Thursday 31 May 2018

Photos: Just Mustard @ The Bello Bar with Hot Cops & L'arry

Just Mustard - Bello Bar Dublin

Photos: Sarah Ryan

Info: Last Saturday night in The Bello Bar, Dundalk five-piece Just Mustard played their Dublin album launch show for debut LP Wednesday, presented by their local label Pizza Pizza Records, to a packed out house with support from Belfast's Hot Cops and newcomers L'arry. It was probably just me personally but the atmosphere in general (as I'm sure it was everywhere given the day that was in it) felt a bit tense at the beginning of the evening, we needed relief and distraction. L'arry opened up and executed a classic slowly slowly catchy monkey set. 

I was looking forward to seeing Just Mustard's Dundalk neighbours for the first time as I'd seen them pop up frequently online over the previous month or so. The first three songs were enjoyable slow-burners, and I found the sound particularly resonated very well with my inner love for old school US slacker-rock. I was enjoying my zoned-out slumber when they started to ratchet proceedings up in the second half and lead-singer Joey Edwards shifted from low tones to high to close out their set and leave you with a lovely rock-tinged finale. There are two sides to L'arry's coin, and both are shiny.

I've been to a number of local music festivals in Dublin since I last saw Hot Cops perform at the start of 2017, anytime I met a musician from Belfast or someone I thought might be in the know I enquired about any news on the band, things went quiet for a while, I got worried. These guys have been one of my favourite Irish bands since for ages. Everyone was stum. Out of seemingly nowhere they were playing on this night too, and I was overjoyed. Two big highs for me on the night overall were when they played 'Dumbbo', and my favourite HC track, 'Passive Passive', this is all the best parts of my adultescence, my never-ending love for Weezer / Pavement / Hot Cops all rolled into one track. "And I think I'm getting better...and it's great to be deluded."

Hot Cops
Hot Cops

I've been a bit obsessed with Wednesday since it was released, the days where I don't listen to at least one track ('Deaf' is the current choice du jour) or the whole album are rare. So I was very much looking forward to hearing it live for the first time in its entirety. Naturally cynical as I am and pre-disposed to embracing disappointment, I just knew I was going to be 100% satisfied by Just Mustard's set on the night weeks in advance, I embraced this unnatural assuredness of happiness, and it turned out I was right too. I've mentioned before how you go into a Just Mustard gig, no matter what your mental state, you are destined to be under water before you know it, it's a trance, and the more times you see them live the quicker the trance kicks in. 

When they played their singles such as 'Pigs', 'Deaf' and 'Tainted', a part of my brain jolted me to acknowledge recognition momentarily, but it was short-lived. The thing about a Just Mustard show is that you don't 'yay' at your favourite songs and clap, your experience begins at the opening song, and it only ends when the band's set is over. Live performances can so often be a showcase of recorded material, and this is fine and highly enjoyable, but when an entire set stands towering over it's individual parts, that is when a music fan leaves a venue feeling a euphoric buzz pressing down on their sternum, with Just Mustard it grows every time.

Hot Cops - Remy Connolly
Photo: Remy Connolly

Monday 28 May 2018

Forbidden Fruit 2018 - Everything You Need to Know

Forbidden Fruit Line Up 2018

Saturday Playlist

Info: Forbidden Fruit Festival 2018 kicks off this coming June Bank Holiday on Saturday the 2nd at The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. Here REMY gives you the full low down on the acts to catch, with an individual playlist for each of the 3 days, with ticket info and full line-up listed at the bottom of this post. Bookmark this page to keep all the info you need in one handy place for the duration of the weekend.

In addition to the wide array of acts playing at the festival, the Bulmers Forbidden Fruit Nights continues once again this year on the Saturday and Sunday at venues across the city centre. Highlights include Bingo Loco in The Button Factory on the Saturday, and Idris Elba / Icarus & Al Gibbs in Opium. On the Sunday night Bonobo with George Fitzgerald and Willaris K is a must see, again at The Button Factory, and who could resist Four Tet , Floating Points and Ben UFO in Wigwam? Note these are ticket only events and the appropriate wristband / ticket will need to be produced on the door of each venue to gain entry.

