Love Will Tear Us Apart – Interview with JD Kelleher

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On May 22nd Ireland votes on Marriage Equality. A Yes vote will mean that Ireland would become the first country to introduce marriage equality by popular vote. This referendum has seen a dramatic rise in civic involvement, a matter which is a human issue has become a political one.

For those Irish now living outside the country, it has stirred a passion for their homeland to be recognised as a modern forward thinking land. But, if you’ve lived outside Ireland for more than three years, you’re not entitled to vote. Social media streams are full of friends and family canvassing, door to door, asking people for the right for themselves and for their friends to be seen as equals under Irish law. The responses aren’t always pretty but if you’re not currently in Ireland or not entitled to vote, what do you do?

JD_1JD Kelleher, an actor living in London for more than 25 years is one man who wanted to contribute. Along with Peter M Smith, (ex Phixx and Popstars The Rivals) the pair have released a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. What prompted this?

“There’s a run up to this referendum now for about a year and it’s been very in your face for all Irish people, especially Irish gay people.“, says Kelleher. “Aside from that I’ve been tugging at Peter’s sleeves to go into the studio and record a song, just for the craic. I want to make a video, I wanna do this rock star thing”, he says laughing.

What really triggered this though, was when David Gough, a GAA referee was castigated for wearing a rainbow wristband in Croke Park. This made Kelleher “very angry”. He explains why: “I’m an Irish boy, I’m a Irish man, I played full back in my youth. I’ve great memories of my father, my family, my friends through Irish football. That was an insult to me as an ex GAA player and a gay Irish boy. It was a rejection of sorts. But I felt angry for David Gough too. The GAA was formed to fight colonialism and oppression and took a stance for freedom in our culture. So then for the GAA to castigate players or practitioners made me sick.”

As our conversation progresses we speak of being Irish abroad and Kelleher says “canvassing is the hardest part of this campaign, to face the frontline of bigotry”, gay people having to ‘come out’ and explain themselves to complete strangers daily, over and over again. “I don’t know if I’d be strong enough not to take it so personally, or have the strength to even do that. I take my hat off to those people in Ireland. I encourage anyone in Ireland to please not be complacent, its so important to get out and vote”.

Peter&JDSo, the urge to want to help, want to make an impact by doing ‘something’ was there. Kelleher wanted to be creative and use his art and so in January approached Peter M Smith with his idea to record a song in support of the Yes Campaign, or rather a music video as it could reach “much more people”. “I thought I could do something with Peter with me acting, but maybe also singing, a music movie kind of thing with the theme of equality”.

Smith came back a week later with the idea of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Kelleher describes his reaction ‘my jaw nearly fell on the floor, it’s such an unusual choice, it’s fucking perfect’.

From Barcelona where Smith is currently working on his own album of material, he and his band came up with the new arrangement. Kelleher went to Barcelona, recorded, met the band, a time he describes as an “incredible adventure”, although nervous about his first time in a recording booth.

The song was done, it was now time for Kelleher to take over and get his music movie made, pulling together scenarios and imagery including Kelleher’s own opening performance of the music but also creating a character to enhance and reflect the music and visually compass the vision of the song.

The video that has been made will now represent a moment of time in Irish history and no matter what the result, will always represent the run up to the referendum. JD acknowledges this, it wasn’t just important to get it right, but also to give it their (his and Peter’s) best effort. That meant getting a team of co- producers together, all with a common goal.

The video was filmed in Athenry, with a full Irish cast and crew, apart from Peter’s Spanish band and drips of referential imagery. The rainbow wristband is the first thing we see. However, when Smith and Kelleher stand back to back in the video, it’s almost reminiscent of how ancient warriors fought, looking out for each other. Of this scene, JD says he sees his hands as Peter’s angel wings but say’s it’s like “a straight-gay alliance. Peter representing straight Ireland even though he’s a heroic advocate for equality, I represent gay Ireland, I guess. I’m a little bit in the shadows, Peter’s in the full light”. JD describes the candles on view, a nod to those gay people who have gone before and have not had the chance to see what’s happening now.

JD VIDEOAlthough this referendum is happening on May 22nd, Kelleher believes that it’s only a small step in Ireland as there are many small towns and areas where you can’t be free to be who you are. People still need to be educated and children told and taught that it’s OK to be gay, the school curricula need to be changed. “I believe that once equal marriage is in place, these other things will start to happen organically.”

What happens if there is a NO vote? How will that impact the LGBT community in Ireland? “This is very personal, it’s Ireland saying No to me! I’ve spoken to other Irish people and I thought it was just me, but, they are feeling that too. That was a bit of a relief. I’ve got members of my extended family that are No voters and that hurts. The bottom line is “Can we still love ourselves no matter how this turns out?”

JD describes the reaction to the song as “Absolutely Incredible, we’re amazed”. When taking on this classic song he says that “We knew we had to do a good job, it couldn’t be mediocre. I’m stepping up as a gay Irish artist in a new medium. It’s a worthy cause but I’ve put my creative head on the line. I’m not playing a role, I’m not playing a part as I do when I’m acting, usually straight roles. I wanted to play a gay role for a change, I wanted to play me.”

Kelleher says that the advent of Facebook and other social media platforms has stirred the Irishness in the emigrant community. Living in a land where equal marriage exists, makes us want to be seen as equal in our homeland even more. “As one of seven boys, some of whom are married, it’s important to me that I can go back and be married at home too, should I choose to. It’s more than that though, if I step onto Irish soil, it’s imperative to me that I step onto the same civil and social rights as any other Irish person standing beside me. That’s not a religious matter, that’s a human right. It’s about being 50/50 with any person standing in the world. I’m not better or worse than you. If you can get married to whoever you want, I can get married to whoever I want. If you can dream of being a rock star, I can dream of being a rock star too.”

