Tuesday 30 June 2015

Single: Gibbz - I Found You

Gibbz I Found You

Gibbz - I Found You

Info: Stepping from behind the audio engineer / sound production curtain and making his way into song-writing is Brooklyn electro-pop dazzler Mike Gibney, aka Gibbz. He releases his new E.P., Chardonnay, on the 24th of July, but before that here we have his new single, 'I Found You', and it's bloody fantastic, this is my happy song for the summer hands down, beats, guitar, stammering synths, funk, angelic vocals, the works! For me, songs like this redeem pop music, a much maligned genre over the last 15 years or more, others please take note, in the words of Montell Jordan, 'This is how we do it baby'.

After dropping his debut EP Who Gibbz a F#@$ last year and his most recent single "Play The Fool" in March, the singer/producer now shares his latest "I Found You"."'I Found You' is an ode to summer romance," says Gibbz. "It's about falling in love with someone before you actually know who they are. The 'this is the one' punch-drunk love without the 'what was I thinking?' hangover."

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Video: Cry Monster Cry - Atlas

Cry Monster Cry Atlas Video

Cry Monster Cry, 'Atlas'

Info: Dublin brothers James and Richie Martin released their debut album as Cry Monster Cry, Rhythm of the Dawn, in March this year, and now present us with a new video for the second track on the LP, 'Atlas'. It's a suitably contemplative yet musically buoyant video, reflecting the overall journey you take on the album in it's full, indeed, it's by the time you're half-way through 'Atlas' on the full recording that you realise you're listening to something far above the norm.

The video was directed by Lagoon Pictures and features a dark, atmospheric and transformative performance.

It depicts the themes of isolation, anxiety and self-doubt and the journey towards positive change and self-assurance that can come as a result of those experiences. Shadow and light transform throughout the video to portray a deep contrast between the heavy and the hopeful. Dark figures join the performance to create an ominous yet powerful atmosphere.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Single: Only Rivals - Sing

Only Rivals

Only Rivals, 'Sing'

Info: Dublin band Only Rivals' new single 'Sing' will be released on the 24th of July off their upcoming Life is Perfect album which will be released in September on London label SO Recordings. 

The band, who formed from the ashes of Home Star Runner have been hard at work touring the UK almost non-stop for the past 18 months with bands such as New Found Glory, All Time Low and Finch and playing to packed houses in their so-far limited amount of Irish solo shows. This has lead them to earn plaudits with the likes of Q Magazine, Rock Sound and Kerrang as well as a host of others.

'Sing' is a nice rock number swinging between indie and hard rock and very much in the mould of Arizona band Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American sound but with easily noticeable Irish characteristics. The song moves from melodic breaks to power-house hard rock with each member of the band contributing equally in terms of building momentum and packing a sledgehammer punch. From lead-singer Stephen Arkins' soaring punk vocals, to the intro's no nonsense guitar riff courtesy of Jason McTernan, and Sean Reid (bass) with Ally Doyle (drums) combining to keep proceedings thumping and tight. It's easy to see that the track will get plenty of airplay on both alternative and popular radio shows and that Only Rivals should see reward for their incessant touring and uprooting to produce the new album before long.

Only Rivals Sing Single

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onlyrivals

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Single: Dan Amor - Penwythnos Heulog (Sunny Weekend)

Dan Amor - Penwythnos Heulog

Dan Amor - Penwythnos Heulog

Info: Dan Amor hails from North Wales and recently featured on Irish blogger Barry Gruff's latest compilation CD with the above single, 'Penwythnos Heulog', a gorgeous piece of psych pop which has already been featured by Joe Donnelly at Dublin TXFM and BBC 6 Music.

Welsh artists have a strong tradition in producing great neo-psychedelia and indie-pop sounds, most notably from the likes of Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. There is also an ability to do this in their native tongue, while garnering appeal outside of their borders, something that has completely eluded us here in Ireland as Gaeilge when it comes to contemporary music, why that is, I'm not sure, but that's another days work!

Amor's new single, 'Penywythnos Heulog' (Sunny Weekend) is as good as anything I remember enjoying from the previously mentioned bands, it's absolutely delicious. The vocals sound like something from a medieval monastery where the monks grew the wrong (or right, depends on the pew....) kind of mushrooms. The music is pop rich, The Beach Boys and The Kinks in a space-age blender, conjuring mental images of The Meanies up to all sorts of madness in the Yellow Submarine animationDarn hyfryd o gerddoriaeth o Dan Amor! 