Bonobo - Forbidden Fruit
Bonobo - Photo: Neil Krug

The Original Stage is unsurprisingly star-studded across the three days providing the main attraction for punters, highlights on the Saturday include legendary Beastie Boy Mike D performing a DJ set, the electro-funk grooves of Justice, Glass Animals, and our very own Loah. Sunday will kick off with the epic sounds of Irish troubadours Booka Brass at 3:30pm, plus a treble whammy of Vince Staples, the iconic Four Tet and Bonobo. Monday is completely explosive and the main stage will have an unreal line-up to sign-off in style starting with David Kitt, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Spoon, Grizzly Bear and The War on Drugs, wowza.

Sunday Playlist

On the Undergrowth Stage on the Saturday crowds will naturally be drawn to see headliner Richie Hawtin and also I'd highly recommend being there from the beginning to see Irish acts Tanjier and Mango X Mathman from 2:30pm. Sunday highlights include Floating Points, Denis Sulta and Willaris K, whilst the Monday will be heaving, so be sure to get in early, this is where Thundercat, and Warpaint will be performing on the final day and the stage will open with the very popular Superorganism and Rhye

Warpaint - Forbidden Fruit
Warpaint - Photo: Dean Avisar

I would highly recommend spending as much time as you can catching the Irish acts at the Bulmer's Live 100% Irish Stage over the course of the weekend, many of the standout performances of last year's festival happened here. I think of Rusangano Family, Bad Bones, LE BOOM, SOULÉ, all of whom blew the crowd away. I've seen over half of the Irish acts performing at this year's festival live previously, some on a couple of occasions and guarantee good times and memories in advance. On the Saturday get there early for SYLK and King Bones, and later on Erica Cody and AE Mak are not to be missed. On Sunday key highlights include Katie Laffan, Fehdah and Booka Brass. Monday is a busy finale on the Irish stage and I'd have to be dragged away from it, Molly Sterling kicks off at 3:15pm and is followed by Ailbhe Reddy, Lilla Vargen, Fontaines DC and the inimitable David Keenan - all absolute quality acts in their own right, with Nialler9 drawing the curtain down on a superb line-up.

Monday Playlist

Molly Sterling - Forbidden Fruit
Molly Sterling - Photo: Adam Synnott


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FORBIDDEN FRUIT 2018 Saturday - Stage Times

FORBIDDEN FRUIT 2018 Sunday - Stage Times

FORBIDDEN FRUIT 2018 Monday - Stage Times

Saturday 26 May 2018

Album: Robocobra Quartet - Plays Hard to Get

Robocobra Quartet - Plays Hard To Get

Info: Mining infuence from jazz, hardcore and contemporary classical music, Robocobra Quartet sound like little else. Formed at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the group operate as an expanding, contracting and ever-changing collective. A no-holds-barred approach centred on a howling drummer-vocalist and menacing saxophones takes them to festivals such as SXSW (USA), Brilliant Corners Festival of Jazz (UK) and Into The Great Wide Open (Netherlands). 

An album of extremes, 'Robocobra Quartet Plays Hard To Get' is the follow-up to the NI Music Prize-nominated 'Music for All Occasions' (2016). A musical tug-of-war, this irascible collection of songs frequently turns on a dime - insisting on your full attention. Project-managed from the drum throne of vocalist, drummer and producer Chris Ryan, disparate nods to modern classical music, hardcore and free jazz battle together and often stack upon one another.

A slow cinematic introduction greets us on Robocobra Quartet's sophomore album, Plays Hard to Get. Opener 'Short Stretch of Day' sets the tone, we are going to ponder and be left pondering by the utterances and themes Ryan tenders, in this instance being born into a world already numb to tales of terror and conditioned without question to follow the new rules; "Things have always been this way, haven't they? I know our life is a minuscule part of a moment in a short stretch of day. We're like whales, I think. After a while, barnacles cling and we float around getting used to things."

"You'll Wade" finds a full embracing of their bedrock of classical jazz, the saxophones cast in a dramatic but ponderous old world dye, and at times, particularly at the break at 2:30 there's a little hint of BADBADNOTGOOD mood-building. It already feels like these stories are difficult to tell, whilst at the same time providing a necessary relief from some inner pain. 

