Thursday, 25 February 2016

Single: Go Swim - Surrender

Go Swim - Surrender

Info: Long-term blog favourites Go Swim from Belfast return after a year-long break from song writing and take up the baton from where they left off with another addictive rock-pop single in the form of 'Surrender' (above). It's not often I get apprehensive about a band slowly drifting off and winding up unintentionally, but I did think that might have been the case here and thankfully those concerns are no longer. 

There's something about the guitar sound that sounds familiar but is distinctly theirs, and this was exemplified perfectly on 2014's Animal E.P., in particular on 'Call Sign' (below) which is worth revisiting. A good chunk of their hiatus has been spent promoting unsigned and up and coming Irish bands from all around the country as well, and they count BBC6 Radio and 2FM's Dan Hegarty among their fans. Hopefully 'Surrender' won't be standalone and a new E.P. is in the offing. 

Go Swim - Call Sign 

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Single: Slow Skies - Winter Night

Slow Skies - Winter Night

Info: Dublin singer / songwriter Karen Sheridan has just released her latest single, 'Winter Night', as Slow Skies, she is currently based in London where she has been collaborating with producer Conal Herron who she met whilst studying music in her adopted city. The track was recorded by Ber Quinn (Villagers, John Grant, Duke Special), and features piano from Patrick O'Laoghaire (I Have a Tribe), 'Winter Night' serves as the perfect accompaniment to these cold February mornings.

Sheridan explains; "'Winter Night' is about trying to capture a place in time or feeling you once had and wanting to hold on to it, not wanting to move on from it. It's that feeling you have where you wish you could go back in time and just be in that moment or feeling again. It comes from a place of longing".

It's not often you come across a track where the music feels completely secondary to the message the artist wants to convey. The music is so restrained that it's beauty is enhanced as a result, both piano and strings are deft and almost softly serenading the lyrics rather than vice versa. It's hard not to picture Slow Skies cupping her hands and gazing downwards at the words and message of 'Winter Night' in a nonchalant but heartfelt monologue, and there lies its greatest appeal. 

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Sunday, 21 February 2016

EP - Laura Ryder - haiku

Laura Ryder haiku Dublin

Laura Ryder - Freeze / Fall

Info: Mayo singer-songwriter based in Dublin, Laura Ryder released her debut E.P., haiku two weeks ago. The multi-instrumentalist who also plays the ukelele, glockenspiel, piano to name but a few, released her latest outing on Fire at the Hall of Records. 

A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem which consists of three lines, with the first and last line having 5 moras, and the middle line having 7. A mora is a sound unit, much like a syllable, but is not identical to it, with haiku's rarely rhyming. The characteristic Ryder's E.P. shares most closely with the meaning of its title is that it is an unconventional expression of the genre she performs and writes in. 

Opening with 'Pullover', you're struck by the steep drop in mood from the song's opening, smiling bars. Ryder embarks on an introspective of the self, we're all told to love and be kind to ourselves, but this isn't always easy and can in fact become a wearying drain; 'this is my skin that I'm snared within, it doesn't mean that I can love it...', sometimes the quickest route to a sense of contentment is by covering ourselves with the metaphorical pullover.

Laura Ryder - SnowColdWhiteNoise

Second track 'Dark' sees Ryder to continue examining the theme of being self-aware and being comfortable working her way through that process. You'd be forgiven for thinking from my descriptions so far that we're dealing with bleak themes, and undeniably we are, but Ryder has the ability to deliver them in a way that almost lets you detune from the lyrics and merely hear the music which itself is quite uplifting in an emotionally beautiful way. 

If the second half of haiku was as good as the first half I would have said that this is an impressive E.P., but it's better. 'Freeze / Fall' (top) puts the song-writing into song-writer, a story enveloped in warm and ancient musical sounds, the violin (courtesy of Aisling Bridgewell) perfectly if unintentionally painting a traditionally Irish / pagan Celtic mood, night-time in the misty woods before a ritual, with Ryder's voice describing the scene to our imaginations. 

