Palm Reader: “We’re All Carrying Injuries”

Slightly contrary to the implications of the band’s name, UK hardcore/metal outfit Palm Reader’s new album and extensive touring is the result of years of hard work. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with drummer Dan Olds.

Investing UK hardcore with the jarring precision of technical metal and mathy, melodic asides, Palm Reader emerged from Nottingham in 2011, fertile ground for progressive music thanks to the efforts of bands like Alright the Captain and others, with a place in metal history granted to it by the endeavours of former metal behemoth Earache Records. Catching the attention of specialist labels and hitting the road in short order, the band’s journey to current album ‘Braille’ has taken in both road miles and creative jumps, alongside a similarly-minded community of bands around the United Kingdom. For drummer Dan Olds, the acclaim with which the band’s third full-length has been greeted is part of the wave. “The reaction has been amazing! There has also been a resurgence of talent in the UK scene, so people are starting to pay attention and listen to smaller bands again. The UK scene was awash with cut-and-paste bands when our previous albums came out and people had started to lose interest; but thanks to the likes of bands like Black Peaks, Loathe, Employed to Serve and many others the pendulum is swinging the right way again. I believe ‘Braille’ is our strongest work to date, and a lot more people are connecting with it. We recently played our biggest headline tour, and the shows were far-better attended than they’ve been previously. We saw a better reaction than ever, with people singing the words back to us, and a fair few crowdsurfers. It’s almost like starting again, and it feels like a very exciting time to be in this band.”

‘Braille’ is every inch the modern metal record, marrying uncompromising songs and structures with polished, almost slick production that represents most effectively the aforementioned leap forward for the band. Before the production process, however, the record was assembled in time-tested fashion, according to Olds. “The process for writing an album always starts with Andy (guitar) and I, bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with the bones of a riff, or in some cases a whole song. We then put these ideas to the rest of the guys to put their thoughts, ideas and riffs on it. Sometimes it comes naturally, and sometimes it takes a long old time with much discussion. We have both the former and latter on ‘Braille’. The basic structure for ‘Swarm’ came together within an afternoon with all five of us locked in a room together, jamming. The final version of ‘Like A Wave’ took just over two years to finish. We’ve been to The Ranch in Southampton to record all three albums, and each has been recorded by the musical mastermind Lewis Johns. He knows how we operate, and it’s got to a point where he’s almost the sixth member of the band. It’s always good to have an outside ear on your music, because you live in a bubble when you’re creating a record; it’s refreshing to have someone you trust to feel the same way you do about a song, or be able to critique it properly.”

The band’s previous long-player was released by UK hardcore/punk stable In at the Deep End, infamous for breaking major-label signees and former music media darlings Gallows to the world, while ‘Braille’ has come out via London label Silent Cult. What brought the change about and how has it been to deal with a new label? “In At The Deep End, they were so supportive, put everything they had into the album, and we can’t speak highly enough of the team. We wanted to change it up for album three, with a new team of people behind us. When the offer came in from Silent Cult we were all on board. From the off, Silent Cult has been incredible to work with. They are genuinely passionate about our music and their other bands. We always see them at shows and championing us wherever they can. They have been hands down the best team to work within our three-album deep career.”

This attention to the band’s progress has allowed them to plough further into an already-hectic touring schedule, combining strategic support slots with the build into headlining status at venues across the UK and the continent. In highlighting their live journey, Olds again highlights the collective effort that’s seen it happen, and the experience of hitting the road. “Yeah, we recently finished our tour with The Contortionist in the UK and Europe. We can’t thank them enough for the opportunity they gave us, taking us out on that tour. Although we’ve toured Europe before, we played to more people than we’ve previously had a chance to, and their fans were very accepting of the very different styles between us. We were able to play in places we’d never played before, and revisit cities that we’ve had people ask us to come back to. We love being out in mainland Europe, the scenery and drives are so much more interesting than they are at home. Whereas it takes about three hours from Birmingham to Manchester, and all you see is motorway and grey, on the mainland we took a scenic route through the incredible Austrian mountains to get to Budapest. Plenty of moments where we were glued to the windows, as it was glorious. We’re really looking forward to seeing the Irish scenery and towns we’re playing!”

Palm Reader shows are about as intense as the music is, which begs the further question of the wear-and-tear that a tour already places on bodies and minds throughout extended legs of gigs? The lads have certainly sacrificed for their art, and while adrenaline can take away aches and pains in the moment, it’s certainly a consideration for the band in the van and back home. “We’re all carrying different injuries either sustained from touring or day to day life. For example, Josh, Andy and I all have different stages of sciatica, so sometimes it’s quite a hindrance in day to day life but we don’t let us affect us too much when we play. We always stretch and warm up our limbs and vocal chords before we play as it’s not healthy or wise to go from sitting in a van or venue all day to throwing your body about on stage. There has to be a warm-up period beforehand, or the next morning you will definitely feel it. We’ve been doing this a long enough time to know what our bodies can handle when we go on stage, but one I’m quite interested in is that I’ve recently started to lose my hearing in one ear, so I guess we’ll wait with that one. The joys of being a drummer.”