Robocobra Quartet - 'You'll Wade'

Every song is a story, like separate scenes that do not follow any particular chronology, 'Try Hard' is exceptionally vivid, and this, like all across the album, is achieved through the lyrics and their partnership with the movement of the music. There's a powerful menace to the percussion and bass, and it all feels subtly unnerving in a Kafka-esque way, like I'm sitting in a café at night time under the eye of The Castle, waiting for the authorities to arrive, I'm a dissident, an enemy of the State.

'Pinballs' is again inward-looking, but addresses a common theme we can all feel of coasting, unhappily. From wide-eyed youthful determination, to suddenly awaking one day to find there is no direction or purpose to anything, your former you a stranger; "I'm approximately three times the person I was then, but I'm twice as unsure. I caught a glimpse of that person in the mirror - he seems unready for the world. He seems unsteady in his words. He seems hurt. His seams are teeming with dirt."

The abrasive Robocobra Quartet arrives on the wonderfully titled 'I Shouldn't Have Watched The Film What Lies Beneath (When I Was Twelve)', the early sombre frustration of the earlier tracks bellow out in a scorched rage. For anyone who has seen the band live, you struggle to avoid thinking of how anarchically this would play out on stage. As is his wont, Chris Ryan concludes the track with an abrupt an almost throwaway final observation.

Groove stylings enter the mix on 'Blue Sky Sinking', it's a warm moment on Plays Hard to Get, 70's soundtrack, urban, rain-wet neon reflecting pavements, night-time, perhaps reflecting on the artistic turmoil of turning fleeting inspiration into something tangible, physical and satisfying. The music warbles and scrambles but is unexpectedly calming and escapist.

The protagonist in the closing track on the album, 'Ah', couldn't be more timely, and I can think of many such individuals in the public sphere who have slithered up the steps of pulpits over the last few months, intoxicated by new-found attention. The instrumental break at the half-way point is exquisite, skulking and sinister, and you feel that slow, slow, slow build, I've been waiting for this moment all album long. Robocobra Quartet, the masters of drawing you in and then tearing your head apart with brute force anarchy. 

Plays Hard to Get is an album for poets, dreamers, escapists, the lost, the lonely, the painfully aware and an endless amount of interpretations of what has come out of Chris Ryan's head, with Robocobra Quartet once again offering up a collection of tracks and ideas that show there is simply no one else like them out there.

Plays Hard to Get is now available to purchase on 12" vinyl and digital download at the below links.

Upcoming live dates are here

Robocobra Quartet - Plays Hard to Get Album

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Sunday 20 May 2018

Irish Playlist #028: Laura Elizabeth Hughes, Oh Joy, The Felonies, Old Hannah, FIELDS and more

Laura Elizabeth Hughes - The Dark

Info: On our latest independent Irish playlist here on REMY we have quite the varied mix, as always there has been so many solid single releases in recent weeks which I've enjoyed and you might too. Without further ado....

1) Laura Elizabeth Hughes - 'The Dark'

Taken from her forthcoming EP which releases on the 8th of June, new single 'The Dark' from Laura Elizabeth Hughes opens bare, which immediately makes it feel personal to the listener. The unfolding of strings and piano are like a time-lapse of petals opening and closing again, and each time they re-open everything feels brighter. The most invigorating aspect though is Hughes' voice, a perfect (and quite rare) example of staying true to your own vocal and not trying to emulate anyone else, it's painfully and beautifully clear.

2) Oh Joy - 'Cab Sad'

The Joy, one of my favourite melancholic mood-meisters of the last 3 years, new single 'Cab Sad' kind of summarises everything about the see-saw of feelings and sound they gravitate around. For some reason every time I see this one performed live I get emotional, in a 'it's okay, you can still feel something' kind of way. It somehow sounds raw even though it's audibly not. I prefer my indie-rock despondent with only a glimmer of hope at the end of it, and Oh Joy give me all of that, there's a little bit of Manic Street Preachers in those harder rock moments too. 'Cab Sad' is taken of the Dublin trios forthcoming EP Good Grief which is released on the 8th of June.

