The Full Irish #1

Welcome to the first instalment of Otwo’s new online feature, The Full Irish. Over the next year, we will be bringing the best in new Irish music from reviews, to features, to interviews with upcoming Irish bands. This week we’re speaking to three Irish bands on the cusp of a breakthrough, Dublin-based Cold Comfort and The Brilliant Things, as well as Galway’s own band of brothers, The Kanyu Tree.

The Kanyu Tree catch up with Mark Malone to chat about their debut album

For the brothers Cluskey, Shane (drums and lead vocals), Daniel (guitar & vocals) and Oisín (bass & vocals), The Kanyu Tree wasn’t about starting a band for the sake of having a band. Instead, it was about playing music together.

Beginning in a most typical way, being put through piano lessons and the arduous grading system, a more naturalistic approach to the creative process soon grew for the budding members of The Kanyu Tree. As younger men with a growing interest in music they began to work out harmonies together, but lived their own musical lives.

“We were doing our separate thing, all playing in bands with friends” says Shane. “The idea to form a band with each other was not something that was planned.”
A shared interest in 80s indie guitar-based rock and early R&B and American soul music was found between the Cluskeys, and soon a brotherly collaboration such as what became The Kanyu Tree was destined to happen. The pieces of the trio began to fall into place as each brother began to pursue the instruments which piqued their interest. All except Oisín: “I wanted to play guitar, but Daniel wouldn’t let me” he declares. Daniel’s response writes it off as “the best decision I ever made”. It was his placement behind the bass guitar and Shane’s movement towards the drums from piano that solidified the brothers into a musical unit.
Disagreements about who plays what soon seemed like trivial fare. That they ended up spending two months recording their debut album with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and Chris Potter, who rose to fame after producing The Verve’s Urban Hymns, shows how the brothers from Salthill, Galway, have come a long way. With Muhammad a fan of American R&B and Soul, and Potter’s experience mixing records for the likes of U2 and The Clash, an amalgam of genres is central to the album. As odd as the studio team’s pairing may seem, a comfort existed during the recording process, with the siblings even finding a likeminded soul in Ali. “His love for music is so palpable” says Oisín.

The Kanyu Tree are most certainly tied to their hometown, their natural sensibilities cemented by the people that they know. The band credits their relationships with the people they surround themselves with as the biggest influence on the band. It’s even a yardstick for new material. When they feel comfortable flaunting a new song in front of friends, then they know they’ve written something to be truly proud of.

As this is the Full Irish, we asked the lads from The Kanyu Tree to list off some of their favourite Irish acts, past and present. Rising Dublin act, The Gorgeous Colours and Galway acoustic musician, Kelvin Busher both got a tip from the lads. Names like David Kitt, Jape and Republic of Loose cropped up as being major Irish influences from the past few years. And, of course, the tried and true Thin Lizzy came up, representing the early days of Irish rock and roll. It’s a lineage that The Kanyu Tree are slowly, but surely, finding their place in.

The Kanyu Tree play Whelan’s on September 30th and the Mercantile, as part of the Hard Working Class Heroes Festival, on October 7th, Tickets are €10. The Kanyu Tree’s debut album ‘People Street’ is released on the 30th of September.

Dublin based four-piece The Brilliant Things sit down for a chat with Ciara Andrews about their upcoming album

Sitting at the back of a Dublin cafe drinking coffee and chatting among themselves, The Brilliant Things have an air of confidence about them and seem more like an established rock band with years of experience under their belt than a four-piece embarking on the release of their eponymous  debut album.

Starting out as a two piece synth band, guitarist Greg French and lead singer Marie Junior wanted to bring the music in a new direction. Greg described the process of changing the bands style in favour of a more rock sound: “It was a nice process to go through, I often wonder when I see bands or artists who develop very quickly through The X Factor or whatever and everything is handed to them. They don’t have the opportunity to go through these kinds of changes. Marie and I had done a lot of songs and bits and pieces of an album were nearly ready to go but it was missing something. When we started gigging with the guys the band kind of took on its life.”

When quizzed about the writing process for the album, Greg admits “If I actually put down what was going through my head I don’t know if the album would have been made.”  Talk quickly moves to the writing of the debut single from the album, ‘Something to Say,’ written by Greg from a woman’s perspective on dating and chat up lines.