The bands is heading to Ireland for a run of dates as part of summer touring in August, including Cork’s Poor Relation venue, where they’re supported by some of the cream of Cork’s metal/hardcore crossover, including rising stars Bailer as well as relatively new arrivals Worn Out and Selkies. Olds collects his thoughts heading into the fray. “Honestly cannot wait, it’s been a long time coming. We played in Dublin and Belfast a few years ago, when we supported (Canadian prog-metallers) Protest The Hero, but it somehow felt a bit rushed when we were there, so we didn’t get to experience the country as we usually would when on tour. So we’re excited to explore and take it all in, as well as play some shows with the excellent Bailer as support. We’ve never been to Cork, or know if anyone has heard of our band there, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

The band’s onward march continues apace once the Irish run is done, too, as the band hit the festival circuit before steeling themselves to do it all again. “After Ireland, we’re playing a few one-off shows back on home soil, like Macmillanfest in our adopted hometown of Nottingham, and CASTLEFEST in Luton in September, as well as a UK and European tour with the legends in Will Haven in late October, early November. We’re planning a couple more things that we can’t say about yet, but keep an eye on our socials in the coming weeks. We’ll also be starting a whole new writing process very soon for a new album, so it’s a very busy time in Camp Palm Reader.”

BAILER: “People Are Seriously Dissatisfied”

It’s been a wild time for Corkonian metallers Bailer, including a tour of Russia that provided an insight into social dissatisfaction and the world’s perceptions. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with guitarist Chris Harte.

Since emerging seemingly from out of nowhere in 2014, Leeside four-piece Bailer have been working constantly: a seemingly endless array of gigs, tours and festival/all-dayer appearances have been punctuated with steady releases of singles and extended-players, charting the development of the band’s hefty, grooving, hardcore-inflected strain of modern metal. The most recent of these extended-players, a self-titled affair released via Sligo-based Distroy Records, has seen them finally begin to break down some of the media barriers that have traditionally thrwarted Irish artists in the UK and continental Europe. Guitarist Chris Harte has been seeing the difference in recent months. “Yeah, the songs have gotten a good push from bigger metal outlets. We’ve been thrilled with the response so far, and it feels great. We’ve been touring this release more than our past E.P.s too, seeing new faces and meeting new fans every night we play, it’s awesome.”

Part of the touring for the record included an excursion to Russia for two weeks in February. A daunting task for any band on the basis of weather alone, the trip presented challenges to the Bailer lads on numerous fronts, even before political and world-affairs considerations surrounding the country’s government entered the discussion. “About this time last year, an offer came to us to tour there for two weeks. We’ve seen so many of our favorite bands go there in the past, and their shows always looked wild. We wanted to do the same, so we took the chance and it certainly paid off. It was a crazy experience, but the shows were incredible, and the culture was totally different. They don’t get a lot of bands like us touring there, so it meant a lot to people. Obviously, it had its hiccups: Lufthansa lost all our equipment on the way out there, and it took two days to get it back. But once we hit the road, we had an amazing time and played some of our best shows yet.”

Heading to a new country to play tunes for the first time is always a big deal for a band, and on a day-to-day basis, Harte and company were pleasantly surprised by the reaction they met from a metal audience that hasn’t necessarily been treated well by touring bookers in recent years. “Our songs went down really well over there, the crowds seemed to love high-energy, heavy music, and we certainly didn’t hold back on the performances after travelling all that way. People were queuing up for photos every night, and you could see how much it meant to them. We made sure to connect with as many people as possible online, on Instagram, as they have their own version of Facebook in Russia. Lots of them have been following us ever since.”

The experience of dealing with music fans at the other side of a social and political divide was especially poignant for the band, as recounted by a detailed post on the band’s social media as the dust was settling on the sojourn. Gig-goers and supporters of heavy music attending the band’s tour regularly asked them to take the message home that objections to Vladimir Putin’s rule and actions in recent years are shared equally among people on the ground in Russia. “That was pretty surreal on a humane level, those were some of the most powerful memories we took away from the tour. In a way, it was what we expected, since we were heading over to play underground hardcore shows, but it really stuck with us. I think it’s easy to see that people these days, from all over the world, are seriously dissatisfied with their governments and it’s no different in Russia. Western media would have us all believe they are a scary people who hate our guts, but it’s total bulls**t. Look at America’s government right now for god’s sake, politics are f**ked wherever you go.”