Oh Joy - Cab Sad
Oh Joy

3) The Felonies - 'Berlin Blues'

I was most honoured to premiere 'Berlin Blues' upon release at the end of April and now that the band have gotten with the times and migrated the track to Spotify I wanted to include it here. Back then I noted the track was; "a blistering pipe-bomb of punk-rock anarchy, a race to the finish-line of noise between each of the band members from the very first second, vocals, guitar, bass and goddamn drums trying to smack each other out of the way toward that incendiary climax." It truly is, frenetic, frantic, and a vocal assault to the senses, I don't think I'll ever get sick of this one.

4) Great White Lies - 'Red'

I loved this track straight away from Donegal's Great White Lies, the opening is a dead ringer for Portishead's iconic album Dummy and Beth Gibbon's vocal. Written as a riposte to her experiences on the campaign trail for the current Referendum, Siobhan Shiels shares the experience which led to her writing the track; "This song was created in reaction to the current referendum going on in the south. I'm a repealer who was handing out leaflets, I approached who I envisioned to be a group of lovely older ladies, who turned to me and began shouting "murderer" at me. Their vitriol was a shock to me since my idea of older ladies would've been my gentle granny, yet these ladies weren't. Hence the song was created."


5) FIELDS - 'Some Kids'

It's always a good news day when the FIELDS quartet conjure up some new choonage. Last week they released latest single 'Some Kids', probably one of their most delicate tracks to date, they still manage to push those opening soft tones forcefully onward to a euphoric crescendo that never gets too far ahead of itself. I'm also really enjoying O'Brien's vocal here, he's pretty much reached the stage now where he can manipulate an understated delivery into a powerfully emotional release.

6) Old Hannah - 'Find You'

There's absolutely something very special about Sligo / Dublin four-piece Old Hannah, the music they've released to date from EP's Irish Boys and Iron Wood, and more recently single 'Follow' from forthcoming album Borealis, stand up ably against established US indie-folk artists. 'Find You' is desperately soothing, irons out the creases on your troubled soul and brings balm to heavy hearts. They're the type of band whose song-writing I really want to be fully alone with and absorb with no distractions. Very much looking forward to the debut album.

7) Elkin - 'Honey'

Dublin-based folk-pop group Elkin released their debut EP, Bad Habits, on the 12th of May last week with a launch night to follow this coming week on the 25th at The Cobblestone in Smithfield. Originally a duo of Carla Ryan and Ellen O'Mahony, Peter and Robert Kelly are now on board, and the breadth that allows is noticeable on the EP which is quite varied. Of the four tracks I've most enjoyed (for now) 'Honey', uplifting and brimming with feel good vibes, the harmonies and piano compliment each other in terms of balance very well. There's a bit of a Nicks / McVie / Buckingham thing going on too.

8) Electric Shore - 'Someone New'

Electric Shore's track 'P.S.' from their debut self-titled 2016 still remains one of the great hidden gems of the last two years in Irish music, Fine Young Cannibals beats, INXS bravado, a hint of post-punk and that guitar riff. New single 'Someone New' is in some ways a big leap in how they've honed that early sound, the improvement in production is noticeable, but they've retained that early grittiness. The persistence of the drums on this track are highly impressive, rollicking almost unaware of what is going on around them, the percussion is just delightful. Good, solid, indie-rock that's simply not just your run of the mill setup.

TabloidTV - Something New

9) TabloidTv - 'Something New'

An almost apologetic opening guitar progression leads into some steady bebop rhythms from indie-pop quintet TabloidTv on new single 'Something New' ahead of their sophomore EP release. This is what I imagine the very first bedroom jams of Glasgow's Belle and Sebastian might have sounded like, twee pop they were described as when they started out, sounds derogatory but it isn't. There's definitely a gap in the emerging Irish music scene for what TabloidTv are putting on the table, and 'Something New' grew very quickly on me, this is interesting.