Finally we have 'SnowColdWhiteNoise' (above), and an opportune moment to mention something that I felt from my very first listen to this E.P., that Ryder doesn't look to her influences or peers, from my perspective at least. Her music is truly individual as are her vocals, which is so welcome, of course they are there no doubt, but they haven't been allowed to spread themselves all over her music and this collection of songs is all the more better for it. I love how this track starts with bare bones and almost casually meanders into strings and piano to leave you with a lasting impression by it's end. Now, I'm off to enjoy the pile of other tracks on her SoundCloud.

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Interview: With New York's Stereo Off

Stereo Off - Automated

Info: New York electro-indie rock (now) three-piece Stereo Off first appeared here on the blog back in August, 2014 following the release of their debut E.P., simply named after their home city. The band's last E.P., the five-track The Long Hot Winter, retained all of the successful elements of their debut whilst clearly moving on and serving up an entirely new listening experience. Less indie and more electronic experimentation is the order of the day, most notably on above track 'Automated', and the 80's lavished 'Hotel Mirror'. I caught up with lead-singer Sebastian and guitarist Niall to fill in the intervening period since our last chat, and also find out the background on their newest E.P. which is due for release shortly, plus discussing a topic of mutual love, film!

Remy: Well guys it's almost a year and a half since we last spoke shortly after you released New York, how have you been since then?!

Sebastian: We've been good, mostly writing and recording new songs, and rehearsing while we finish off the third EP. We reformulated the band a couple of times since, and for the 3rd EP, it is now based more around the three of us, Niall, Bridget and Sebastian, so even before we drop the next record the sound has a new feel to it. 

Remy: I've noticed a slight change in sound on your last EP, The Long Hot Winter, it has a bit more of a pensive and less pop sound than your previous release. What would you say is the most obvious difference between the two from your perspective?

Sebastian: The Long Hot Winter is a little more experimental with more synths, but it's generally just more of everything. The first record was inspired by move riff-driven guitar cuts, and we kept it simple while we learned about each other and polished up our favorite choices. On the latest EP, we knew more about what we wanted out of it, so as long as we had that there was more room for experimentation.

Niall: That continues more with our 3rd EP which is almost ready. 

Remy: I loved your video for 'Bullet Time' from your first EP, a lovely homage to short-filmaking, have you any plans to accompany any of the new tracks with a video also?

Niall: We have a video for 'The Things We Do' that is 99% ready. That said, it is a much rawer video, one with perhaps a vaguer storyline, less a direct homage, but still very influenced by our styles, the night and the city. We also have some plans for a video for another song from this EP ('Automated'), which will take a completely different angle.  

Stereo Off - Hotel Mirror

Remy: Film has always played a big role in what you do musically with some of your songs featuring on soundtracks for short films. As a big film fan myself you might allow me to digress briefly and ask what your favourite movies of the last 12 months are?

Sebastian: Of the few films I had time to see last year, Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road were the winners. For someone bred on the films that inspired these two, different as they are, they not only payed homage to their genres but looked at the subject matter from fresh angles.  

Niall: Regarding full length 2015 movies, I did like The Big Short & Dope. Otherwise, the viewing had been more on short films. With other work from the short film team and various festivals prior, I feel like I've been skimming through piles of short movies.

Remy: How vibrant is the music scene in New York right now? Would it be as dynamic as places such as California for example where there seems to be a massive output of great music over the last 2 years?

Niall: It is a little concerning that several NY venues (including many we played in) have closed recently, often because they can't afford to keep open. Neighborhoods that used to have run down hidden venues are now too expensive for such things. There are some new venues too, but I feel there are more closures than openings.  

Remy: In between EP's did any of the band delve into any particular period of music or artists you hadn't previously listened to, or was The Long Hot Winter a straight up natural progression in your sound?

Sebastian: A lot of the ideas and that drove the songwriting on the first record are still big influences on The Long Hot Winter EP, so it feels like a progression. But the playing styles, effects and engineering sounds we discover keep evolving and making it new. 
Stereo Off The Long Hot Winter

Remy: Do musicians in the U.S. receive any state / government support in terms of grants or are you entirely left to provide for yourselves? And while I'm on the topic, there's a lot of interest in Ireland regarding the U.S. presidential elections as there always has been, do you think the position has become token with the President acting merely as a face whilst others are pulling the strings, does it matter who wins?

