Therapy?: “A New Lease on Life, Really”

Off the back of their biggest album and European tour in years, Northern Irish legends Therapy? take on a five-date Irish tour in March, including the brand-new Cyprus Avenue on March 23rd. MIKE MCGRATH-BRYAN talks with frontman and guitarist ANDY CAIRNS about the band’s new album ‘Cleave’, and the tensions that brought it about.

Millions of units shifted, thousands of road miles on the clock and fifteen albums deep into a wide and varied discography, Ballyclare/Larne-originating trio Therapy? have, over the course of nearly thirty years, gone from noisy upstarts, to mainstream superstars, to gatekeepers of the Irish underground, approaching touring and recording with the same grit and gristle as they always have. A few days removed from a month of UK and European touring, though, and it’s a relaxed yet chipper Andy Cairns at the other end of the phone, audibly happy with how things have gone. “We did two-and-half weeks in Europe and two-and-a-half weeks in the UK, both of them were sensational. We’re really buzzing at the minute. A lot of the gigs in Europe, the venues were moved up, and were bigger than we’ve played in years, and in the UK, if we didn’t sell the venue out then attendances and tickets were better than they’ve been in years, so it was all really positive. We’re playing really well as a band, y’know. We’re all really fit, we’re all up for it, and we’re getting a good mix in the crowds. It’s a good night out and it’s given us a new lease on life, really.”

This upturn in fortunes comes off the back of the release of the band’s newest long-player ‘Cleave’, the band’s biggest mainstream success in years. Greeted with critical acclaim and an enthusiastic response from the band’s fanbase, ‘Cleave’ is the band’s highest-charting LP in years on both sides of the Atlantic, and has done well across the continent. “The first thing we’ve noticed is the punters love it, a lot more than any other album recently. I felt they liked ‘Disquiet’ a lot, and I felt they liked ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ a lot, but the punters seem to like this more than any album we’ve done in years. Something about it, I don’t know if it’s the sound, or if it’s the attitude, or whether some of the songwriting adheres to those classic Therapy? tropes, there’s something about the whole package that seems to resonate with people this time around.”

The record is Therapy? in prime alt-rock form, a handful of serrated shards of distortion and volume, bookended by melody and refrains the likes of which will be instantly familiar to lapsed fans revisiting the band after their major-label years. No surprise, then, that they were joined behind the desk by a longtime collaborator in Chris Sheldon, producer for some of the band’s most immediate and impactful records, including 1994 Mercury Prize nominee ‘Troublegum’. “Chris, we’ve known on and off since 1992, and even when we weren’t working with him on a regular basis we would still see him occasionally, socially. And he kind-of knows, because he was there near the start, when we were making records in the ‘Troublegum’ mode, he knows what makes us tick. He’s really, really good as a producer in that he’s bulls**t-free. He doesn’t hide behind anything. He won’t waste five hours using a Chinese gong on a track just to placate the drummer. He will literally say, if the song’s not ready, ‘guys, this isn’t ready, go back and finish it.’ If the song’s too long, he’ll say ‘this needs cutting out’. And we’ll argue the course with him, and we’ll get some middle ground, and it’ll all work for the record, but he’s about making sure the record is really, really good. The other thing, too, is with the amount of time we’ve been around, working with someone you respect and get on with means an awful lot, because it means the whole recording process and creative process goes a lot more smoothly.”

A constant in the band’s discography has been adhering to loose concepts across an album, a creative trait that has allowed them to explore social alienation, political divisions, mental health/illness, and philosophy with consistency while the band’s sound has morphed across line-ups. No time like the present, unfortunately, then, to examine the fears and anxieties of modern life, than the current hellscape of reactionary politics and resultant social issues. “I can pinpoint exactly where the album lyrics came from. Nine times out of ten, when Therapy? writes an album, we’ll write the music first, and I will concurrently write the vocal melody. But lyrics aren’t normally done until we get an idea of what it’ll be all about. We have certain themes running through all our records, but we hadn’t had a theme for this one yet, we had all the vocal melodies, the music was finished, but I was having trouble finding something to hang a theme around the album with. We were having dinner with some friends one night, a classic middle-class English dinner-party. Someone mentioned Brexit, someone brought it up, and I said, ‘y’know, as someone that’s lived in a divided Ireland all my life, as someone that’s seen sectarianism, I really don’t see what benefit we can have from separating ourselves from our European cousins.’ At which point a middle-class Englishman turned around to me and said, without any irony, ‘if you don’t like it, you can always go home’ (laughs). And I said ‘I beg your pardon? Do you want me to go home two doors up the road?’ He said ‘no, you can always go back to Ireland’. So, this is what it’s done to people, and that’s when I started writing about division. And I tried to write from the point of division, I didn’t want to write a specifically ‘Brexit’ record, I used that comment from that pretentious buffoon to jump off and write about division within ourselves, within our countries, and the emotions we give and take from each other. At no stage on our fifteenth album did I want to write a Rage Against the Machine or Stiff Little Fingers agitprop album, because I wouldn’t be very good at it.”

