Sunday, 29 November 2015

Single: Niamh Regan - The Sweetest Drop

Niamh Regan The Sweetest Drop

Niamh Regan - The Sweetest Drop

Info: Galway folk singer-songwriter Niamh Regan, who is currently studying Music at University of Limerick, has just released her debut single, 'The Sweetest Drop' and is already receiving well-deserved plaudits from high places with The Irish Times' On The Record stating; 'Niamh Regan catches our ear with a sweet, pure folk voice bursting with potential'.

Without sounding clichéd or patronising (regarding her young age) which is far from what I mean, Regan's voice and music already sounds like the finished article in so many ways. Musically I'm hearing Nick Drake and Bert Jansch in her guitar playing whilst her voice is unique enough not to be obviously attached to any predecessor amongst female folk artists of the same generation as those two. 'The Sweetest Drop' is strikingly beautiful with it's title metaphorically capturing the feeling you get while you listen to it, it's mature, sweet and crystal clear. The songs protagonist, a mocking bird, and trouble-bearing muse, is embedded in Regan's dirge with heartfelt poetic lyrics which cements the sense that she has delivered this track from another time. Although this is only a brief introduction to Niamh Regan and her music, without getting carried away based on one song, it augurs very well for her future and I agree with previous reviews which were of the view that we will be left eager for more. 

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Album: Gráinne Hunt - Firing Pin

Gráinne Hunt Firing Pin

Gráinne Hunt - Lilacs

Info: A couple of weeks ago Monaghan singer-songwriter Gráinne Hunt released her debut album, Firing Pin, at The Chocolate Factory on Kings Inn Street in Dublin. She will play one more public live performance at Ernesto's Cafe in Rathmines today with Mark Geary before setting off for a five date tour in Switzerland. 

Shortly after returning from opening for Glen Hansard with Mark Geary in Europe, Gráinne Hunt released her new mini album Firing Pin on October 23rd. The title track is the second single released off the album, the first single 'Lilacs' was released in August, reaching no.4 on the iTunes chart and gaining significant airplay on national radio. Gráinne has been regularly compared to Natalie Merchant, Dolores O'Riordan and Alison Moyet amongst others.

Gráinne Hunt Music

There's a strong and fulsome tone to Hunt's vocals which have a distinctive traditional and country sound, immediately noticeable from the albums title and opening track 'Firing Pin', a melodic and strident start to proceedings. It's not long into the album before we come across our first standout track, the wisely chose second single, 'Lilacs' (above), the mood is more solemn and musically it's filled with emotion, with gentle piano and haunting strings arching over Hunt's old world vocals, bordering on a traditional Irish sound. 

Third track 'Chances' mixes pop leanings with the aforementioned country vibe, but quite contemporary and somewhat reminding me of English folk songstress KT Tunstall. On 'Low Tides' we're whisked off to the American mid-west, a wistful ballad and piece of song-writing from Hunt displaying the level of genuine personal investment she pours into her music, another strong point on Firing Pin without doubt. A short burst of energy then arrives on 'No Way I''d Go Down' cranking things up with lively electric guitar, a proper fun hoedown n' hootenanny to tap your foot to! 

The mini-album closes with three live versions of 'Lilacs', 'Low Tides' and 'The Words of it All', the album version of which is reminiscent of late 60's British folk from the likes of Fairport Convention, bringing another layer of depth to the album overall. The live tracks are very well recorded and prove that Hunt does not just sound good courtesy of the recording studio whilst also providing an insight of what to expect at a live performance for those of us who have not had the pleasure just yet.

You can purchase both physical and digital copies of Firing Pin at the below links

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Single: LaGracia - Don't You Ever Leave

LaGracia Don't You Ever Leave

LaGracia - 'Don't You Ever Leave'

Info: Dublin-based soul and R&B band LaGracia released their debut single, 'Don't You Ever Leave Me', last night at The Bello Bar in Dublin 8, which was also a fundraiser night, details of which you can find here. The band are made up Sligo vocalist Gráinne McCarthy, guitarist/bassist Kevin Healy from Roscommon, and Dublin drummer Adam Kelly.