10) TWOS - 'DJ Requiem'

Galway band TWOS' opening salvo, single 'Sad Fags', was a chaotic punk-infused melee, with rip-roaring riffs and a heavy approach, on latest single 'DJ Reqiuem' they've stepped back quite a bit. Their lyrics are observational and drawn from their immediate environment, with the current single inspired by late night performances behind closed doors at parties in their home city. What I like about this track is how rough and ready it is, there's a purity at this very moment and time, but also a peek through the curtains out the window to something potentially bigger.

Video: Feibhár - Porcelain Throne

Feibhár - Porcelain Throne - Repeal the 8th

Feibhár - Porcelain Throne

Info: 'Porcelain Throne' is a spoken-word video by Dublin musician Feibhár in collaboration with director Lyndsey Lawlor, produced by Take2 Productions. It is an unflinching examination of the real, actual, experiences of Irish women, focusing on the turmoil and the heart-break they face to this date due to the 8th Amendment in the Irish Constitution. Isolation and abandonment are the key themes, and of course, the absence of choice.

"Is í Éire an tír de chéad míle fáilte, bu we don't welcome change".

EP: Classic Yellow - Ophelia

Classic Yellow - Ophelia
Photo: Lisa Rogers (minus Ciarán Traynor!)

Info: Classic Yellow are a four-piece alternative-rock band with, well, a bone fide classic old-school sound running through everything on debut EP Ophelia. As someone who was went on a decade-long journey (and still is) from early 1960's pop-rock á la Rubber Soul, to 60's psych nuggets, garage rock of The Monks, balls-out rock of Sticky Fingers and I-IV and finally blues-rock and prog-rock (King Crimson, Alan Parsons Project), I can hear bits of everything and more across these four tracks. I mention all of this because the appeal is inevitably massive to me personally as a result.

Opener 'Biscuits' is a smooth and gloriously flirtatious piece of late 60's English blues-rock, bitta John Mayall, a lot of Johnny Winter, yes sir, I am loving this instrumental mardi gras, and the guitar-playing is perfection with a solid rhythm section trundling at high-tempo towards the finish line. The final 60 seconds are also quite Floydian.

Classic Yellow pull back a bit on the title-track, 'Ophelia', and it certainly jumps right up to a more modern sound, think The Walkmen's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (2002) or pretty much anything from The Radio Dept., shorn of the extra instrumentation. It's a dreamy and meandering 5 minute plus number, and that mood and feeling carries it along with ease, it passes quicker than you'd expect because you are transfixed on the hazy care-free attitude on display.

'Magic Maker' is great, it's straight up in your face, and vocally it has that archetypal 60's psych quality, quivering in the distance but distinct. The break bang on the middle point of the track sees the stage suddenly disappear from underneath the band as they fall into a trippy Yellow Submarine / LSD-induced wormhole.

Ophelia wraps up with 'Ghosts' and we return to the expansive free-form guitar-rock of its opener, this is trippy AF. I'm arguing with myself, do I hear a studio version of a lo-fi Tame Impala track, or something else? I think it's something else, and that something else is Classic Yellow. What's evident across the entirety of the EP is that the band don't do formulaic, they don't sick to convention and follow the verse-chorus-verse, 'it should sound like this here' rules, they let it ride, and it sounds just wonderful. I hate being parochial, but I'm a little bit proud these guys are from Dublin (you should also listen to their debut Double A-Side 'His Master's Voice' / 'Cheese From Wisconsin')

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Saturday 19 May 2018

Single: Elephant - Happy feat. KT Ball

Elephant - Happy

Info: Dundalk act Elephant (Shane Clarke) has shared the latest single from his forthcoming second album, '88, which will be released on the 20th of July. The track 'Happy' features Just Mustard's KT Ball on vocals and was released on Thursday this week. 

A solitary phone ring, 'Hi', and stop. We launch directly into the pleasure zone, no build-up, just right into the centre of the circle, surrounded by a retro-neon electronic aurora borealis. The vocal duet here is really something special, I think of 80's equivalents, but they are all a bit lifeless and lacking colour in comparison to 'Happy', the electric guitar is glorious, unashamedly playing with the most base gratification we desire. Musically we have a square with a diagonal line right across it, in one triangle there are classic 80's electro-pop and rock influences, and in the other it is decidedly contemporary. Kavinksy's 'Nightcall', Beach House's Teen Dream, Fever Ray's 'If I Had a Heart', but so much brighter than any of these. Another kaleidoscopic electro rush from the mind of Clarke, here's to '88.