Leadoff single ‘Callow’ is possibly the most immediate example of where the band is at in 2018, addressing the burgeoning issue of prescription medication abuse in a knockabout, almost poppy fashion. While the song was approaching completion, the passing occurred of rapper Lil’ Peep, sadly taken at 21 years of age by an accidental overdose of anti-anxiety medication prescribed for mental-health issues. The reaction of Cairns’ son to Peep’s death spurred on the song’s lyrical content. “Unfortunately it tends to happen, whether it’s Jim Morrison dying, or the suicide of Kurt Cobain, a glorification of the use of Xanax came in the wake of Lil’ Peep’s death, certainly some of my son’s circle of friends were buying Xanax online, and people were nodding off and passing out at parties, seventeen-, eighteen-year-old kids. The whole Soundcloud rap thing, face tattoos, emo crossed with hip-hop, Xanax went hand-in-hand with that. It was all over the press, all over the Internet. But also, whenever you find out that loads of Xanax is being bought online, it’s being prescribed, to kids, which is quite horrifying. One thing I do want to clarify, though, I’m not anti-antidepressants, I think some people see that as the only course that will work for them, and certainly my father had a horrendous breakdown about twenty-five years ago and Prozac was what saved his life. But for certain people it can be like putting a Band-Aid over an enormous scar, and I think talking to people works better.”

Following the band’s touring success on the continent, it’s time for the boys in black to take it home, with a five-date tour in March playing the country’s non-capital cities for a change, including their first all-electric gig in Limerick in nearly two decades. The band’s Leeside stop takes in their customary gig at Cyprus Avenue, playing the newly-constructed ‘new’ room in the venue complex, but also a flying visit around the city. “We’ve been badgering away for a year now to get fully electric shows in Ireland, and it’s never been the right time. And obviously, we’ll have to come back and do Dublin and Belfast at some point, and there’s a few more places we’d like to play, like Kilkenny and Waterford. But, y’know, we’re very, very excited to be coming back. Cork is one of our very favourite cities, and favourite venues, on the entire planet. We always manage, quite rightly, to turn the gig at Cyprus Avenue into a weekender. We normally get over the day before the gig, get out to the gig, go out with friends, and then spend half the next day there getting dinner. So, in March, we’ll have a big star on all our calendars. We’re going back to Derry to play an electric show, Galway, in the Roisín Dubh, which we love, Dolan’s is always a brilliant gig and I love Limerick as a city, and of course we’ve been to Dundalk numerous times but it’ll be good to come back with a full electric show.”

Therapy? play the new Cyprus Avenue on March 23rd, 2019. Tickets are on sale now from cyprusavenue.ie and The Old Oak. The band’s new album ‘Cleave’, is available now on CD and vinyl from Golden Discs on Patrick Street, and across all digital services via Marshall Records.

Stephanie Rainey: “It’s a Very Strange Thing to Get Used To”

Stephanie Rainey’s last throw of the musical dice saw her lay her emotions and experiences bare, before unexpectedly going viral. Three years later, she’s readying herself for her third national headlining tour. Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with the Glanmire singer-songwriter ahead of her next Cyprus Avenue date on December 1st.

There’s a lot to be said for patience, and well Stephanie Rainey might know it, as she takes a phone call for a chat after “being stuck in N50 hell”. Trading in an emotive strain of pop songwriting that’s resonated massively with a younger audience over the past few years, the Corkonian singer’s recent successes have been the fruit of endless trial-and-error, struggling with the afflictions of making and sustaining music in what is still a very transitional time for the music industry at large.

The breakthrough came with the upload and viral trajectory of the video for single ‘Please Don’t Go’, dedicated to her late nephew and written in his honour. Over the following months, the video was widely-shared on social media across the world, and the single itself hit the Billboard charts in the US via streams and downloads. It’s by-now a well-documented time in Rainey’s life, and three years on, she’s had some time to look at the experience in the rear-view mirror. “It was a weird experience, having a video go viral, and what ensued was getting involved with labels and management, the whole lot. It’s been a great couple of years, I’ve been very lucky to work with some really cool people on the music that people are hearing on the radio right now. I got to write those songs with some really cool people, and made some really good connections. It’s been a mad couple of years. Musically, I’ve moved away from the slower tunes, and it’s been a great time of building the live shows, and it’s just getting bigger every time.”

Since the whole thing came to pass, a number of other singles have done well across radio, socials and streaming services, all of which have created a bottom line of support around the country. It’s a far cry from the months and weeks before striking gold online, when Rainey was considering packing it in. Just as importantly, though, working with a dedicated team to get a grasp of the intricacies of streaming services has allowed her to cast her eye on the future. “Getting that platform was insane, because it opened a lot of doors, but the grafting is sort of the same, in some respects. Things have changed in the sense that the internet changed everything. Even if you take ‘Please Don’t Go’ as an isolated thing, it was able to spread from Ireland to the US charts. That was all from me posting something in my bedroom back in Glanmire, d’ya know? And then, with Spotify and things like that, you can see where people are listening. Most of my listeners are in America, if you look at the demographics, and that’s a mad way of looking at things. I’ve been lucky to get a lot of radio support, so when you put all these things together, I’m in a good position.”

Though international success might not be far off, you can never take your eye off the ball at home, and Rainey has been pounding the pavement with headline tours, support slots and spot shows around the country. Her current run of dates around the country is her third as a headlining act, and over the course of it, she’s seen the changes in how she’s been received. “It’s very strange, how things start to build. We did our first tour as a support act, then doing our own this Spring as a headline act in smaller venues, and we’re at the point now where we’re doing bigger venues and more of them. I suppose the thing that changes is, people want to meet you after the show, and I think things have progressed in that sense. People know who I am a bit more, and they know the songs. That’s the crazy thing. They’re at the gigs and singing the songs back. That’s one of the best feelings ever.”