Sebastian: Here in the U.S. you can get some grants and funding but it's usually just on the individual. Money counters have devalued a well-rounded education and in turn the overall funding of the arts here, missing the clear benefits that these programs create in other countries.

Niall: Maybe the role of President doesn't matter as much as it should, as indeed the corporate powers are the ones truly in the driver’s seat. And I don’t think any president-to-be wants to take the hit for having to correct what is wrong with the current split of society that is becoming more and more like centuries ago where the middle doesn't exist. 

Remy: You've always gone for quite minimalistic cover art on your releases, with the new one reminiscent of Kraftwerk's Autobahn, is this deliberate? (the minimalism that is!)

Sebastian: Niall's idea for the first three records was that they would be EPs and have minimalistic covers. Niall designed the first and I did TLHW, and we're working on the new upcoming disc right now.

Niall: What he said. I also feel that as a relatively new band, we had to be clear with our brand, our name. No one needs to see something that looks great, yet not know who the hell they are. Perhaps it’s from seeing loads of cover art where that was the case for me.

Remy: Finally, I just wanted to mention that I think TLHW is a notable advance on New York, I'm particularly enjoying 'Supercooler' and 'Redesign', so what's the next step in the Stereo Off voyage?

ALL: Thanks! And good to hear from you as well!

Niall: Funny that you mention 'Supercooler' though. It was actually one of the first songs we ever had, maybe even the first song in our first set.  And we always liked playing it live, but the original recording didn't have that energy, so it never made the first EP.

Sebastian: So after leaving it for a while, we gave it another go, revamping it to match the energy and it took us more toward post-punk, just by nature of making it feel at home on this disc. Currently we're working on the new EP due out in late spring, and dropping a video for "Things We Do" in a couple of weeks. We have a whole new live sound now and we're pretty amped.

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Single: Ghost Robots - Under Fire

Ghost Robots - Under Fire

Info: We've seen a lot of quality music over the last two or three years consistently coming out of the usual suspect places like Cork, Belfast, Galway and there's a pattern emerging now from Waterford also. The latest of which comes courtesy of five-piece Ghost Robots, whose debut E.P., Sell It To Me, is due for release soon, in advance they have shared lead single, 'Under Fire' (above) as they commence work on their full debut album.

Sometimes you wonder do certain bands really need two guitarists, but with Ghost Robots you can acknowledge that sparring guitars work very well and build solid walls either side of the rapid percussion. This backdrop provides a steady and deliberate engine to lead-singer Michael Doyle's well-honed, almost nonchalant vocals. 'Under Fire' is a classic and punchy indie single which doffs it's cap to the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park in parts with the swagger you'd expect from Kasabian. It's three years since they released their debut E.P., and it now looks like Ghost Robots are in the zone coming up to their first full album release. Thee band have also just announced two Dublin dates, on the 26th of February at One The Rox on Coke Lane, Smithfield, and a midnight show in Whelan's on the 8th of April.

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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Single: Perhapsy - Morning Star

Perhapsy - Morning Star

Info: 'Morning Star' is the latest single from the soon to be released debut album, Me Tie Dough-ty Walker from Oakland artist Perhapsy (aka Derek Barber) which is due out March 3rd (and will be reviewed here). Clock-ticks and muted, percussive guitars begin a steady stream of major-7th arpeggiations before Barber's spiderweb-like vocals enter the song. An atypical kick drum/snare pattern propels the tune which develops layer by increasingly complex layer. Slightly post-rock elements meet a Flaming Lips-esque bassline groove, all accentuated by the lyric, "Next, is all there is..."

In the review for the previous single, the spacey and wondrous 'All My Soul Swallowed' I compared Perhapsy's sound to Sonic Youth and Ride, but on 'Morning Star' there's a bit of Mercury Rev going on. Aside from reference points, I really think Barber's music can stand proudly on it's own, there's a really interesting mix of deep-down shoe-gaze moments with a trundling and prominent bass which is unusual, but complimentary. 'Morning Star' is a joyous single and the excitement I hold for sharing my thoughts on Me Tie Dough-ty Walker grows, in case you missed it, here's the first single also...