Gráinne has been singing for a long time in several acts, performing with Discovery Gospel Choir since 2012 and is also a backing vocalist for Danny G & The Major7ths and Emma O'Reilly. Kevin has been gigging for years with rock band The Antics and has been playing bass with Emma O' Reilly for the last year, whilst Adam studied music in Newpark Jazz School, subsequently gigging for a number of years, with a variety of bands including The Actual Mafia.

LaGracia's debut single is a fine piece of not only soul and R&B, but southern gospel music, vocally McCarthy is in the (happy!) half-way house between Dusty Springfield's 'You Don't Own Me' and Aretha Franklin's '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', with more than easy on the ear velvet vocals. It's clearly evident on the track also that LaGracia have assembled additional musicians for the track on saxophone and piano who are very accomplished at their trade with the whole song feeling exceptionally tight and flowing with ease from start to finish. I'm already looking forward to hearing more from this band in a set of genres that, alongside rock and blues, are very dear to my tastes.

You can purchase 'Don't You Ever Leave' here

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Interview: CC Brez @ The Sound Feed

CC Brez Her Alibi EP Launch Whelans
CC Brez, Whelans, 'Her Alibi' EP Launch. Photo: Remy Connolly

CC Brez - When It Feels Good

Info: Ahead of his single launch for 'When It Feels Good' (above) at Whelans last month, CC Brez (Cormac Breslin) dropped by The Sound Feed studio to perform the new track with singer Louize Carroll and keyboardist Theodora Byrne and have a chat with me about the blues, soul and plans for the near future. CC Brez also released his debut EP, Her Alibi, during the summer which was one of my personal favourite Irish releases this year, as well as playing the Oxjam stage at Electric Picnic.

CC Brez chats with Remy @ The Sound Feed studio

Monday, 23 November 2015

Live: LaGracia - The Bello Bar, Portobello, 28th November

La Gracia Dublin

LaGracia - No One

Info: Soul/ R&B act LaGracia are releasing their single, 'Don’t You Ever Leave', to raise funds to financially support Cheryl Mulvey as she is treated for bowel cancer. 

The single will be released at a special event in Dublin’s Bello Bar on Saturday, 28th of November, featuring performances by LaGracia and a variety of special guests.

Joining LaGracia on the night are singers from Discovery Gospel Choir – Emma O' Reilly on keys and BVS, Esosa Ighodaro (Republic of Loose) and Kate Madoo on BVs, as well as Richard NG (Popgun Warfare) and James Steele on saxophone, and Graham Heaney (Túcan) on bass.

Mother of three, Cheryl was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March of this year, and in her words, "I never expected to hear the words, tumour and cancerous.
But there I was, head spinning, with all the emotions and feelings you might imagine; shock, fear, dread, guilt."

"When you're told you have cancer, you immediately think of your family, how you fear not being with them any more, getting to enjoy watching your kids grow and be there for them."

Cheryl’s cousin and LaGracia guitarist, Kevin decided that the best way he could support the family was to use his talents and work with the band to raise both vital funds and awareness of the financial impact a cancer diagnosis can have on a family. All sales of the single, and proceeds from the Bello Bar event, will go directly to supporting Cheryl and helping with the day-to-day costs of her treatment and recovery.

Tickets can be purchased at €8 on the door but are also available at a discounted price through LaGracia’s eventbrite page,

Discovery Gospel Choir - Don't Take My Brother

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Live: King Kong Company - The Academy, 27th of November

King Kong Company The Academy

King Kong Company - Spacehopper

Info: Waterford electronic act King Kong Company are currently half way through their Irish Tour having played Fusion in Drogheda, the legendary Róisin Dubh in Galway and Tricky McGarrigles in Sligo over the last week. Next on the list is a headline gig in Dublin's Academy on Friday, 27th of November followed by The Pav in Cork on the 5th of December and a New Years Eve bash at The Set Theatre in Kilkenny. This tour comes as the band prepare for the release of their forthcoming album, produced by Mercury Music Prize nominee Tim Holmes, which comes out in December 2015.