Further to her headlining engagements, accompanying fellow pop superstars Kodaline on their major summer dates last year made for a new experience in some ways, as playing in front of thousands of people in major venues will do. That being said, the support slot, including a slot at the Marquee, also reinforced the nuts and bolts of Rainey’s craft in other ways. “It’s mad. It’s only when you start doing it that you realise the bigger stages are just that, they’re just bigger spaces. They’re kind-of the same as any other venue, just on a massive scale. I’m lucky enough to have a chance to have done a couple of things like that, so I’m less freaked out by it now, in the sense that I’m able to just go and do and it, and treat it like any other gig. Obviously, the Marquee was special, as we were the first Cork act to open the first night of the Marquee, this year, and people made a really big deal out of that, and made a real moment of it. It’s a very strange thing to get used to, d’ya know what I mean?”

Of course, the year isn’t done yet for Rainey, who’s preparing for the singles release of a live fan favourite in ‘13’, a song that’s been received well by her now-regular live crowd. In addition, she finds her voice being used in a different context by pop producer G-Kaye, a collaborator of hers, underpinning the release of his solo debut single, ‘Shadows’. “‘13’ is a real favourite live, people are always asking me when I’m going to bring it out, but we’re working on a video for it at the minute, so I’m holding back so we can put that out at the same time. Same with the G-Kaye single, I’m very excited about that, so I want to give it its own space, let that breathe and build. It’s getting a huge reaction, and it’s a very different track for me, it’s a nice way to dip my toe into that water and see how that gets received. He’s an excellent, upcoming producer, he’s produced a few tracks with me, he’s done stuff with the likes of Hermitage Green. I felt really happy to do his first track with him for his own project. Plenty of music to come next year.”

Stephanie Rainey plays Cyprus Avenue on Sunday December 1st. Tickets are €15, and available from eventbrite.ie and The Old Oak.

Cork Music Collectives Pt. 2: “Consider It An Open Call”



For metal, indie and experimental strains of music in Cork city, community and collaboration is imperative. With the help of independent venues and a dedicated bottom line of support, collectives in these genres have turned things around in recent years, and preparing for the future. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with some of the promoters and musicians involved, in part two of an extended look at the city’s community music groups.

While the economic downturn and the changing situation regarding venues in the post-crash property landscape are routinely pointed at as factors for the changes in Cork’s live music landscape after the mid-2000s, there are other aspects to it that can’t be disconnected from the discussion, either: a decline in the numbers of ‘niche’ gig promoters, increased competition at regular doortimes for a younger audience from the re-emergent phenomenon of ‘pre-drinks’, and the availability of Netflix and online gaming services, have all been bemoaned by various musical parties at one time or another, as well as the usual demographic phenomena that beset live gig attendances in a ‘student’ town. All of these factors combined to hit ‘heavy’ music particularly hard during the lean years, as metal, punk, math-rock and post-rock were kept going throughout by a dedicated community of gig-goers and a handful of intrepid DIY raconteurs.

The arrival in Cork of promoter Cormac Daly a few years back proved to be a seismic shift, bringing a new perspective to the business of running gigs in Cork city, starting with his time at the Cork Community Print Shop and running Sofar Sounds’ Cork operation, before announcing the formation of Cosmonaut Music Cork, working diligently to bring aggressive and intelligent music to the city in a way that hadn’t been done before, managing every aspect from aesthetics and branding to live sound and lighting. Along the way, he’s worked with Townlands Carnival and IndieCork among others, and Cosmonaut has become an important port of call, but it was only ever the beginning of bigger things. Last week, Daly and collaborators began to make their vision clear, with the announcement of Real Fear Records, a collectively-run one-stop label and production house, involving himself and the members of Cork alt-pop trio Happyalone. “We originally met when I did sound for Happyalone at a gig”, says Daly. “(From there), I became heavily involved in the design of their live set, and then after that began mixing releases for them, as well as managing the band, and handling their live bookings. Similarly, we began working with some amazing videographers to create music videos and other content. Myself and Baxter (the Robot, pseudonymous Happyalone vocalist) were talking about collaborating with other musicians – who we would like to work with, and what we could offer them, and it just made sense to turn this loose collaboration into something official we could invite other artists to be a part of.”

Comprised of musicians and designers from Cork, Kerry and Limerick, the group behind start-up label Teletext Records span a wide variety of sonic influences, but their recent callout for local bands to work with has thrown up an intriguing roster of releases for 2019, including shoegaze duo Deadbog, sound artist Rokaia, and prog trio Chameleon Fields. Recognising the need to engage an emerging young crowd for gigs in Cork city in ways beyond traditional live music culture, the collective’s live events focus on providing multimedia experiences, placing their artists’ music in new contexts, such as an ‘audiovisual’ showcase earlier this month at the Kino, which took advantage of the venue’s cinema screen. “We were all in a bunch of different musical acts that were hitting a lot of walls in development that eventually broke the camel’s back in our minds, and led to us packing those musical acts in”, says co-founder Donagh Sugrue. “Our aims were essentially to increase legitimacy in everything we were pursuing, but we also had some pretty decent ideas on how we felt organisations like this could/should be structured. Largely, and I imagine this will be the case for most every collective, it’ll start from an antipathy towards a part of the music industry at large. We were getting fed up with two things; emailing promoters & journalists and appearing unprofessional because of the structure of the industry, and bored with playing shows when we felt that the attendees deserved more for their few quid than just two hours in a sweaty room.”