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Single: Why We Run - Ignites

Why We Run Ignites

Why We Run, 'Ignites'

Info: Sydney indie band Why We Run release their second single, 'Ignites', following February's 'Comfortable Lie' which also featured here at the start of the year. The new single contrasts sharply in many ways from its predecessor, starting with an operatic burst reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins' intro to 'Tonight, Tonight'. The basic music undercurrent also had a bit of a feel of one of Bruce Springsteen's ballsy blue-collar story numbers, but added to that are the isolated off-beat drumming which adds character to the song. 

The nice interplay between acoustic and electric guitar and ascending vocal range (that I didn't realise I liked so much on 'Comfortable Lie') all combine strongly. 'Ignites' only took me two listens to get into and succumb to that catchy pop chorus, Why We Run have the knack at keeping things direct but adding sufficient brush-strokes to give them something that stands apart from the standard.

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Single: Astronauts, etc. - Eye To Eye

Single Astronauts, etc.Eye To Eye

Astronauts, etc. - 'Eye to Eye'

Info: Astronauts, etc. have released the third single, "Eye to Eye" from the forthcoming debut album, Mind Out Wandering, out Sept. 18th on Hit City U.S.A. In the words of band leader Anthony Ferraro; "With 'Eye to Eye' I tried stripping the 'pop song' down to its essential parts and then reconstructing it as succinctly as possible." "One vocal melody covering both verse and chorus. One guitar riff. One perpetual drum beat. Economy pop."

And there's a lot to be said for this approach, you can just sit back and let the funky grooves do all of the work for you, sometimes I think we can put too many layers on songs and over-complicate matters when all you really need to do is focus on what sounds great. Like previous singles 'No Justice' and 'I Know' Ferraro gifts us with a glorious piece of pop chic, keyboards and guitar providing effortless rhythm to compliment his sedative vocals, 'Eye to Eye' is a laudable modern homage to 70's disco and funk, roll on the 18th of September.

Mind Out Wandering Astronauts, etc.

You can pre-order Mind Out Wandering on vinyl here (The 10-song set was recorded live to tape at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone recording studio. The vinyl is a pure-analog artifact, having never run through any digital processing.) or digitally at iTunes here.

Astronauts, etc., 'I Know'

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/astronautsetc 

Track: Here To Help You Out - Damn You, Sunshine

Here To Help You Out Damn You Sunshine

Here To Help You Out, 'Damn You, Sunshine'

Info: Dublin 5-piece Here To Help You Out have recorded a new version of a track from their debut E.P., 'Damn You, Sunshine', which was originally recorded as a minimalist acoustic song, getting the rework treatment here with the full band. Any of the music I've heard from the band over the last year or so has an over-riding feeling of happiness and that sense never fails to transport itself to the listener. 'Damn You, Sunshine' encapsulates it perfectly as well, despite the track title being an admonishment of good weather, it has all of the hallmarks of a summer song, it sounds like a stripped down version of a Belle & Sebastian song from a live session, and keeps the HTHYO ship firmly on course following the release of the beautiful 'Stillness' in March. It's fair to say that nobody really sounds like these guys at the moment and they've definitely moulded a unique sound from a variety of genres such as alt-folk, rock and jangle-pop.

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Thursday 25 June 2015

Interview: Naoise Roo

Naoise Roo Interview

Naoise Roo, 'For You'

Info: Irish artist Naoise Roo recently released her debut solo album Lilith and will be launching it this weekend at The Twisted Pepper on Saturday night, 27th of June, with support from Galway musician Laura Sheeran and Armagh singer-songwriter DANI. Lilith has been an album that has stuck to me since its initial release. I often find that at the end of the year that my favourite music of the past 12 months is split into two camps, relatively big established international artists (within my tastes) and independent (a mix of Irish and international) acts, it's a subconscious and perhaps odd division between two self-imagined categories, I don't know why I think of the music I've listened to in the preceding year that way but there you go. Lilith happily and easily has no time for my personal neurosis and refuses to sit in either, if I didn't know Naoise Roo had just released her first album, she would end up sitting in the former, the fact that I do, should see Lilith residing in the latter, and therein has lay my intrigue and interest with the album. I was very happy to pick Naoise's brain about the new album, music in general and what the immediate future holds, and in case I forget, get your asses down to the album launch this weekend!

Remy: Tell us a little bit about your own musical history previous to starting out as a solo artist, were you in any bands previously or did you work on any other music projects?