Elephant launches his new album '88 live at The Grand Social, Dublin on the 24th of August with support from Montauk Hotel, and tickets can be purchased here, 

If you can't wait that long, be sure to catch him on the VW stage at Vantastival on the 2nd of June at 7pm. 

Elephant The Grand Social - Montauk Hotel

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Album: Tim Muddiman & The Strange - Domino Blitz

Tim Muddiman - Domino Blitz

Info: Last week Tim Muddiman independently releases his second album 'Domino Blitz' via his own label, Gun Street Music. Tim is well known as long-term band member of chart topping electronic music pioneer and legend Gary Numan.

Independently minded and musically directional 'Domino Blitz' goes to places that most people could hardly dare dream in a world gone crazy and controlled by the 1%. It speaks of a less corporate existence and concentrates on the things that make humans flow into places that are full of wonder and navigates a journey of strong mixed emotions throughout the entire album.

There's a notable difference between Tim Muddiman's 2016 album Paradise Runs Deeper with his band The Strange, and latest solo LP Domino Blitz. The former was slightly darker and more industrial, whereas his latest offering seems to see him consciously spread his wings and dabble in a wider variety of rock influences from across a number of decades. 

Opener 'Broken Down Superstar' has an undercurrent of mid to late 70's glam rock, an unusual mixture of the theatricity of Alice Cooper and the brooding mood of Marc Bolan. 'Thrill' has an off the beaten track blues club mood, you picture Muddiman on a spotlighted stage with wisps of smoke hanging in the air, crooning into a vintage Shure microphone to a darkened room filled with invisible characters. 

Tim Muddiman - Get It On

The first single from the new album, 'Get It On' is by far the darkest and heaviest, in an interview with Muddiman in January he described the track as a backlash, and it certainly feels like that. It's vivid, and this is expressed very well in the music video, an homage and call to arms to the downtrodden and those cast out by society. His affinity for the blues shines through on the album's title-track, full-bodied riffs warp and bend around a restrained but anguished vocal, in some ways it is a real Cirque du Soleil moment, the tone is macabre, desolate and unsettling and another example of how visual Tim Muddiman's music can be.

'From the Hills' is classic Muddiman, a country-blues whiskey bar vibe abounds, you imagine your protagonist wandering through a dusty Western town, Salem witch trials era. An early blossoming unrequited love that shifts from optimism to despair. Just by its title, I knew 'Rat Ballads' was going to be another door which opens into the disconsolate underground world that features regularly throughout Domino Blitz. Muddiman's song-writing excels on moments like this, the manner in which he turns his worldly observations inside-out and digs deep into an introverted transformation to the dramatic and bleak. The outside world seen through our eyes isn't real, it's a distorted mirror, and inside his imagination is where we find the real reflection.

Following the bristling and border-line honky-tonk of 'White Dove', we arrive at 'Burn the Witches', again so much of this album is thematically built on a foreign and ancestral landscape, it's probably the most overt encapsulation of the derided minority which inspired the songs on this album, chased and harried to an unforgiving extinction. We close with the aptly titled 'Out of this World', because we have been from the LP's very beginning. Without labouring on the point and giving the impression that it reflects how you feel when listening to Domino Blitz, Muddiman is masterful at conjuring up the barren wastelands that traverse from times long gone, and into a sort of post-apocalyptic future. Broad as that may sound, this story is absolutely focused on the individual character in each scene, their fears, personal struggles and victimisation. Domino Blitz is a fine mixture between the twisted graphic novel, and a clandestine forbidden cinematic experience, it's as real as it is fantasy, and that is it's most powerful attribute.

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Tuesday 15 May 2018

Single: Baba - I, Defy

Baba - I, Defy

Info: 'I Defy' is the second single from Dublin singer-songwriter Baba and it's pro-woman, pro-choice, pro-equality and pro-doing what the hell you feel like as long as you aren’t hurting anybody.