The Paranoid Beast is a two-headed creature: metal gig promoters Con Doyle and Mark Morrissey have been putting together gigs and online spaces for local metal in recent years, and while numbers have been slowly creeping back up, the work that goes into helping rebuild an infrastructure for heavy music for a city is still considerable. But that knowledge of what a city’s crowd for a certain genre needs is what brought them together, and has enabled them to platform heavy music at home, while keeping an eye on broader developments. “Since coming together we have worked hard on social media, through our promotions pages and our community group on Facebook, at building our brand at home and abroad. Over the past twelve months we have put on numerous events in Cork, and have organised two day-long festivals, Monolith in the summer, and Ritual of the Evil Eye in the winter. This would never have been possible if we remained as separate promoters. We work well together and have a mutual respect for each other’s input and ideas. We have an abundance of talent here and they deserve to be heard and The Paranoid Beast will continue to facilitate that going forward. But we are also looking to put Cork back on the touring circuit for international metal acts, (and) starting an Irish metal label to put out some of the Irish acts on vinyl. This would be an overload of work for one person, but as a collective, it has made it much more manageable.”

The Electronic Folk are a collective of musicians working in and around folk, indie and related sounds, including Kevin J. Power, formerly of Cork outfit Versives, singer/songwriter Simon MacHale, and producer Brodie Gee, performing under the name HYPNOTYST. Together, they’ve run a monthly residency at the Roundy venue, worked together on Power’s studio productions and collaborated on each other’s compositions. But creative involvement aside, the practicalities of working collectively have been a major boon for all involved, as the trio have pooled resources and contacts ahead of a busy year of releases. “The major advantage to the collective way of working would be that it follows the ‘many hands make light work’ principle”, says MacHale. “Having put on gigs independently, I realised how difficult it was to manage the whole lot – venue booking/hire, booking bands, equipment, posters, social media promotion, finding a sound engineer, lighting etc. is a tremendous amount to try and do alone. With the collective we could delegate different jobs leading up to a concert, according to our strengths. For example, I would design posters, Kevin would take care of visuals or hiring a videographer, and Brodie would sound-engineer on the night.”

In dealing with the ‘venue situation’ that seems to be an evergreen theme in Cork music, the practicalities of finding spaces at short notice, giving certain venues a rest after heavy runs of gigs, or relocating to try new things is also made easier by a wider web of contacts. It’s served Paranoid Beast well, says Morrissey. “As is the norm in promoting events, some gigs go well, and some not so well. So it’s often the case that you have to move venues. Since we joined together as a collective, it’s made it a lot easier to move around venues as required, because all of us have been involved in the Cork music scene in some capacity for many years, and due to this we have contacts in various venues, which helps because we aren’t tied down to the decisions of a few people.”

While the collective model has already shown tangible benefits for Cork music in recent years, the effects of mutual support those involved cannot be understated in terms of morale and dealing with the pressures of being an artist in the current climate. Across his multiple projects, Daly has found friends and collaborators that have become partners in crime across Cosmonaut and Real Fear, and while there’s ups and downs, staying together and thinking singularly is vitally important. “Keeping this team going has not been easy. We’ve had plenty of setbacks and disappointments, and we have come to rely on each other, as well as friends and family, to keep it going. Anything that slows us down has always been quickly overcome. We are in this for the long haul, and anything that appears to go wrong is just an opportunity to try another approach.”

The ability to take mistakes and problems in stride is all-important when dealing with music, especially on an independent basis. Luckily, independence is the backbone of the Leeside community, and the new lease on life that the collective model has provided for individuals has emboldened people further, resulted in multimedia collaborations that have enriched the artistic life of the city. Looking toward the future, MacHale is hopeful. “Cork is already quite ahead of the game in terms of people who have combined forces in order to collaborate and make things happen. Many are doing the same kind of work we are, even though they might not officially call themselves a collective. I think that Cork has a tremendous amount of talent across all artistic fields – from designers, to dancers, producers, to performing songwriters. I would love to see even more people reach out to each other, and take the step of initiating collaborations with others, even if the end goal isn’t set in stone initially. Attending events and concerts is the best way to meet other people who might share your interests, and even just chatting to people can turn a ‘me alone’ attitude into an ‘us together’ one.”

When asked his opinion on where the growth of collectives and collaboration leads for Cork, Sugrue echoes the sentiment, casting his eye on wider infrastructural issues in the city and how it might look as the city begins its expansion and a period of development that risks alienating the existing city-centre community. “I have no idea, which is what has me so invested in being a part of what might be. I’d love to see more DIY stuff in Cork, and when I say DIY, I don’t mean home recording and self-promoting. I mean occupying spaces, and converting them into venues or into something artistically meritable in its own right. I can feel it in the air, Cork feels like it’s on the cusp of something significant at the moment. I often feel a lot of disdain that music can sometimes take a front seat when people have really exciting ideas about other cultural endeavours too. Is there a DIY animation collective in Cork? I hope there is. I dunno, I always think very hard about how to engage people that aren’t already engaged. If I could plea for anything in the future of music & culture in Cork, it would be to work together; send unsolicited emails, fire a Facebook message, go to events and ask people if you can get involved. You stand to lose nothing, and it’s a good time. Consider it an open call.”