Perhapsy - All My Soul Swallowed

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Album: Hotel On Mars - Don't Feel Like Daylight

Hotel On Mars - Want What You Want

Info: Dublin five-piece Hotel On Mars release their debut album, Don't Feel Like Daylight, tomorrow with a headline show in The Grand Social, which follows on the release of two singles from the album, 'Want What You Want' (above) and 'Sentinel' (below). In their own words; Don't Feel Like Daylight is a collection of 10 tracks of high energy, high tempo guitar tunes. It was self-produced by the band, who all played live in a big old room deep in the Welsh Valley, and stuck the results to tape. With nods to The Clash, The Ruts, Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, John Denver, Phil Collins, Pearl Jam and whatever you’re having yourself.

A Venn diagram of Hotel on Mars would place 80's post-rock in the left oval and mid-noughties indie rock on the right side with an extremely crowded union in between. Opening with 'A New Foe', which would fall into the middle, it's Supergrass In It For The Money bendy guitar riffs providing the backdrop to the Kaiser Chiefs, not predicting a riot, but maybe warming up to one. 'Bad Dalai Lama' booms Kula Shaker funky guitar and Happy Monday's swagger, an early exemplar of what Hotel on Mars might produce on stage. Then their own undoubted stamp appears on 'Everybody is a DJ', bustling guitar and drums drive like a locomotive behind the punk vocals, you'd imagine an audience shoulder-barging each other with abandon and defying gravity front of stage to this one.

Hotel On Mars - Sentinel

'Head for Rent' is a really nice punk shot in the arm, chaotic and chock full of energy, perhaps revealing where Hotel On Mars feel most at home and you'd imagine a track they are rightfully and particularly proud of on their debut album. 'Machine' and 'Passes Over You' see the Dublin band veer cautiously yet ably into garage-mode, stinging distortion and gratifying percussion bang away at your ear drums with vocals providing the counter balm. 

The album's final quarter introduces it's two singles to date, 'Want What You Want' and 'Sentinel', the former of which is loaded with attitude and revels in it's indie-pop-centric guitar strumming and chorus. 'Sentinel', the latest single on the album reveals much, the first time I heard it I thought Franz Ferdinand meets The Cure, with the delicious guitar solo pulling the track away from both, like 'Pictures of You' without keys and too much sugar in the blood stream (or just enough), it's a song that makes you sit up, and it's not alone on a consistently enjoyable album.

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Album: Mindriot - Brothers

Mindriot - Low

Info: This is an album I've been sitting on for a while, patiently edging towards the release date which is tomorrow. Cork rock group Mindriot will be releasing their debut album, Brothers, following their self-titled 6-track E.P. which came out in late-2014, and was recorded in their home county in Midleton. Featuring on both the E.P. and new album is the above single 'Low' which has made it's away across 70 countries worldwide, featured in Hot Press and was nominated for a Meteor award in 2015. 

Brothers opens with 'My Alibi', starting out with a distinctly 90's rock intro, the guitars soon announce what is to follow on the rest of the album, fluidly cyclical riffs and a far harder edge,  the bass-line echoing In Utero's 'All Apologies' amidst the surrounding chaos, it's a good start but proceedings are about to get better. Whilst the band have been compared to Foo Fighters previously, I only got the odd strand of it, and it's possibly limited to one album, my favourite of theirs, Nothing Left To Lose, and is most notable on second track 'Scream', along with 'Low', I would picture as an obvious single. 

Mindriot Brothers Cork Rock

Speaking of which, I absolutely love 'Low', you hope the band don't get sick of people telling them how much they like it, it's to be embraced, it's a really fine piece of song-writing, initially seeming overly familiar, but after 30 seconds you're sucked in and get it, songs like this are not easy to write and all of the elements click seamlessly, it's tight, production is top notch and the listener is spoiled. The timing and execution of chugging lead guitar, bass, drums and vocals as they combine pre-chorus is a particular treat delivered with precision. A final thought is that if this song and it's accompanying video had featured on MTV in the late 90's Mindriot would have charted across the globe, particularly in the U.S., and the guys would probably (not!) be demanding the removal of the blue M&M's from the bowl in their tour bus now.

