A new self-titled E.P. with an expanded sound, some local guests and a Russian tour to support: 2018 is looking massive for BAILER. Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with guitarist Chris Harte.
Heavy music in Cork is one of the city’s great cultural survivors by any measurement: in the face of venue turnover, cultural changes in the local gig-going crowd, and the usual pressures of maintaining niche music in Ireland. Thankfully, a sustained sense of community is a common thread between Cork’s stylistically disparate metal bands and promoters, a microcosm in itself. Among these is Chris Harte, guitarist in hardcore outfit BAILER, and a promoter of heavy music in Cork since his teens. The band’s second self-titled EP is on the way now, released this month through Sligo-based label Distro-y. Harte goes into detail on the creative and recording processes, and how they differed from previous effort ‘Shaped by the Landscape’. “The biggest thing for this EP was that we were a lot more focused and we knew what we wanted from it sonically and in terms of what kind of songs were going to be written for it. When we started writing, we felt there was a lot more maturity in the material that was coming out and this can be heard in the likes of ‘Long Gone’ and ‘Death Is A Reminder’ which are different from anything we’ve done before. ‘Shaped By The Landscape’ was a lot longer coming together, some of the songs were around for quite some time and had been played at shows before we recorded them, but this EP was fresh from the ground up so it felt good to go into the studio with a whole batch of new songs and it felt really fresh for us.”
Distro-y are a great label for heavy business in Ireland, alongside sister punk label Distr-Oi!, and have given voices to a number of Irish bands in the left-of-field rock/metal oeuvre. Harte outlines how they work together, and how the deal went down. “Yeah, Distro-y are great, they’ve been really good for a lot of bands in Ireland. When Alex (label head) reached out to us soon after the EP was recorded, we felt good about working with them from the get go. We’re looking forward to releasing the EP through the label and working together in the future too.” To whit: leadoff single ‘Long Gone’ starts as the band means to go on in 2018, including guest vocals from Midleton man Adam Carroll, formerly of rock outfits ZOAX and Time is a Thief. Even more improbably, the vocal sessions were overseen by indie/songwriter type Kevin Power. How did all of that come about? “Yeah, we recorded with Kevin in Whitewell Studios, down in Cloyne. He recently took over the studio from Ciaran O’Shea, and Adam actually lives right around the corner. Adam had recorded all his vocals for the ZOAX and Time is a Thief albums in there, so it seemed natural to get him to track his parts there again. It was a quick session, everyone killed it that night!”
After sharing a stage with Swedish mathcore hopes God Mother at UCC’s New Bar, the band took to Waterford for a once-off show at Central Arts. It’s a city with a quietly busy scene, or at least one that hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. BAILER’s insistence on playing there comes down to a personal connection with the waterside city. “Waterford is a city that’s just waiting to take off again in terms of music. Dave, our bass player, is from there and so it’s nice to have that connection. Central Arts really is the hub of the original music passing through Waterford and the people who run the place are doing a wonderful job, and long may it continue. There’s some smaller venues like An Uisce Beatha which is thriving too and there’s always some great jazz/trad/folk sessions going on there. Lots of fantastic musicians in that city, here’s hoping it can really get going again.”
Somewhat implausibly for a relatively young band from Cork, the lads are off to spend the month in Russia, of all places, although, just before press time, health concerns forced vocalist Alex O’Leary to the sidelines, with supersub Ro Conlan filling in. Harte outlines how the excursion was planned and what the expectations are in the BAILER camp. “Yeah, the motherland (laughs)! We’re really excited for the tour in Russia. Biker Booking Agency e-mailed us quite a while back with a tour proposal, so we’ve been sitting on that one for a while. It felt good to finally announce it, and we’re going to be heading way east into some amazing cities and we’re really looking forward to bringing the BAILER live show abroad, and going crazy with our soon-to-be new friends.”
When the band return from the nearly three-week sojourn, they’re straight into the Poor Relation on March 3rd to mark local promoters Cosmonaut’s first anniversary alongside familiar faces like Rest and Limerick math-punks We Come in Pieces, as well as new blood like God Alone and Aponym. Harte lets us know what to expect in no uncertain terms. “We feel that people are going to hear a really fresh, energized and aggressive performance from us, with the band really firing on all cylinders. We’re proud of the work we put into the EP, and also really happy with the work Aidan Cunningham did on mixing and mastering it too. It’s cliché to say it, but it is absolutely our best work to date, hands down, and you’ll see it when we play it live.” Past that night, it’s looking like business is picking up for the Leeside hardcore band. “More touring, without a doubt. We’re actively looking to book more shows abroad across mainland Europe and in the UK too. We love playing shows in Ireland, and it’s important to us to continue doing that and we will have more shows here throughout the year no doubt. But 2018 is the year where we want to start branching out and taking Bailer to every possible country we can.”
BAILER’s new EP is available now from Golden Discs and online.