve seen them! I was discussing this with a friend recently actually. I honestly don’t know how well it works or not, but I just like the process and art direction behind making the posters for the shows.

I’m probably a bit old school in that way. I like having posters out there in physical form. The posters are hand-printed by a riso-machine, it’s an old style of printing technique which gives a unique textured print that I really like.

I often sell a few limited edition prints of them at my shows.

I have my own history with South Korea – I lived in Seoul for two years. At the time, Korean music hadn’t really gained the global appeal it has today. How did your Asian experiences play into your sound?

That’s awesome!

Obvious examples would be the use of field-recordings from Tokyo, and also parts of South-Korea that are embedded into the album. Any other ways it may have influenced my sound are subconscious I guess.

How does your love of cinema play into the music and the videos?

Again a lot of it is just subconscious. I’m always watching movies, so they just naturally influence me. But I’m so drawn to films that create a world for the viewer that one can get inebriated in almost, and for WETLANDS I really wanted to achieve that too. Make a record that spoke to the senses, drenched in atmosphere and something that felt sonically riveting and immersive.

The videos are deeply influenced by cinema. We make them with more of a filmic approach probably. I’m constantly referencing directors,movies and specific shots from favorite films to whoever I’m working with when we do the music videos. Like I want to use the same color grade as this , or I want to do a similar camera move or effect like in this movie etc.

Some of the people I’ve worked with regularly on them i.e. director Tristan Heanue, and DOP Narayan Van Maele are all in the film industry, so I’ve learned a lot from them and just getting to collaborate with such talented individuals has definitely had a significant impact on them.

Feather Beds: “I see my album as uplifting, and me trying to make sense of a heavy situation”

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Michael Orange’s latest record as Feather Beds – he’s long been a part of the Irish indie scene as a drummer – is entitled ‘Softer Measures’, and, perhaps somewhat obliquely, is a record about memory. Containing loops, spaced-out harmonies and a gentle DIY ethos underpinning the whole thing, he draws on influences established over time living in Montreal, London and Dublin.

I caught up with him ahead of the launch and got the lowdown on the backdrop to his latest work of art…

First of all, tell me a bit about the musical background that led to Feather Beds becoming your musical outlet?

Throughout my twenties I had played drums in various bands in Dublin – The Star Department, Subplots, Autumn Owls. Made albums, toured a good bit, etc. I never really had a huge desire to be solo or whatever, though I was always into production and wanted to learn more about it and get better. The dynamic between doing stuff alone compared to a collaborative project is obviously very different. Both have pros and cons. I still and probably always will see myself as a drummer making solo music. 

Has the London/ Montreal/ Dublin experience played into the sound you’re creating?

It has, in so much as your environment influencing anything that you’re doing creatively. Montreal was a nice experience for a couple of years, met lots of nice people, artists/friends that I’m still in touch with now. London is a different animal, really. It’s a trickier place to build a community, but at the same time is a thriving cultural hub with so much going on. Dublin is always ‘home’, even if it feels a very different place now to what it was 15 years ago. 

What’s the story behind Softer Measures, and how did it come together for you?

I started work on it probably towards the end of 2018. It came together fairly slowly, in all honesty. A combination of life getting in the way and just starting/scrapping/starting again with some of the songs. I finished the album, fully mixed/mastered, over a year ago. It’s just now it’s finally coming out. I’m still an ‘album’ fan, even if streaming predominantly focuses on/values single tracks more. It’s important to me to have a body of work in an album. 

I understand part of the record’s inspiration is memory and the way the brain works. How does that play into what you’ve produced?

During the making of this album and over the last five years, my father was sadly diagnosed with dementia and 2 years ago had to go into full-time care. He was only in his mid-sixties when this happened. Seeing his health and cognitive ability/memory decline made me look at how I take all of these things for granted. It’s a heavy subject matter and I never set out in a ‘this is what I’m writing about’ headspace – it’s a very stream of consciousness approach with me, generally. But looking back over the songs retrospectively and when I’m asked a question like this, I can see a thread connecting all of them to this and my place in it. Making this album was my way of dealing with it all, to some extent, and trying to lift myself out of it. I don’t see it as a heavy album, necessarily. In a strange way I see it as uplifting and me trying to make sense of a heavy situation. 

Hudson Taylor: “We played to our individual strengths as writers and musicians”

Dublin brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson Taylor – who perform under the moniker Hudson Taylor – are mainstays of Dublin’s domestic music scene going back years. Traditionally, they’ve been a slow-building act, taking their time to release considered and beautiful records full of infectious pop bangers, albums that often came together over several years.

For their third record, ‘Searching For The Answers’, out last Friday, the pair decided to go back to basics, and decided to limit themselves to one covid-limited year – 2021 – in getting together the finalised record.

