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Slyrydes: “even within the Galway scene, we have always been on the outside”

Galway punk act Slyrydes are one of the great leftfield success stories of the west coast’s ever-vibrant music scene. Sitting outside of the city’s usual niches, and happily ploughing their own furrow, the band have been building a reputation through relentless and pulsating gigs, and some key backing in the media.

Frontman Mark Raftery points to Paul McLoone as being key to the band coming to more national prominence – they were getting bigger and bigger shows in the run up to lockdown, and had been booked to play new rock festival Sunstroke.

“If Paul had not picked us up there is a very good chance we would have finished up ages ago,” he says. “It is a story of complete chance. We recorded our first single ‘Mental Health’ in November 2018 and then we sort of realised we had no idea what we were supposed to do with it, so Fuz suggested we approach people in Irish media.” 

“One of the people we were told who might be receptive to listening to new music was Kate Brennan Harding who at the time was working for the Paul McLoone Show. Kate heard it, liked it and passed it onto Paul. Within a couple of days we were getting regular national airplay and we got a McCloone session. When an Irish band starts getting that sort of exposure on Irish radio the entire way you are perceived by bookers/agents/venues changes and opens up all sorts of doors. Paul gave us the same level of support with all the singles that followed too. He is one of the good guys. It is a tragedy for independent Irish music that Paul’s show is no longer on national radio.”

Mental health, incidentally, is a core theme of Slyrydes music, and something they’re particularly keen on talking about.

“it has been the most important and most regularly ignored social issue in Ireland for at least two decades,” Raftery says “If, like me, you have had to deal with the HSE psychiatric services, you will know how ridiculously inefficient and under-funded they are, the “awareness campaigns” they insist on running are a total cop out.” 

Power Of Dreams: “It’s funny how things are quite cyclical”

When Power Of Dreams burst onto the scene with their debut record ‘Immigrants, Emigrants and Me’, they captured an early 90s zeitgeist, with young frontman Craig Walker briefly the voice of a generation of economically pressured Irish kids.

31 years later, Walker is still living away, though he’s now in Berlin instead of London, and together with original band members Ian Olney and Keith Walker, and his new writing partner Eric Alcock, Power Of Dreams’ new album ‘Auslander’ is a nod to his finest hour, and a return to the fray for Power Of Dreams 26 years after their last full-length album.

“It felt like the right time,” Walker explains. “The 30 year anniversary landed in the middle of last year, and we thought ‘what can we do, we can’t even play a gig’. We wanted to honour it, and originally the idea was to record an EP with new versions of the songs. I spoke to Eric Alcock, who I was working with on Craig Walker and The Cold, and I said I wanted to honour the album.”

“He said why don’t we do a new album, and I had the songs from working on various stuff over the years. A bunch of them I’d always thought would be perfect for Power Of Dreams, but I never thought it would be possible. But we did it.” 

“I recorded acoustically, sent to Eric, and he mocked up a basic track to send to the guys, then he produced it, via the boys in Arizona and London. We assembled it, and luckily it still sounded alright. Eric is from Canada and in his late 30s, and he’d never even heard of Power Of Dreams before this, but he was really into the old stuff when he heard it, and he did a great job.”

Sprints: “The breaks I’ve taken from music were the most difficult times of my life”

Poignant and political, embittered and abrasive, Sprints are a band right at the heart of Dublin’s ever-growing punk and post-punk scene, a gloriously stark evisceration of politics and exploration of the personal.

For frontwoman Karla Chubb, who’s been part of the Dublin music scene in various guises for years, the band represent a whole lot more than just the music: they’re a deep-dive into the issues that strike her, and a form of stark, loud therapy best performed on a stage. That outlook has unquestionably made lockdown a little difficult, though not so difficult it’s prevented the launch of several new singles as the band await a return.

Their penchant for mixing spoken word segments with their music gives Sprints a calm-meets-storm effect, a distinctive style all their own.

“Our music is made to be performed live and we write it as an emotional outlet, on stage is where we really let loose,” Chubb says. “It’s weird not to play. Live can also be a real trial space for music, you test it and see how the audience reacts, and it’s a gauge for whether you’re writing the right stuff. Without it, for me there’s a lot of imposter syndrome.”

The writing has continued throughout lockdown, though not in quite the same fashion as normal.

“I do write in quite a solitary way some of the time,” Chubb explains, “but we’ve become so much more collaborative in recent years. We can express what we’re feeling through music, chords and riffs. The trap I wanted to avoid was writing about lockdown, really. It’s an obvious topic, but not an interesting one, I’m just sitting in my bedroom working.”

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.

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.