Naoise: I started writing songs in my teens and I had a band at one stage but 
nothing fully formed came out of it. I had taken a couple of years out from gigging, then this album started to pour out bit by bit. None of the songs I wrote prior to that made it on the album bar ‘Sing To You’ which is a relatively old song that I felt deserved another shot at recording. I’ve always written alone but I feel like that could change now, I’d love to start collaborating with other artists this summer, a couple have approached me already so fingers crossed!

Remy: Your debut album Lilith came out last month and there has been a unanimous consensus from reviewers that it is a high quality work of music. Before its release how did you feel about how the album would be received, quietly confident, anxious, fingers crossed?

Naoise: Oh jeez, I was nervous. But at the same time it had been finished for 
so long I’d had time to sit with it and get comfortable. Having that time meant that when the album actually came out I had adopted the attitude that whether people hated it, loved it or were indifferent to it I was secure that it was the album I wanted to make. It was beyond wonderful to read the reviews and feel like people had really enjoyed listening to the album. I am so appreciative! But at the end of the day you have to believe in the work first and try not to think too hard about how it’ll be received, just hope for the best without letting it interfere.

     Naoise Roo, 'Sheets'

Remy: Your sound and that of your band has been compared by others to the likes of Radiohead, PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, while I myself found strands of Anna Calvi and even Annie Lennox, to what extent to you agree with those comparisons or are there any others haven't spotted yet?

Naoise: It’s funny you mention Annie Lennox, I just picked up a ‘The Lover Speaks’ vinyl in a charity shop which has the original version of ‘No 
More I Love Yous’ which is pretty much my fave AL song. I had no idea it was a cover! I plan to spend this weeks mornings drinking coffee and getting my new wave on. Everyone you listed has definitely influenced me in some way. Pablo Honey was the first album I bought (followed by every other Radiohead album), PJ Harvey I discovered in my teens and became obsessed with starting with UH HUH HER ,such a great record. While I was writing the album I was actually listening to a lot of Anna Calvis first album so good spot! I didn’t even realize it influenced me so much! I definitely do feel I’ve drawn a lot of influences from The Pixies as well. I always liked the simple repetitive nature of a lot of their basslines. Like if you listen to something simple repeated and accented in the right way, it continues to transform throughout the song. The bassline in ‘Hey’ seems to do something to my chemical make 

Remy: There are many moods to be found on Lilith from dark and grungy ('Stand In Black') to softer ballads ('Almost Perfect'), uplifting anthemic rock ('Oh Son') and soulful blues ('Tie Me Up - Tie Me Down'), that's quite an array of styles which gives the impression that creative output isn't something you struggle with?

Naoise: Hahahahaha, oh I struggle! The songs just tend to be influenced by whatever im absorbing in my environment at the time. Whatever I’m listening to, watching or reading. There are a couple of tracks on the album that are film titles or adopted from film titles by directors I love. The songs probably seemed more close in style before we got into the studio. After that they sort of dictated their own individuality. They went rogue! I love so many different styles that I just cant imagine writing an album that doesn’t jump from one to the next, it 
would be a wasted opportunity for me personally. But then again never say never! 

Remy: Tracks like the excellent Pixies-esque 'Whore' (one of my favourites) and 'Sheets' nod toward the underbelly of human behaviour behind closed doors, is that a theme you enjoy exploring, characters that would be perhaps shunned by some elements of society?

Naoise: I find the subject of sex fascinating in all its facets. Psychologically sex is something that affects us all differently and something our attitudes may change with situationally. It’s a cover for many things, intimacy, power, frustration an expression of love. These all get played out. In 'Sheets' and 'Whore' I wanted to explore different aspects of this. Sheets is about band aid intimacy. Trying to replace an intense relationship with something meaningless. That desire to treat sex without reverence with the secret need for something deeper. 'Whore' is more about power plays. That sometimes to resign yourself to a submissive role is to be equally powerful. I wanted it to be aggressive and unrelenting in its tone while the lyrical content contrasted that. We lose our minds over what we think is appropriate in exchange for sex, we objectify women and get angry at them when they decide to capitalise on that situation. When I first saw the mugshot images of the 1940’s female prostitutes from Montreal that I used on the album cover, I saw such a wide range of emotions from being in the same situation. Defiance, defeat, boredom, anger, humour, all there, all in the face of being subject to punishment. Someone turned around and said to me ‘But they’re not attractive women’, that threw me for six because I thought, how do you get to decide who’s a sexual being or not. No one's asking you to time travel and have sex with these women! Why do you get to decide whether their position is valid based on the fact YOU don’t want to objectify them personally. 