Upon arrival back home, Bailer found themselves on the cusp of cult recognition in the UK, with positive reviews and features in youth-oriented print magazines such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. Important mags for young rockers of yesteryear, yes, but facing the same challenges of any print-first media outlet, in addition to the overall crisis of mainstream relevance that heavy music faces amid a dearth of fresh bands to replace the stadium-fillers of the ‘90s. Regardless of the question marks, these features have given the band a bump across the water. “For us, it felt great to be in those magazines, even if only for the fact that we used to buy them all the time as teenagers, and we found out about so many bands that shaped our tastes in music through those mags. Nowadays it’s certainly not the same impact, as the internet has taken over and it’s just a totally different ball game now, but it’s still huge exposure, and they are still the biggest physical publications in our world of music right now. We’ve certainly seen a massive increase in streams and online followers since, and we’re working on getting over there for some good shows later this year to follow up on the exposure. Hopefully that’s just the start of it, now.”

Another set of questions hanging over music at present are those of sustainability and income. The industry overall is dealing with the extended transition from paid downloads to subscription streaming services, which have overtaken physical CD and vinyl sales in the past year in many markets. Having taken their own management in house, the band is using its knowledge of merchandise and vending of same, to help other artists with artwork and visual identity. Enter Absurd Merch, the band’s joint venture with their label. “Since becoming a member of the Distroy Records family, Alex, who runs the label, had been chatting to me a lot about his aspirations to start up a merch brand, operating within the metal and hardcore community. There is a big increase in the scene here in Ireland and around the world right now, and there are a lot of bands doing well. We set it up to help out bands working hard and looking to tour at home and abroad. We want to make things easier for these bands, and bring everyone together to benefit each other. It’s early days for us yet, but it’s looking good already and we have lots of plans in the pipeline.”

With a pair of Irish tours over with this year already, the band has a number of spot shows and festivals to keep them busy throughout the summer, before heading around the country again with UK outfit Palm Reader. Ireland has long been a quietly supportive country for heavy music, sustaining and nurturing a close-knit community in the process. “The Palm Reader tour kicks off in August, we know this is going to be another high-energy tour, and tickets are selling fast already. Ireland is certainly on the up-and-up for this kind of music, and as the quality, diversity of the bands and the venues continues to increase, more and more people are turning up at shows. I can’t wait to see what the scene will look like in another few years.”

In-between bouts helping reinforce the infrastructure of heavy music in the country, the band are keeping things ticking over before making big moves in the coming months, capitalising on the momentum that the band have worked diligently to build. “We’re doing a bunch of headline shows across Ireland over the next month until the end of June. In July we have Townlands Carnival and Knockanstockan Festival back to back before the Palm Reader tour kicks off in August. In between all of this we are writing away for our debut album, we won’t be sitting on this E.P. for too long. The next chapter is right around the corner.”

For more information on further dates, check out the band’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The band’s self-titled extended-player is available now across all downloading and streaming services.

Worn Out: “Start a Band. Now.”

Typical of the bold nature of Cork’s metal and hardcore community, four-piece Worn Out have started as they mean to go on. After the release of second single ‘Circle the Drain’, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with the band about making noise, and their master plan.

An indicator of the cultural wellbeing of any city’s cultural community is the relative health of its musical and aesthetic subcultures. Although the teenage tribalism of music culture of yore has given way to wider palates enabled by near-limitless access to music of all stripes of various platforms, it is inarguable that support for ‘difficult’ music across the board has rallied in the past twelve months after an extended quiet period, boosted by adapting to new venues and being shaped by enthusiastic promoters. Metal and hardcore are among the musical microcosms in the city to have pulled out of hard times with bombast and exuberance – bands like hardcore outfit BAILER have begun taking to the continent, while promoters like Cosmonaut and Subtle Beast provide a sturdy, community-rooted infrastructure at home. And with the pall of inactivity lifting from the scene in Cork, so too are people getting into the jam rooms and garages available to them and throwing down.

It is in this climate that hardcore four-piece Worn Out has come together, formed from the wreckage of other bands from Cork’s wider alternative scene. Drummer Evan Prendergast says that necessity, and frustration, were the mothers of invention. “The idea for the band came from my frustration with another project at the time. I wasn’t getting what I needed from it, and began to grow increasingly agitated. I wanted to play something completely different to what I had been playing at the time. Initially, myself and Isaac (Riordan, guitars) talked about starting something that would hold influence from Alice in Chains. We jammed with no real intentions or ideas at first, and it was the most fun I’d had writing and playing in some time up to that point. It was obvious from the very start that what we originally had thought we would sound like was going to be much heavier. It progressively grew from there, with Xander (Coughlan) jumping in on vocals and Brian (Bowell, bass) joining the band later. It was a pretty organic process, fortunately.”