You can find the collectives mentioned across social media platforms, and in your search engine of choice. Keep an eye on Downtown’s weekly gig guide for more gigs as they’re announced.

Cork Music Collectives Pt. 1: “A Drop of Water Makes a Mighty Ocean”

Leeside music has always benefited from community and common goals, but never before has the importance of pulling together been so evident, than in the post-recession environment. In part one of a two-part special, Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to some of Cork’s electronic music collectives about how they joined forces, and what’s been happening since.

“The process is natural. I was on the bus from Cork to Limerick once, and I was listening to a guy from Charleville speak to a man from Nigeria. I overhead the (latter) state, in his beautiful accent, that ‘a drop of water makes a mighty ocean’. I don’t know why that stuck with me, but that is what it is like. We collectively become something more ocean-like, something larger than ourselves.” No more articulate a man to convey the virtues of collaboration, and sum up the current climate in Cork’s music community, than Humans of the Sesh man Brown Sauce.

The past few years have seen profound change for music on multiple levels. As macro-level changes like the transition to streaming have affected how artists release music and garner wider attention, Cork city’s venue situation has been in flux, amid the churn of the property boom and the usual attrition to which small venues have been subject over the years. Three years, DJ and record-slinger Justin O’Donnell, better known as JusMe, took notice of the changes affecting Cork hip-hop, and set about co-founding the Cuttin’ Heads Collective with other like minds, identifying the needs of genre enthusiasts in the city and the people best-positioned to play a role in addressing them. “I think it was borne out of necessity for us. Running gigs on your own is difficult. You need help, just from a practical standpoint. Cuttin’ Heads came together fairly organically. It’s just a group of mates, really, mostly people I’d worked with on other projects, over the years.”

Celebrating three years together last week, the collective set about running gigs, but also weekly club nights, workshops and a supportive online presence for the genre, providing non-commercial hip-hop with an infrastructure to build upon. On the topic of online presences, social media magnates Humans of the Sesh were brought together by a mutual love of electronic music and its culture. It wouldn’t be long at all, then, until the people behind it leveraged their numbers into SESHFM, an online platform and label run and curated collectively. Brown Sauce explains the rationale behind creating the entity, and its support of leftfield electronica. “We are a collection of people that are aware that our singular efforts are not enough to make an impact in a country like Ireland. Because of a general lack of support, we must support ourselves by collectively promoting SESHFM. It’s the raft that (we have) all chipped in on. When we started building the raft, it was made out of wood, now it’s made out of carbon fibre and has a spoiler, and on this daycent raft we’ll trail the sea of the internet, fishing for venue bookings and more shipwrecked artists.”

Rallying their efforts around a short-notice release and finding their roles as the need arose, HAUSU Records has quickly established itself as a port of call for electronic pop in the city, platforming polymaths like Ghostking is Dead, Automatic Blue and Mothra, among others. With an emphasis on consistent branding and accessibility of material, the collective set out to shoulder a shared burden, according to PRO Colm Cahalane. “When Ghostking is Dead was getting ready to finish Sweet Boy, and with releases coming up from Actualacid, Automatic Blue and (label band) Repeater, we were all really conscious that there was going to be a lot of repetitive work in branding, designing, reaching out to press etc. We knew that by making each of the release phases a group effort, we’d learn something every step, and over time we’d have a process and a shared set of press contacts and such. The idea behind Hausu’s a bit bigger than that – we want to do more events, share more of our process with the public and give more opportunities to our visual artists and designers – but it started with needing to get the music we have to the audience it deserves.”

Working together on a shared goal makes sense, especially with a paucity of resources and a city still smarting from the loss of community arts centres and more eclectic small rooms over the course of the recession. The day-to-day experience of running a collective, accentuating individual strengths and moving forward with like-minded people, has driven the phenomenon to prominence locally, but also benefited individuals hugely, allowing them to expand on their abilities and experiences, such as the case of SESHFM’s DJ Numbertheory. “I’m a lot more of an organizer, and someone with an eye for detail when it comes to piecing a project together. I can contact a very disparate community of musicians, engage them with the idea and get them involved, preaching to them the vision of what’s to come. I can then hand some of the creative reins to Brown Sauce to whip up some aesthetic choices, and come up with some mad tale for promo. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Along with (SESHFM members) Papa Floral and Grand Feen, we all offer different perspectives and come from various musical and philosophical backgrounds so it meshes well. Although I do have to crack the whip sometimes (laughs).”

Where artists and producers are involved, having a skeleton crew of people together to bring coherence to different releases not only makes sense, but is a support system that provides help and feedback at every turn, according to Cahalane. “It’s definitely brought the whole process forward in a new way. Mostly we record together, we post drafts for feedback, mix and master in-house, go through those masters on different speakers and verify them. Every artist has creative space, but everyone chimes in about the way our press is written, our social media is run, our design, the way the music is progressing. We’ve seen a bit of a rise in how press and radio interacts with our work, and it’s given us a banner to use for events and online stuff; we want to step beyond that and get our designers more of that spotlight too.”

