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Bright Falls: “‘Dusk’ is a divorce record”

Thurles outfit Bright Falls tackle their fears in latest single ‘Come Of Age’, with debut album ‘Dusk’ just around the corner. Their mix of influences, which includes grunge and The Grateful Dead, make for an inventive and varied rock sound with a nice spattering of mellotron along the way.

I talked to vocalist Eddie McCormack ahead of the album’s release, and he went in-depth on the story behind the album…

First of all, congrats on the new record. Tell me about the story behind it…

Thanks. The idea for ‘Dusk’ came from a song that I had written in 2019, which we had recorded and released in 2020, called ‘The Widows’ Homes’. After writing that song I just wanted to tell more of the story. I felt like that track needed a beginning and an end in the form of a full LP.

Dusk is a ‘divorce’ record told from the perspective of someone who struggles to come to terms with the break-up of the relationship. So it’s a journey from nostalgia to heartbreak to the fear of being alone and eventually finding clarity. A lot of this was inspired from other break-up records like Springsteen’s ‘Tunnel of Love’, ‘Kanye West’s ‘808’s & Heartbreak’, and Turnover’s ‘Peripheral Vision’.

Can you tell me a story or two from the tracks on the record – what are they about?

The opening track ‘Dusk’ is about the early days of the relationship, It’s basically the protagonist being caught in a nostalgia coma and almost refusing to face up to the fact that the relationship is disintegrating in front of them. As much as it is about nostalgia it is also about confusion and desperation and hoping for reconciliation.

One of my favorite tracks from the record is ‘Settling’, this is where the character finally realises the relationship is finished. From here they go into basically a downward spiral. This song has a lot of angst. The protagonist is looking back on the relationship with a view that it was essentially doomed from the start. It’s really hopeless, maybe a little melodramatic too. But I enjoy that.

Do you feel the full length record builds on the story of Bright Falls, and how?

I feel that Dusk is much more representative of what I want Bright Falls to be. Our first release was an EP and it’s pretty much worlds away from what Dusk is. I have written hundreds of songs but this was the first time I actually wrote an album. The first release was definitely a learning curve for figuring out what I wanted to represent me as an artist. At the moment I am writing LP 2 and it’s going in a different direction from what Dusk is. But I guess that’s the fun in songwriting for me, being able to see your growth as an artist and expressing yourself in a way that’s true to yourself.

It’s fairly unusual to see an Irish act cite The Grateful Dead – how do they play into what you do?

That was for our track Come of Age that we recently released. Come of Age was written around the same time as The Widows’ Homes, so around 2019, and I remember getting into a lot more of The Grateful Dead in 2018, I Think I had American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead on rotation back then. For Come of Age I had this riff, and I felt like it was something Jerry Garcia would play and I tried to inject some of the Dead into that track… I’m not sure how much of a Grateful Dead vibe anyone gets off that song but they were an influence for sure when approaching guitar parts for that track.

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.”

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”.

Tebi Rex: “we used to have to pretend we weren’t a hip-hop group to get a gig”

Hip-hop duo Tebi Rex’s new album ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay’ is the culmination of a long and complex road for Kildare natives Matt O’Baoill and Max Zanga, one that started in a deeply buried Irish scene that has transformed in the intervening years.

The pair, a strong part of healthy hip-hop collaboration Word Up Collective, have spent the early parts of this year putting the finishing touches to the record, and then bringing its pointed message to international audiences. Whilst still barred from gigs at home, they’ve starred virtually at Dutch newcomer festival Eurosonic and American industry giant SxSW.

“It’s mad to think how recently things were really underground,” Matt O’Baoill tells us of the early days of the band and the changes that followed. “We used to have to pretend we weren’t a hip-hop group to get a gig. And we’d go to slam poetry sessions with our guitar and say it was a gig.”

“I think there was a view that hip-hop was a US or UK idea, and that the Irish idea of music was a couple of white guys and a guitar, or a pretty girl lamenting something. We didn’t have many rappers, and the ones we did have were like MCs from Dublin talking about poverty, a lot of it quite grim and not very palatable to people outside of their scenario. Fast forward five, six, seven years and there’s hip-hop acts everywhere. It makes things a lot easier, and makes the scene a lot less threatening.”

The new album, out now, is divided into ‘chapters’ as opposed to songs, a nod to the storytelling side of the band.

“We’re kind of storytellers posing as musicians, ” O’Baoill says. “The last album was in ‘acts’, and this time it’s in chapters so we can have a lineage and a storyline going through it. We want people to see it as a story.”