You can buy ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by JD Kelleher and Peter M Smith on iTunes

Follow Peter M Smith @PeterSmithSings

Follow JD Kelleher: @jd_Kells

Jeremy Pritchard of Everything Everything – Interview

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This was first published on Goldenplec.com http://www.goldenplec.com/jeremy-pritchard-everything-everything-interview/

Earlier this year Everything Everything released their second album ‘Arc’, which went Top 5 in the UK. Following on from an excellent sold out show in Whelans, EE are back in Ireland with a date in The Academy. Despite dodgy phone lines, Vanessa Monaghan caught up with bassist Jeremy Pritchard, to chat about  success, university music courses and the reinvention of the Manchester scene.

Since the release of Everything Everything’s début album, ‘Man Alive’, the band’s sound has changed, grown up. The complex rhythms and break neck lyrical delivery have evolved into something much more accessible. Jeremy has recently posted pictures of his Dad’s band on Instagram hinting at a musical background. “In my case yes, the others less so. Alex’s brothers and sisters are all very high achieving individuals and are all very musical, but I don’t think the parents were.” Jeremy explains how Mike’s parents “were completely unmusical”, while Jonathan’s Mum “played guitar and sang a bit but his Dad is completely tone-deaf.”

Speaking about his own family, he says,“Both my parents are extremely musical, my Dad especially.” He then says something that would make any Dad smile. “He’s the kind of musician I wish I was really, naturally gifted and effortless, actually talented rather than the studied way that I approached it.” Jeremy wasn’t the first in the Pritchard household to release music, with his then teenage Dad releasing an album. “He played upright bass in various jazz bands when he was young and when I was a kid as well. Very occasionally, about every fifteen years he gets together with his mates from school and plays in a bluegrass band. That’s what that picture was of. It’s 40 years since the release of their only LP so they were getting together for some fun. ‘Steamboat’, proper bluegrass name!”

Jeremy met Jonathan Higgs while in university studying music and music production, he can now see the advantages and disadvantages of studying a course like that. “One thing we always end up saying is that it brought us together in the first place … and it taught us coöperation.” As with any degree, you still have deadlines, which meant the students had to get together to rehearse to get stuff done. “The actual idea of the graft and coöperation and taking it seriously, living it, living music as a lifestyle, that helped.”

As for the subject matter of the course, Jeremy isn’t too sure about how much he actually learned and makes a very valid point. “I felt, I had already covered a lot just by planning in bands at school. A lot of it I felt was irrelevant in a way, the essential problem with any arts course is that you can’t teach originality, you can’t teach talent, you can’t teach taste. In a way, I feel what me and Jonathan were doing at the time, was independent of the course. The fact that we occasionally submitted work from the bands that we played in together, to the course, was coincidental almost. We weren’t saying “ok here’s what we learned in today’s lecture, let’s apply it to the song we’re writing.” It was never as studied as that and I think if you do go about music that way, really, it smells wrong.”

Pritchard can see the benefits and the pitfalls. “There’s nothing better for a musician than to be playing all the time, but for any arts course you have to apply a pinch of salt to what you’re learning. It should still be of your own mind, going down your own route and there are a lot of people on the course that I think thought they were owed a living because they were technically gifted.”

He relays the story of when Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor hit the charts. “There was consternation from my fellow students. I think they’ve become really adept players, but at the time they captured something in the imagination of people their age and were flying into a really great career with fairly rudimentary skills. There were people around us saying they didn’t deserve it because they hadn’t put the time in studying scales. I was really opposed to that idea. These are the things you can’t learn when you’re studying music, that extra thing that makes pop music so special. I was very aware of that and Jon was very aware of that. It was good for us to have some distance from the degree before we started the band, then we finally put the line up together for this new band, the band that became Everything Everything.”

In an interview with Paul Lester in the Guardian, Jeremy has been quoted as saying that you said that you wanted “to avoid cliche, or the cliches expected of white men with guitars from Manchester.” Alongside Everything Everything and people like Delphic, Has the slate been wiped clean?

“I think that’s partly because of us, Delphic, Dutch Uncles, Egyptian Hip Hop and suddenly there seemed to be this glut of bands around four years ago, that seemed to have a fairly disperate new set of ideas and that helped to brush off the cob webs of the attitudes of the London based press, really.” Jeremy describes how the press version of events, “that nothing really had happened here since Oasis really hung over the city like a cloud.” But not if you were actually living or playing there. “Things were always developing and moving on, it was just difficult to get people outside the local area to notice that. So we all kind of railed against this preconception, partly because time has passed and partly because there was this new set of bands, of which we were one. I think that it has started to wane, I think it’s also partly because of the age of commissioning editors in London. They all came up here in 90 to 91 to the Hacienda and they came up again to see oasis at Maine Road in 96 and that’s their version of the city and it’s quite hard to change..”

Pritchard also thinks it could be to do with aging music journalists. “I think it’s particularly to do with broadsheets, I think if you speak to blogs, the NME or The Fly or music magazines, a lot of them are my age or younger. The thing about that whole saying bands with guitars in Manchester is that there lots of versions of .. it could The Smiths, it could be Joy Division, it could be Oasis, there are all completely different acts, with a different approach and different attitudes.”