The early honeymoon period for groups of musicians can often give way to frustration, as getting a grasp on one another’s strengths and weaknesses gives way to dealing with differences in playing and creative differences. According to Riordan, that process was meticulous, and setting specific matters, such as guitar tones, in stone was a collective effort. “Assembling the set took all the way up to the couple of days previous to our first gig. Absolute squeaky-bum time (laughs). We had a lot of loose ends to tighten up, but luckily it all came together in perfect time. I’m a bit of a technophobe when it comes to musical equipment. I honestly haven’t got a clue. I generally just plug in my guitar, and bash out some riffs… I knew what pedals I needed, and then there was a lot of messing around between different tones from different amps. Brian has a good head on him for the technical side of things, so I always put my trust in him. We’re still tweaking with our sound almost every practice.”

The band’s first single ‘With False Hope’ dropped almost by surprise toward the end of last year, alongside public word of the band’s existence. Accompanied by the single’s slickly-produced promo video, it was picked up by local blogs and specialist press further afield. Coughlan discusses the nerves he and the band underwent right before it released. “Before we first released it, I wasn’t sure of how people would react to it. From writing the tune with the lads, and recording it, and playing it over and over, I felt like I was sick of the tune. But the reaction was great, loads of different blogs putting it on their sites as well bands sharing our video on their social media. People are sound.”

Among the highlights of the band’s live run so far is opening for Swedish mathcore lunatics (and disciples of now-departed genre trailblazers The Dillinger Escape Plan) God Mother at UCC’s New Bar, being among the first bands to break new ground at a campus space rapidly becoming a centre of music for the city’s academic community. If that seems slightly unusual to the casual reader, one might only imagine what went through Prendergast’s head while climbing behind the kit. “It was great. The guys in Pyre Promotions know what they’re doing, with bands and venues. We’re playing in a skatepark (right before this goes to the streets) because of them. I’ve wanted to do that since I was about ten years old. Having a band like God Mother play in UCC is always going to make me laugh. During the soundcheck, there was an exam in the hall next to where we were playing, and we were pressured to keep it down. That is the most rewarding and funny thing to me ever. Someone had to sit and do an exam while we all soundchecked one of the hardest hitting bands around. Madness. I hope they all passed.”

Follow-up single ‘Circle the Drain’ released this past month, and maintains the band’s sonic momentum after an enthusiastically-received start. Bowell talks about the relief inherent to getting a piece of work over the line and to people’s ears. “I often say that I just try to write songs that I’m into, or enjoy playing. If I knew how to write a guaranteed hit I’d be rich by now (laughs). It’s impossible to know if people will like what we’re doing, so it’s still a mild relief when it’s finally out in the public domain and I’m not having to hang my head in shame. Everything after that is a bonus.” After the rocket-boost that the band have received for their confidence starting out, the band have a big 2018 in the pipeline. It’s encouraging, but when pressed for further info, Prendergast keeps his cards held firmly at his chest. “We had a plan from the start. We have so much coming for this year. We have some gigs we have to announce, as well as some new music that we’re biting our tongues over. Trust me. This is only… the middle of the start (laughs).”

As touched on at the start of the article, this buoyant mood of the band’s is reflective of the current celebratory mood of hefty music in the city. Cork’s metal and hardcore scene is stronger than ever, and Prendergast’s parting words sum up the state of the scene succinctly. “All I’m going to say is, if you have an idea about starting a band, if you have the tiniest little feeling about doing it, then do it. Get up and message people. Inquire and ask questions. Find like-minded people, and gig. Go to shows. Write songs and be supportive to others. That is how it’s going to continue and not just be surge and die out. Start a band. Now.”

Worn Out’s new single ‘Circle the Drain’ is available now across all good online streaming and download services. Check them out on social media for more info on upcoming gigs.

Amanaka: “Perfect Osmosis”

Christophe Erpelding made an impact on the Leeside music scene during his time here throughout the 2000s and 2010s, as part of metal juggernauts [r]evolution of a sun and Bisect. He returns next week with new band Amanaka for an Irish tour that includes two Cork dates. Mike McGrath-Bryan gets into it with a local figurehead for heavy music.

His is the gravelly, mid-ranged roar that underpinned hardcore in Cork throughout the 2000s, as one of multiple vocalists over the lifetime of Leeside monolith [r]evolution of a sun, infamous for once delivering broadsides in studio so intense that, by bandleader Noel Lynch’s description, objects in the nearby vicinity budged under the pressure. As one-half of the vocal team in crossover hardcore band Bisect, he also helped set in stone that band’s foundation as proponents of thrashy, straight-ahead agitprop. And yet, for all that his name entails, Christophe Erpelding, a teacher by trade, is a warm and chatty figure offstage. Ahead of coming back over the water to brave stages with his ex-bandmates in Bisect as part of new band Amanaka, Christophe is effusive in discussing how his new parish came together.

