Composing ‘Gay Hymns’: An interview with Hatchlings

Hatchlings formed while they were studying in NUI Maynooth, after Eamon Travers (keyboard) and Conor Cunningham (vocals/bass/guitar) moved in next door to Peter Kelly (vocals/bass/guitar) and Jamie Bishop (vocals/bass/guitar), enjoying “a summer full of beautiful music.” Drummer Niall Quinn joined shortly after, and the band named themselves Hatchlings, after watching David Attenborough documentaries in which he referenced baby hatchlings (or as they called it; “some egg-ular animal”). They also performed a gig or two as ‘The Cats Mother’, before unfortunately scrapping that name, as well as fighting off an attempt by Peter to christen the band ‘Making County’. Both also worthy names in my humble opinion, anyway.

Describing themselves as “the intersection of folk and jazz”, the band centres on folk songs with jazz chords. Lyrically heavy, their lyrics focus on topics relating to modern Ireland, and how the young people of Ireland today categorize ‘Irishness’. One of these songs, ‘Sinéad’, written by Kelly, discusses the social climate surrounding the controversy over Sinéad O’Connor’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, during which she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II. As for musical influences, like many bands they have a variety of different interests with various intersections. “I think we all started with the likes of Pink Floyd, the classic rock stuff. There’s a lot of jazz in there, classical stuff, a lot of RnB as well. Not a lot of it shines through in the music but it’s all there,” explains Cunningham.

As with many Irish bands, they have a lot of love for their fellow natives. “Thumper are class, Joey Gavin for sure, Girlband, Lemoncello, David Keenan, Alfie, Post Punk Podge. There are too many to mention. We’ve done a lot of work with Lemoncello, we’ve jammed with them a few times.” In terms of their best and worst gigs, the infamous “Manchester gig” is immediately mentioned as their worst. “The night before, Eamon and Conor got themselves involved in a rugby game,” explains Bishop. “They ended up bashing heads with each other and Eamon ended up in hospital. He then couldn’t make the flight he was booked on to. Simultaneously, his uncle was passing away, so he had a lot of difficulty deciding what to do. He eventually decided to come to Manchester and the keyboard that was there was like a childs Casio one, not weighted or anything, so he couldn’t play the gig and his uncle died.”

The disaster didn’t end there. “Two strings broke on the first song, another on the fourth song, it was just a bad, bad show.” As for their best gig: “We played a gig in just a normal, estate house, there was probably about sixty people jammed into the kitchen, and then the guards showed up.” says Cunningham. “The Grand Social was good too, we’ve been doing a much softer side of our stuff lately, but for this we just went a lot heavier. David Keenan came up and played with us at the end too.”

‘Choir in the Belly’, the new single, was launched in The Vintage Rooms in Workmans on 15th March, with the EP Gay Hymns slated to follow some time this month. The video for ‘Choir in the Belly’ was shot by Ryan Hoban. “The whole general theme of the song brings to mind a boat floating along,” explains Cunnigham. “We just wanted to make something very simple and eye catching that doesn’t distract too much from the lyrics of the song, but still compliments it. The way he shot it was really unique, I’ve never really seen anything like it before.” Bishop continues: “I guess the main point is that there’s not really too much of a narrative, it’s kind of nice visuals for nice sounds. I think we could get very lost and try and reenact all the lyrics, but it’s nice and simple, not distracting.”

On tour around Ireland until the end of May, they kick off in St Mary’s Church in Maynooth on 22nd April in a ‘pay what you want’ gig, along with a secret gig somewhere in Dublin on the 30th April and a gig in the Soundhouse on 23rd May. They’re also slated to play Body and Soul this summer, along with KnockanStockan, as well as a music festival in Munich.
Finally, the band were asked “what five items would I have to burn to summon their spirits?” Just some of the responses I received: A copy of A Clockwork Orange, their mams, brown shoes, a favourite jumper, and a Donegal flag.