Up-and-coming Irish indie foursome Raglans chat to Ciara Andrews about their success to date, signing to Whelan’s records and making their gigs that little bit more exciting
It is not often that a band that have been playing together for a mere two years can boast a recording session with Boz Boorer, sell out gigs and a schedule full of festivals to their name; but that is exactly what Dublin band Raglans have accomplished in their short time together.
In January, as part of their prize for winning the final of the King Kong Club, Raglans won a ten day recording session in Portugal with Boz Boorer, esteemed producer famous for his work with Morrissey, and it was there that the bulk of their EP Long Live was brought to life. Guitarist Liam Morrow told Otwo what it was like to work with Boorer. “He’s like someone that you’d see in movies, like one of those characters that are stranger than fiction. He’s an amazing musician and he’s really good at what he does; it’s mad seeing someone as crazy as he is but he’s still so good at his job, he’s an absolute pro.”
This record is the inaugural release from Whelan’s records, a label set up in conjunction with MPI designed to release the work of the many talented musicians who cross the door of the famous music establishment. Lead vocalist Stephen Kelly explained how the release came about. “We did our first ever gig in Whelan’s in December 2010 and then they got in touch again and asked us to play in the main venue but we didn’t think we were ready yet. After the Grand Social gig that sold out, they got in touch and said they wanted to release our next EP off the back of Whelan’s which we thought was really cool because they’re a pretty big deal in Ireland”. Morrow agreed: “It’s a great bit of exposure and a great affiliation to have. It really helped us put the EP out on a bigger stage.”
Despite their recent success Raglans recognise the difficulty facing Irish bands who are trying to secure a solid fan base on such a small Island. Morrow explains: “One of the problems is there aren’t enough people and there isn’t a big enough scene to support each different band and artist but there is so much bustling talent.” Kelly adds: “Another one of the problems is there’s different scenes that branch off and luckily we don’t have this problem but a lot of bands feel they have to pick a side and throw their lot in with one and that pigeon holes you; you can’t expand because you’re just playing the same venues to the same people.”
Raglans are a band that are confident in their sound and what they want to achieve musically, and deservedly so. Kelly explains: “We don’t really subscribe to influences because none of us have the same. Now we have an idea of what we want Raglans to sound like, we all have this idea of honing in on what works for us. Luckily we just don’t have the urge to sound like anyone or to fit in anywhere.” Morrow contributes to this idea, adding: “We listen to so much different music that it probably does come out in our tunes when we’re writing but it’s not really deliberate we don’t really try and reference different bands and stuff like that we just try and do what feels right.”
This independent approach to their music has resulted in a remarkably unique sound. Long Live proves that Raglans have a flair for writing both catchy hooks that defy listeners to resist singing along and clever, imaginative lyrics while the folk injection in their music makes them easily distinguishable from other ubiquitous indie types.
The band is also incredibly dedicated to their live shows. They want every gig to stand out for the audience as a sign of thanks for their support. “We’ve made each of our gigs an event so it’s not just like another gig in Dublin. For the first gig we put a party on afterwards in the old casino with free beer and free food for people to come back after and have a big session. At the Grand Social we gave away our first EP for free and then we gave away free T-shirts to the first 100 people at another one. We want to make our gigs like events and something that we would want to go to as an audience. We’ve also started to translate that to the actual live show as well, we try to make that different each time. With the Whelan’s gig we came out dressed in the suits from the ‘Digging Holes’ video and we did an encore dressed as lumberjacks. It is stuff like that that people just remember.”
The conversation quickly moves to what is next on the agenda for the band that have piqued the interest of many critics and fans over the past few months. After a summer of playing almost every well established festival in Ireland the band will be gearing up to do to do what they do best: making music. “I think we are slowly crystallizing our vision of what we think our first album should sound like,” percussionist Conn O’ Runaidh concludes. “Our last two recordings were done on little or no budget and with no time, so with our first album we want the time to do it right. We want to spend some time on it and make sure we are 100 per cent ready to go”.
Otwo has no doubts that Raglans are capable of making an outstanding debut having already impressed listeners with Long Live. As we wrap up the interview the band has only one thing to add: “Come along to the gigs and if you’re listening to the songs play them really loud”.
Long Live is out now.