“Well, interestingly enough, Stéphane (guitarist), Myka (drummer) and I started a band a few months before my landing in Cork. The lads carried on, got a bass player, Goof, and a singer, Greg. The band was called Fok’npekwet. They toured Ireland in 2004 and we played with them with [r]ev in the LV and Fredz. The lads love Ireland. Stéphane used to visit me in Cork every year for a few years. They were dreaming about getting to tour Ireland again. They then became Amanaka, but performed as an instrumental band from 2009 to 2012, and they disbanded for a while. However, with Myka and me back in town, Stéphane suggested that we reform the band in June 2015. We got Goof on board, that was it: Amanaka revival. I have been with friends with Myka since I was sixteen. We had our first band together. RIFF – ‘Right In Your F**kin’ Face’ (laughs). We were actually great fun. Same when it comes to Stéphane. We have been friends for more than twenty years. We jammed a good few times together, but with my departure to Cork, we never got to finalize any musical projects. Like all the bands I have been part of, all the songs are original creations. Their influences are varied, going from Meshuggah, Black Dahlia Murder, with some hardcore bits, to atmospheric themes à la Tool or Russian Circles. This is what I like about Amanaka: that no songs sound the same. We did a good few gigs in France, and released a five-track EP “Delirium Elephantiasis Circus” last summer, and now the Irish Tour. We are so excited about it! We know it’s going to be an intense and amazing musical and human experience. I have actually ordered a new liver for when I get back (laughs).”

Erpelding would very well draw a crowd from among the city’s metal veterans for his contributions to the city’s scene over the years, eager to see what happens next. It’s not far from his mind regarding the band’s Irish excursion, either, as he reflects on what the city has meant to him. “[r]evolution of a sun was a big part of my life, and will always be. It was the first band where the music was perfectly echoing with what I have always wanted to do in music. Fast aggressive riffs with massive build ups. Perfect osmosis. And… I got to make friends. True friends. Noel, Pat, Kenny, Jer… I first met Pat in Fredz, and he said to me that [r]ev was looking for a singer. I said “Cool, I’m a singer”. I met Noel in The Wolfhound, drinking his famous Watoo. We had a chat and we found a common interest about Breach. The thing about Breach is like Marmite: you love it or you hate it. We went jamming in Nancy Spain’s. And that’s how it started. We met Kenny who was initially a drummer, and who… loved Breach as well. In fairness, these years with [r]ev, the lads, the intensity and integrity of the music, jamming in “cans”, playing Fredz and the Quad, playing all over Ireland, touring France. getting around 200 people moshing on ‘Fugitive’ during the Filth Fest is simply one of the most intoxicating experiences of my life. Those years with [r]evolution of sun were amongst the best ones in my life!”

Erpelding’s time with Bisect has also gone on to inform his contributions to his new band, and next week’s Irish excursion takes on gigs around the country with the Leeside crossover four-piece. The experience of creating the band’s first album, ‘We Are the Migrants’, has stuck with him. “We recorded ‘We Are the Migrants’ at (the late) Lawrence White’s studio in Bantry. May he rest in peace, ‘cause he was a legend. With Bisect, Fabrizio, Grzegorz and Macjec were mainly writing the riffs. When it came to writing the lyrics, it was either collective or individual. It depended. For instance, we wrote ‘TV Madness’ and ‘We Are the Migrants’ together. The recording of ‘We Are the Migrants’ was great, an amazing experience altogether! Lawrence recorded the guitar, the drum and the bass live in his living room, as we wanted a natural sound, not a processed one. We then did the vocals. We stayed at Lawrence’s for the week. Lawrence had this amazing ability to become another member of the band. We ate, drank, laughed and recorded altogether in his conservatory, with the view on the countryside.”

With all this history in mind, and with a few dates in the can, Erpelding is understandably excited for the trip, for the success his ex-bandmates have encountered since his leaving Cork a few years ago. “It’s gonna be great to see Bisect live again, and maybe do a bit of vocals with them. We are still in contact, and I know that things are going well for them. They made a very good new album, and did well to play the Siege. Regarding the overall atmosphere, Eddie from (Dublin punx) the Nilz sent me a Messenger post a few days ago with all the bands that will play with us in Dublin on the 6th in Thomas House. And judging by the vibe of this post it’s gonna be mighty, chaotic and great craic! Only in Ireland. We are very happy to be playing Ballina with Sh*thatt. I discovered them a few months ago, and I am sincerely looking forward to see them live. Headlining the Mammothfest Battle of the Bands is going to be a great experience too.”

The heavy scene in the city has been growing and getting stronger in recent years after a long lull – what does Christophe think of the growth in Cork metal and the bands that are here now? “Well, I think the Cork has always been strong. I mean, I am living in France now, and it is just not the same vibes when it comes to music. Being aware of both worlds, for me Irish people are natural musician,s I think. It is in your blood. Think about how prolific it is, gigs, the trad, the dancing. It is legitimate to make music in Ireland. Unfortunately, to be honest, I have been slightly disconnected from the Cork Irish scene for the past three years. I got to listen to Bailer a lot. I think they are incredibly impressive. I am delighted to see they are doing well. Onkalo released a very good album, too.”

