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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.”

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.

Scouting For Girls: “Every situation we went into, we thought it might never happen to us again”

When Scouting For Girls emerged in the mid-00s, they weren’t quite the polished, manufactured-type boy band many quickly assumed. Having been playing together for years, the London three-piece’s smash breakthrough ‘She’s So Lovely’ was in fact the culmination of several different acts with similar personnel and years on the stage, going way back to 1995.

Their journey since has been an undulating one: huge hit shows in front of thousands, followed by a fading from chart popularity that left a massive cult following behind. That cult following is significant enough to have Roy Stride, Greg Churchouse and Peter Ellard releasing a blend of originals and cover music to this day, as they explore a career based heavily on a simple idea: make it a whole lot of fun.

“Our new album was an escape from lockdown, and a nostalgic look back to the past while everything else was falling apart,” Stride tells us on new record ‘Easy Cover’, which is predominantly a collection of 80s cover tracks. “It was also a response to having a studio booked and someone wasn’t able to come. I didn’t have any songs ready to go, so I started recording.”

“The actual idea came when we were traveling back from Dublin on a night time tour bus journey, and playing a Phil Collins live album, singing along to ‘Easy Lover’, and someone said it’d be great to do a load of 80s covers, so we did it. It went in a box of world’s worst ideas ever, until lockdown, and then we did something with it.”

“I tried to do a cool, synthy, Spotify friendly version of these covers, and I just put it back on the shelf. It ended up being fun instead. I think it’s classic Scouting For Girls, that when the 80s was quite cool ten years ago, we weren’t doing anything. Now it’s the 90s that are quite cool, and that’s our era, here we are releasing an album of 80s covers. We’re alway a decade behind the trend.”

The year off, naturally, has been strange all round and had plenty of impacts on musicians. “I reassessed my whole relationship with music,” Stride says. “It had got quite stale. I was writing for other bands I didn’t even like, or who weren’t very good. I’d lost a bit of the love and passion.”

Elgin: “We feel comfortable on stage together and that’s always been the greatest part”

Elgin photographed by Anthony Furey

Born out of the ashes of popular Dublin act The Young Folk, Elgin – Anthony Furey and Paul Butler – are embarking on a musical journey that takes them far from their roots. Feeling the need to move past their successful previous act, the pair’s music is steeped in travel, but embedded in origins that sit firmly in the Dublin suburb of Kilbarrack.

“A few years back, we spent some time in Austin Texas for South by SouthWest,” Butler says, setting the scene. “No matter where we go or what country we’ve toured, our spare time consists of finding second hand stores and usually buying the most ridiculous clothes or old musical instruments.” 

“I bought a 1980s casio keyboard for $5 in New Zealand two years ago. Anyway, in Austin, we stayed near a town called Elgin. Low and behold, we found a second hand store. We walked out of that second hand store looking like Irish Cowboys. Cowboy boots, cowboy hats, stained jackets and an odd looking teddy bear for our merch case. That teddy became Elgin and spent a lot of time with us, helping to sell our merch. The name sat well with us, it has meaning but it also means nothing to a listener.”

“[The new outlet] was always the next step,” Butler continues. “The Young Folk’s name had run its course. It wasn’t us anymore. The Young Folk had different members, a different style. The name itself didn’t match us anymore. We still love playing the songs, they’ve changed with us along the way too.”

“Myself and Anthony have been playing together for over fifteen years now. We’ve shared hundreds of stages, we know each other inside out, we’ve had numerous arguments (all resolved), we’ve stayed in the same beds far too many times. But the most important thing is that we feel comfortable on stage together and that’s always been the greatest part. We know we have a connection on stage, no matter what we write, it’ll be portrayed in the best way.”

“And I suppose, it was a case of ‘then there were two’. It was back to basics for us, in the way of creating music together, no interference, no negative influences, everything was out in the open. We had absolute freedom. So with that, we wanted to create something completely new and exciting for us.”

Girl In Red: “I’m hoping to just live off stuff that I love”

Marie Ulven – better known as ‘Girl In Red’ – is the latest in a long line of Scandinavian pop royalty, with Ulven’s quirky pop act refined from bedroom melodies to what’s expected to be a really hot property when our live music scene reopens.

Debut album ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’ is one of those beautiful pieces of work that’s relatable because it’s so close to her heart, evolved almost literally from diary-like thoughts into emotive melodies.

“What’s happening in my life is pretty essentially to my song writing,” Ulven explains. “I’m really nervous and really excited, I can’t wait anymore. It’s going to be so cool to let people hear the new music.”

There must be tough aspects to what Ulven does, too, though. She’s charmingly direct about herself, from her sexuality (she’s into girls) to her experiences with mental health, which it’s clear from her songs can be quite a tough road for her. Writing a debut album in lockdown, though, has clearly been a beacon of hope, and the result is surprisingly boisterous next to her previously more mellow output, like a melodic scream into the ether.

“Making a full length record was definitely harder than I expected,” she says. “It took much more time than I thought it would, and it’s been a really intense experience. You’ve got to make the music, produce all the music, mix all the music and master all the music and go through so many layers of refining and making everything sound so perfect, so it was definitely a different process.”

“Working with FINNEAS on Serotonin was very interesting, we did it all over zoom and it was really cool to have one of my favourite producers work along with me on that. I feel like the finished product is some of the coolest I’ve ever made.”

Carsie Blanton: “Love and rage is meant to be a soundtrack for the people”

Fiercely independent and pointedly political, rock-edged singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton is in love with doing things herself – and with Ireland. Having toured on our isle, New Orleans-influenced Blanton is looking to make an impact here, despite the more obvious market on her doorstep.

Her road has been boisterous and at times highly critical, her songs exploring the personal side of life, but also striking out at the misuse of power and the lack of decency in American political life, something at the forefront as she launches her sixth full-length record.

“I’ve been an independent artist, without a label, for my whole career,” she says, ”and there is no public funding in the US for the kind of music I make, so I’ve relied quite heavily on crowdfunding. I’ve run Kickstarters for three albums (and a card game), I have a Patreon page where fans can contribute to my work on an ongoing basis; and I’ve been throwing monthly ‘Rent Parties’ throughout the pandemic, which have been paying my bandmates’ rent while we wait for gigs to return.”

“When I was young, my plan was to be a rockstar, with loads of money and an aloof attitude. Instead, I rely directly on my fans to be able to make my work, 100% of the time, and I’ve come to love that. It’s a kind of symbiosis.”

That symbiosis, she feels, is a natural fit in Ireland, which her take on protest music and poetry also seem a natural fit.

“Every time I’ve visited, I’ve been delighted by Irish culture around music, poetry, and humor,” she explains. “I’m also fascinated by your political history and culture; I’ve found that the average Irish person has a more complex and thoughtful critique of capitalism, imperialism, and revolution than the average American. I have felt more at home traveling in Ireland than anywhere else, including the States.”