Before Windings launch new album ‘Be Honest and Fear Not’ on the 15th at Coughlan’s, Mike McGrath-Bryan talks with singer/guitarist Steve Ryan.
Limerick five-piece Windings are the sort of band that subtly confound any easy labelling, moving fluidly between pop, alternative and folk oeuvres as the band’s music does. Nowhere is this more evident than in newly-released album ‘Be Honest and Fear Not’, launching at Coughlan’s on the 15th. Steve Ryan goes into the details of a more relaxed, protracted process on this occasion. “It was quite different this time around to be honest, but then again, so has the process for every other album we’ve written and recorded. I guess we’re all at the stage of our lives where we have families, careers, studies and all that kind of thing. We realise we’re quite lucky to be five people in the same band who are all willing to put 100 percent of whatever bit of spare time we have into this. We recorded this record live in three days in August 2015, a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, I believe. We then left it for a while, and didn’t even think about mixing it until March or April, around the time we released ‘Stray Dogs/Helicopters’. Now it’s October, and we’re releasing the album. We haven’t felt any pressure this time, nor have we put ourselves under any. We’re so, so proud of this record, and we didn’t want to rush anything at all. But hey, here it is now!”
Leadoff single ‘You’re Dead’ is evocative to say the least, gently summoning old childhood fears and dreads in its lyrical imagery. It’s as heavy as the title suggests, a deliberate move on Ryan’s part. “The song comes from what I consider a place of zombified numbness. More and more we are faced with atrocities and horror, and more and more we become almost complacent. When I was a teenager, I read a lot of Hubert Selby Jr and Bukowski, and watched movies by Todd Solondz and the Dogme 95 crew. This was a formative period in my life, and even though these books and movies were both shocking and coruscating feats of gritty realism, I still found it easy to compartmentalise them into what was fiction, and what was real. I don’t really see these boundaries anymore. Now all that is actually news. It’s sometimes too much to take. Sometimes it’s just easier to be numb. I don’t know really, the song definitely isn’t providing any answers.”
Recent free-download single ‘Stray Dogs’ came bundled with a B-side called Helicopters, seemingly addressing Limerick’s suicide watch. What was it like attempting to sum those feelings up in song, number one, and secondly, the song was done with Limerick weirdo beats don Naive Ted, how was he to work with? “Well, it’s really just addressing the feeling of hearing those helicopters late at night as I lay in bed, and knowing that some bad shit has gone down. I hear it all too regularly from where I live. I just felt I needed to say something about that. I don’t pretend that I am an expert on issues relating to mental health, but there’s a real problem here. Working with Naive Ted was excellent. I know him and work with him at Music Generation Limerick in other capacities, so I was delighted he was willing to give some windings stuff a go. I told him I had this tune with not many words, I told him what it was about, and he recorded me playing all the instrumentation. Then I didn’t hear from him for a week, and then he sent me Helicopters as you hear it now. It’s pretty much perfect to me, and I’ll freely admit that I could never have made it sound like that. He’s a rare talent. I’m working with some other non-windings stuff with him and Liam from windings at the moment.”
Ryan is similarly ebullient about working live with Limerick hip-hop standouts Rusangano Family. “Yeah, I work with those guys in Music Generation too. They’re friends. A year or two ago, they asked me to come out to their studio and play some guitar on tracks they had, just to see how it went. It went well! So I ended up playing on two or three of their recordings now I think, ‘Heathrow’, ‘African Shirts’, and ‘Wasteman’. When they asked me about joining them live I immediately said yes. They’re without doubt one of the best live acts I’ve seen. I’ve been sneaking guitar into a couple more tunes now these days, and getting away with it so far!”
A performer of Ryan’s tenure in the Irish scene of course has a few Cork stories ahead of coming back. “I have, you know. One time in Cyprus Avenue, we shared a dressing room with Aslan, who were okaying downstairs in The Old Oak. When we came offstage, they’d beaten us to the dressing room by about 10 mins, so we only really had a tiny corner to ourselves. Christy Dignam said ‘hi’ and headed away pretty much straight away, but the rest of them toweled their sweaty naked bodies down, while shouting that we better not be doing drugs over in that corner, cos they don’t do that anymore. That’s a keeper, that story.”
Ahead of finally getting to Coughlan’s, Ryan is happy that the deal is finally done. “We’ve heard all about it! We’ve wanted to play there for a while now, so we’re delighted to finally do it. We’re also delighted that Glimmermen were able to come down and play the show as well. It’s going to get sweaty!” Once the current round of dates and record-slinging is down, what’s next for the band? “Regroup and assess the damage, I guess. There’s a couple of other bands we’d love to play some gigs with, so maybe we’ll do that early in the new year.”
Windings play Coughlan’s on Douglas Street on the 15th, with support from Glimmermen. Tickets available now.