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Pastiche: “lockdown was a weird kind of blessing for an artist like me”

Pastiche is a Dublin-based pop singer who’s keeping her real name quiet, for now. Having stormed onto the scene with a series of lockdown singles, her early experiments with the fringes of the pop scene have a slightly offbeat feel, blending electronic leanings with punchy lyrics and a big, boisterous sound.

The journey has already taken her far enough to be booked into the iconic Academy venue before having played a single live show.

“It’s been crazy,” she says. “Such a rollercoaster. It was interesting trying to navigate releases in a fully online world when we were in lockdown. I released my first single ‘Chasing Down The Fame’ in November 2020, mid-pandemic, and just tried to work it out as I went along.” 

“I’m lucky to know a lot of people in the industry who really helped me find my feet, but if I’m being fully honest, lockdown was a weird kind of blessing for an artist like me. The whole world was at a standstill and I had all this time on my hands. It genuinely felt like I was working with borrowed time and so I could write, produce, plan, strategise and conceptualise a lot of work in a pretty short time.” 

“I do believe making the most of this helped me to achieve in just one year what a lot of new artists take years to do independently. Between my streaming and radio numbers and press coverage, everything I put all that time and energy into is really beginning to pay off. I was lucky enough to play an intimate gig in The Workmans Club as well as my sold out debut headliner in Whelan’s in November.” 

“I plan on doing many more shows in 2022 and next summer I’m going to hit the festival season hard! I am fully aware that things can change in an instant, but because I came up in this really weird time I feel able to navigate it. It’s unconventional but I’m not a conventional artist and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.”

Paper Tigers: “It’s a Journey, Not a Destination”

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Paper Tigers burst onto the Northern Irish music scene in 2018, quickly garnering a reputation in particular for lively early single ‘Gucci Smiles’, which won a nomination for the Northern Irish music prize best single category. The co-ed punk rockers powered into the pandemic, with a rapid-fire gigging schedule set aside by force in early 2020.

To get their music out there, Paper Tigers have created a loose association with Blowtorch, a record label that’s done a great deal to get rock bands into the public eye across Ireland. It’s very much in the spirit of the punk community. Their broader ethos has been similarly hodge-podge at times, and better for it.

“When we were releasing ‘Ghosts’, I just started reaching out to a lot of different people, labels, blogs, promoters, just trying to get the name out there and raise awareness of the band,” singer Michael Smyth says. “Richard (from Blowtorch) hit me back and we started talking, he seemed cool and we just started working together. We aren’t signed as such, but Richard is a cool guy and it’s good to work with him. It’s led to us being included on the Blowtorch vinyl compilation ‘A Plan For Something’ with a bunch of great other bands.” 

Since being forced off the stage, it’s been radioplay and, in particular, a couple of impressive videos that have helped Paper Tigers remain in the public eye.

“When we were getting ready to release ‘Gucci Smiles’, we had already played a few shows together and to us it seemed like for this song it should be a live video, the energy, the way the crowd reacts to that song, bringing a narrative into it didn’t make any sense so we decided to get our good friend Bob Logan to come shoot live footage and patch it altogether from a few shows,” Smyth says of the video.

Tess Tyler: “I haven’t had a chance to express myself authentically until now”

Tess Tyler‘s imaginative score and latest single ‘7ero’ immediately caught my imagination: it’s a surreal, stunning blend of classical, orchestral styles with electronica, something unique and inventive.

In the course of listening, I learnt that Bristol based Tyler has also collaborated with Rory Friers, from one of my favourite acts And So I Watch You From Afar, on the record, which, despite their disparate backgrounds, makes an odd kind of sense as Friers branches out into new styles more similar to Tyler’s. I caught up with her ahead of the release of the album, Fractals.

First of all, congrats on the single. I understand it’s the lead into a double album, which sounds ambitious! Tell me about the two sides of things….Are those ‘two sides’ reflected in the two versions of the single, too?

It is. ‘7ero’ is one of 5 tracks from Fractals Vol. 1 that also feature on Fractals Vol. 2. The first volume being piano with electronics, and the second, experimental classical interpretations of my graphic scores performed by The Spindle Ensemble.

You merge classical and more contemporary styles in your music. How do you find that mix when it comes to finding a niche to perform and record in?

I’ve always been drawn towards interesting combinations of sound, so I guess it just comes down to experimentation for me. I keep playing with different palettes of sound until I get that feeling of ‘Yes! That’s what this track is meant to sound like!’ Even though I almost always start writing a piece with piano first, the textural / sound-based element of my music is super integral to the composition process. All the sound design is pretty much fully formed before I get to recording the piano properly. I need to know that it all blends nicely before I commit with recording. 