Everything Everything second album ‘Arc’ achieved chart success, entering the UK Top 5. Did your expectations of what a second album should be meet up with the reality ?

“I think creativity, we came to where we wanted us to be, so on the whole I think it’s a good record and I’m really proud of it, even though we toured it to death and continue to tour it to death, I still respect and enjoy it, which is hard to do sometimes”, says Jeremy. He opens up to GP and gives a very honest answer. “Professionally and personally I would have liked for it to have sold more and for it to have had big singles as well. There’s no point in denying we enjoy being on the radio and we always want more of that. The caveat is we never really adjust what we do to accommodate it, we just hope it happens anyway. We were very pleasantly surprised when that did happen with ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’ especially.”

EE also suffer the affliction of being considered an established band by many media outlets, who once the album is released, want to move on to the ‘next big thing’. “The first two singles from the album, we thought that they were going to be quite low level bridging songs from the first record to the second, the album would come out and there would be two or three big singles for radio would happen.” The opposite happened. “The first two singles were hugely successful on radio and then the album came out at what felt like half way through the process, not the beginning of the process as far as radio is concerned. It was quite unusual and totally unexpected. Keeping the momentum this far into the campaign almost a year after the first single came out and went to radio, it’s quite (hard).

One big difference with Everything Everything since the first album is that the band have adopted an extra keyboard player for live shows, giving singer and frontman, Jonathan, an extra freedom. “From a technical point of view, (in terms of the rig) it’s made it more secure so it’s freed him up as a performer so its easier to make a connection with the audience”, explains Jeremy. “We used to say that the four of us could do it all with one pair of hands each, and we could and we still can but in the end it’s important to be able to communicate the songs more clearly not have this physical barrier between you and the audience. It’s more important for Jon and for all of us, so we swallowed our pride and now Peter comes with us and plays keys. It’s been a Godsend.”

Everything Everything play The Academy on October 8. ‘Arc’ is out now.

Interview with Dan Smith – Bastille

This interview was originally published on Goldenplec.com

BastilleDublin2013 has been a fantastic year for Londoners, Bastille. The launch of their album,’Bad Blood’, in March has propelled the foursome from indie darlings to full on pop stars. With that comes a calendar chock-a-block with touring and promotion engagements. However, they’ve recently taken some time out to get involved with The Beefeater Alchemy Project. Vanessa Monaghan caught up with singer Dan Smith to find out what it was all about.

For the past while, Bastille have been involved in the project, which has seen them visit a number of European cities and get to see some cultural and artistic happenings in each. A full length documentary of their escapades, including their trip to Dublin, will be released shortly but already teasers from Barcelona, Naples and Dublin have been released online. During their trip to Dublin, Dan Smith, Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, Kyle Simmons and Will Farquarson met street artist DMC and got their photograph taken, wet plate style, and sampled the cuisine in well know local eateries. But why would an already busy band want to get involved in a project like this? Dan Smith explains.

“We are in the lucky position to be travelling all the time and obviously, it’s generally awesome. But one of the things that is sometimes quite frustrating is visiting loads of places that we’ve always wanted to visit, but literally getting there, playing a gig and having to leave straight away.” As someone who you likes to travel, Smith explains that it’s actually a release from the everyday grind. “This is a nice opportunity to take some time out of heavy touring and spend a few days in different cities around Europe and get out of our gigging bubble; see some cities and meet other artists and producers, chefs – just creative people. We spent some time with them, people who’ve a completely different background to us, just to kind of get out of touring for a little bit and try to get inspired to write some new stuff. It’s been wicked, it’s been really fun, we’re quite lucky.”

Among all the art projects the band have experienced, some of the new culinary aspects the band have tried includes cooking octopus, Woody trying to make cocktails, Tom Cruise style, which Dan refers to as “not a natural skill of his” and keyboardist Kyle claiming to drink coffee for the first time. Really? “Yeah, genuinely Kyle has the taste of a seven-year old girl. He’s obsessed with Disney films and there’s a lot of foods he doesn’t eat and he had never drunk coffee. That was genuinely the first time in his life he drank coffee and he was buzzing the whole day, bouncing off the walls, it was hilarious!”

With a full documentary on the way, Smith explains how the band are involved in the production, saying as Bastille have “started our second album and the idea was to try and put some music together for the film so we can properly contribute to it and either put a song to it or properly soundtrack it.” However, the also want to involve the artists they met on the journey including, “Dermot (McConaghy aka DMC), the graffiti artist we met, we’re really keen for him to do some artwork for the film. We met this producer in Barcelona who’s been working on a remix of one of our songs, so we’re working on that at the moment. Hopefully it will all tie together in the next month or so, I don’t think it’s going to be too long. It will be a nice kind of, it’s rare that you get to do things like that and have some sort of film as well.”

BastilleartLong time fans will be delighted to hear that the quartet are working on new material. Things We Lost In The Fire, released later this month, will be the sixth single from the album. Speaking to Smith, he refers to how lucky the band have been for the past year and to be still releasing singles is something many musical artists don’t achieve from one album. But, success for the band didn’t happen over night. “A lot of the songs are older for us than they are for a lot of people,” says Smith, “the album came out in March but we’ve worked on these songs for years so naturally we’re just keeping on writing and keep on recording and just trying to keep as varied as possible.”

