In a recent article I attempted to introduce readers to the vibrant Cork music scene. In this piece I take a closer look at two of the acts that are at the forefront of this musical revival, The Vincent(s) and Elastic Sleep and the new zine ‘We Play Here’ that was recently launched.
The Vincent(s) first came to my attention in Nov of last year when only a few months together and with a handful of gigs under their belt I saw them play a FIFA Records gig in The Pavilion, Cork. What I saw that evening was a band that was raw, edgy, dark but distinctive and with a real swagger, but more than anything they seemed while combining several styles and crossing over several genres to be creating something original. Since then the band have continued to grow and develop and all the time honing their sound.
Although only in formed in August of 2012, The Vincent(s) have toured extensively throughout Ireland and built a reputation as a thrilling live band. They have been packing them into Irish venues and along with cohorts The Altered Hours, represent something of a sea change in music that has emerged from the Cork of 2013. They set their stall out earlier this year with their debut ‘Asked Her to the Dance’ which caught the ear of Irish & international alternative press and radio.
“Their debut single ‘Asked Her to Dance’ is a total treat.”
BBC Across the Line
“The Vincent(s)’ sound is a wicked mix of indie, grunge, and noise-pop. The combination may seem a little bizarre at first, but have a listen and you’ll see how these nuances work together amazingly”
A Music Blog, Yea? – Toronto, Canada
“Fiendishly addictive track”
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The Vincent(s) hooked up with Irish indie label FIFA Records to put out their debut, and followed this up on the 23rd of Aug with the release of the 4 track ‘Valley of the Sun’ EP which again gained national and international recognition and reaffirmed them in my opinion as one of the most exciting bands to come out of Ireland in a long time.
“It’s got these delicious little moments of silence, which punctuate what is a great Indie Rock song, full of engaging hooks and a chorus that ruffles your hair, and lets you jump aboard for the ride”
Backseat Mafia – Sheffield UK
“Song ForThe Sea does it for me – one of the best tunes this year from anyone, anywhere!”
Dan Hegarty RTE 2FM
“The “Valley of the Sun” EP does much more than entertain; the Vincent(s) have created magic for you to explore!”
Streetrockreview –Seattle US
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Raw recordings, noise and psych are the orders of the day. Their roots lie in surf sounds and early 90s US alt-guitar groove, which sit alongside an unmistakable Irish vocal; The Vincent(s) latest offering is a bonus free download track in the shape of ‘Milk with Tea’ This track is now available from The Vincent(s) soundcloud page.
“‘Milk with Tea’ is a fantastic introduction to an interesting band with a great sound, and who by all accounts are a great to witness live also.”
‘Milk With Tea’ is a stunningly atmospheric affirmation of the group’s visceral Death-Pop sound.
I recently caught up with Vocalist and Bass player Margus in an attempt to learn more about this intriguing group.
What’s the first song you ever remember hearing?
Nirvana: Scentless Apprentice on the Dave Fanning show RTE 2fm.Changed my life!
What are you listening to lately?
Amen Dunes, Ice age and Slug Guts.
What’s your favourite album by another artist?
Amen Dunes: Through Donkey jaw
What inspires you lyrically?
Usually if I fuck my life up in some way or another I feel the need to write my way out of the bad situation, you know? – If I’m happy and content with life then nothing comes out. If I find myself becoming too happy with my current life and social situation I will fuck everything and everyone around me just to get back to writing songs like! It’s sad but it works.
Are there any songs you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t?
Not really, I put so much time and effort into our songs that I appreciate the end results regardless of the fact that some of the songs might drive people out the doors of venues.
What do you think of the current Irish music scene?
I think there is a healthy enough scene in Ireland at the moment. There are still lots and lots of piss-poor bands are still “getting away with it”, but I feel a considerably less amount of, absolute pampered drivel, is being tolerated by the people. Which is a serious improvement to before! There are great bands scattered all over this country but I feel that there are not enough people, venues and labels to look after them all properly. It’s a real shame!
What do you think of the current Cork music scene?
The Cork scene is like a small incestuous family. Everyone is involved with each other in some way or another, and everyone is helping everyone out. Its fuckin’ great like! -The music that’s being delivered is better than it has been in years. There is a strict “NO BULLSHIT!” method to every ones thinking and the level of writing and musicianship is blossoming due to this factor. It’s really exciting to be a part of it.
Had any of you recorded with other groups before forming The Vincent(s)?
Not really! We have done demo’s and things with other groups but have never released anything like this before. I have been recording my own material for years on 8-tracks and stuff, so I had a fair idea what to do when I went into record “Valley of the Sun”, but I never had the intention of releasing it on a label or anything. That just came about afterwards. I guess it was good or something?
Other than the people you’re with now, if you could get any musician, living or dead, who would be in your “dream band”?
Jim Reid, William Reid, Alan Vega, Martin Rev and Peter Murphy.
People have the image that it’s non-stop partying out there. Is it?
It’s a wild place if you want like it wild. There are hard-core party heads everywhere but I prefer a nice cup of tea and some toast over a bucket of cocaine off a hookers back.