Tim Holmes was Death in Vegas' Richard Fearless' partner on their ground-breaking 1999 trip-hop album The Contino Sessions, with Holmes co-writing all but one of that albums 9 tracks, timeless Eb / Ab5 opener 'Dirge', (which I incidentally performed a long time ago, vox n' all, in a galaxy far far away in DLIADT!). 

To some people the band came from no-where, to others, the debut album has been almost 20 years in the making. King Kong Company formed in 1996 when a bunch of college mates got together and started ripping up the clubs of Ireland. Life happened, things changed and the band decided to split. Over the course of the next decade, things changed again and, after a Wikipedia entry suggested the band were getting back together in 2010, the seeds of a comeback gig were sown. In preparation for the one gig, they released one new music video on YouTube every month in 2011.  That one gig happened in February 2012. 

King Kong Company - GAME OVER

Probably the best thing to come out of Waterford since 17th century physicist and chemist Robert Boyle (with Jim Beglin a close third), King Kong Company are flush with banging electro tunes and it's hard to see why anyone who is a fan of DiV, Primal Scream or Chemical Brothers would not want to be at the above upcoming dates. Whet your appetite more here

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Album: Stephen Young & The Union - Eagle Fort Rumble

Stephen Young and The Union Eagle Fort Rumble

Stephen Young & The Union - Shuffle In The Quicksand

Info: Ireland's original country rock and Americana band Stephen Young & The Union release their long-awaited second album, Eagle Fort Rumble, this coming Friday, 27th of November, with a headline show at The Grand Social on the banks of the River Liffey. The new album sees the five piece take control of the reigns and shift their much loved sound in a more refined, grounded and personal direction than their much lauded debut LP Wilderness Machine back in 2011, and the time taken in between has proven to be fruitful. Below is a whistle-stop tour of the bands formation and Stephen's recent U.S. tour in an interview we did at The Sound Feed studio last week and a review of the album itself. 

The opening bars of 'Shiver', the albums first track, encapsulate the new (yet loyal to the old) sound of Stephen Young & The Union, you're immediately transported to saw-dust floored bars in the American West, there's intent and energy with some fine soaring guitar solos, with the vocals accompanied by piano balancing a softer side in the background. 'Duty Free 200', which featured here last year, is the first single from Eagle Fort Rumble, it's a sweet and easy ballad, there's really nice intricate interplay between acoustic guitars and again I'm digging the piano on this one a lot.

Stephen Young & The Union Irish Americana

'Lately I've Loved A Rose' sees SY&TU step back slightly from the Americana sound and launch into full on rock mode, drawing on their influences such as The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, both of which unsurprisingly dabbled in both genres in equal measure, the fiddle really raises the track up to another level as well as it heads into borderline anthemic territory. Having previously heard the three singles to date and their last album 'The Blind Leading The Blind' took me by surprise, the firmest example of them building on what they've done before and taking it forward, vocally it's very 1960's trippy psych and musically the guitars wander delightfully off into Thin Lizzy, both resting comfortably side by side. 

Approaching the albums half-way point the penny has dropped that my preconceptions of Eagle Fort Rumble being solely an upgrade on 2011's Wilderness Machine have evaporated. Pure 60's folk steps in on the completely gorgeous 'Land Leg Blues', this track is on another level, like a song from the heyday that was never written and has now been found, it's the one that so far I've listened to most times on the album. On 'Monsoon Season' the energy returns, a sense of abandon ensues with the five-piece letting fly, you can hear each musician individually, almost as if they have been separated but it all comes together in an uplifting burst of a session. 