The band is back in its hometown after getting back from Ireland next month, and the road doesn’t stop there. But in getting back on the horse, Erpelding has found a new lease on musical life with some lifelong friends. “We have a gig in Longwy, our hometown, on the 5th of May. Our first one there since Halloween 2016. It is going to be good to play there, because loads of people who know us have never seen us before. It will be fun to play in front of our friends, and have a ball like when we did when we were teenagers, besides the fact that we are all in our forties now (laughs). We have a few gigs lined up in different cities in France. Metz, Thionville… we want to tour as much as we can, to get exposure. That’s why, this summer we are going to have a look at festivals happening in France and in other countries. What is great is that we are at the borders of three countries: Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. Belgium has a good few venues and DIY places to perform, and so has Germany. We will be probably be recording our new material at the end of the year. But (before all that), let the music and the craic begin!”

BAILER: “We Felt There Was a Lot More Maturity”

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.

God Mother: “You’re Making Music for Yourself”

Ahead of their tour of Ireland later this month, Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with God Mother drummer Michael Dahlström to reflect on a year of milestones for the metal quintet.

Swedish five-piece God Mother are a veritable onslaught of sound and fury, not only in the immediate sonic sense, but in the array of musical reference points that come the listener’s way over the course of new album ‘Vilseledd’, out now via Party Smasher Inc. Math, grind, and hardcore inflections all make themselves blisteringly apparent amid a satisfyingly substantial mix.

Drummer Michael Dahlström gives us some insight into the band’s creative and recording processes for this LP. “Writing songs for ‘Vilseledd’ was a fairly simple process. We all had the same idea of where we were going with the album, and we wrote almost all of the songs together in the rehearsal room, which made things pretty easy arrangement-wise. We did all the recording of the album ourselves with some help of our friends: Staffan Birkedal, who helped record the drums, and Ove Noring who helped with the bass recording at Studio Ovett. Magnus Lindberg from Cult Of Luna later did the mixing and mastering.”

How did the process differ, if at all, this time around, compared to self-released recordings? “Even though we recorded it ourselves, we rented a really nice studio called Soundtrade Studios in Stockholm to record it in. That really made a huge difference to the drum sound. The drums sound huge, and great without any samples or digital reverb thanks to that really big-sounding live room. All the previous releases have been mixed by me as well, but this time we decided to have Magnus mix it, both because he is a great producer, and also to relieve ourselves from some stress.”

‘Vilseledd’ has been in the can for a few months now, and the band are fully satisfied with the result, having taken the time to live with the record over the past while. “We are really happy with how it turned out. We really gave it all we had, and think it came out pretty solid. This is probably the first time I am really 100% happy with something I´ve done creatively. We had a plan for everything from the cover art, to the songwriting, to the sequencing and production.”

The album was released via Party Smasher, Inc., the label run by the now-former members of mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dahlström outlines how the opportunity to work with heavy music’s foremost innovators of the last two decades came to them. “Party Smasher actually first came into the picture after the whole album was already recorded and mastered. We didn’t have a record label when we started recording it, so after we finished, we emailed some labels that we liked and would like to work with. PSI was one of the first that replied. They said they really liked the album, but did not have time to release it just then. They were supposed to play in Stockholm a couple of weeks later, and we saw that they did not have a support band booked for the show, so we asked if we could play. To our surprise we got both the Stockholm and Gothenburg show. After the second show, Ben Weinman came to us backstage, said he was really impressed with our live show and that they wanted to sign us to Party Smasher. We were of course a bit surprised, but very happy and our collaboration have led to many amazing things: getting to do a full European tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as playing on their final show at Terminal 5 in New York together with Mike Patton.

With TDEP disbanding after twenty years, and doing so accompanied onstage by a living legend of leftfield music in Mike Patton, he of Faith No More and many others, the bar had to have been skyhigh for the young band heading into the latter experience. “It was a bit unreal, and totally amazing. I was very jetlagged due to the fact that we just landed the day before from Sweden, and tried to fix that by drinking a great deal of caffeine, which just increased my heartbeat so the whole thing kind of felt like a weird dream, albeit a very sweet one. Getting the opportunity to play our first New York show together with Dillinger and Mike Patton at Terminal 5 in front of 3000 people was pretty great.”

There’s been a lot of positive critical reception for the album since, specifically from specialist press such as MetalInjection and the like – is it hard to shut out those external voices when it comes to the creative or the day-to-day of the band? “Not really, I mean of course you read some of the reviews and it´s nice that people like the album, but in the end you’re making music for yourself and for the band, not for anyone else. But with that said, it also feels great to have your music being heard and appreciated by people, and all those metal blogs of course help with the PR, and making more folks aware of our existence.”