Def Nettle: “The Smiths literally saved my life from fairly dreadful teenage years so working with Andy Rourke is beyond a dream”

Glen Brady is a former DJ and former member of indie act The Glass, a man who’s lived all over the world, eventually giving up a fairly hedonistic lifestyle for sober veganism and a new act, one he’s entitled ‘Def Nettle’.

Brady describes Def Nettle as ‘funk punk’, and in his lyrics, he explores his own stories and those of the people around him: wild stories and varied experiences; a deeply personal take, all things considered, on his own life experiences. In new single ‘War Machine’, Brady pairs up with former Smiths man Andy Rourke, and sets off on what promises to be an artistic odyssey. He took time out of what sounds like a frantically busy lifestyle to tell me all about it…

First of all, congrats on the new single. I understand characters you’ve met are at the heart of a lot of your music. How do you use them in your lyric writing, and are they aware of it?

This is true. Much of my writing is based around characters I’ve met in my life and on my travels. In terms of how I use them technically, there’s usually an emotional connection.  I might have some anger towards them, I might be writing about someone who has passed away. They have to have had some place in my heart. I have to have felt something deeply about them for a story to come out. Of course, this isn’t 100% conscious at first. Something they said to me or certain habits they have usually dictate something that I might find lyrically clever or useful and that’s usually the starting point. Once the characterization is up and running and I’m inspired to write about them I usually then dig deeper into who they are.

Do you think you have a tendency to meet odd people, or do you exaggerate a little when you write? 

I definitely have had a tendency to meet people who live outside what most people would consider ‘normal’ society. I’ve worked in music for over 25 years now in different capacities and I’ve been exposed to a lot of people in the arts, fashion, dance etc and a lot of us work odd hours and lead lifestyles slightly estranged from what we might consider the 9-5 mentality. I must say though, there’s a lot of weird characters in what we think of as normal society too, no? I think I’ve always felt a little bit of an outsider myself. I’ve never taken the direct route. I’m even unpredictable to myself a lot of the time. My wife is like that too so our marriage works in that respect. 

However I do NOT exaggerate when I write. If anything I tone things down sometimes so people don’t feel called out or embarrassed. I rarely write something so that the characters themselves would 100% know it’s them, though I’m making an exception of that just now on one song…he deserves a good bashing. We’ll see if I ever release it.

Most of the songs start being about one person but by the time I get to a third verse there are several characters that share similar traits being included in the story. I might be referring to the main protagonist as a ‘she’ but the characters could have been different sexes but share perhaps drug addiction or some other compulsion.

Garrett Laurie: “I’m obsessed with the use of samples artists like Mariah Carey used in the 90s”

Garrett Laurie, picture by Danny Mills

Belfast singer-songwriter Garrett Laurie emerged from lockdown having crafted a new music career, something that’s been an odd experience for them. With their new single. ‘Mississippi Jesus’, they address issues of queer identity and shame, merging religious iconography with personal examinations in a deeply personal piece of music.

“”Mississippi Jesus’ is about being queer & feeling guilty about everything,” they say. “Recorded in Start Together Studios and co-produced with Ryan McGroarty of Beauty Sleep, ‘Mississippi Jesus’ explores queer sexuality and feelings of guilt surrounding it through cinematic instrumentation and 90s style beats.”

I spoke to Garrett around the single’s release…

The mix of themes around religion and gender identity is an interesting one – did you combine them because of the contradictions?

Definitely- I think there is something beautiful about the dichotomy between iconic religious themes and imagery and the more recent movements being made toward looser gender expression. Pairing religious themes with romantic ones feels taboo just because it’s not something you see a lot. It’s a little eerie because it’s so open ended, and I wanted ‘Mississippi Jesus’ to reflect that.

How does the track link into your personal experiences?

I think that coming from a religious family, it has been the backdrop of my life up to this point. In the past two years or so I have tried to challenge some of the shame I think I subconsciously had for a long time as a queer person, navigating their identity in such a small city. By challenging that and the unofficial rules that come with it, I was surprised at how quickly my life began to make more sense- I felt a clearer sense of purpose. ‘Mississippi Jesus’ is about facing shame head on, while acknowledging the strange comforts of settling for being an altered version of yourself for other people.

How do you feel about the general status of queer identity in music at the moment – what are the core issues?

Honestly, I think it is exciting that a queer person can even have a successful music career at all nowadays. I used to think I would have to hide my sexuality while trying to break into the industry, and if I didn’t have some popular queer artists to refer to now, I would probably still think that. I think one real issue is that queer artists often seem to be reduced to a label, and a responsibility to be an articulate voice for an entire community. Being queer is not a job or a career move, so I wish people could identify us by more than that.