Remy interviews Stephen and Johnny @ The Sound Feed studio

The albums second single 'Shadowman' has its lyrics masked by the foot-stomping music; 'Every night there's a little less light in everyones eyes', subtly addressing one or more rarely spoken about human conditions. Stephen Young & The Union rock it back up again with 'Teardrops (On the Sidewalk)', another very strong example of talented song-writing on the album, there's a bit of old U2 and 1980's Dublin here for me personally, around October and War era, if I was completely unaware of the band or their music and was played the track with no information whatsoever I'd know this was penned by an Irish artist. The album is sealed for me with the finale of 'Someone You Dream Of', it's the most beautiful song I've heard this year by any artist, and if I'm to be perfectly honest it was a bit overwhelming, maybe I wasn't expecting it, songs like this are why I listen to and love music and I know I'll be revisiting Eagle Fort Rumble as a whole for a long time to come.

You can pre-order Eagle Fort Rumble on the following platforms;

Stephen Young & The Union - Shadowman

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E.P.: Circuits of Heaven - In the Time of Decay

Circuits of Heaven In The Time of Decay

Circuits of Heaven - In the Time of Decay (track)

Info: Cork lo-fi indie band Circuits of Heaven have just released their sophomore E.P., In The Time of Decay,  Self-described as blending; '...angelic, stripped down acoustic and vocal harmonies with refined electronic accompaniment, fusing the synthetic and the organic' they've set the bar high for themselves.

In the Time of Decay opens with its title track, a slow burning and moody start with Weezer type harmonies, the sedate drumming and heartfelt vocals bring a bit of raw emotion to proceedings. Following track 'Here In Your Arms' is a big highlight for me, with guitars quite like God Is An Astronaut, it's a warm yet slightly brooding number musically and I'm quite enjoying the vocals in general at this point. 

'Deep Inside the Diary' is another solid track, a bit like I Am Kloot, it's of a sunny disposition and whilst simple, I do love a bit of xylophone in my happy songs so this one had a lot of appeal in that regard. On 'A Day Off' Circuits of Heaven embrace their electronic side again, bass and effects circle around 80's downtempo. All in all In the Time of Decay should be viewed as a successful debut EP from CoH, all four tracks stay true to their sound but provide the listener with plenty to keep them occupied, I just hope more people get to hear it.

You can now buy In the Time of Decay from the Inner Chapter labels Bandcamp page at the below link.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Tracks: ELVETT - Everybody Say... & Who Shot First

Elvett Everybody Say Who Shot First

Elvett - Everybody Say...

Info: Swiss electro-pop duo Elvett formed in January of this year and have amassed a strong following in the underbelly of their native music scene as a result of their unique brand of sleek analog-based indie sounds. Together as a musical duo since 2003, vocalist Lyn and drummer Alain have primarily written music for film up until now, with each release they have been exploring new territory, creating music based on sensuous electronica mixed with acoustic instrumentation. 

Elvett pair Lyn and Alain seem to have a penchant for digging surprise after surprise from their bag of sonic tricks. 'Everybody Say...' has a gospel and jazz sound courtesy of the vocals with music eschewing a chilled out yet upbeat vibe and some nice sonic layers towards the tracks finale. In contrast 'Who Shot First' (below) adopts a more industrial electro sound similar to a modern take on Gary Numan's Tubeway Army or Kraftwerk. Tribal drums and vocalizer effects edge toward the slightly sinister as Elvett go slightly dub and disco with a hint of dare I say it, ABBA-esque pop sounds. Continental European pop music can get a bit of a bad rap in the UK & Ireland but Elvett are doing a good job of challenging those perceptions with every release.