The band is on tour in Ireland this month, and Dahlström collects his thoughts heading into a fairly full-on clutch of dates, with five gigs on the agenda in little over a week. “We are super excited to play in Ireland! I personally have never been to Ireland before, but always hear good things about it, and we love to explore and play at new places. Also, getting to to it with Ilenkus and some other great Irish bands make it even more fun.” The tour serves as a warm-up for what looks to be a banner year for the band. “We are still planning a lot of the year but already have a couple of shows confirmed, we will play at Complexity Fest in Amsterdam in February, and Obscene Extreme Festival in July. We have a lot of other tours planned, but more about that soon, stay tuned to our social media for updates.”

Hope is Noise: “It’s a Simple Philosophy for Us”

From humble roots as a secondary-school jam band in Ballincollig, Co. Cork to features in UK media and EU/US touring, alt-rock/post-hardcore four-piece Hope is Noise are often slept on when the conversation of veteran Irish acts emerges. Five full-lengths and two decades in, the band maintains somewhat of a godfather status in the city by the Lee, marked by their enduring passion for creating a racket, and their similarly endless support for the local scene. Premiering this Thursday at IndieCork Film Festival, ‘Head in the Clouds: The Hope is Noise Story’ charts their course over the past twenty years, unfolding a story of friendship, patience and loyalty.

According to vocalist/guitarist Dan Breen, the secret to keeping patience with one another for that long is relatively uncomplicated. “Well, it would be a lie to say that we have never got pissed off with each other over the last 20 years but it has never reached the epic levels of hatred you hear about in other bands. In my opinion most bands usually break up because of one, or a combination of three things: money, addiction, egos. We’ve never made enough money or enjoyed worldwide acclaim as a band for any of those to become an issue (laughs). But really it’s a simple philosophy for us, as long as we still love writing and performing the songs we’ve written, Hope is Noise will stay together. The balancing of band and personal lives is also something we’ve been lucky enough to be able to make work too. As long as we can meet up once a week to practice, there will always be Hope is Noise. Y’know, it’s funny that it was being friends that initially brought the band together but it’s been the band that has been so important in keeping us friends.”

‘Head in the Clouds’ sees the band, for the first time, taken through the archives for a look at Hope is Noise to date – ample archive video, photography and posters help illustrate the band’s story alongside new interviews. Breen reflects on having these kinds of milestones to hit in the first place. “It’s hard to believe its been twenty years since we first started jamming in my bedroom. The neighbours were pretty understanding but I think we did put a crack in the ceiling of the kitchen below us with all the noise, and bouncing around going on. To be honest, to have made it this long is really testament to our perseverance. There was plenty of occasions where we should have just thrown in the towel and stopped playing, like after the Sunbeam fire in 2003 (wherein an entire newly-built rehearsal space on the city’s northside burned down). However when Hope is Noise started in 2005, it felt we had finally stumbled onto something good. Since then we’ve been Hope is Noise, for better or worse. Personally, playing music with my best friends for over twenty years has been an amazing privilege so having this documentary is a really cool way to mark this.”

Such a trawl through the years must obviously come with burdens of proof for certain stories, the reopening of old wounds, and so on, with the process and storytelling serving as motivation to gut through it. What was Breen’s favourite aspect, if any, of the production of the documentary? “Firstly, it has to be working with the young lads from Gobstar Film. Over the last two years, they have produced, directed, edited as well as cajole four lazy lads in front of a camera and get us to talk about stuff we had long forgotten. They were big fans of the band and it was this that inspired them to come on-board and make the documentary. It’s amazing what they achieved with no budget and a simple story. We had a great laugh working with them, though they should probably get community service medals for working with OAPs (laughs). Secondly, looking at the old film footage was cool too. Actually, what shocked me the most during the production was how little video footage we had. If I could go back in time, I would have definitely recorded and cataloged way more but you never think about those things as you’re going through it. We were able to locate about 10 hours of old band footage as well as photos, posters etc and combined this many hours of interviews to make a short 35 minute documentary. It’s a credit to Ger and Jim that we got it over the line. To be honest, we were conscious throughout the making of the documentary that we didn’t want it to appear like a vanity project, and we were well aware that we didn’t really have the usual ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ backstory you find in the typical music documentaries, so if the project has just ended up on my computer, serving as nothing more than a nice trip down memory lane then that would have been that. Thankfully, the lads found a story in all our ramblings and meagre digital footprint that they wanted to show to the public. Hopefully, it won’t be our Some Kind of Monster (laughs).”