“I found that such an entertaining exercise. Just getting into Marie’s mind set and it meant that there would be nights where I would be out in a night club and I would be watching what’s happening and observing, hearing all the cheesy lines. It was interesting and I really loved it, I would do it again.”

They also discuss some of the other themes found in their songs such as letting go of fears and being who you want to be, regardless of other people’s opinions. This is encapsulated in the track ‘Dance’. “The message is just kind of letting go. A lot of problems people have are just a fear of letting go and sometimes it can be amazing and embarrassing. You need to act like an idiot sometimes and those people that you can act like idiots in front of are the genuine people.”

But among the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the release of the album, the band have also had to deal with their fair share of criticism, as they admit . “We’ve had a lot of it, we’re not going to pretend we haven’t had criticism and it hurts, especially the more you’ve put into it but we’re not going to apologise for anything or for putting ourselves out there. That’s where I think music turns crap, where people start worrying about what people are going to say about them. These are genuine emotions we’re trying to put across and we’re trying to put them across in the best way. It’s what we love to do, we love performing on stage and playing together and I think people who are genuine and who do come and see us live will be able to see that.”

After a lengthy amount of time spent writing and recording, The Brilliant Things are ready to get back onto the stage and it is clear that this band is all about the live shows. “We can’t wait to get out gigging again at our next opportunity.  Although we love sitting in the studio and recording stuff as well, it’s just the excitement. It’s like we live for the gigs.”

The Brilliant Things’ debut album is out on October 7th

Cold Comfort frontman Rob Walsh chats to Cormac Duffy about early victories, touring and rumours of shamanism

If common sense holds true, and a good start is half the work, Cold Comfort should be coasting from here. The recently formed Dublin quintet have hit the ground running. Eight months into their career and they’ve just completed a tour with Whipping Boy, and are about to embark on one supporting Alabama Three.

So where did it all begin? “We’ve been together now around 8 months as a full band,” he explains. “I was writing music myself for about three or four years, just doing some solo work singer-songwriter stuff. I got a bit pissed off being onstage on my own. I wanted some more company and some more freedom.”

Planning to find a full band, he put out an ad seeking a percussionist. He got a response from Colm Hasset, the drummer for the legendary Whipping Boy, one of the all time great Irish acts. Hasset brought in Joe McGowan on bass, and Walsh introduced Anna Doran to the group on backing vocals. Completed by second guitarist Eoin Morrissey, the band began translating Walsh’s material for a full band set up. “The tracks transferred nicely, and soon we’d some stuff on the way just for the band.”

Having a connected drummer paid off, as the band landed the support slot on Whipping Boy’s recent Irish tour. Needless to say, Walsh was honoured. “To me it was unbelievable. I always heard Whipping Boy when I was younger and knew how big they were in Dublin and how much of an impact they had on the music scene. No bullshit lyrics, they didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought of them.”

Seeing the band in action was inspiring. He describes it as “mind blowing”, adding “It keeps you on your toes and pushes you to be a better frontman”. Hasset’s experience of being his own support act did take its toll. “Colm was in bits. He was doing an hour with us then an hour and a half, sometimes longer with Whipping Boy!”

For the rest of them, wasn’t being thrown into such a high profile tour a jarring experience? Walsh’s view on the experience is positive, saying “It either happens really quickly or it doesn’t happen at all.” The challenge was clearly a pleasant one: “I kind of like being thrown in the deep end. I haven’t played in a band before but, all the others have, they know how to do it. I just went, and the lads helped me out.”

Their life show held enough sway to get them noticed by British rockers Alabama Three, who having heard them at a gig, invited Walsh to help them on their new album. “They heard us at a gig, and they asked us to go over to Brixton and jam out with them, write some stuff for their new album. Now we’re going on tour with them in November and December!” Cold Comfort are nothing if not fortunate.

We discuss the band’s fantastic new single, ‘Sweet Light’. He speaks of how it brings together a pop melody with dark lyrics, giving “temporary enlightenment through different means” as its theme. He reveals that there is enough material written for two albums, with plans to record soon.

One final issue remains unresolved. How does he feel about references to his status in the media as a self-described poet and shaman? He bursts out laughing at the question. “I have no fucking idea who wrote that!” he claims. Did he ever make such a bold declaration about himself? “Are you mad?! I don’t even think real shamans could describe themselves as shamans! I’m not stupid enough to do that!”

Cold Comfort will be on tour in the UK with Alabama Three. ‘Sweet Light’ is out now.