Elvett - Who Shot First

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Single: Shoot The Messenger - Licence To Kill

Shoot The Messenger Licence To Kill

Shoot The Messenger - Licence To Kill

Info: Derry indie rock band Shoot The Messenger released their debut single, 'Licence to Kill' (above) yesterday with a headline show at The Thatched Cottage. Beginning their musical endeavours as a band formed through the Nerve Centre’s Sync Project, Shoot the Messenger played their first gig in June 2014 and have been gigging throughout Ireland since. After gaining support slots with The Clameens, The Bonnevilles, Goons and The Wood Burning Savages, they are preparing to launch their debut single,“Licence to Kill” recorded and produced by Glenn Rosborough.

Ah here, this is a bit of a whopper tune, Shoot The Messenger have tickled a lot of my rock sensibilities with new single 'Licence To Kill', from the thudding bass to the in your face guitar riffs and great vocals from singer Brooke Logan, both music but especially vox reminded me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Karen O. The band squeeze every ounce of rock goodness into the tracks 5 and a half minutes and there's a seriously lovely breakdown from just after the 4 minute mark with great escalating guitar playing and drumming, another gem from Derry city.

Shoot The Messenger Licence To Kill Single

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Track: Here To Help You Out - Runway Lights

Here To Help You Out Runway Lights

Here To Help You Out - Runway Lights

Info: Dublin indie folk five-piece Here To Help You Out have recorded a new track, 'Runway Lights' in advance of their headline show in The Bello Bar on the 4th of December. The band grew out of an informal project between singer Louise O’Hanlon and guitarist Shane O’Neill. Encouraged by early writing and recording sessions, the pair set about recruiting a band for live gigs. Friends Ronan Parker (bass), Donal O'Sullivan (drums) and Paul Higgins (guitar) joined the fold, with some other friends helping out along the way. It was instantly apparent that they each brought their own imagination, personality and style to the music, giving it a whole new level of depth.

Having covered a number of HTHYO's tracks over the past year and a bit it's always interesting to hear their new offerings as while they maintain their over-arching melodic and gentle sound they always seem to point notably in different directions rather than re-hashing. 'Runway Lights' is so laid-back you completely drift off into the XX type harmonies between the always easy on the ear O'Hanlon and O'Sullivan and slow-paced bass lines courtesy of Ronan Parker. Whether consciously or subconciously, the tweaking and development of their sound over the last year has shown that Here To Help You Out are taking another step in the right direction with each release.

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Single: Cave Ghosts - All My Life / Mariposa

 Cave Ghosts All My Life Single Mariposa

Cave Ghosts - All My Life

Info: Dublin five-piece alternative pop troupe Cave Ghosts officially release their latest double A-side, 'All My Life' / 'Mariposa' this coming Wednesday, 25th of November, followed by their single launch at The Mezz in Dublin on Friday, 27th. Cave Ghosts are five star-gazers playing shimmering nostalgic pop. Their story began when two smalltown dreamers living in a big city, Jen Connell (vocals) and Aoife O'Carra (vocals/guitar) circled each other's 'Musicians Wanted' ads. Bonding over a shared obsession with David Lynch, Wim Wenders and the bittersweet melancholy of The Beach Boys, The Shangri-Las and The Jesus and Mary Chain, their own stories of love and loss blossomed into their first songs. Their broken hearts club soon grew to include like-minded romantics Sundara O'Higgins (guitar), Jonny Fun (bass) and Maggie Fagan (drums).

There's a lot to like and enjoy on both singles from Cave Ghosts, modern pop sensibilities also see each track harping back to two very different eras in many ways. 'All My Life' is laced with 80's sugar pop vibes, a mix of Tiffany and The Bangles vocally and Blondie musically, it's a musical taste explosion with multi-toned harmonies surrounding you dizzyingly, in all the right ways. I was hella impressed with 'Mariposa', I can definitely get the previous comparisons with Best Coast but Cave Ghosts have mostly injected the song with psychedelic 60's Woodstock and garage sounds courtesy of the fuzz of the guitar and drumming style. The band have struck the perfect balance between unadulterated indie pop and coolness here, there's just nothing you wouldn't enjoy across both tracks with both being sufficiently different to make you feel like you've got a proper two for one, and how about that cover art.