Last year’s ‘Demons’ album saw the band tackle their personal dramas and thoughts on life in broader terms, including mortality, friendship and politics, and it made for the band’s most relatable record yet. Breen gets into how the record was made, and the driving force behind the next act in the Hope is Noise story. “With everything we’d recorded previously, I always think there’s roughly a million things I would change, but this record only has about one thousand (laughs). This was the first record we produced fully by ourselves, so of course, there are things we would have done differently with hindsight, but overall, we’re very proud of it. The songs on this album fit very well into our live set, and we really enjoy playing them. The album has bittersweet memories for us as it was the last thing we got to record with our long-term engineer, producer and friend, Lawrence White who sadly died about a year ago. I had already discussed the next album with him and plans were afoot about how we could record it better and more efficiently. His death really threw us for six as he was meant to be an important part of the band’s foreseeable future, but his death has also re-affirmed our desire to keep playing music for as long as we can.”

The band will be accompanying the screening of the documentary with a live gig at the Poor Relation in Cork this Thursday. A good time, then, to get Breen’s thoughts on a newly-established centre of off-kilter gigging in town. “This will be our first time playing there, so we’re really excited about that. The Poor Relation has been putting on gigs for a good while now and seem to be willing to put on more alternative and heavier ones which is always a bonus. The place is laid out in a way that reminds me of the Quad when the main bar and stage are in the same room, open-plan style. The stage looks pretty big too compared to other ones we’ve played in the past. We hope the gig goes well and that we will get to play many more there in the future.”

The band is featured prominently on the programme for the IndieCork festival this year, an important outlet for independent culture of all kinds in the city, now heading into its fifth year, co-ordinated by local arts veterans and maintained by a year-round community effort. Breen talks about the importance of Indie to the city. “Over the last six months we were wondering what we would do with the documentary when it was done. Thankfully, IndieCork gave us the chance to launch it and get it out there. I think its important that events like IndieCork continue to be organised and supported because they give a rare opportunity and platform for independent artists to showcase what they do. A similar platform should be done for independent music in the city but you would certainly need the right sponsors and organisers like they have for IndieCork. We are thrilled to be part of the festival this year and looking forward to the night and hopefully future collaborations with the event and other participants.”There is lots of talk at present about the gig/venue situation at present in Cork, which is starting to get a little better with the re-opening of PLUGD as an overall event space and venues like The Poor Relation and the Village Hall, but is still reeling from years of venue closures and retoolings. Breen gets into his feelings on the matter, and the changes that have occurred. “The closure of so many venues in Cork is really just another sign of the times. Over the last decade or so, there has been a slow accumulation of changes in the music industry that had led us to where we are. You just have to look at how, in response to the modern ways of consuming music, record companies, radio stations and promoters now package music and events. They do it to reach the widest audiences, which sadly leaves little room for ‘old-fashioned’ Cork DIY bands like us to play regularly.

”I read a newspaper article a few months back about the demise of guitar bands and the venues that would normally have profited from their popularity. Basically the long-held dominance of guitar-orientated music is in danger of becoming a niche musical genre like Jazz. The closing down of so many once prominent venues in the city is the simply the result of less people going to see local original guitar bands. Most venues and bars gear everything towards the more palpable types of acts like covers band, singer-songwriters, trad, DJs etc. Fewer places want the hassle of putting up with the racket we make. To me, the biggest result of the loss of so many venues is that there is now a distinct lack of international touring bands passing through Cork. Sure, there have been tons of big acts filling the Marquee, and other big venues, but acts that would have played venues like Sir Henry’s, Nancy Spain’s, the Savoy, the Half-Moon and the Pavilion are no longer playing here. Pat and I went to Galway to see Shellac two weeks ago, scratching our heads as to why they hadn’t been brought to Cork. The knock-on effect is that local bands are denied the opportunity to play with these bigger bands, to play to new audiences and improve their stagecraft.

”There is no really infrastructure in place here anymore for touring bands of modest size/success to make coming to Cork worth their time. All the money and effort seems to be going to cater for the bigger more financially secure acts. You can have all the convention centres you want in Cork but the loss of the city’s small and medium sized venues will have a larger impact on the local scene. I know for us it is certainly harder now to get gigs, find support bands and encourage people to attend, so we have to limit the amount of times you play Cork and make every gig counts so people may be more inclined to come back (laughs). What’s happening in Cork is indicative of what’s happening throughout the entire Irish DIY scene in general, connections that were in place over the last 15 years have fallen away as record labels finished, venues closed and promoters/bands gave up. I hope we’re in a period of transition waiting for new blood to re-energise the scene. I would agree that there have been signs of improvement lately. Along with venues like Fredz and the Crane Lane, that still give bands like us an outlet, new venues like the Poor Relation and El Fenix, and the really active metal scene with cool young bands and promoters point to signs of rejuvenation, but sadly I don’t think it will ever get back to the way it was.”

What next for Hope is Noise? “Very simple, keep writing songs and get to the studio in the coming months to record the fifth album and keep playing gigs. We are definitely not going anywhere soon (touch wood)!”