Following on from her gentle debut single 'Empty Arms', Siobhan Lynch is back and she’s packing a punch in the shape of 'I Defy', a fiery pop song that challenges traditional gender roles. 'I Defy' is a response to a man in a pub who told Lynch that any woman who has a one night stand 'is a slut' and 'deserves everything she gets'. Shocked that anyone could still think like this, Lynch wrote the chorus on her way home from the pub and by the next day, the rest of the song’s mission statement was complete. Produced by Gavin Glass, there’s a sense of well-timed urgency to 'Defy'. Using religious imagery and poetic flair, Lynch has penned a song that reflects the conversation that women are having across the world.

Locally here in Ireland, and internationally, you could say Siobhan Lynch, aka Baba's latest single 'I, Defy' couldn't be more timely, but has there ever really been a time when the message wasn't relevant? Or sadly will still be this time next year and the year after? Clunky pop beats and hand claps attack from the very beginning, it feels lazy to state it given the title, but the track is undeniably confident and defiant. Despite its message, Baba manages to remain somehow calm, nonchalant and upbeat in her delivery, which is ultimately how we should feel too. Don't give in, but don't let the fight bring you down either. It's a distinct move in sound from last year's atmospheric debut 'Scrape & Crawl', and shows that Lynch isn't into sitting on laurels when it comes to getting her point across lyrically, which is most refreshing.

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Interview: James Darkin @ Herbert Place Studios, Dublin

James Darkin - Herbert Place Studios - Niall O'Kelly Photography
Photos: Niall O'Kelly

Info: On a sunny morning myself and Niall set off for Herbert Place Studios to interview producer James Darkin (Hozier, The Funeral Suits, Gavin James), where he operates with Marc Carolan (Muse, The Cure, Snow Patrol) and John Hanley. "Coffee, tea, water?" we were offered straight away, and would find out over the course of the next two hours that an open door and big welcome was a central part of the Herbert Place team's ethos, even if you arrive late...without delay Darkin took us on a thorough tour of the studio, which was beautiful, including an oasis of calm garden in the middle of the city out the back.

From the band room we were led into the control centre, where every imaginable piece of recording equipment was held. The main console was a behemoth, the state of the art SSL 4032 G Series used by the likes of Dr. Dre, more buttons than a Cadbury's factory. For someone like myself with zero knowledge of music production equipment I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume and array of knobs and switches, but Darkin took the time to explain what everything did, and how it worked, inputs and outputs, a stack of pre-amps, and software tools. How the myriad of technological pathways between the console and where the band performed during recording in a separate room communicated with each other. His passion for his craft was self-evident, as he explained to us in detail how different producers worked with the equipment, down to the level of what tracks on famous albums we would hear certain effects on, and how musicians set up their instruments differently to compliment studio recording equipment for the best sound.

James Darkin - Herbert Place Studios - Niall O'Kelly Photography 1

REMY: To kick off, tell me about your background in music, I presume being involved in bands and making music is where your path to production began?

James: I played in very basic garage bands in Roscommon where I'm from originally, at the very early stages, no gigs or anything, just as a teen. I wasn't really buzzing on my own musicianship, I couldn't really play for shit to be honest! So I started getting into electronic music in my early teens, influenced by some of the big 90's electronic bands. My parents played Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams in the house when I was a kid so that was my first introduction to music, followed by rock / grunge, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. 

My mind was first really blown though when I heard The Chemical Brothers and Leftfield and all that kind of stuff, I knew how a rock band worked, a guitar worked etc., but I'd no idea how these guys were making the sound they did, I never knew that I could do that, someone from Roscommon doesn't make that kind of music I thought, that's 'over there'. That changed when I started DJ-ing in my late teens, reading magazines and looking into what kind of equipment they were using, and started slowly getting into the production side, with two turntables and a mixer. 

In one magazine I saw Liam Howlett (The Prodigy) had a Roland TB-303, the classic bass module, I found one in BuyandSell magazine shortly afterwards, hopped in a taxi to Mount Brown and bought it off the guy, but later found out that it was slightly different to Howlett's, I'd acquired an MC-303. It's an all in one module, with bass, synth, sampler, sequencer and basic drum machine, very difficult to use, you need an instruction manual for the instruction manual! But this was where I started mixing tracks, in 2001-2 I started going to clubs, a regular attendee at the Red Box, and then going back to parties afterwards and playing tunes I'd made on the Roland and transferred to mini-discs, I hadn't a notion at that stage what I was doing though and knew I had to learn more about its functionality.