Cave Ghosts - Mariposa

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E.P.: Participant - Content

 Participant Content EP

Participant - Your Better

Info: Dublin ambient musician Participant (Stephen Tiernan) has just released his second E.P., Content, the follow up to his 2014 debut Bit Slow. In the gaps between other music ventures he started experimenting with his music, firstly as a hobby, but eventually turning his attentions firmly to his own material. Tiernan exclusively sampled from his past recordings, demos, and projects to create a library of sounds and textures within which to nestle his sincere and heartfelt songs. Participant’s approach and attention to detail results in songs that feel layered and intricate yet still retain a sense of space, in his own words; "I didn’t realise it until afterwards but Bit Slow was a weight I’d been carrying for years. Since it’s release I’ve gained more pleasure from music than ever before. It might not be obvious at first listen but Content has an undercurrent of hope and love. Feelings I’d struggled with incorporating into my music until recently."

Content is pretty awash with variety, having listened to 'Your Better', the E.P.'s opener, for seem reason I expected to hear variants of that sound and mood without it sounding too different across the remaining tracks. 'Your Better' is etched from mid to late 90's electronic acts such as Massive Attack and Portishead, rippling undercurrents of dark yet chilled waters, it's unsurprisingly calming in a short space of time.

Participant Content Dublin Ambient Stephen Tiernan

'Sooner or Later' brings richer textures forth, whilst experimenting Tiernan has managed to achieve a very well structured assembly of shifting tectonic noises and sounds that create a slowly whirling feel, picking up and rowing back abruptly to give a smooth and pleasurable pace to proceedings. The aforementioned variety truly kicks in on 'A Change', the OK Computer-esque acoustic intro a brief launch pad toward a cosmic plateau of all-encompassing spacey fuzz and clicks. At this point you also become more and more aware of the uniqueness of Tiernan's voice, slightly effeminate at times before lowering tone to almost spoken word. 

The E.P. closes on 'By Default', personally I was reminded of Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue and indeed the band themselves in it's orchestral reach, it's clear by now that Tiernan possesses a rich imagination at this point and you can easily forget that this music is only being created by one person. At times chamber pop, always ambient, Content is definitely a collection of songs that appeals very much to a certain genre of music which I've always had a soft spot for. It also sounds quite professional in its production and you hope that this new found joy of writing and composing is only an initial spurt that will see his creative side dish up many more treats.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

E.P.: Saramai - Red Moon

Saramai - Fall A While

Info: Saramai is a singer-songwriter from Navan, Co.Meath who releases her debut EP, Red Moon, this Friday, 20th of November. She has previously opened for Irish music luminaries such as Duke Special, Jack L, Fionn Regan and Declan O'Rourke. Regarding the recording of the four-track release Saramai explains; 'Guinness Amplify gifted me studio time and I recorded in Attica with Tommy Mc Laughlin (SOAK, Villagers) I recorded all the tracks live (all from one take) on a beautiful baby grand piano and on the last track I used an old battered upright. You can hear the hammers working. The aim was to keep it honest and raw.' 

As opening tracks go 'Fall A While' kind of took my breath away a little, and the more I listen to it that becomes a lot, the gentle opening piano bars soon become accompanied by the singers calming and sweet voice, and as the track goes on I start to get the stark emotions inside. 'Butterfly Waltz' is like Kate Bush without the crazy and a small dash of Sinead O'Connor's ardor, the melodies coming from the piano roll purposefully and at times I feel like there's a hint of classical Chopin which fits nicely with the songs title. 