When it comes to performance, I haven’t actually performed any music from this record yet, apart from ‘Sell The Sky’ for a live video release. I’m super interested to see how the intricate piano will work against the grit of the electronics and kit in different spaces. I’m lucky enough to work with great engineers who know what they’re doing!

Tell me about your work on Lego Avengers and Human Fall Flat – how does that kind of stuff come about, and how does it differ to your normal writing?

In all honesty, I stumbled into composing for games. When I graduated from my masters, I emailed everyone and anyone about jumping on any existing projects as an assistant or orchestrator. Rob Westwood happened to be completely snowed under and needed some help with scoring Lego Avengers, where I ended up with a co-composing credit. It all went from there really! 

Composing for media is wildly different from writing your own stuff, from a conceptual perspective. When working in film / video games etc., it’s important that your music aligns with the intent of the director / game developer. In other words, the music is there to support / enhance something that already exists.

When you’re writing a record, you’re starting with yourself, and that’s it. I guess when you’re working to someone else’s vision, it’s more obviously a job, as you have to make sure that other people are happy with what you’re creating. When it’s your own stuff, I find it’s more important that I, myself am happy with it. The pressure comes from different places. For me, they’re completely different disciplines, but I love doing both. They tick very separate, yet satisfying boxes for me.

Strangers With Guns: “We have a toe dipped in most genres so haven’t been embraced particularly by any”

Sitting somewhere in the realm of punk, metal and grunge, Strangers with Guns have become one of Dublin’s most profilic bands, powering through the covid lockdown with a rapid-fire series of releases that have them all reayd to burst back onto the live scene.

Fronted by Jeff Crosdale, who has historically also done most of the writing, the band are ramping up around the release of new record ‘All Pleasure Is Just Relief’, which they view as their opus, but also accept sits between two stools, making it something of a marketing challenge.

I caught up with Jeff ahead of the launch to talk it over…

I understand there was a long period of trying to get a band together through Gumtree ads before it finally happened. What’s the backstory to that?

I did use to post on Gumtree and Boards.ie maybe 3 times a year looking for musicians for close to 4 yearrs, although our new bassist “Watchy” says he only ever looks on Bassist Ireland for these things so I may have been trying wrong places. I already had a few songs done up and online and I’d try jam them out with people, it never clicked, we never clicked, maybe 3/4 rehearsals in, it would all be done. Lots of the time seemed to be people who had just started looking for a new band to be in and then would jump ship to something more up and running. Till I met Rennick of course

‘Degenerate Art’ launched you, but also came at a time where we didn’t know it, but covid was on the horizon. How difficult was it to build momentum?

We have been terrible at post album tours and follow up, a big part of that is how much is put into promoting and getting the attention on the initial release. We do be flat out for months and burnt out long before we have the album launch show, definitely harder to plan what to do post release then pre. Actually, we found we built more momentum during the pandemic then at any other time because we never sat it out, we never stopped releasing music and videos when others were sitting back.

How do you view that debut album three years later?

Jeff : Still extremely proud of it. Like ‘lies of omission’ is 10yrs old but its sounding better than ever now and we close shows with it a lot. It is our most “Grunge” sort of effort, I actually thought once released we would be off to the races, industry doesn’t work like that. Although we got 5 songs on national radio which is quite a feat for a band like us I think, and working with Mik Pyro is still a personal highlight.

I understand the new album is heavier – is that a general direction for you all?

We are definitely a band, for the record we make decisions together. But I(Jeff) do write the songs, every line, every lick, at least pre Watchy (New Bassist), PW if you will, maybe AW will be different. I just write what comes out for the most part, I jam and listen if I start enjoying something or feeling like it rips I’ll build on it and send it to Rennick, jamming is amazing, just switching off and ripping.

Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum: Dexter star finds new niche

Photo by Paul Storey

In 2014, glammed up to the nines, Dexter actor Michael C Hall took to the road in a musical called Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hall, who plays the guitar and sings in the show, was accompanied by (amongst others) keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen (of Blondie), and drummer Peter Yanowitz (of The Wallflowers). 

The performance wasn’t a gig, as such, but the trio were part of a band, of sorts. In fact, Katz-Bohen and Yanowitz had already been jamming together for some time, and when they invited Hall, better known as an actor, to join them, things started to click. So came the unlikely birth of atmospheric rockers Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum.

The band debuted in 2018, but are yet to tour, having been hit by covid. Ireland, in fact, will offer some very early shows outside of New York City. “I think it’s going to be great, we’re really excited to share the music,” Hall says. “Going from playing in a band but someone else’s music, to creating something on your own, is a whole new thing. There’s a sense of ownership that’s unique to this.”