Remy: At the single launch for 'For You' at The Workman's Club back in March it was evident there is a great chemistry on stage between all of the band members, is that reflective of your relationships off-stage too?

Naoise: Absolutely! I have the serious feelings for my band, Im so lucky! They’re all talented and insanely funny. It’s a big love in really!  

Remy: There's been much debate over the last few month regarding independent Irish artists and their (lack of) access to radio 
airtime, have you found this to be the case in the run up and post-release of Lilith and what are your thoughts on it?

Naoise: I think its been challenging for sure. I think it’s easy to feel defeated before you begin in regards to radio if you don’t have major label backing or aren’t able to afford a PR company which myself and many others unfortunately aren’t. I’ve seen people get great success with PR and also seen it fall flat, no PR company can guarantee anything. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but considering how much money goes into the recording, mixing, mastering, duplication, etc etc it’s sometimes hard to justify that kind of money. 

The problem is without that PR, it feels like radio is out of reach. Some radio 
stations do great Irish shows but the fact that we live in Ireland and Irish bands are often being featured in an hour long show once a week is pretty ridiculous. It’s a merry go round that never stops. People don’t want to pay bands cause the act can’t guarantee an audience, they cant guarantee an audience because they can’t get the right exposure, they can’t get the right exposure because the major label bands get first priority. Those labels arent taking risks and mainstream media tends to follow suit. I feel like we’re fed the idea in a positive light that ‘Success can happen to you! Look at these people who’ve catapulted into fame’. That doesn’t really interest me. I feel being able to survive off your art shouldn’t be a lottery. I’d rather hear from industry heads about fifty artists being able to pay their bills rather than one artist who becomes a household name worldwide. It’s a more complicated problem that requires a careful overhaul of how we value the arts in Ireland.

     Naoise Roo, 'Sing To You'

Remy: Where can we expect to see Naoise Roo and band playing over the 
next while, any summer festival spots arranged yet?

Naoise: Yeah! The album launch is this Saturday 27th June at Twisted Pepper! I'm having two of my favourite artists support, Dani and Laura Sheeran. We’re gonna do the full album and have some visuals and lights, the whole shebang. Festival wise I’ll be down at Valentia Isle the 12th of July with Radiomade which is going to be beautiful!

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Sunday 21 June 2015

Album: Rayvon Pettis - Insureda

Rayvon Pettis Insureda

Rayvon Pettis, 'Insureda'

Info: Rayvon Pettis grew up in Ft. Payne, Alabama and served in Afghanistan
for a year with the army national guard before returning home and moving to Birmingham where he lived in a small very old slightly haunted apartment by red mountain and started making music. He performed with bands Liddy Rose and occasionally the Steel City Jug Slammers before starting his solo career. Pettis is an indie country guy whose styles are a mix of mid 2000s indie music 70's country and 90's Disney movies. He really digs among others Neutral Milk Hotel, Gram Parsons, Steve Earle, George Jones and Jason Isbell and talks
about them all too much. After doing another combat tour in Afghanistan Pettis moved to Nashville in 2015 and released his first album Insureda on the east Nashville label Delta Dime Records on May 18th 2015.

Insureda is a beautiful collection of indie / country songs brimming with charm and story-telling steeped in the age old tradition of country roots, each track tells a story and the combination of fiddle, acoustic guitar and rustic vocals make you feel like you are stepping back through time. Kicking off with the deliberately raw and tin can sounding 'Baby Blue', Pettis sets the scene with a love ballad, the pursuit of a beau across unforgiving rural landscapes accentuated with some lovely slide blues guitar. Second track 'Wild Eyed Daughter' gives the first glimpse of the musician's lyrical capabilities opening with the line 'You were watching Japanese movies, black-haired ghosts were screaming in the night, curled in the hallway opposite the night light, I said you are alright', the fiddle playing reminding me a small bit of some of The Waterboys instrumentals on Fishermans Blues

Rayvon Pettis Insureda

A certain highlight on the album is 'Kermit Song for Sam', an accomplished piece of music that could have been written 50 years ago due to its authentic feel, it's sombre, melodic and in a strange way calming all at once. No self-respecting country album can forgo a song about whiskey and Insureda is no different. Eighth track 'Another Whiskey' moves toward more contemporary alternative folk territories, with really nice vocals by singer and songwriter Grace Pettis providing a beautiful front to the haunting strings and rolling acoustic guitar, slight strands of Fleetwood Mac at this point. On 'Godflower' Pettis full embraces his musical background once again in a stripped-down acoustic and fiddle hootenanny that will have you subconsciously foot-tapping and transport you thousands of miles away to a Tennessee bar.