Saramai Singer Music Navan Red Moon

The E.P.'s title-track bursts with theatre from it's Nina Simone intro á la 'Sinnerman' to the aforementioned hammers going at full pelt, there's an energising flare dancing and expanding as the track progresses. The lack of fanfare and sense that you are just listening to music, plain and simple, continues on the final track, 'Return Again Soon', Saramai gives a throwaway hint of country vocals towards the tracks conclusion, another endearing feature of the highly gifted vocalist. Red Moon is a debut showcase that spoils the listener rotten, the fact that it was recorded live and in just the one take just adds to how impressive it is. Add to that that 'Fall A While' is one of the most moving Irish tracks I've heard this year and probably in longer, and I know I absolutely have to see this artist live, and soon.

You can purchase Red Moon on iTunes here; 

Upcoming tour dates:

20th November Launch Gig The Lantern Navan, Meath
27th November The CO Club, Creans, Old Castle
13th December Music @ Tivoli, House Concert - Rathgar, Dublin
22nd January Clubeo, Crolly, Donegal

29th January Aces and Eights, Tufnell Park, London

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Interview: Gary O'Neill plus E.P. - Gracefully With Haste

Gary O'Neill Musician Dublin
Photo: Dave Uzell

Gary O'Neill - Vienna

Info: Kilkenny man Gary O'Neill is a Dublin-based singer-songwriter who is establishing himself in his new home city with a full-on involvement in hosting residencies and his own live performances. During the summer O'Neill released his sophomore E.P., Gracefully With Haste, and since then has been tirelessly showcasing his material on Dublin's live circuit and beyond. I had the pleasure of picking Gary's brain regarding his experiences to date and an imagined encounter with Mr. Ed Sheeran below, but first, an introduction to his music...

The new E.P. opens with the folk country sounds of 'Vienna' (above), a sweet bouncing piece of Americana with rhythmic acoustic guitars and harmonies that traverses The Boss and Van Morrison. 'Treasure Chest' starts out like a locomotive at full pelt before drawing down to O'Neill's softly sung yet mildly gravelly vocals, a recurring trait, he manages to provide a musically upbeat backdrop to his ballads. 

Jazz hands open the swaggering and excellent 'If You Don't Mind', a multitude of styles are happening here with bluesy guitars and funky beats, a definite favourite for me on the E.P.. I can't shake the musical alignment with Van Morrison once again on 'In Search of Something New', specifically the Belfast legends Saint Dominic's Preview and Veedon Fleece period, thankfully O'Neill doesn't share Van's intolerance for happiness! Gracefully With Haste ends with the beautifully bare and honest 'Hannah & The Cobblestones', lyrically strong with nice melodies and harmonies it suitably caps the 6-track recording on a high note (pun acknowledgement) and convinces the listener that O'Neill is a serious songwriter who doesn't take himself too seriously.

Remy: How did the whole Gary O'Neill journey begin when it came to writing your own music?

Gary: I was involved in a few bands in my teens. I started off making buckets of that clichéd, spotty teenage-noise in my garage. It was only when I started with a band, Alka Jessie - at around 15/16 years old is when I started writing songs for the band. I wrote an album or two with those guys - and we’re all still musically involved with each other today.  

R: You moved from your hometown Kilkenny to Dublin in 2013, at a time when 
Dublin is buzzing with acts, shows and venues like never before, do you think 
the tide has yet to touch Ireland's smaller cities and towns?

G: Honestly? It’s hard to call. I mean, small towns are on the way out, traditionally. All the young folk seem to be urbanizing and moving to the big ‘shmoke’ - be it here or abroad. But with that said - a few friends from back home have started doing wonderful things for music in Kilkenny. Not so long ago there was no real platform for music, but now - thanks to Colin & AJ - there’s loads of open mic/acoustic nights/new venues going around. So that’s great to see! 

R: You're music is firmly in the singer-songwriter tradition, rather than ask 
the tired question of inspirations from the past, who would you consider to be 
the most authentic contemporary song-writers, or ones that you would admire?