The benefits of collaboration are only beginning to make themselves apparent in the larger scheme of things, with collective infrastructure acting as a measure of independence, a means of circumventing restrictions, and fostering a sense of community. For JusMe, the impact of these moves can be seen in the changes in city-centre events. “A lot of the most exciting things happening in Cork at the moment are definitely coming from bigger crews like the Garden Collective, or the metal scene, bands like Bailer, God Alone, Worn Out, etc., who essentially work as a collective. The huge team that make Quarter Block Party possible, that’s a collective. I think it’s the way forward.”

For Brown Sauce, as well as much of the city’s younger musical cohort, working together is not just a boon to the scene, but a lifeline in the face of the legacy of the crash, and the impersonal nature of the city’s impending expansion. “Collective endeavour will save this city from its capitalistic tourist-based hell. Every collective we know, as well as being a group themselves, reach out to other groups from day one. It’s necessary to stay alive. One group might have an issue, another might have a solution. The role of individuals such as Stevie G in knitting these collectives together, and promoting us all as having the one goal, is indispensable as well. Up and down the country, we’ve collaborated on almost all of our projects. (Other groups like) Wriggle, Glacial Industries, Flood – it’s a small scene, and we definitely need each other to come up with creative ways of bringing the people of Cork, and Ireland, this music.”

Next week, we take a look at how collectives have benefited indie, metal and experimental music in the city, and talk about how organisation has helped artists adjust to the current housing and practice-space situation.

The Light Runners: “It’s Been a Journey”

Cork-based reggae outfit The Light Runners are no strangers to the rigours of the road. Recounting their stories in their upcoming E.P. was another process entirely. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks to guitarist Mark Fenny.

The Light Runners are a world-travelled proposition to say the least. Featuring a diverse range of musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Denmark and Ireland, the band fuses several elements of reggae from through the genre’s development and history with an African rhythmic sensibility. The end result is energetic but earnest, staying true to the band’s stated aim of maintaining authenticity to roots reggae, aiming to explore and confront the anxieties of the current age.

The band have been gigging steadily for the past few years now, but the band’s background and experience stretches back years, and spans a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, that have shaped and informed the band’s music. Guitarist Mark Fenny explained the band’s convergence on the Irish reggae scene. “We’re a mix of musicians from all over the world, from all different avenues. Myself and the bass player happened to be playing in a cover band at the time, and the lead singer, Lazare, approached us and asked ‘do ye want to be in a reggae band?’ and we said ‘absolutely!’. We’ve been doing that ever since, that was in 2014. We’ve been going from strength to strength, really, we had our debut at Electric Picnic this year. It’s been a nice little journey so far.”

‘War and Migration’ is the band’s new E.P., bringing together work from numerous recording sessions after collaborative songwriting and road-borne fine tuning. The process of bringing all these disparate elements together was another labour of love. “Myself and the bass player wrote the title track, we brought the rhythm and chords to our lead singer, and he did the lyrics to it. He writes about 90% of our lyrics, ‘cause he’s just got a great head for it. The theme is ‘war and migration’ because we wrote it at the time of the Syrian refugee crisis, so it’s very much a reflection of that, it’s not even symbolic, it’s in your face. He wanted to express that message, so he took that song that we had written for him, and wrote lyrics on top of it… (The E.P.) was recorded in three different locations. We did some work with a guy called Ciaran Culhane up in Limerick, great time for him. He did two of the songs, which we recorded two years ago. We got an offer to record in the School of Music, a magnificent studio, and we cut another three tracks. Then we did more vocals in Dave’s (bass player) garden shed. That all got mixed by (Charleville man) Darren Rea, he recorded the last of the vocals, mixed and mastered the whole thing. He’s always amazing at what he does.”

With the combination of experiences and stories that the band’s members have to offer, ‘War and Migration’ is a record heavy with personal investment and earnest storytelling. Fenny gets into the impact on the creative process that these stories have had. “Some of the lads used to play in bands in the Congo, two huge soukous bands, OK Jazz and Zaiko Langa Langa. The latter were a massive band, they toured Africa and Europe. Once they got a bit of money together they said ‘that’s it for us, we’re going to move to Ireland and start again’. Because even though they were playing with one of the biggest bands, they were still being paid very little. The Congo has (also been in the grip of) dictatorships, our drummer was falsely imprisoned for many weeks because of his views on the government at the time. The guys from Ireland? Our lives are very boring (laughs).”

The band have been hard at the festival circuit this year, but a unique stop for them was at IndieCork’s festival centre last month, playing the Dali venue upstairs on Carey’s Lane. For the band, the opportunity to ply their craft through the venue’s newly-installed Arcline sound-system was one not to be passed up. “If you give us a bigger stage, we’ll give you a bigger show, so we absolutely loved being on that stage. It was so much fun, we got to jump all over the stage, we weren’t shoehorned in, like we usually are. So that was a lot of fun, and it was nice for IndieCork to think of us and bring us onboard. We’re more than happy to be a part of Cork arts and culture, and really let people know that we are supportive. We were quite happy with that sound, too.”

The band plays on November 20th at Cyprus Avenue, to launch the extended-player. Although they’ll unfortunately not have the opportunity to christen the building’s new venue, they’re bringing a new setlist and the band’s usual energy to Caroline Street. “We are going to do our best to put on a show for everybody. We purposely made it very cheap, it’s only €5, because we just want to cover the cost of the venue. We want all of our friends and family to come, everyone, have fun, have a good experience, and (help us) officially release the new record.”