Truth be told there's not a bad track on the album which spans 16 songs, energetic title-track 'Insureda' conjures a mix of Tim Buckley and Neil Young vocals, as does the banjo-driven 'Wolves at the Door'. Old world and contemporary country music would admittedly be a genre I'm not overly familiar with, my minimal influences coming from the likes of Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan's forays into the area, but Insureda appealed to me on many levels and has me left looking to duly broaden my horizons.

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Interview: Kevin Nolan and Susanne Wawra - Schizo-Poetry (Fragments Of Mind)

Kevin Nolan Susanne Wawra Schizo-Poetry Fragments of Mind

Info: Susanne Wawra is a visual artist from Germany living in Dublin, and also a poet, Kevin Nolan is a musician living in Dublin who is a poet also, Schizo-Poetry - Fragments Of Mind is a collaboration of 15 poems each, Wawra's appearing on the left leaf and Nolan's on the right. Both Nolan and Wawra designed the books cover and it was published by Shine, a national organisation dedicated to upholding the rights and addressing the needs of those with mental illness, with the help of CEO John Saunders. My questions were merely the springboard for Kevin and Susanne's thought-provoking and interesting responses and I think you'll agree both of them have eloquently captured their passions and the driving force behind the compilation above.

You’ve each contributed 15 poems to Schizo-Poetry – Fragments of Mind, can you tell us how this collaboration came to pass and how you both came upon the idea of basing your writings on the theme of colour?  

Kevin: The work came to pass with a great dollop of hard work seasoned with a smattering of cubist-shamanic-like inspiration, and of course a good man (John Saunders CEO of Shine) who believed in us and our idea. One element of how it came together is mentioned on the dedication page of the book. It reads, ‘Dedication to-  the summer of 2013 and in particular Monday July 22nd of that year’. This refers to the year the book was written and also in particular the day myself and Susanne got together and mapped out the entire schema for the book in ‘Peperina’ which is a little coffee shop in Rathmines, Dublin City, not too far from where I lived at the time. 

As for how we both came upon the idea of using colour as a motif. I have kept a filing cabinet in my studio for many many years now where I keep all manner of things, from unfinished (yet-to-be-finished) works to newspaper reviews and clippings, to my endless list of  unpublishable literature, to my vast collection of obscure words, to my even more endless list of rejection letters, to dead leave percussion instruments, to my 200 song backlog, just everything. I guess, it’s a little like a witches cauldron from which I cast my works. Anyway, in there was an envelope and in the envelope there was many lists of words, words for love, attraction, limerence, adoration, words for killing or elimination, words for forms of classical, modern, traditional, and Latin dance, and words for obscure or unusual colours and colour combinations.  

So, when I told Susanne about the obscure colours, she immediately loved it, as she gulped down her coffee and jotted down all our ideas for the book. Then as if not even thinking (or as if she had been thinking of it for some time) she suggested ‘Fragments of Mind should be the subtitle!’ And so it went with the building of the schema for the book, it was almost messianic, in that it all came together one evening in that little sunlit coffee shop on the 22nd. Susanne was extremely good at filtering our ideas into something fluid. And colour-wise we can never think of her without thinking of the eye, the visual and perception as she is a visual artist.                                                                              

Susanne: I was immediately intrigued by using colours as starting points. It also reminded me of one of my favourite German poets, Else Lasker-Schüler. She was an Expressionist writer and laid major emphasis on colours.  Her main colour of expression was blue, it is found over 50 times in her poetry. In Schizo-Poetry, we also take on two different kinds of blues, ‘Glaucous’ and  ‘Smalt’.

For me, with a colour, there comes a mood, a feeling: apricot sweetness, blue cleanse, yellow warmth, black despair. I felt so at home in the metier of colours, it’s like having a palette of paint in front of me. I dipped my pen into the colour and pushed it about the page.

Kevin, you move between your music and poetry with gusto, seemingly determined not to allow one to overtake the other in terms of your output of both, while poetry is bonded to music through lyrics, do you feel when you’re focusing purely on your poetry that there is a separation between the two? Does music influence your poetry in any way?
Kevin: It may seem like that but it took eight years to write and record my debut album Fredrick & The Golden Dawn and my next aphoristic novel and album may take some time before they are ready to be released to the world.    

