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.”

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.”