REMY: Did you feel your 2016 album Go No Matter What which was received very well by the likes of Hot Press, describing it as a "thrilling debut", was the culmination of all of those years of sounds poured into one place?

James: Go No Matter What was a sound that I had in my head for fifteen years, but I could never get it out, I could never make that sound with the Roland, that fusion of organic and electronic instruments, it could only come out when I had figured out how to use the technology. I also wanted it to be a mixture that lay somewhere in between my favourite albums, I wasn't really looking at modern electronic acts. I love really industrial stuff, Trent Reznor, huge fan of his, Hans Zimmer, to fuse those two with Richie Hawtin, Tale of Us, Trentemoller, with a bit of Leftfield and some Prodigy, sprinkle them all together and see what comes out, that was sort of the natural end product of the album.

REMY: How did yourself, Marc and John come together and decide to launch Herbert Place Studios together last year?

James: I worked with John in Temple Lane Studios for many years, I was there as head engineer for 6 of them, while Marc worked with JJ72 and Muse (who he has been with since 2001) which was where his path crossed with John, who toured with band's including Cowboy X as a drummer, so they go back years together. Marc had his own studio here which was called Suite Studios, and John was working for Sun, the pair of them go back a long way together. I had a room in Temple Lane where I'd been for 12 years and I was chatting with John one day and felt it was time to up and move, so when it came to Herbert Place Studios, it made a lot of sense, the infrastructure was in place, we just had to talk to Marc and see how we could make it work. It was November 2016, and at the time studios weren't in great condition, they still aren't, a lot of studios had closed down so it was a big commitment which we approached tentatively together, with baby steps and thankfully it's gone really well so far.

James Darkin - Herbert Place Studios - Niall O'Kelly Photography

REMY: You’ve worked with some great rising bands on the alternative scene here in Dublin which I’m a big fan of such as Vulpynes, Bitch Falcon, Sub Motion, Pursued By Dogs and probably one of the hottest new tickets in town right now, The Murder Capital, it must be exciting catching these groups at the outset and then watching their journeys afterwards?

James: I love it, working with fresh and enthusiastic young bands, they're keen, eager and mad for it, looking at all the equipment. A lot of bands have good technical knowledge these days, a lot of artists have their home studios nowadays, they're well up on all of that. But when they come into an environment like this we want them to get the vibe that they are entering a creative zone, some studios don't have that atmosphere. We want there to be an air of something when they come in, a creative infection, it's great to see bands come in and watch everything get boosted; their game, playing, approach, feeding off everything. 

REMY: What has been your most memorable moment since opening the doors here?

James: The biggest buzz is meeting all of the new artists we've worked with, having an idea at the outset that you think something could work, and after a huge amount of effort to ensure it happens, everything comes together. From that, artists being happy with what we've done, them leaving and telling people they've had a positive experience here after making some great music. So to summarise, it's watching the process from start to finish with acts, trying new things in recording, and everyone being excited and satisfied with the final outcome.

REMY: Finally, what’s the most important advice you can give to someone thinking about going into the world of music production?

James: Go for it, it takes time and commitment, don't be afraid of failing and stick at it, you mess up, you start again, and build those blocks from the bottom up once more. You don't have to be a musical genius or an amazing musician, you just have to love what you're doing, dedicate yourself to it, work hard, and put everything into it. 

After we finished our interview and left, the positivity I'd seen from bands on social media and had conversations with face to face during my time interviewing them with The Sound Feed was reflected in my own experience. Not only was Herbert Place an aesthetically pleasing studio to visit, from when you enter into the band room with its Georgian wooden floors, but the generosity with both time and hospitality of our host (including PJ!) was heart-warming. As Darkin said when we concluded our interview; "It doesn't matter if you come in here just to read the phone-book, if you are a famous well-known musician, or are just starting out and recording your first ever track, each person will get treated with the same respect and attention regardless, and that's our ethos."