My poetry and music mature at different speeds, one sometimes overtaking the other and vice versa, and there is definitely a separation between the two. Presently, I feel poetry and lyrics for songs are very different mediums for all sorts of technical reasons, but I’m hoping this point of view will change in me sometime soon as I would love to find a way to merge the two. I’m hoping to work with Peter Murphy (The Revelator Orchestra) on my second album which will involve spoken word. 

Music, over any other mode of expression, be it poetry, film, the novel, visual art, experimental dance, sculpture and even the famed Ostrich dancers of Africa, you name it, it is music that influences my writing above all.

It must sound strange, Remy, to hear a poet say he is not first and foremostly influenced by poetry, and to tell you the truth it sounds strange to me too, but to quote some lyrics which need no introduction ‘I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in’. Throughout my twenties and teens I read everything I could possibly get my hands on. I feel now that I have been the reader’s reader much like the poet’s poet or the musician’s musician. I’ve been the cheering fan behind the goal posts for a long time and now I wanna cross the scaffolds, break down the fences and set foot on the field and be a player. You see, I’m not saying I don’t still read but now it’s a different type of reading (Roland Barthes once in his book Image Music Text spoke of the readerly text) and also my definition of the word ‘influence’ has changed somewhat. I guess I’ve ceased to be a fan and am now more an artist. So yes, music has influenced my poetry a great deal, the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Kate Bush, The Tindersticks, Hair Dryer Sounds (YouTube), Coltrane, Ken Nordine (Colours), Leonard Cohen, Rhapsody in Blue, Jack Kerouac with Steve Allen, Stravinsky, Lydia Lunch, Brian Eno, Einstürzende Neubauten, Varese, Debussy, Steve Reich and Don Van Vliet amongst many others.

Looking back on your time in primary and secondary school in Dublin did you have a love for poetry from a very young age and did you find the content of the curriculum engaging, do you recall any favourite poets that you first came across during that time? I personally always found I preferred the English poets, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ or Tennyson’s ‘Choric Song of the Lotus Eaters’ stand out a bit more than Kavanagh’s ‘Stoney Grey Soil’ for some reason!

Kevin: This is a picture of me at 7 posing as a writer. I remember this photo well, me pretending to be thinking deeply of something to write and crossing my legs on a high chair in the evening summer light outside our holiday caravan in County Wexford.  In primary school I don’t remember either loving or hating poetry. I knew there was something very special about books and writing but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. My father, a big reader, romanticized literature, he would often read to me as would my mother. I remember listening to audio books before bed, too.

I remember one audio book, a cassette tape, where a little pot cooked so much porridge that it filled up a whole house, read by Barbara Windsor. Also I mustn’t neglect to mention Roald Dahl, who I loved, ‘The Witches’, ‘Revolting Rhymes’, ‘Danny The Champion Of The World’. Dahl had us all either frozen in terror or in fits of laughter in the primary school classrooms of St Mark’s in Springfield, Tallaght, Dublin City.   

Secondary school was an entirely different story, after an initial year in a class for boys with dyslexia. I launched into ‘On The Road’, ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’, ‘Under Milk Wood’, ‘The Outsider’,  ‘Tao Te Ching’, William Blake, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, ‘Speak, Memory’, ‘Journey To The Far East’, ‘Steppenwolf’’. ‘William Rose Benet - The Reader’s Encyclopedia’ was an especially dear book to me. These were defining books for me, really there’s too many to mention. I had no internet then so books where the only way of finding out about these matters. I was kind of a precocious kid but with no aptitude for precociousness.

To my memory, the only author I had any time for on the secondary school curriculum  was Shakespeare. For one, he was the only one I could understand and also the perfection of form bewildered me.  He was so prolific, he kept looking for perfection with those sonnets just like Van Gogh with his Sun Flowers. When I was studying Macbeth in my teenage mind, I somehow married the end scene, when the forest seemingly is moving toward the castle and the a man not of woman born comes to fight Macbeth, with Climbing up the walls by Radiohead. I imagined Macbeth as he went mad, that he was climbing up the walls of the castle with fear, like the saying. In my mind, Radiohead’s song and album was the soundtrack to that play and I would listen to it while I studied.  