Smith refers to making new music as “a lot of fun” and “quite enjoyable”. “I think we’ve got quite a bit of freedom with it. I think as long as the songs are good, which sonically I think they will be, we can do whatever we want. It’s been quite fun messing around with guitars and some electronic stuff, and getting some more strings in, and kind of mix it up a bit.”

The majority of bands would be thrilled if their debut album went to number one, but does that bring expectations for a second release? “I guess there probably is an element of expectation that comes with it, but to be honest what our first album has done has way exceeded anything we imagined, and I think anything our label imagined as well.” Smith seems like a relaxed and level-headed character saying, “there’s no point in worrying about it too much.” However, he does say “Let’s speak the week before our second album’s coming out and we’ll see if it’s bothering me or not.”

Bastille are a very visual band and their videos are quirky. The video for the new single was filmed in Lithuania, directed by Noar Aloni and features a dream sequence narrative. “Things We Lost In The Fire is probably the video that I’m happiest with of everything that we’ve done,” says Smith. “The day that we do a performance video of us in a white room, is probably the day we stop caring. I love the idea of making weird videos and narrative videos and it’s one of the really fun things we get to concentrate on. I hope that they get progressively stranger and stranger.”

In the early days of Bastille, Smith himself would edit together sequences from films to give a visual element to the fledgling band. With this experience, is Smith directing a video something he’d like to do? Goldenplec gets a very enthusiastic reply. “Yeah, I’d love to. I would absolutely love to one day, maybe on the next album. I think it requires a lot of time and a lot of work. A lot of the videos that we’ve done recently with directors, the amount of time and effort that they have to put in is huge. Knowing our life at the moment and what it’s like touring, we barely have time to write and record songs at all so doing that at the moment, it’s not a possibility.” Despite the reality of timescales meaning he can’t right now, it doesn’t dampen Smith’s enthusiasm; you can hear it in his voice. “Further down the line, maybe when we have a bit of a break at the end of this album cycle, I could start thinking about it. I don’t know if I’d be good at it but I’d love to have a crack! Another opportunity to boss people around, it would be awesome!”

When Bastille played Camden Crawl Dublin in 2012, it was their first time travelling together as a band on a plane, going to a gig. That was fifteen months ago. With success, comes fandom and while musical acts obviously want to keep their fans engaged through social media, they also have to take time out to take stock of their own lives and to keep their sanity. “We’re lucky – us, as a band and our touring crew – everyone is very normal and stuff and we get on really well, and I think we’re really lucky with that as we keep each others head’s screwed on.” Despite having a number one album, Smith still says that “we’re just really grateful that anyone would like our music to begin with” but does admit that the band do “get quite weird messages but we don’t take them seriously. Obviously that’s not to undermine people who send heartfelt (messages). I think there’s definitely a level, if you were to take everything on board, you’d probably go mental and you’d probably fly up your own arse. We have an appreciation but a healthy distance from it, if that makes sense.”

During July, Bastille spent some time in the U.S. and even appeared on Conan. The night before they appeared, fellow British upstarts, The 1975, were musical guests. Are Bastille leading a new British Invasion? “I have got no idea about what happens in America but it’s awesome that we can go over there and do things like Conan and it’s exciting for The 1975 as well. I think they have a real shot of doing things in the States, people are really excited about them. It’s great. America has always had a fascination with British bands.” Dan explains that every time Bastille go Stateside they “feel like proper cheesy tourists and just try to have fun.” He adds, “We’ve got a few more trips planned, I guess we’ll see what happens. If American music fans take to the band, wicked! If not, we’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to go there.”

Bastille have had the opportunity to play some great shows this year. They had their first festival headline at Sea Sessions, they played with Muse and they played at the British Museum. But it’s the gigs which took place at Shepherd’s Bush Empire which were really special to them. “They were a really big deal for us just because London’s our hometown and I never ever imagined we’d play somewhere like Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The gigs themselves were really fun, the crowds were wicked. It was a really good couple of days for us.” Smith then recalls some other performances. “You know Glastonbury was a massive highlight. We’re really lucky to have so many gigs and opportunities this year. For me, the thing in the British Museum, I was really hesitant to sing ‘Pompeii’ there as it felt like potentially, a very cheesy thing.” However once the band got started Smith says that “the acoustics in the room were so amazing” and the exhibition staff were “so keen for us to do it, that it was actually a really nice thing to do, I think. It’s hard to pick a favourite, we’re very lucky to have had a lot of favourites this year.”

As our chat time is drawing to a close, GP squeezes in some readers questions, the first coming from a fellow musician who asked about how the Gregorian chant refrain for Pompeii was born. Dan explains “I think it was something that just started like a bit of a riff in my head and I demoed it just by myself, just one or two voices singing it and then just sort of grew and grew and grew. When it came to recording it for the album, we got the guys from To Kill A King to come in and beef it out and it became this big killer chant thing. It sort of evolved, I don’t really know where it came from. It might have even started life as a piano line I think.”

Smith has previously collaborated with To Kill a King’s Ralph Pelleymounter and has also remixed tracks for the band. Have the pair any more collaboration plans? The answer is positive. “Yeah there are! Ralph and myself wrote a whole load of songs together for a band we wanted to do but, I guess fortunately and unfortunately were both a bit too busy to be doing it but at some point in the future when we get a break, we have an album worth of stuff that we’re really excited to record.”