G: BAH! You’re dead right - there’s a question nobody like answering! It’s hard to pin it down to just a few people with the volume of music I listen to everyday, so I’m glad you re-phrased the question. For me - I’m actually influenced mostly by what goes on in Dublin. There are plenty of people I’ve met in some dingey, smelly underground open mic who’ve really snatched my musical heart up. You meet loads of folk like that around the ‘circuit’ - and I find it’s a lot easier to be inspired when something magical is happening right in front of your eyes. Callum Orr, the Basciville duo, David Keenan, the girls of Mongoose, Eoin Martin, Daniel O’Sullivan, Colobe - guys that I’ve all met through playing music who I’d now consider good mates of mine because of it.

R: Your second EP, Gracefully With Haste was just released this summer, the 
six track is ponderous and uplifting in many ways, would you're writing be more 
influenced by positive themes as opposed to drawing inspiration from painful or 
sombre narratives?

G: Ah, thanks! It all depends, really. Writing songs, whether they’re good or bad - is like second nature to me. I’m obsessed with it. It’s like every one of my emotional outputs is penned on some paper or plucked on a guitar. The EP is a mixture - most of the tracks are heartache-y break up songs while the rest are maybe close to the opposite. I dunno - songs I write just depend on what mood I’m in, and most of the one’s I keep are the ones that come most naturally. Which is why I’m terrible at talking about the depth of my songs, because they’re usually just written in some moment or state of mind that can only be conveyed through a tune. I try not to dwell on it too much, whatever comes naturally works best for me - because I feel when you think too much on the expressions and meanings of your own songs - you get a bit obsessively introverted, and that can be no craic.   

R: You recently mentioned one of your songs was inspired by the Sean Penn 
directed film Into The Wild, were you moved to pen the track immediately or 
had you been thinking about the films storyline for a good while before 
deciding to write it?

G: Yeah you’re right - I wrote a song recently called ‘Alexander Supertamp’ - and it tells the story of a young buck who came from an extremely wealthy family of whom’s values were centred around money. Basically, as the film goes - he cut off from everyone, everything - and went on a one man expedition into the wild. He had nothing, materialistically speaking, but was swamped by the joy of nothing and had a bloody great time. I watched the film, went straight up to my room and wrote that song start to finish - which was kind of cool. I’m not usually instantly stricken by something - but that film just hit me. The soundtrack was written by Eddie Vedder and it’s unreal too, so that could have helped? Anyway -  the guy’s fake name was Alexander Supertramp, hence the title of the tune!  

R: Your involvement in music doesn't end with live performances and writing, 
you're also involved in other projects and residencies in Dublin, tell us a bit 
more about that, and what would be your ideal line of work within the music 
area if you had to pick one as a day job to support your craft?

G: Well wouldn’t it be ideal if the craft could support itself, whaaat? Ah no. I’ve got a few residency pub gigs at the weekends and I work part-time in a burrito joint. I recently started a new music night with a buddy or two in a place called The Front Door on Dame St which happens every Wednesday. I’m involved with a Crimbo charity gig we’re running in The Button Factory on December 20th and I have plans to merge a few new groups over the coming months just for fun. It’s always nice to jam. I started a part-time songwriting course in BIMM too, so that’s opened my eyes and doors to a lot. I’m kind of drawn into the idea of professional songwriting now just speaking to some lecturers of mine who make a decent living from that. I started working at a few festivals this year as an Artist Liaison Officer, which is basically just the guy who makes sure all the acts are looked after at whatever festival - so that’s cool too. We’ll see. But for now I’m happy out rolling burritos and playing Oasis every Friday. 

R: Finally, if Ed Sheeran walked up to you just after you'd come off stage and 
told you you were a sell-out and don't have a note in your head, what would 
your response be?

G: I’d probably just laugh and buy him a pint. Whether it’s Ed Sheeran or some sloppy blaggard in the pub of a Friday night telling me how useless I am because I didn’t play Christy Moore, I’m kind of neutral to it all. I’m happy out. And as long as I’m enjoying it, nothing else really matters - does it?

To find out more about Gary O'Neill and his tunage and upcoming live shows, see below.....