When do you go back into studio?
We are currently in studio just to throw down some ideas to mull over during the festive season. We are constantly writing and pushing ourselves musically but we have not been in the studio since before the summer so it’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of us next. I’m kind of excited, really.
What’s next for you?
Death with a good headstone.
The Vincent(s) are currently in studio working on their next release with an expected late Jan or early Feb release. This will be supported by an Irish tour and the band’s first UK dates.
Elastic Sleep are a Cork-based pop band. Channeling visceral hooks from the darker recesses of the heart, the band expresses the melancholia inherent in the human condition through fragile melodies, primal rhythms and ethereal feedback.
Their début offering ‘Anywhere’ was self-released earlier this year.
Clocking in at 2 minutes and 12 seconds, the micro pop mantra earned the band international attention from blogs, nationwide airplay, a slot at this year’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival in Dublin and a deal with Cork independent label FIFA Records.
Elastic Sleep released their follow up ‘You Only Live Twice’ as a free download with accompanying video on Fri 15th of Nov with on EP release due out in Jan 2014.
I posed some questions to Elastic Sleep guitarist Chris Somers in the hope of gaining more insight into the band.
Elastic Sleep were formed from the ashes of some very different bands, was it tough to find a definitive sound at first?
It was mostly the ashes of one band, that 3 of us (Chris: guitar+vox, Muireann: vox and Ruairi: bass) were in called Terror Pop. Brendan (guitar) and Dan (drums) are still active with their bands Une Pipe and the Great Balloon Race, respectively. The early songs like ‘Anywhere’ came together from demo’s I’d made with Muireann, so the basis for the sound was there from the beginning and was developed by the full band. We weren’t going for any sound in particular, it just happened.
How do you find writing and recording? Do you follow a specific process?
It’s quite varied. Sometimes we’re playing demo ideas practically verbatim, other times it’s an idea that is brought in which we develop through jamming. There’s no golden rule, just people, process and patience.
Is there ever a chance of getting over adventurous in the studio (not being able to replicate things live, etc…) or is it a case of not following the rule book?
Because I record the band and we’re not on the clock we have the luxury of pushing the boat in terms of capturing sound and trying things out. I don’t think you can ever get over adventurous in the studio, it’s the best place to dissect what you’re doing in a creative way. In terms of replicating sounds live, we tracked the rhythm section live for the EP and for ‘You Only Live Twice’ we did the backing track totally live in the same room we practice in. People find that to be an unusual approach these days because of how compartmentalised the recording process has become, but it’s far more healthy than trying to inject to your ‘sound’ into the recordings after they have been made.
What inspires you lyrically?
Pain and loss, for the most part. The pain of memory. These aren’t necessarily sad songs, just songs that express painful feelings.
How many songwriters are in the band?
We five are all songwriters in this band. As I said earlier, the initial songs were fully formed by myself and Muireann but that has changed a lot since we started since the band got up and running.
How difficult is it to pick and choose what gets used and what gets scrapped?
There’s never any hesitation when it comes to throwing out something that doesn’t work and it’s usually apparent straight off that bat if something isn’t working. Even though the songs are all quite different in their own right it’s very obvious when a song isn’t getting the right feeling or energy across.
How do you find the current Irish music scene in 2013?
It’s a mixed bag at the moment. There’s no underground, there’s no mainstream just more bands and information than ever so it’s hard to classify what constitutes a scene. The ultimate cliche happens to be the ultimate truth in that a lot of great artists aren’t getting consideration in terms of column inches yet there’s more media to write about and discuss Irish bands than ever. The internet has given a personality to a number of entities that didn’t have or require one in the past and not always for the good of reporting on what’s really happening in Ireland.
How do you find the current Cork music scene? Which bands stand out?
There’s a good feeling in Cork at the moment I think amongst bands and artists. I think there’s more belief in music that’s from and happening in Cork than there has been in recent years. Then again each generation of ‘new’ bands is riding the crest of a wave in being that new exciting thing. Bands that stand out would have to be The Altered Hours and O Emperor, though with O Emperor there’s some freak element involved. They’re on another level in general. These are groups that are amazing to watch as bands and as people we know who are taking something musically exciting out of Ireland.
How important is location when it comes to Irish artists?
That’s hard to say as everyone is a product of their circumstances. Of the two bands I mentioned about only one member is actually a Cork native so what does that say of ‘Cork’ bands? All of these people seemed to have gravitated to this easy going place where they can work on music for some mystical reason that’s beyond my comprehension. It’s probably easier to get more exposure in Dublin, but to what end? I can’t imagine how tough it is for artists in the midlands to and the west to get written about or picked up.
What’s on rotation in the tour van?
At the moment it’s jazz drummer Art Blakey live in Tunisia and Macho Man Randy Savage’s ‘Be A Man’ album.
When on tour, do you have a favourite pit stop / venue in the country?