As we’re being told are time is up, there’s one last quick question for Smith. He seems to like wearing t-shirts with images of wolves on them. He wore one in the video for Laura Palmer and a different one for the wet plate photography photoshoot in Dublin as part of The Beefeater Alchemy Project. Why wolves? Smith has a story behind them. “Someone gave me an animal t-shirt and I started wearing it”, he says. “Kyle and myself started a bit of a one-upmanship of who could wear the most ridiculous t-shirt on stage. Last year we were lucky enough to go play a festival in Hong Kong. Wandering around the streets of Hong Kong we stumbled across this market stall that only sold ridiculous animal t-shirts and that wolf face that I particularly like to wear was staring at me from a market stall. Then when I found out that it glows in the dark, it was a bit of a no-brainer, then I bought it and now I wear it all the time.”

Find out more about The Beefeater Alchemy Project: www.beefeateralchemyproject.com

http://youtu.be/tgosMAuw6uw

The Gaslight Anthem at The Olympia – Live Review

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Originally published on Goldenplec.com

The Gaslight Anthem at The Olympia, Dublin, June 17 2013

Following an appearance at Donnigton Park’s Download Festival, The Gaslight Anthem headed to The Olympia Theatre for the first of a two night stand. Stacked with a four album back catalogue, New Jersey’s finest were out to get their Dublin stay off to a flying start.

First up was Jogging. The three piece played songs from their debut and 2012’s Take Courage and while they were were giving it their all, the crowd seems a little subdued, perhaps because their brand of post hardcore was a little heavier than The Gaslight Anthem fans expected. Throughout the set though, the band make the most of their guitar, bass and drums set up. A solid driving rhythm section, alongside great guitar lines and the shared vocals of Darren Craig and Ronan Jackson, slowly win over the crowd and by the end of their set, they receive a well deserve positive response.

The Olympia lights lowered and Led Zepplin’s Rock and Roll, ushers the band onstage. From the first notes of Handwritten, the audience are in full voice. On tour, The Gaslight Anthem work with an extra guitarist and this fills out their sound beautifully. Without stopping for breath they go straight into High Lonesome. There’s no chatting to the crowd through what is a blistering four song start, with 59 Sound and American Slang. The crowd are loving this, singing along with frontman Brian Fallon, hands in the air, there’s no need for prompting to clap in time to the beat.

With influences from punk and rock, including Springsteen, which can be heard throughout the set, The Gaslight Anthem are a fantastic rock band for our age. Classic songwriting, storytelling lyrics and choruses to sing your heart out to are a recipe for success. Add how they are still an accessible band to the mix and you’re on a winner. The amount of people waiting at the Stage Door to meet the band after the show are testament to this. The only niggle is that, in parts, Fallon’s vocals could have been higher in the mix.

The Gaslight Anthem made a daring move, playing arguably their best songs at the start of their set. They, however, have no problem, holding the audience’s attention for the remainder. Boombox and Dictionaries and ‘Film Noir’ keeps the audience on their toes. While musically, the three pronged guitar attack of Fallon, Alex Rosamilia and touring guitarist, Ian Perkins, balance the guitar parts beautifully. The rhythm section of Benny Horowitz on drums and bassist Alex Levine, never miss a beat, in all, remarkably a tight outfit.

Fallon addresses the assembled a couple of time, throughout the night adn shows himself to have a wicked sense of humour. He tells a story of how in the studio, producer Brendan O’Brien suggested him changing keys mid song, but not in a Bon Jovi way. He has the audience in stitches as he mentions that Jon Bon Jovi may not be able to hit the high notes any more as he always hands the mic over to the crowd during Living on a Prayer and Always. He quickly sings the parts of each song to make sure we know what he’s talking about.

On a day when the Obama ladies are in town, he also jokes about how everyone hates whichever President is in power, gives a nod to The Dixie Chicks for the amount of heat they for their anti- Bush remarks before telling the crowd that if he gets in trouble for saying something he shouldn’t, ‘Eddie Vedder will come rescue’ him. The Olympia audience love the remarks.

One of the highlights of the night has to be recent single ’45’ which keeps the audience on their toes. Before the last chorus, the instrumentation lowers in volume, Fallon’s vocals become a whisper until it’s so quiet in the auditorium, no one is making a sound. Then the sound kicks in the venue erupts with rock n’ roll.

As the set continues, the standard is kept up with Too Much Blood, Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts before Keepsake ends the main set. The four song encore doesn’t disappoint with Mulholland Drive and The Backseat ending the night and leaving many satisfied.

This was a pure rock n’ roll show, compassing all the things that make a rock show great. A tight band, anthemic songs to raise your hands and your voices and a brilliant sense of comradary, everyone is there, including the band, to have a great time. Going on this performance, The Gaslight Anthem should be everybody’s favourite rock band.

Interview with Little Green Cars

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This originally appeared on Goldenplec.com

Little Green Cars release their debut album, this week, Vanessa Monaghan caught up with three of the band, Stevie Appleby, Adam O’Reagan and Faye O’Rourke to chat about their work.

It’s been a long day for Little Green Cars, media days can be tough, especially if it’s a high profile debut release. Everyone wants a piece of you. When Goldenplec start chatting to the band, the love they have for their music and craft shines through. Listening to the ‘Absolute Zero’, one of the things that is noticeable is the flow of the album and how the songs are placed beautifully to compliment each other. ‘You’re the first person to comment on that,’ says Stevie Appleby, ‘We took every aspect of the album into great consideration. We always think no one is going to notice these little details.’

The album was produced Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Bjork). ‘We had him in our minds from the start, as a pipe dream, just being like ‘Imagine if Markus Dravs produced our album’, reveals Stevie. ‘Then when we signed our deal, he was the first person we wanted to ask. We were like ‘He’s going to say no’ but we chanced our arm and through a weird twist of fate he ended up in our rehearsal room, watching us.’