“Our main aim was to make a cohesive album written and performed by us in 2021,” Alfie tells us. “The idea doesn’t sound too radical but our first two albums both took over 3 years to make and involved many people in the writing and recording process and I feel like I grew up a lot in the years it took to write and record them. We had a lot riding on them as well and as a result I feel we put a lot of energy into writing the singles rather than “an album” if you get me? Our new album is much more perhaps honest and coherent as an album and represents who we are now as adults, as colleagues and as brothers.”

“The process was completely different to how our first two albums were made. The main reason being we couldn’t be in the same room, or even the same country, to write the songs, and like a lot of people at the time had to adapt to working remotely.”

“We made an online dropbox folder of our favourite song ideas, guitar riffs, melodies etc. And then we both picked our favourites and got to work on the first 5 songs which we wanted to write just ourselves.”

“I loved it to be honest, I could write lyrics where I’m most comfortable…in bed. I could work on different songs at random times of the day over the course of a month rather than having the pressure of trying to finish a song in a songwriting session within a day in a studio with other writers.” 

Groundhopping: Bohemians (v Cork City, Dalymount Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 1 May 2023

Result: Bohemians 5 – 0 Cork City

Tickets: €16 (adult), €6 (kids) – prices including fees

Attendance: circa 3,000

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆

The Game: Currently top of the league and playing a Cork CIty side whose manager would complain and then be sacked after the game, this always looked likely to be a home win. Oddly, it’s also the fourth game in a row I’ve been to with a red card, three of them in the first half: when a Cork defender kicked out at Bohs point man and saw red off the ball, and the ever-lively Jordan Flores scored the resulting free kick, this felt like it was only ever going to go one way.

That said, the score was more than a little flattering – I think Bohs only had six shots on target, but their four late-ish goals made Cork look like they’d been hammered in a way that didn’t really reflect the majority of the game (in which Bohs were on top, but not totally dominant by any means). The free kick and a finely angled finish by McDonald were particulary impressive. Bohs are away to massive rivals Shamrocks Rovers next Friday – a game that could be key to the title outcome.

The ground:  “Dalymount is falling down” came the chant from the Cork City fans midway through the first half. I had to laugh, as I well remember their ground having its roof blown off only a few years ago during a storm, a far more literal falling down. Dalymount has improved slightly in the last few years, not least through the addition of the away (Mono) stand, in tribute to a dedicated fan who has passed on, and the improvement of the Des Kelly Stand.

With its moss-covered closed end and the endless graffiti around the outsides, though, I think Dalymount is nothing less than iconic, and I’ll be genuinely upset when it’s inevitably eventually gone. Grounds with character have so much more to offer the game than standard issue identi-kit stadiums, and this is one of them. It was slightly quiet today, but I’m putting that down to the win being so comfortable.

Extras: Dalymount is fairly well equipped now with food stalls, coffee, and a nice club shop. I’ve always been a fan of Bohemians kit, and while I didn’t buy any today, I do own a fair bit of their merch. The shop is well worth exploring. I didn’t dig into the programme but there was one.

Assorted asides: There were queues for the food truck for 100% of the game near the Des Kelly Stand, which strikes me as a slightly bizarre way to enjoy a football match. My son insisted on chips. I left him to it, it took half an hour. Probably room for another food stand!

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 12. Home wins: 7 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 35. Home goals: 24. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.92


Groundhopping: Dundalk (v Drogheda United, Oriel Park)

Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division

Date: 28 April 2023

Result: Dundalk 3 – 2 Drogheda United

Tickets: €15 (adult), €5 (kids)

Attendance: 2,825

Game/ Experience Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

The Game: I’d never been to Oriel Park (though I attended a heap of Dundalk European games in Tallaght back in the day), so a chance to sett the Louth Derby on a bank holiday Friday night was too good to turn down. I saw Dundalk last week and they seemed to have a problem finishing chances at Shelbourne. No issues this week, as two first half goals coupled with a Drogheda red card saw them seemingly in complete control.

As is the way with derby games, though, Drogheda came storming back, getting back to 2-2 at about 80 minutes before a very late and slightly manic Dundalk winner. Great entertainment, though I had the toddler with me at football for the first time (at least at a proper stadium) and that made it a little harder to watch than normal!

The ground:  One massive stand and then a load of peripheral seats and standing areas make for a bit of an odd space, but it’s nice and atmospheric. I’m not sure I’d pay the extra fiver to get in the big tall part unless it was pouring rain. I spent most of the game in the grass at one end, where I had a great view of the fairly impressive away fan pyro displays and the little one could run about.

It’s run down and the away fans famously hate the little section they’re given in hte corner, but for the game reason I like a lot of the less impressive League of Ireland ground – that they take me back to the football of my chidlhood – I did enjoy Oriel.

Extras: Coffee, fast food, programmes, lots of pyro. About what you’d expect, really.

Assorted asides: Dundalk is actually as easy to get to as any Dublin side from North County – right off the motorway with easy parking around the ground. I’ll be back.

My totals for the year so far:

Games: 11. Home wins: 6 Draws: 4 Away wins: 1

Goals: 30. Home goals: 19. Away goals: 11. Goals per game: 2.72