Interview: The Minutes

As the success of Irish natives, The Minutes, is on the rise, they take some time out from messing around with saxophones to chat to Jack Walsh

The Minutes bassist Tom Cosgrave is on the other end of the phone, though the sound to be heard is not your usual ‘Hello? Tom here’, but a rather jazzy saxophone solo. Have The Minutes gone in the scat-cat direction, as a follow-up to their 2011 debut album, Marcata? Or has Cosgrave just put his iTunes on shuffle in-between interviews?

“A lot of the stuff that we are coming up with at the minute is the same type of energy in terms of it being a rock n’ roll piece, but there is also a lot of ones that we spent a bit more time with and not being afraid of not having a song that is three minutes because we’re now letting the song show us where to go.”

Beginning in 2006, lead singer Mark Austin, drummer Shane Kinsella and of course, Cosgrave, have gone from strength to strength, gaining popularity, a fan base and some epic tour additions to their curriculum vitaes respectively. Despite this apparent success, the band argue that their achievement was never aided by the Irish music industry in anyway, Cosgrave is quoted as saying: “It was as soon as we stopped listening to all the supposed Irish music industry heads that things started to happen to us.”

Cosgrave firmly sticks to his beliefs “that it’s the case that we were too self-conscious to do what an Irish band should be doing, and we were looking at other Irish acts that were getting written about in Hot Press and bigger bands like The Strokes, and we tried and it didn’t work for us. It worked for some bands who made careers out of it, but it wasn’t for us. It was literally a case of just locking ourselves away and doing our own thing.”

Despite this barbed comment on the entire expanse of the Irish music industry, Tom believes that “there is a lot being done out there, there’s a lot of blogs, bands are being written about in magazines like Hot Press, which makes sense as there is a hell of a lot of Irish bands playing, but it’s not really what it’s all about. Obviously you want to be acknowledged in your home country but from day to day aspects of touring, and how you make your money, you really have to go abroad. You can only do so much in Ireland, you can do ten dates up and down the country, but for a band like us, we can’t really sustain ourselves on this, we need to think greater afield. We always had that kind of mentality that we really want to see this thing grow and grow.”

The belief that to gain success as a band, you must first survive going abroad, taking the plunge into the European music scene, and trying to differentiate yourself, to prove your worth from the hundreds of thousands of bands that are playing in garages hoping and praying for a record deal, is one The Minutes too experienced. Cosgrave is quick to lend some words of wisdom to aspiring musicians under the same impression: “If you have your shit together, and I think that’s the main thing with a lot of bands that come out of the rehearsal rooms a little bit too early. We’ve been around for years and have been playing together in bands for years; we catered to ourselves, and were on a good recording, and we had a good demo, and literally gigged everywhere. I’m sure with the industry itself there are things that are being done that I have seen, but really the emphasis should be on your band and if you have your shit together before you go anywhere.”

Plans for the second album are already in place; now that The Minutes have made some sort of splash they are not interested in getting out of the deep end, just yet. The pressure to succeed with this album has mainly come from the band themselves: “I guess the only real pressure that we have is from ourselves, we don’t want to make the same album, nobody does, but it’s just trying to impress ourselves first and foremost, and then when that happens, like we did with our first album, well then we’re onto a winner. So it’s trusting your own judgement to keep yourself under pressure, that you don’t want to repeat yourself basically.”

It is a breath of fresh air speaking with a musician who is so open and honest about the difficulties of making the music industry sit up and pay attention, a battle that for so many is an on-going struggle.

It was a leap of faith that The Minutes took, touring around Europe, a leap that landed them in what seems to be a comfortable position in the Irish music scene. With Model Citizen Records as their label, the band have the opportunity to write and record their second album in their own time, and be provided with the publicity that is absolutely necessary for fame.  Who knows what these three will come up with next.

The Minutes play Whelans in Dublin on Friday the December 7th. Tickets are priced €15.

By Jack Walsh