Working with a big name would leave many in awe, especially when a band is just climbing up the musicial ladder. Little Green Cars didn’t find that. ‘He wanted to capture what we were doing. We all wanted it to be a live record. We wanted to be able to produce one hundred percent of it on stage as well and he completely understood that and agreed.’ says Stevie. ‘He was very understanding and co-operative you could say, a very nice guy.’ Faye O’Rourke agrees with Appleby. ‘You’d think that someone who has had so much success would have some kind of formula that they use but he’s just so preceptive of music, he just gets it.’

LGC2The band knew how they wanted everything to sound when they were recording, guitarist Adam, describes how along the way and progressing as songwriters, they learned about recording and knew how they wanted their vocals to sound. ‘Markus really embraced that and once we said ‘This is how we want this to sound’, the process of working in the studio was similar to the process of how the songs were written, we start from the inside of the song out. It was very much about capturing the heart and constructing the music around it. It was a very careful process.’

Even still, Dravs was, according to Faye, ‘very regimented in the phrasing of things, we didn’t realise how sloppy we were were until we went in (to the studio).’ Stevie explains more. ‘Before we recorded a song, he’d get us to write out the lyrics and he’d print them out. Then before he’d do the vocals he’d sit down and go through every line and every verse and ask what it was about, where it was written, why it was written and all that kind of stuff. So he really cared about the songs as much as we did’.

Within the album, many will already be familiar with ‘The John Wayne‘ and ‘Harper Lee’, but ‘Red and Blue’ and ‘The Kitchen Floor’ are completely different. They’re stark, they’re barren but yet sonically full.. Was there ever the temptation to add more or it is a case of less is more? Faye explains: ‘It’s about containing the sentiment and building around it. It was like if it felt right, don’t touch it. Red and Blue is the second oldest song on the whole album, Stevie must have been seventeen when that was written. There was a video that went along with it that he made and we always felt very connected with because it was so part of where we had come from so I think that it was really important to us that it was like that when Stevie recorded it for the album.’ Adam adds ‘ The version you hear on the album is Stevie at seventeen years old recording at the back of the house.’

How the band started playing together has been well documented, starting at Sunday afternoon band practice. Stevie explains that playing music was all the five piece ever wanted to do. ‘We’ve lived our entire live inside this, I suppose it seemed at the time, delusion that it was the only possible future and it was the only thing we were going to do. I suppose that kind of relentless idea is how we got into the position that we’re in now because we never thougth of anything else. None of us went to college, we all decided this is what we’re going to do and it’s going to work out and it’s going to be fine.’

As the band has grown, the members have also grown up together, this means ego and dynamics within LGC have never been an issue. ‘We’re lucky that we started off young enough that we’ve always been together, I don’t want to say a family because that just sounds lame,’ says Stevie. Adam explains a bit more. ‘We’re just back from a six and a half week tour of the States and you spend that amount of time with the same five people it’s just an unspoken thing, you learn each others boundaries and you learn hangups and complexities and issues.’

Stevie relays a story of how he was asked ‘Who takes care of everyone?’ after a gig.‘ I realised it doesn’t work like that, it’s like we’re all individually caring for the thing that is the band. It’s like we’re keeping it alive by keeping ourselves alive. We all love the band, we want to keep the band alive so we look after ourselves and each other, not purely cos we love each other but because we love the band otherwise it would crash and burn and collapse and implode’, he says laughing.

Faye admits that getting ‘five people to agree on one thing has always been difficult. It’s not an easy process, there’ll be a rare moment when something is done in five minutes and we’ll all be jumping up and down but it’s just as rewarding if something takes two months to finish a piece of work.’

LGC3GP doesn’t want to broach the subject of Faye being the only girl in the band. She’s a talented musician, singer and songwriter, that’s all we care about, right? Then Adam says, ‘I’ll tell you one thing that’s very special about Little Green Cars and that’s that we have a girl in the band. It has an effect on the band, if we were four guys or five guys or whatever, with guys there’s always ego. The energy is different wih Faye around and it is like, I can’t explain it, it does have a huge effect on us as guys and there is no or very little ego.’

The tour of the States included a Jimmy Fallon appearance and performing at SXSW and Coachella. Surprisingly, one of the highlights for the band was a gig they did in Phoenix, Arizona. ‘We weren’t expecting anyone to be there and it was in a small enough venue and all these people showed up. The gig was divided by a barrier down the middle, under 21s and over 21s.’ Stevie explains ‘They had the album, they knew the words. Some people sing along to The John Wayne but to have people sing along to the more obscure tracks on the album, the different organs of the album and in Phoenix. We were a long way from home and here’s this kid singing a line I wrote when I was his age.’

As the band recall that show, Faye says ‘You find yourself starting to laugh because it’s so outrageous.’ What’s interesting though, is why there came to be a barrier in the venue. Adam tells of how a fan, who was eighteen, came up to him after the gig. ‘It wasn’t supposed to be under 21s, it was supposed to be over 21s (due to licensing laws) and this kid rang up and got them to divide the show so that the under 21s could come in and I thought that it was so amazing. That’s when you know that you’re reaching people. That’s amazing!’

