Ahead of a colossal weekend of independent music, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with some of the artists and producers at the Sudden Club Weekender.
This weekend sees some of the cream of Irish and international independent music hit the recently-revived Kino venue on Washington Street. Sudden Club Weekender, presented by erstwhile Leeside culture auteurs Southern Hospitality Board, is a three-day run of gigs and afterparties created with a sense of spontaneity in mind. Caoilian Sherlock, SHB co-promoter and The Shaker Hymn guitarist.
“We aimed to have a pop-up club that moved around non-traditional venues. Started with MNDSGN in The Sextant, SassyBlack in AMP, and we did a kind of pilgrimage to Connolly’s of Leap over the summer. I guess the intention was to make people raise their eyebrow with certain shows and venues in the hope that it would make for a more interesting show but also, “sudden” is such a statement of a word. I liked the idea that The Sudden Club is a temporary gang – and you’re in the gang as soon so you come to the gig.”
The idea for a festival emerging from out of nowhere played well into a big gathering of artists capping off landmark years, says Caoilian. “We just wanted to throw a big party at Christmas, or for the end of the year. So that’s what we’re aiming to do. Make it a party. All of the acts that we asked know that’s our shtick, so I’m sure we’ll be successful in that aspect. And Gulpd are throwing some late night events that are tying in with us – so it’s my favourite type of weekend. A real showcase.”
Headlining night one, on the 9th, are Rusangano Family, one of the most influential musical outfits in the country at present. Socially-conscious hip-hop with a multicultural voice, the trio is comprised of a pair of MCs, Zimbabwe-born Godknows and Togo-born Murli, with Clareman mynameisj0hn holding down beats. 2016 has been their breakout year, with the release of long-player Let the Dead Bury the Dead.
The album examines the act’s place in the world as artists and as people, taking in soul-searching internal monologue on expectations and cultural shifts, taking a step forward from the outfit’s early solo and collaborative configurations. Godknows speaks on the record: “Our music, although people might say it’s political, we happened to make an objective album, and if we look at the world’s outlook right now, the best thing is to love, and to be objective, and I’m happy that our music is what’s getting me through what’s happening in the world. That’s something for me, maybe personally. I’m happy I can still listen to the album, because that means we made a good album.”
Having decimated Cork venues twice this year with a hyperkinetic live show, including a sold-out album launch at the Kino earlier in 2016, the question of what we can expect now emerges, an inquiry Godknows tackles with a glee readily evident even down the phone line. “Aw, man! I think we’re gonna be well-rejuvenated. Y’know, we’ve learned a lot since the album came out in terms of performance, in terms of stage, in terms of our own voices. What you can expect is a bigger live show. The energy stays the same, but I think, the show, for some reason, maybe through experience, keeps getting more grand. I love that, ’cause at the end of the day, we have to go out and perform every time. For us, it’s the joy of doing something new, something we’ve done a lot of times, but in a new way.”
Supporting Rusangano Family is Corkman Ruairí Lynch, a.k.a. Bantum. Following an extended radio silence, Lynch re-emerged in the latter half of the year with new album Move, a work rooted in extensive collaboration, not only with Rusangano Family and Senita on leadoff single Feel Your Rhythm, but across its creative process, as Lynch reveals. “This record could never have happened without collaboration. Initially I intended to just release a follow up instrumental track to the Take It single back in February, but a series of fortunate events led to these collaborations. The Rusanganos are just the best lads. I traveled to Ennis to hang out with them when we recorded the vocals and they’ve been fantastic to me this year.”
The Altered Hours have had an incredibly busy year of it, releasing their debut LP earlier this year via Cork labels Penske and Art for Blind, and undertaking a comprehensive European tour. There’s one more round in Ireland this month for the band, including headlining the 10th at the Kino with The Bonk in support. Guitarist/vocalist Cathal McGabhann is ready for more. “You could just put me in the back of a van tomorrow, and tell me I have shows booked for the next year straight and I’d be the happiest man alive. I really like playing the guitar and I love travelling with my band mates. When I don’t know where I am, and I have a gig that night is when I’m at my best I think, shaking these illusions of attachment one gig at a time.”
The band’s debut long-player In Heat/Not Sorry has made this year a landmark for the band. MacGabhann reflects on the band’s relationship with the record. “I’m proud of that record. In my opinion, it was the first step for us into our own world, sonically and conceptually. The release of this record out of my hands was a great relief too. I have so much energy to burn when it comes to making music I’m pretty sure at this stage it’s an entirely insatiable desire, so finishing a project and getting it off your chest allows me to shed all those positive and negative feelings and move on the next bunch of songs. Looks like this will continue for the foreseeable future while hopefully learning and expanding along the way.”
The weekend’s final headliner, on the 11th, is U.K. songwriter Rozi Plain and band, supported by The Shaker Hymn and Anna-Mieke Bishop.
An established composer and a seasoned session musician for artists like This is the Kit, 2015 saw third album Friend released on London indie Lost Map, followed up by this year’s companion piece Friend of a Friend. “The album was a mixture of songs that’d I’d been playing for a couple of years, and really, brand new songs. We recorded in a very short, very intense space of time at a studio in London called The Total Refreshment Centre. Lots of things about it came together in this really cosmic-feeling way, it was a great time! Friend of a Friend‘s name was Johnny from (labelmates) The Pictish Trail’s idea. We’d had a few remixes come in and so it was a good excuse to ask pals if they fancied doing some more and then putting them all together. It includes some live session tracks and covers as well including a Sun Ra cover that we do that I really enjoy playing so it was fun to be able to get it on something.”
Plain is excited about coming back to Cork, having done a few tours of duty here with her own band and amid collaborators. “Yes, we love coming back to Ireland. We played earlier this year at Quarter Block Party in Cork, and at Levis’, and they were two of my favourite shows of all time that we’ve done. So, it’s very exciting to be returning! Everyone is always so welcoming, and such great vibe dudes. I used to come on holiday to Ballydehob every summer when I was little, and have great memories of it.”
The Shaker Hymn have been no slouches this year, either, with new album Do You Think You’re Clever? preceding a big Irish tour and several music video releases. Caoilian holds forth on the process. “We’re all very proud of it as a record. It was the album we had been yearning to make for a long time, in terms of sounds and style. It’s much more of a full-band record than the first in respect of ideas, and it’s been picked up very nicely throughout the year. Couldn’t ask for much more than that.”
Amid all the excitement is the announcement that Southern Hospitality Board are to wind up their operations under the moniker for the foreseeable future. A veritable force of nature on the Cork scene since going into business for themselves post-Pavilion, they’ve been one of the anchors of Leeside music, a sentiment echoed by MacGabhann. “Caoilian and Aisling should be extremely proud of their work in Cork city. They really are incredible people with a wonderful sense of style, loyalty and dedication to a great gig experience. I have come to know the lads through music in Cork over the past 6 years or so and they have just been on the ball the whole time. They’ve been an invaluable support to our group for years now and so many others.”
Caoilian, looking to the future, explains the rationale behind SHB’s decision to call it a day. “We had a very busy year booking shows and working on our own music, and then just working our own jobs that pay the bills. We never really had a chance to talk about the toll it was taking on us. It hasn’t been making us rich either. Which is fine, it’s not why we do it, but it is important. We both took some holidays in November, and separately came back with the the same ideas, a bit of clarity… I have pledged myself to about 408 new projects and bands, so I’m sure I’ll wear myself out with those. Aisling is the same, we won’t be stuck for things to do anyway.”