The Light Runners play Cyprus Avenue on Tuesday November 20th. €5 in the door, kickoff at 7.30pm.

All the Luck in the World: “We Wanted to Take a More DIY Approach”

Germany-based folk-pop trio All the Luck in the World have travelled all over the continent and racked up hundreds of thousands plays online, and this month sees them finally ready to come home. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with frontman Neil Foot.

Perhaps the inevitable result of a set of circumstances that saw Ireland declare its young people expendable in the face of economic difficulty, a young diaspora of Irish emigrés scattered across the world over the course of the bad years, taking with them their art and ingenue. Stories are filtering back of the musicians and visual artists that settled elsewhere and took authorship of their roots, as well as their body of work, subverting the ‘wild geese’ narrative that romanticises such displacement routinely. Though formed in County Wicklow, where the band’s self-titled debut was recorded, folk trio All the Luck in the World in the end turned to Berlin for a headquarters from which they could realistically plan tours, and be at a continental centre of creativity.

This relocation has led the band to cut its teeth on touring European venues and festivals rather than building a bottom line at home, but also informed the band’s approach to creativity, keeping busy enough in the interim with live activity to approach second album ‘A Blind Arcade’ the way they wanted, says band founder Neil Foot. “Yeah, we’re really pleased with how the record turned out. The writing and recording of our first album was quite rushed and we were determined to take our time with this one, so there was no real chance of us being unsatisfied with it. In the end we probably spent a little bit too much time sitting with it, but we’re just happy to have it out in the world now.

Recorded between the band’s own ‘Haven’ studio in Wicklow and the Golden Retriever facility in Berlin, the band’s more relaxed approach this time around has resulted in a fine example of accessible folk, with textures alternating from brittle string-plucking and baskmasked chords to sweeps of strings. That cavalier mentality of self-direction prevailed, says Foot. “The creative process usually involved the three of us sitting around, showing each other musical and lyrical concepts, and then developing them together. There was no overarching theme to the record, we just wanted to create a collection of short stories that felt like they belonged together.  A good portion of the record was produced at home, we wanted to take a more DIY approach from the outset. When we were happy that we’d taken the songs to certain level, we brought our recordings to the studio in Berlin, where we worked with our producer Paul Pilot, and then back home to add some finishing touches.”

Since the album’s release in February of this year, some three years after work began on it, the band is happy with how things have been proceeding, with positive reviews and growing crowds at their shows. Sharing in that goodwill has been a big part of how the band has managed the slow trickle of success that’s been coming their way. “We’ve been fairly pleased with the reception online and at the shows so far. We’re always hoping to reach a larger audience of course, and that’s not always easy. But it’s great to go on tour and really feel the reaction to the music, and to meet the people who have been listening.”

Being based in Berlin, as touched upon earlier, creates a different angle on the perception and question of creating within the Irish space, at once being able to say they took a go at wider success, while perhaps not benefiting from the tight-knit structure of community that supports Ireland’s DIY music scene. What’s that like as a cultural, diaspora and business experience? “Of course we are Irish artists, but we don’t have a very strong support network here in Ireland, and we’re still relatively unknown, I think. We’re based in Germany, as is our management, distribution, and previous labels we’ve worked with. Most of our touring so far has been in central Europe, this is our first ever Irish tour actually. But yeah, looking forward we’re hoping to make more of an impact (at home)!”

Said excursion happens over the course of next week as part of a wider swing of UK/Irish dates, including a stop Friday week at the Roundy on Castle Street for a show promoted by The Good Room. Foot collects his thoughts on the upcoming dates, and coming to the Leeside city. “Yeah, we’re really looking forward to all of the Irish shows we have coming up, and it’ll be our first time playing in Cork city. There’s a pretty unique energy to Irish crowds, and that’s always exciting. We played Indiependence a few years back, and the crowd were fantastic, so we know there’s a great buzz for music in the county.”

With their second album in the can and another major notch on their touring belt complete after this run of dates, the question of what’s next is quite straightforward for All the Luck in the World. “After these gigs, we’ll take a few weeks off over Christmas. Then we’ll hopefully get straight into writing lots of new material at the start of the new year. We want to share a lot more new music with people in 2019.”

Cork Film Festival: “The Mission Doesn’t Change”

From documentaries and animation to shorts and industry events, this year’s Cork Film Festival sets the annual event on a longer-term path. MIKE McGRATH-BRYAN speaks with producer and chief executive FIONA CLARK.

It’s a little under two weeks to go to Cork Film Festival as this goes to press, and as Fiona Clark, the festival’s producer and chief executive makes her way into the Opera House Café, the Jazz weekend’s street entertainers begin filing past the street-facing windows in uniforms of various, increasingly lurid hues. It’s festival season in the city, alright, and Clark is a mixture of excitement, nerves, and pre-festival exhaustion as the last pieces fall into place for her own project. This year sees the festival celebrate 63 years of operations in the city centre’s screens and venues, launching in 1955, five years after gaining international approval at Cannes (see boxout). 2020, then, marks a milestone anniversary for Cork Film Fest, a fact that is mentioned as a focus of attention for staff in this year’s brochure.