Daniel Ryan of The Thrills manages LGC, his experience must be beneficial.‘ It couldn’t have been more a lucrative match really,’ says Faye. ‘He’s got his head on his shoulders and he knows exactly what he’s talking about’. Adam goes a step further describing Ryan as a sixth member. ‘Being a musician as well, we value his input a lot and like we do for each other, he cares for us a lot. I mean, he was driving the van all across the States.’ Impressive stuff! ‘When you’re in a band you have to decide who’s opinions you take on board,’ says Stevie. ‘If you take everyone’s opinions on board nothing is ever going to get done, if you’re listening to your best friend as much as your Mom, things will turn PG or things will turn… weird. So Daniel is one of the few specific people who we trust his opinion.’

A certain amount of hype has surrounded the band, from the media, the blogosphere and being shortlisted on the ‘BBC Sound of 2013’. What about the nay sayers, are the band ready to take criticism on the chin? Faye is quick to point out that ‘people not liking you gives you just as much identity as people who do’. ‘We put our heart and soul into this album,’ says Adam, ‘if they don’t like it, what more can we do? We’re just being honest and just being ourselves. What’s that thing yer man said ‘You can’t please all of the people…’ Stevie doesn’t mind people not liking it, it won’t stop him making music. ‘I don’t like everything, I don’t mind people not liking it,’ he says. It’s completely fine just don’t tell me to stop.’

Within their songwriting, there are influences from other artforms.‘Ever since leaving school, you want to continue some sort of education on your own, want to be able to form an educating opinion on the world and things that are happening, ‘ says Stevie. ‘You’ve to take it upon yourselves to open your eyes and broaden your minds. When I left school, I dedicated part of my day to watching movies, reading books, listening to music and things that interested me and things that were related to things that I knew. I wanted to be able to prove to myself that I wan’t stupid and it helps, it helps all the time’.

The album ‘Absolute Zero’ is being released this week but was ready a year ago, this has to be a little frustrating. ‘Yeah, You do have to trust that people know what they are doing in terms of the release but for us we’ve moved on, we’re writing the second album and we want to hear people to hear this one, ‘ says Faye. ‘And also in terms of people’s opinions, pigeon holing you into one thing or another. You want people to hear the whole body of work because that’s what you’ve made. Like the tracklisting, the songs going into each other, there’s such careful consideration gone into all that, you just want people to get the full shebang.’

What is your definition of success, what you want this album to achieve? Stevie is quite pensive about it. ‘We want someone to hear it that quite possibly needed to hear it at the time, something that was reassuring to them, something that when I was 16/17, I would have liked to have heard.’

Faye feels like they’ve have a lot of success already. ‘All those gigs we did on that (U.S.) tour, if was definitely worthwhile because it was a really arduous process getting to that point. It was hell for a while. That’s my terms of success, just feeling worthwhile.’ For Adam it’s all about making new music and performing. ‘Making music is a priviledge, it’s great to be able to play it and that’s success for me, being able to go around the world and play to new people and more people. (laughing) Then all the sex and drugs and money. I kid!!’

As our time together comes to an end, I put a scenario to the band. Imagine the album is huge, huge beyond your wildest dreams. The record company say they are going to buy new little green cars for each of them. What make or model do they go for? Without hesitation Stevie says ‘If you want a little car, it should probably be an old Fiat 500 because it’s probably the most ludricious, ridiculous looking car you could possibly have.’ ‘I like the Nissan Micra I have now, I’d probably just paint that green,‘ says Faye. Adam goes the rock star route with a flashy ‘Mark 2 Golf, a convertible from 1987, they did a dark green car’.

As GP takes our leave, the two guys are still chatting about cars. Stevie insists ‘There is no cool Little Green Car’, while he and Adam debate pine and British racing shades of green. Little Green Cars’ debut album ‘Absolute Zero’ is out now. The band play Vicar St on Saturday May 11th. Tickets are available from ticketmaster.ie

Interview with Imagine Dragons

ImagineDragons1

ImagineDragons1This interview originally appeared online on Goldenplec.com

Imagine Dragons recently went Top Ten in the Irish Charts and Number 2 in the UK charts with their debut album, ‘Night Visions’. Vanessa Monaghan (that’s me) caught up with Sin City’s finest when they were in Ireland.

Many of us get our ideas and thoughts of Las Vegas from television and film; a city built in the middle of the desert, where Elvis will marry you, and you can gamble your house on a roll of a dice, but more recently, it’s become the American version of Ibiza, with superstar DJs flying in each weekend. It’s not noted though for its original live music scene. When Imagine Dragons decided to stay there instead of moving to a more renowned music city, they had their reasons.

“It’s not thought of a music city as much as a place like New York or LA but because of that, there’s not the over saturation and competitive nature to it with other bands” explains bass player Ben McKee. “With LA, you literally have to battle to get any spot on any stage, if you aren’t willing to play it for no money at all, there’s fifty bands right out there behind you that are willing to take it.” Las Vegas and its casino gigs gave Imagine Dragons the opportunity to support themselves financially but it also provided a good platform for the four piece to hone their skills.

“It’s really hard to get that opportunity to actually be out in the real world live music environment and go through all the struggles that happen with that, not just effectively performing your music in a way that connects with people but also just the little problems that arise from having bad power on a stage to having your amplifier blow up or having your keyboard not work.” Ben continues “You know Dan (Reynolds, singer) passed out after one of our shows one time after a six hour long set. It gave us years and years of experience of touring basically, condensed into one year of very intense performance.”

A question from a Twitter follower gets the band giggling. Do they have a favourite slot machine?
Guitarist, Wayne Sermon is the first to respond, “I think I’m up $12 on a slot machine so I think I’ll leave it there. I’m at a surplus so I’m happy” before Ben mentions that “Blackjack really is the game to play.”