The nooks and crannies are great and thankfully there are a number of them. Pine Lodge of Myrtleville is a seaside inn of sorts with a decor that mixes Twin Peaks ‘Roadhouse’ with a touch of parochial hall. Also it’s by the sea, which is crucial. In Cork places like The Pavilion and Cyprus Avenue have always looked after us and other local bands really well while hosting great international acts too. Having said that we’re looking forward to Bourkes in Limerick next week with Galways garage pop quartet ‘Dott’. Everyone who we’ve mentioned the gig to who has played there tells us we’ll enjoy it, but nobody can ever seem to say why.
Do the band have any Spinal Tap moments?
We’re all pretty graceful. While there have been no tap moments there have been hundreds of Simpsons moments. Brendan almost drove up to the spire (the big prick on the pedestrianised part of O’ Connell Street, Dublin) recently at my beckoning in front of a number of Gardai.
Was it a tough decision joining FIFA Records?
Not at all. Ashley (Keating) and Eddie (Kiely) are two people who have been instrumental in getting a lot of great music out of Cork in the last 8 years or so. Ashley came to us with a real interest in what we were doing as a band as opposed to something that was potentially on the rise, which I think stems from his own experiences with The Frank and Walters. FIFA Records invest a lot personally in their roster and it’s showing now more than ever. It’s hard not to overstate how great it is to be in a position where people want to help you out because help in the music industry isn’t always what you might want it to be.
What can we expect from you in 2014?
In late January early February we’ll be bringing out our EP, ‘Leave You’, on vinyl with FIFA records. We’ll be doing a national tour around that with plans to head over to the UK in April or May and with a view to releasing the EP over there as well with plans to do Irish festivals throughout the summer. In the meantime we have a new single out in the form of our twist on Nancy Sinatra’s ‘You Only Live Twice‘, the video for which was directed and shot by David Mathuna.
New Cork zine ‘We Play Here’ is a totally independent endeavor (with no ads), and is the work of five people: writers Eoghan O’Sullivan (The Point of Everything), Emmet O’Brien and Eimear O’Donovan, designer Brad McLoughlin and photographer Brid O’Donovan, with each band being pictured solely for the zine.
“Music culture is youth culture, and if you are young at heart and into it, you are gonna be at gigs and representing. The remnants of 80s depression and emigration gave way to a swagger and confidence before, and its happening all over again. Sometimes it takes people a few years to catch up, but Cork is still alive In so many ways, and the young people are creating the good stuff. This time out there will be more of a tangible legacy though, as more music is being made than ever before here. These are the days, my friend, Jane’s Addiction were right all along. THESE are the days!”
That’s an excerpt of Cork DJ Stevie Grainger’s response to a question posed to him on the differences or lack thereof between the crowd he sees at gigs in Cork nowadays compared to when Sir Henry’s was ruling the roost in the city all those years ago. It forms part of a feature in We Play Here about whether or not the ‘golden days’ in Cork were actually that.
Eoghan explains how the zine came about, We Play Here is a zine that myself and a couple of friends/incredible people (Brad McLoughlin, Brid O’Donovam, Eimear O’Donovan and Emmet O’Brien) have been working on over the past number of weeks and months. Its title is derived from a venture that formed part of the Cork Midsummer Festival this year. Essentially, We Live Here offered “new opportunities for talented artists who have made a commitment to living and working in Cork”. We Play Here is trying to capture some of the talented musicians who are living, working and playing music in Cork. Seventeen acts were interviewed for the zine, with photography accompanying each piece. There is a roundtable discussion with the next generation of people involved with music behind the scenes in Cork as well as the feature mentioned above on the ‘golden generation’. Earlier this year, I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia emanating from Cork about how good things USED to be in the city. Personally I think the music scene in Cork has never been better. So We Play Here is a bid to try and combat that hazy nostalgia. There are 17 bands interviewed in We Play Here. The older guard – the likes of Rest and Ten Past Seven, stalwarts of the city for about a decade – are still around and are interviewed, while there are new bands coming through regularly; I think the most recently formed band on the list of interviews is Elastic Sleep, who are in existence about six months.
Initially, the plan was to do an all-encompassing look at the music being made in Cork city. I soon realised that would be a very difficult task: a new electronica producer seems to crop up every week; where do you draw the line with DJs; what about the metal scene that has existed in the city for years and years; what about folk; and what about the re-emerging underage scene, led by the lads in the Kino, now open about four months? So I’ve focused on the indier/alt/rock side of things. The bands interviewed range from pop (Saint Yorda) to rock (Elk), eclectic (the David Nelligan Thing) to psychedelic (Altered Hours), with myriad styles in between.
‘We Play Here’ includes interviews from the following bands (in alphabetical order):
Altered Hours, The David Nelligan Thing, Elastic Sleep, Elk, Former Monarchs, The Hard Ground, Hope is Noise, Great Balloon Race, Lamp, Private Underground Residence, Rest, Saint Yorda, Shaker Hymn, Sideproject, Ten Past Seven, Terriers, The Vincent(s).
‘We Play Here’ is priced at €5 and can be ordered from here.