While the approach of a landmark anniversary is apparent, the thought process behind the festival this year is, for lack of a better term, business as usual, according to Clark. “The mission of the festival doesn’t change year on year. We’ve taken some time to consider, refresh and realign what that is, but it’s simple and applies regardless of year: to connect people through outstanding films, and for there to be a shared festival experience of those films across ten days. We have a programming team, and we’re clear about the shape and feel of the festival. We’re the largest film festival in Ireland, showcasing the best in Irish and international film, across features, documentaries and shorts. We’re selecting award-winners from the international circuit, and the festival being on in November is a great opportunity to reflect on the state of the world, and film reflecting that, from throughout the year.”

Irish cinema is indeed in sharp focus throughout the festival’s programming, from the gala European premiere of festival opener ‘Float Like a Butterfly’, directed by Corkonian Carmel Winters, to the prominence of documentaries like archival presentation ‘Cork on Camera’, supplemented by events like special screenings of international co-productions and seldom-seen classics of Irish filmmaking. This year’s homegrown offering anchors the festival’s wider variety of programming, and Clark is rightly excited. “Very strong. It’s important to us to showcase the best of Irish work in the programme, and we’ve certainly got that in spades. ‘The Favourite’, Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest offering, an Irish premiere that we worked hard to secure, produced by Element Pictures, that we believe will be a sumptuous feast for people. The award-winner from Galway, ‘The Dig’, ‘Belly of the Whale’… then you’ve got ‘The Overcoat’, a retelling of the Gogol story (see boxout), and we have nine programmes of Irish shorts, including the world premiere, supported by Screen Ireland, of six short programmes. We could go on, and I think that demonstrates our commitment. It’s where new talent is discovered and we’re keen to profile that.”

Documentary programming is a pillar of any film festival, and CFF has a very strong programme of music documentaries happening throughout the course of events (see boxout), telling a variety of compelling musical stories that help flesh out historically important chapters of the medium’s development. For Clark, these films form part of an ongoing and wider mission, regarding the documentary format and Cork audiences. “It’s always been there. Film and music go hand-in-glove anyway. For a wider audience, there’s a lot to take away. The Blue Note documentary will take you through its history leave you with a smile on your face all through it. But there are plenty of films that embrace that element, too, from ‘9 to 5’ to (black-metal biopic) ‘Lords of Chaos’.”

Outside of the realm of the city’s speciality venues and cinemas, the film festival’s remit as a pillar of the civic cultural offering expands into the community. Screenings of selected festival-entered features and classic movies in regional partner theatres are an important part of mid-festival outreach, as well as the establishment of a year-round viewing centre at the City Library on Grand Parade, showing selected festival entries on-demand for members. These initiatives among others are central to the festival’s continued development. “They’re absolutely vital. When I started out in arts education, (my thoughts were) ‘unless you create access and opportunity to enjoy, experience and participate in the arts, why would they be interested?’. And it’s such an important part of the fabric of who we are, and where we live. We’re able to do these regional screenings through our work with Gate Cinemas, our principal venue partners. So, for the first time, we’re going to be running our schools programme in Cork, eight titles in Midleton and Mallow, and building on that, we’ve received 2019/2020 funding to extend the outreach of a pilot for our ‘Illuminate’ mental-health and wellbeing programme to Transition Year students. We’ll be rolling that out in Cork next year, and across Munster in 2020, and that’s a great opportunity to work with young people to engage and express their ideas.”

On the further topic of outreach, a trio of industry-geared events across the first weekend of the festival will allow local filmmakers and arts professionals to interact with industry names and players on topics from training and networking to documentaries and distribution. This degree of engagement with an active and ever-developing core of local creators adds to the value of these sessions to the festival. “What we’ve tried to do this year is recognise that filmmakers need different things at different points in their career, so whether you’re a student or an emerging filmmaker starting out, need advice on funding or promotion, or connect to international industry players to generate markets, that’s what we’ve focused on. We’ve got ‘First Take’ and ‘Doc Day’, and we’ve introduced a new day this year, ‘Focus Forum’, which is a networking and roundtable event to help (filmmakers’) professional development, from shorts to features. We’ve aligned that with the Screen Ireland World-Premiere Shorts, as a lot of the filmmakers will be in town for that, and it’s a free event. Festivals have a role to play. We’re platforming 120 shorts, if we weren’t recognising that they were an important constituent to the festival, and responding to their needs as creators, I think we’d be doing them a disservice.”

With the wheels firmly in motion on the festival ahead of doors opening on the 9th with the gala premiere of ‘Float Like a Butterfly’, Clark collects her thoughts ahead of the big season of screenings, and casts an eye on what’s left to be done. “I’m super-excited. I keep having to pinch myself. A terrific team of people, nearly all returning from last year, so there’s a great sense of collaboration. The programme is really strong and the audience reaction has been very positive so far, and we’re really proud of that. The big push is always to get to the point where the schedule is locked down and we’re able to share it. Our job now is to make sure to make sure people know about it, vote with their feet, come along and have a great time. The best outcome is that the people attending come away from it thinking, ‘I’ve experienced my city in a different way’, or that they visited Cork and thought, ‘that was amazing’. The festival experience is important to us.”

Cork Film Festival runs in venues across the city and county from November 9th to 18th. For more information, check out corkfilmfest.org or pick up a hard-copy brochure in town.