I remember many many occasions sitting at the back of English class, drawing and correcting everything the teacher said about poetry as she said it to the classmate sitting beside me. So you see, I was kind of a difficult child to teach. Although I read them, around the time the poets you mentioned came along, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ or Tennyson’s ‘Choric Song of the Lotus Eaters’ most of the time I was far far, far away from the classroom antics, lying in a football field with a few friends manically chattering about this new poet we’d all heard of called Arthur Rimbaud.  

Excerpt from 'Smalt', Kevin Nolan (click to enlarge)

Susanne, among other talents you have grown up with art, and it has become an integral part of your life leading you to take up studies in Ireland’s best known art college NCAD, do you feel it has a definite and tangible influence on your poetry?

Susanne: Art indeed has a tangible influence on my poetry. Some of my poems start with a visual anchor from which I then write. An example would be the first poem ‘Flavescent’ in this collection. It starts with looking at the sun with eyes closed and engaging with this yellow, treating it as palpable paint. I like to take visual stimuli and then run away with them, I play around and abstract whatever the first image was that initiated the poem. In this regard, I am very visual. 

Generally though, I feel that my art, mostly painting and video, and my poetry are quite different modes of expression. The overlap is working with images in both, otherwise I use them in different situations. Writing for me is a little more direct, it pours straight out. My painting and video often also start from written notes, ideas, bits of text. As Plutarch said, ‘Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.’ 

You grew up in Germany and have lived in Ireland for a few years now, you mentioned in an interview in The Irish Independent 2 years ago that you’ve grown a fondness for life in Dublin, how does youth culture in Germany compare to here when it comes to the arts in your opinion, has any difference between the two struck you in particular?

Susanne: I grew up in a very remote rural area, a tiny village on the fringes of a forest, the Thüringer Wald. Youth culture in a small, insular place like that is confined to hanging out at the bus stop or the football field until you are old enough to ride your own moped to the next country town to do basically the same there. 

I was a teenager in the 90s, I hated the music they played in the discos and the boys blasted out of their cars. My passion was Britpop, from its mass onset in 1993, Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Radiohead. I knew them via my English pen pal Fiona and embraced that whole culture. I gave my mother a hard time of not being born in England, I did not want to be German. 

So my own youth culture was very different to what the common peer would have engaged in. Things got much better culturally when I left for Leipzig to study English and Communication & Media Studies. A big city, lots of things to do, bars, gigs, clubs, nights where they played my music. 

It is not surprising then, that I went to live in an English-speaking country, of which I share a somewhat common ground in terms of the music, films and TV shows I surrounded myself with, only in a different country. Dublin is the best place to go to concerts since every artist stops in Dublin for their European tour. Also, I feel I am so much closer to it all here, for example, you get to see Irish film stars in plays at Olympia theatre, Brendan Gleeson with his sons Brian and Domhnall, Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea.

The title of this collection of poetry is a reference to the travails of the human mind, both of you have openly talked about your struggles with depression in the past, how therapeutic is the creative process of music, poetry and art in managing and containing these unwelcome feelings?

Susanne: Both art and poetry are very therapeutic in moments when I am experiencing emotional distress. For me, creating seems to be an existential need. It helps to put pen on paper and give the pain some room to manifest in written word or a drawing. Already as a child, when I wasn’t feeling well, my mother made sure I had something to draw or paint with. It is a form of self-soothing, something I find comfort in. In my depths of depression, I also felt the need to make a mark, to show that I am there, in moments when I was losing myself, crippling from mental turmoil. 

Here is a photo of me drawing with ink in my hospital room. It started with an abstracted portrait, my face divided into pieces, to show how torn apart I was. During my two month stay, I created a whole series of those called Face It. Other psychiatric patients agreed to get their portrait done because I told them that through abstraction they wouldn't be recognizable. For me, it was a way for people to show their face yet remain anonymous. Hidden behind a web of lines and shapes I felt I could attempt to portray the pain, the troubles and the sense of crisis that was often written on their faces. As a whole, the abstract portraits of mental health sufferers were a comment on social stigmatization.  

As for poetry, it has helped me immensely to write, to try to put into words what I was feeling and experiencing. I have tackled the topic of my mental ill health in a substantial amount of my poems and so it is not surprising that Schizo-Poetry contains a poem called ‘Melanic’, meaning blackest black, in which I am personifying depression. However, I have poems on the other side of the spectrum, too: hilarious and playful, such as ‘Rubious’, in which a ‘Missus Dubious is getting all too curious’. So I feel that our book is covering everything from dark to light, taking into account our past struggles as well as the glorious moments in life.