Mindriot - Devil

Maybe it has been said before but the most striking resemblance I came across in some of Mindriot's tracks ('Fire' & 'Devil') was Chris Cornell and his Audioslave debut, another reason this album perhaps appeals to me a lot. There's a very solid vocal performance also on 'Angel Town', lead singer Gorry fitting easily into the role as frontman and transferring an authenticity into the album's songs, we're not here to just play music, there's a genuine will to put meaning and feeling into them. 

'Boys of the Tomahawk' has all of the traits of a traditionally hard rock track, instant intention, searing guitars and vocals and a call to action chorus, the stop-start guitar progressions and a thunderingly thick bass. 'Summer Breeze', is it an Isley Brothers' cover? Yes? No, but maybe that would be an interesting insert to their live playlist! Then we come to 'Devil', a behemoth of a track on Brothers, it's intro is mesmeric, watery guitar makes way to bone-crunching drums and guitar whammys. Mindriot close their album with 'Vain', a fine synopsis of the entire album, everything in the right place to quote the Radiohead song, bang for your buck and the Cork band leaving you with the abiding memory that you've listened to a heavy rock fans album, are you listening Dublin??

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Album: Track Dogs - Serenity Sessions

Track Dogs - Love Me Like You Used To

Info: Named after the maintenance teams that work the NYC subway system Track Dogs are a four piece acoustic act based in Madrid, Spain. Made up of two Irishmen; Garrett Wall (Vocals/Guitar/Ukulele/Piano) & Dave Mooney (Bass/Ukelele/Vocals), Englishman Howard Brown (Trumpet/Vocals/ Percussion) and Cleveland, Ohio native Robbie K Jones (Cajón/Banjo/Vocals). The group are releasing their third album on the 11th of March (pre-release now available on iTunes), Serenity Sessions, with the latest single, 'Love Me Like You Used To' (above) just released in the last few days.

Track Dogs have previously featured on the blog here over the last 12 months, their last E.P., Forever You'll Be and the first single from Serenity Sessions, the barn-storming ear-worm, 'Bon Scott, He Rocked' (a tribute to the late AC / DC frontman) both going down very well with me. Latest single 'Love Me Like You Used To' keeps the momentum going, featuring acclaimed Spanish guitarist 'El Twanguero' who is currently getting rave reviews in L.A.. The track is instantly appealing, with lovely electric country blues riffs that could easily see it sitting on an early Tarantino soundtrack.

It's not all fun and games with Track Dogs though and this can be seen from the opening track of the forthcoming album, 'To The End', lovely trumpet playing give a jazzy tone to a ballad based on friendship which could easily be an introspective. 'So Much Dust' zips from folk to punchy pop stylings and a funky choir breakdown that wouldn't be amiss on a Spiritualized album of all places. With 'Broken Strings' things are stripped bare and it's quite beautiful, really beautiful in fact the more you listen to it, sparse vocals, acoustic guitars, strings and brass once again combine wonderfully, maybe the most 'Irish' of all the tracks on the album, along with 'Orion Sees'.

Track Dogs - Bon Scott, He Rocked

'Don't Waste Time' starts out like The Faces (unsurprisingly as we will see later) and ends up like Madness meets The Tijuana Brass Band (finally, thank you mother!), a hazy feel-good number with soulful vibes, and that's the thing about Track Dogs, they just don't fit into any category easily, talk about straddling multiple genres as if they were all the same. 'The Lights Went Out In Cotos' is like a bluesy chain-gang song, then in comes the tremendous bossa nova percussion, and that's it in a nutshell, Track Dogs are full of surprises, every offering the only type of pleasant sucker punch you can imagine. Serenity Sessions is a truly wonderful album, it's all about giving to the listener and no taking, great musicianship on a plate and a collection of songs that require no effort to enjoy, and then there's that cover to close the album, smiling.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Single: Madeline Kenney - Tricky Way

