Saturday, 11 August 2018

Interview / EP: TOUCAN - TOUCAN

TOUCAN Interview - REMY

Info: TOUCAN is the irresistible funk-pop brainchild of singer-songwriter Conor Clancy and Martin Atkinson. Clancy is a songwriter from Waterford, Ireland, who takes his influences from rock, disco, and soul. Atkinson is a renowned musical director, arranger, and keys player. He has arranged and produced for SÍOMHA, Nile St. James, Weenz, and Dirt, and has played with acts such as The Olllam (with Joe Dart).

Released just yesterday, Waterford's TOUCAN share their debut self-titled EP, a collection of tracks that overflows with sweet, summery, funk and soul vibes. The hugely successful debut single 'We Fell For Miles' kicks off proceedings, a number which we previously summarised as; "...soulful rn'b vox and an appropriately exotic brass arrangement the track is brimming with good time feels and old school funk, think a Michael Kiwanuka and Stevie Wonder duet with Alabama Shakes providing the backing band and you'll start to get the picture." 

The no frills brazen positivity and unadulterated joy continues on second track 'Wonderful Way', a bare all celebration of a goddess-like muse; "you make adventures out of drying paint", Clancy's voice channels gaiety and acts like a gratuitous standard-bearer for us to join in and experience the soul-drenched glee the brass-arrangements surround us with. 'To Be With You' is a classic soul-train moment on the EP, the brevity of the music does not abate but the singers delivery brings the overt happiness experienced to date down a small notch in preparation for perhaps my favourite track of the four. 

'Gold' shows another side, a contrast that could lead part of the way to where TOUCAN may journey next. I enjoyed the solemnity here, the duo traverse more into alt-pop territory, there's a striking tenderness and feeling to the chorus and as the track gathers momentum it reaches grandiose and powerful heights that leave a notable mark. TOUCAN have certainly etched out a corner for themselves in a very busy local music scene, and this EP will undoubtedly give added impetus to the traction gained from the debut single, expect to see them everywhere over the next 12 months and beyond.

TOUCAN - We Fell for Miles

REMY had the absolute pleasure of having the chats with Conor Clancy about the new EP release, and all things TOUCAN....

REMY: Let’s get straight down to brass tacks here! Your debut single ‘We Fell For Miles’ which came out in March is an outrageously gratuitous slice of funk-laden Wunderbar. Both musically and vocally it was a bit of a cocktail of Average White Band, The Doobie Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire, just to make a loose starting point. When it comes to soulful, funk-pop, who are the masters in your opinion?

TOUCAN: Very glad you think so! There’s two tracks that I have as my go-to tunes when I need to remember what we’re aiming towards: 'Best of My Love' by The Emotions and 'Move on up' by Curtis Mayfield. I think The Emotions were such an incredible group, and that song in particular to me is just so strong. And there’s something about both of their intros. I think great songs often have great intros and in the Mayfield tune there’s something sort of explosive about the way it all comes in, which is also something I’ve always wanted to emulate. Those guys are two of my favourites but the list definitely includes guys like Breakbot, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and a tonne more.

The Emotions - 'Best of my Love'

REMY: Speaking of 'We Fell For Miles', you’ve almost clocked up 250k streams on Spotify alone, and had airplay in the U.K., U.S. as well as at home, that’s a pretty impressive haul for a debut single, what to attribute that level of traction to?

TOUCAN: I’m not actually sure! I think there’s a sort of genuinity to the music that people like to hear. It’s happy-go-lucky, it’s honest and it’s pleasant. I think as well with a lot of music being dominated by electronic sounds and synths that it can be a little refreshing to hear a big band playing feel good music. Spotify definitely helped a lot, it was great that they would pop it into different playlists and then it would just snowball. 

REMY: I wanted to step out into the broader state of affairs Irish music finds itself in at present, in particular as an artist. Purely based on the timing of this interview, I’m interested to get your take on the well-publicised announcement by David Kitt that he has been forced to leave Ireland / Dublin due to cost of living, and that it is not tenable more a musician to make a sustainable wage.

What are your feelings on this, and also, do you think a musicians Co-Op (like a union of sorts) would work. Where artists pay a minimal annual subscription and a set of criteria are laid out for venues and promoters as to what a minimum fair price for performance would be, as well as this Co-Op being able to lobby government effectively for grants and funding?

TOUCAN: Well, I’m absolutely of the view that the housing and rental market in Ireland has completely lost the run of itself, much like many other places in the world. Many of us in the band moved away to study but then had to move back home because it’s just so expensive. There’s a strange reality where most of the musicians I know that are able to afford rent, let alone afford something like a mortgage, are working 9-5 jobs and gigging at night. Through that, there’s a strange struggle in your life where you have to work a job to support your career, which is fine to begin with, but it becomes indefinite. For me personally, Dublin’s prices are completely out of the question.

Una Mulally wrote a brilliant article recently about how Ireland is being marketed as a great place for investment but the people and the culture that make the city what it is are being driven out of it. I understand that economies are more complicated than I probably realise, but I presume it’s logical to say that in reducing housing prices and capping the increasing rental prices, while the property market would suffer to a small extent, the broader and more multifaceted economy of the city and country would benefit hugely.

On the subject of the Co-op and the union, it’s difficult to say exactly how it would function, but I’d definitely think it would be a significant discussion to have before the situation gets any worse.


REMY: Back to all things TOUCAN, your self-titled debut is out now, is there an over-riding theme to the collection of tracks or are they intended to be stand-alone whilst flowing together? Undoubtedly there is a large dollop of good-time feels, but also I noticed on final track 'Gold', there is a bit of a more reflective and slightly sombre tone to contrast with that early aesthetic. 

TOUCAN: The overriding theme is definitely the summery, happy to be happy, energised feeling. I thought it was important to include 'Gold' so that our first release hinted towards the full scope of what we do, because there’s a lot of slow movers in the set too that are less pop and more soul. But the content of nearly all the songs is the same despite the tone having some diversity - it’s all about the celebration of another person. Kind of capturing that moment where you’re thinking about someone you really just admire and love to be around and makes you feel good about yourself. 

REMY: In some ways releasing this EP in August, half-way through festival season is an advantage. You have left yourselves plenty of time to let the music settle with people and as we know, applications for festivals start pretty much at the very beginning of each new year. Is it in your plans to funk-up the festival circuit in 2019? 

TOUCAN: Yeah there was a lot of detail in the tracks so it took a little longer than we initially expected to, but we knew it had to be a Summer release. I think it’ll be nice to have them come out for the last month of Summer as well as September because we always get such nice weather and it’s also in time for the college term to start which might be nice too. But yes, absolutely. The dream is to be playing these songs in the sunny late Summer evening on outdoor stages at every festival we can get our hands on.
REMY: Finally, before all that! Where can folks around Ireland catch TOUCAN over the coming weeks and months?

TOUCAN: We’ll be doing a tour in the Autumn to follow the EP, so we’ll likely be in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. After that, we’re looking to get maybe one gig in December as well. We’ll be holding back a small bit on our live shows so we can work on some material to release for next Spring and to hit the ground running for the next year so that we have a nice run with the Festival circuit both here and abroad.

TOUCAN's debut self-titled EP is available to buy and stream now on all good platforms.

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