Excerpt from 'Melanic', Susanne Wawra (click to enlarge)

For people like myself perhaps who would be unfamiliar with it, it would be interesting to know is there much of a poetry movement amongst young people in Ireland at present, are there any peers in particular that you admire and could recommend or places where people who would like to take a greater interest in poetry should frequent, regular events etc.?

Susanne: I would say I mostly mingle with visual artists, I am not too familiar with other writers. I have experience in organizing and curating exhibitions and would be more involved in that scene rather than participating in readings or writing groups. I am more of a passive poet in that sense, an observer. The national organisation Poetry Ireland is quite good to get an overview of what is happening in Ireland. Also, reading Irish publications like The Stinging Fly, Galway Review and The Moth keeps you in the loop. 

Kevin: Well, much like the making of my album; artistically I live quite an insular life. The most interesting poet I can suggest that you read is Susanne Wawra. I never was a part of anything like a poetry group or readers club; call it cowardice, or maybe I was protecting something which I believed I had, but wasn’t really sure if I had it in the first place. Either way I was gonna find out by myself. 

I can name a few Authors I know, respect and feel an affinity with outside of Schizo-Poetry. They are Pat Deeley, Dave Lordan. Then there’s Rob Doyle and David Noone. Dave Lordan is kind of a movement onto his self. I was very impressed with a poetry reading I was at in Lilliput press house some time ago and there’s a very interesting webzine called Colony which you should check out. Colony published a huge series of my poems, entitled The Hot Press Haikus which you can see on my website. But really and embarrassingly my insularity leaves me with very little to say for this question.  

Reading through this beautiful collection of poems a variety of themes and settings stand out, urban / countryside, love, happiness and despair and also a wonder of nature, when you were both composing each set of poems were they recent or past experiences or a mixture of both, memories and real-time observations?

Kevin: I think I speak for both myself and Susanne when I say, they are a mixture of both, memories and real-time observations. My good friend and great poet said to me after I finished my first book Vibrations Of The Soul in 2012, ‘Kevin, three years work went into that book and a lifetime of experience’. 

I later thought about what he said. I thought about how accurate a statement it was. Everyone has a relationship with the language they speak; a relationship with the language they use to express their feelings about their relationships with people. It’s like a friendship; each word like a person and this friendship, as Pat says, lasts a lifetime. For it is language that the poet uses to explain his/her experiences. Martin Buber once said there is an infinity to everyone (i.e. every word), the extents of which we will never fully know. Jacques Derrida said somewhat in agreement with Buber, that the meaning of a word is always deferred infinitely rendering it ultimately unknowable. For many people (as it was with us) when they read Schizo-Poetry, they will have started a new relationship with these obscure colours, (Flavescent, Amaranthine, Melanic, Ibis etc.) even though the content of the poems are very familiar. So in my opinion, every poem is a culmination of a lifetimes experiences (just as Pat said to me that day) no matter how authentic it is to the present moment, this is definitely true of these poems. 

Susanne: I agree with Kevin, the poems in this collections are a mix of musings and experience, with a good helping of surreal or dream elements on my part. As we wrote for a specific colour, we only showed each other our poems when completed. Interestingly, you can find some parallels in them, “Melanic” are both about depression, “Ibis” are both with the speaker sitting in front of a house engaged with nature. Even for me as one of the writers, it is truly intriguing how every set of poems carrying the same title works side by side. 

Where can we purchase a copy, will you both be performing the poems together soon, can we expect another volume in the future?!

Susanne: Copies of Schizo-Poetry can be purchased via my website www.susannewawra.com, they are signed by both authors, or through contacting Shine - www.shineonline.ie. Also, we are talking to bookshops in Dublin at the moment. In terms of performing the poems, we are planning a reading in St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, with John Saunders from Shine. We thought it would be great to read in the place where Kevin and I initially met through poetry.

Also, to keep up to date with Kevin’s poetry and music just visit his website www.kevinnolan.info.

In terms of future collaborations, we are currently setting the foundations for an aphoristic novel written by Kevin and illustrated by myself. Considering poetry, I am compiling a manuscript of about 50 of my poems I would like to get published. Also, there is always the chance we get so excited about an idea or concept for another volume of poetry together that we just have to go for it.

**Sincere thanks to Kevin and Susanne for putting considerable effort into this interview and for kindly sharing their poetry and thoughts.