IDThere are two Dans in the band. There’s an easy way to overcome the confusion. Dan Reynolds is the singer, while Daniel Platzman is drummer in the band. Platzman explains how the past eighteen months, since the band got signed “has been a series of moments where I reflect and say ‘Wow, that was unbelievable, I can’t believe that just happened.’” ID have been on every major TV show in the US and they were nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. Their album ‘Night Visions’ got a US release in September of last year and reached number 2 in the Billboard charts. Along the journey, things were getting bigger all the time until one day their manager sent them a video link to watch. It was President Obama’s inauguration in January. Daniel still seems a little overcome by what he saw. “No one even told us, it was like ‘Wait’.. is that… ?” Ben explains “I think we were actually in France at the time. We were like, ‘ What is this ? Oh?! This is the inauguration with our music being performed by a children’s choir ?!’ It just came completely out of left field!”

Obviously something like the American President’s inauguration is an amazing platform, not just in the US but worldwide. When the band’s debut single ‘It’s Time’ was used in Glee, how did they feel about that? They are an alternative rock band, Glee isn’t quite in that ballpark. “We really felt like that was a really good opportunity to get our alternative music to people who wouldn’t have seen it otherwise“, says Daniel. “The programme is forward thinking and positive and we didn’t have any problems with allowing them to use out music.” Singer Dan is quick to point out that the band are down to earth. “It’s someone covering our music, we’re not so high and mighty that it’s, like, ‘ No, you can’t cover our song! It’s not something we would do.”

For an alternative rock band though, they did take some chances with their music and sound, writing with and having ‘Night Visions’ produced by Alex Da Kid, the man behind B.o.B. And Hayley Williams’ Airplanes and Eminem’s hit with Rihanna, Love The Way You Lie.

ID2“We were very open to it because of the success he has had in the industry and we were already aware of him as a producer“, says Wayne. “We weren’t sure if it would work out, we’re an alternative rock band and he’s more into hiphop and pop so we weren’t sceptical but we were like ‘Ok, let’s give it a shot and see what happens.” They shouldn’t have been too concerned – as soon as they got together, the band knew it was going to work with Alex. “It was kinda like how it felt with each other when we first played together, it just works. And when we wrote with him, it just worked. It was just easy, it’s the only way I can describe it. It was instant chemistry.. that sounds romantic.”

While the album may have had a hip hop producer, the band themselves are more than comfortable in stripping back their songs and performing acoustic versions. “That’s how a lot of the songs start, whether it’s a demo on the computer or whether it’s the start of a song on an acoustic guitar or something. It’s fun to strip it down to it’s bare bones and see what happens. Luckily we have a good viola player (nodding at Daniel) in the band, that was a happy accident.”

Daniel mentions that Wayne also plays cello and starts a story with “One time…” before Wayne playfully interrupts, “I never get asked to play it.” Daniel tries to continue with this playful banter before Wayne concedes “I also played it a little out of tune that one time because I hadn’t played it for years.” Daniel then backs up his buddy with “I thought it sounded good.”

Three of the band, Wayne, Ben and Daniel, went to Berklee school of music in Boston, playing in what Daniel describes as “a fusion jazz ensemble called the Eclectic Electrics.” Wayne is quick to point out that “It was nerdier that it sounds.” He’s not wrong, Daniel gives some insight. “Five electric guitars, bass and drums and we played together in that for three years in Boston.”

Imagine_Dragons_-_RadioactiveSo does that mean Imagine Dragons went to college with Former Goldenplec interviewees Semi Precious Weapons? Wayne seems suprised. “Did they go to Berklee? I didn’t know they were in Berklee!” The old college days are relived as Daniel says “Berklee is a huge music school but it’s still only 4000 people, playing the Berklee game, I get it one out of every three or four names, I’m like, ‘Oh My, I totally know that person.”

The conversation moves to how if the band spend some time in Ireland, they’ll get to know lots of people. Moving from country to country in such short time frames obviously take its toll and the band try to find out as much as possible about Ireland while they’re here. They have a genuine interest in the country, everything from the population, what classifies as a gold disc here to making sure they know Ireland isn’t part of the UK.

Singer, Dan, comes from a big family. Did that prepare him in anyway for being in confined spaces for long periods of time with his band mates? “I had to fight for food with a bunch of boys“, he jokingly continues. “For me, it was perfect, I’m used to being around sticky smelly terrible people.
Looking at the rest of the band, it seems like they’re a nice bunch of guys, they’re not that bad are they? “They are nice guys, they’re not stinky, they are smelly though“, he says laughing.

As Goldenplec’s time with Imagine Dragons is drawing to a close, the point of the infamous anagram is raised. Imagine Dragons is an anagram for words that only the band know. Undetered by the fact that the band won’t tell their names origins, GP provides three possible solutions for the band. The first ‘Aging Maid Snore’, the band nod at each other and give a little ‘ooh’. The second has an added exclamation mark, ‘Airman, Go Design!’, that gets a little more ‘ooh’. The final possible solution is ‘Insomnia Dagger’ which receives the biggest ‘ooh’. Dan hastily adds “That’s not bad, you know Wayne actually gets insomnia.”

With that, Imagine Dragons have finished their first full day of promotional interviews in Ireland and are off for some rest before a set at that night’s Trinity Ball and an early start as they continue their tour of Ireland and the UK.

Imagine Dragons’ album Night Visions, is out now.