“I don’t think any of us anticipated how long things would go on,” Katz-Bohen says of the band’s last show and the drawing in of covid. They finished up in New York’s iconic Mercury Lounge right as covid shutdown hit – literally the last band to play. “We were all in New York making the record, and were able to get together, we made this kind of Princess bubble,” they recall.

“We write in all kinds of ways, sometimes we’re all in the studio, and sometimes Mike was singing into his phone – we actually used tracks from singing into the phone on the record. We tried to keep it fresh.”

“I was sort of able to trick myself into this because we were just having fun,” Hall says. “Only after we had written several songs did we realise we might be a band. Thankfully, I was very welcomed, and to collaborate with these two in a way that I might not have felt as entitled to if they hadn’t been such welcoming, cool guys. I think we just collectively had a feeling that something was emerging through the collaboration of the three of us. I’m not sure any of us can explain it”

Windings: “At the time of writing the album, things were gone a bit askew in the world”

Limerick rockers Windings have been on a particularly raucous Irish circuit for some time, but they refuse to stand still. Latest album ‘Focus On The Past 5’ is their latest evolution, a product of the band’s progression, but also of their broader context, and Irish society itself.

“At the time of writing the songs for the album, things were gone a bit askew in the world,” they say. “This was pre-pandemic, as we had this album written by late 2019 and ready to record for Summer 2020. This didn’t work out, of course. But that time was a heady time of turbulence, unrest, and righteousness. There was a feeling in the air that we were almost at some tipping point, I felt. This feeling is reflected in these songs. One of the songs, ‘This Is Fine’ was initially called ‘Rampant Disease’ until the start of 2020, which we then changed for obvious reasons.”

“It’s fair to say that this album represents the most collaborative effort of the band so far. All songwriting was shared, and there are even other members taking lead vocal duties on a couple of songs. This is new for us. We’re not really happy to stay in the same place as musicians. I mean, we’ll still probably be playing guitars, bass, drums and keys, but we don’t allow ourselves to do the same thing twice in terms of releasing new work. That makes us uninterested, and if we’re uninterested then our music will be uninteresting to play, and also to listen to.”

“Collaboration is very important in this band, as making music with other people is what we do,” they continue. “Pa has King Pallas, which has myself and Brian in it, as well as Jean Wallace and Marty (Anna’s Anchor). That’s Pa’s baby, and we just try to make the songs sound the best we can doing what we do. As individuals, we’ve worked in various capacities with Murli, Denise Chaila, Naive Ted, Powpig, Anna’s Anchor and more. Every collaborative project is a new door.  We’re musicians, we should be making music, otherwise what else is there?”

One particular collaborator Windings single out is Daniel Fox, a member of Gilla Band (until recently known as Girl Band), a collaborative star who is fast becoming a Dublin music scene icon. 

The Winter Codes: “we try to keep our music upbeat , catchy and fairly sing-along”

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’.

The Swedish Railway Orchestra: “It’s the SRO record I had the most fun making”

Rob Smith’s eclectic dance offering The Swedish Railway Orchestra face the challenging task of being a distinctly club focused act in a country where clubbing struggles.

Not that it’s held Smith back: with his latest album Dance to the Drum Machine on the horizon, he told us about some of the experiences music has already brought to him, including performing in Buenos Aires and Berlin, although this particular outfit simply doesn’t step into the live arena. His 2020 single ‘The Freaks Come Out At Night’ combines immediacy and vibrant beats, and was his greatest hit to date.

I caught up with Rob ahead of his latest release…

Dance To The Drum Machine is out in about a month. What can we expect?

It’s the Swedish Railway Orchestra record I had the most fun making. I felt on the previous album, the self-titled 3rd one, I put myself under pressure that I had to make a great album. This time around I felt more loose about it and the result feels like more of an album ideal to play at parties.

What’s your production process, and how do you experiment with your sound?

It really depends. I can be messing around with a synth and get a good sound and let that be the basis for a song. Or even just playing bass guitar and if I come up with a good little riff. Same goes if I’m messing with some vintage drum machines, I think to myself “oh, that sounds good. I wonder if I could build something around that?”. Sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t. 

What about converting that sound into a live setting – how does that work for you?

The Swedish Railway Orchestra was always a project and not a live band. I set that out from the very start. I wanted it to be a project of music that was fun to make and fun to listen to. I didn’t want the pressures of travelling and playing, I had done that for years previously. This does make it a harder sell. It’s very hard to shift vinyl and CD’s if people can’t see this thing live. I’ve received some incredible offers to do it live over the years. Promoters looking to stick it on at some prestigious festivals, for example. So far I’ve managed to resist all temptation, but I’ve also said “never say never”.