Madeline Kenney Tricky Way

Madeline Kenney - Tricky Way

Info: Madeline Kenney is an Oakland-dwelling Seattle transplant, whose background in bakeries and neuroscience somehow add up to the production of twang-hazey dream pop. It's like if Loretta Lynn had a secret shoegaze project and an obsession with a looper pedal. Kenney recently released the first single, 'Tricky Way' (above), from her forthcoming E.P. which is due in April. Lyrically, the song deals with the appreciation of friends who see us through (sometimes numerous) mistakes. The track is reminiscent of Mazzy Star, early Cat Power, and Sharon Van Etten.

There's just so much to love about this single and Kenney, I'm not going to go into vocal comparisons on this occasion as I think there is no requirement and the music and her style speak for themselves. The intro to 'Tricky Way' has that mellow honey feeling you got from Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, think 'Black Magic Woman' or 'Something Inside of Me'. The whole mood of the song meanders down a shimmering sun-kissed stream, Kenney's vocals darting between calm and heightened alarm, they see-saw to the music, and the bending guitar effects provide the emotional 'drop', the moment the song's theme has sunk in and registered. So much crammed into a short space of time by an individual who holds clear talent that even the most casual of music fans would pick up on.

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Monday, 15 February 2016

Single: MNNQNS - Come To Your Senses

MNNQNS - Come To Your Senses

Info: Rouen post-punk indie rockers MNNQNS today released their latest single and video, 'Come To Your Senses', the first of a series from their forthcoming E.P., the song itself, is quite simply, about cheap beer according to the band, everybody loves cheap beer! 

Last year I reviewed MNNQNS (then Mannequins) album Worthless and absolutely loved it, the mix of dark grungy rock and light shoegaze worked a treat for me. 'Come To Your Senses' certainly fits in the lighter shade, call to action vocals and guitars and drums that go from pop tones to the darker edges briefly towards the tracks final third. Like many of the songs on Worthless it's instantly catchy and enjoyable and MNNQNS seem to be now embracing a more humorous side to their song-writing, c'est magnifique!

MNNQNS - Red Corvette (from 'Worthless')

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Single: Brass Phantoms - City of Wolves

Brass Phantoms - City of Wolves

Info: Indie post-punk Dublin four-piece Brass Phantoms have just released their latest single, 'City of Wolves', today. The track is the first release from their forthcoming sophomore E.P. of the same name which is due out on the 21st of March and is the follow up to last years self-titled debut. 

Comprised of Ryan Cashell on bass and vocals, James Geraghty and Greg Whelan (guitars) and Adam McCabe on drums, they were brought together by their love of experimentation and pop music. Brass Phantoms’ goal is to give the listener the best of both sides with lyrics that let you explore the singer’s world, and music brought to you straight from the late 70’s with all the raw energy and hooks of any main punk / post punk band at the time.

While there are remnants of the sound from their debut E.P., it's instantly noticeable on this lead track that Brass Phantoms have purposely pushed themselves onward in developing their musical style. There's a sharp focus on matching pop inclinations on the guitar riffs with a more expansive sonic range which is particularly evident in the backing vocal effect. 'City of Wolves' is enjoyably hectic and upbeat simultaneously and three and a half minutes never went quicker. 

I'm also totally digging the bass and drums in the intro to this latest offering and if the rest of the tracks on the E.P. match or better this single they will surely win over an awful lot of new bands. When you look at what young Dublin bands such as The Academic are doing right now in terms of their rapid rise and outstanding live performances you'd imagine Brass Phantoms would comfortably sit in a similar space before long.

Brass Phantoms City of Wolves Dublin

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Interview: Steve Duffy Raw

Steve Duffy Raw Dublin Musician

Info: Dublin folk and blues musician Steve Duffy has been on a hiatus of sorts over the past while, a regular on the music scene for many years, he shared the stage with Irish music luminaries such as Wallis Bird, Kila, Aslan, Mary Coughlan, Mic Christopher, The Mary Janes, The 4 Of Us to name but a few. Time away from live performing hasn't meant time away from music however, with Duffy dedicating the last couple of years both learning and immersing himself in the recording and production side of things, until now. Steve Duffy Raw is ready to return to the stage and also release his debut album in 2016, a comeback gig has been set for the 12th of March at the legendary Cobblestone Pub in Smithfield, with a single due for release the following month in April. 

My own introduction to Duffy's music was a special one, the above video for his song 'Tippy Toes', bringing us back in time, his youthful vocals echoing 60's & 70's folk songwriters. The video was shot when Duffy and photographer Anto Kane were searching for a unique location that was off the beaten track in the Wicklow mountains, and slipped discreetly into an old church, the resulting acoustics and resonance creating the wonderful sound to be heard from the Dublin songwriter and his guitar. Far from hiding away himself though, Duffy has been quietly honing his song-writing and preparing a whole new set of songs for a whole new audience.

Steve Duffy Raw Dublin Musician

I was able to catch up with Steve and pick his brains on all things music from the last few years to new happenings and beyond. 

Remy: I suppose a good place to start would be with a bit about your background in music, where it all started out and how long the gap has been since you were last gigging / writing regularly up until now?

Steve: I grew up in the old Ballymun flats and for as long as I can recall I always had a big love for music since a very young age. In terms of song-writing I put my first song together at the tender age of 10 years old and I have been gigging in pubs since I was 13 years old with my first band. After that I was constantly in and out of bands as I was growing up over the last 20 years.

R: During that break was it constantly on your mind to get back to playing live again and writing, and did you find it hard being away from it? Music is certainly something that runs through our veins and can't just be switched off with the flick of a switch after all!

S: I think a lot about music, whether it's writing, recording, or just simply listening, performing is a very big part of it for me, and the longer you're off stage, and not playing live, the harder it gets to be away from it. It can really eat away at the soul, it's so important to perform live from my perspective.

R: Have you noticed any changes in Irish audiences since you last played and today? A lot of people complain regularly about talking during performances, as one example.

S: Yeah definitely, look..I really don't wanna demand anybody's full attention at 
all, the truth there for me would be, if they like it.? Great. If they don't like it?Great! I'll do a few tunes and enjoy it myself as much as possible but I do find most people just go with it, but ya cant please everyone haha!

R: You recently recorded a lovely impromptu video of one of your songs 'Tippy Toes' in a church in Wicklow, did you have an idea of where you wanted to shoot a video or were you just heading out to see where chance would take you?

S: Doing the video for 'Tippy Toes' was a great day, a cold day, we had no idea what we where going to do exactly. It was only when we pushed open the door of the old church (didn't pick any locks!), we realised from the natural reverb and acoustics inside that, yep...this is where it will happen, it just fell into place really! 

R: You'll be releasing your debut album shortly, can we expect songs written over a long period of time that you've saved up for this moment or will they be fairly recently written material?

S: Most of the songs for this record will be hand-picked, some a little more recent than others, but I'm just picking the best 11 of the sack a songs I've built up over the years, who knows, I think I might even have a few albums of songs there!

R: Your main style of song-writing would be the blues, which is my favourite genre, just ahead of soul and rock, are there any of the American greats in particular that turned you on to it? I'm thinking of the likes of Son House, Muddy Waters & Robert Johnson etc.

S: Yeah sure, it would have to be R.L Burnside for me in particular.

R: Your first live performance itself is going to be in The Cobblestone, in Smithfield on the 12th of March, a great venue with a long tradition of hosting the best of Irish musical talents, without getting too far ahead of ourselves do you have enough songs written to start thinking about album number 2 or do you want to take time to let things settle down after this release before writing in earnest again?

S: As I've mentioned earlier I think there's a lot of material to work with but for the time being I'm focusing on the come back gig, single to come, EP and then the album launch itself when the time comes. For now let's just hope the first one goes good..ha!

R: Finally, if there was one musician past or present you'd love to collaborate with or share a stage with, who would it be?

S: I'd love to share a stage with Randy Crawford, she's amazing, what 
a voice.

For more info on Steve Duffy Raw's music, event details for The Cobblestone comeback and everything else, head along to the below links;