Musical Rooms

December 14, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 96: The Holy Roman Army

Filed under: Interviews,Irish Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 2:35 pm
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“It seems like I’ve always made music at a desk by a window in the spare room at home, wherever I’ve lived. For a few years the window was overlooking the river in Cambridge (which was lovely, the sound of passing cyclists and late evening rowers drifting in the window) and for another year it was the canal in Phibsboro (which wasn’t so lovely, the sound of feral teenagers and broken bottles spoiling the ambience a little). Now I’m overlooking the manicured flowerbeds of a suburban South Dublin apartment complex, they’re like Celtic Tiger Memorial Gardens. I don’t know if favourite is the word, but I’m able to write here. It’s very quiet outside, the room is very plain and there’s very little external stimulus. For some reason that seems to work.

There’s loads of odds and sods lying about the place. Effects pedals, guitars, loads of keyboards, a xylophone, a Speak and Spell, many many wires, a set of monitors that are too big for my desk. Empty teacups feature prominently, although I have yet to harness their awesome musical potential. Something for the difficult second album perhaps. Dirge In B Minor (With Teacups).

I try to write something or tinker away at a piece a couple of times a week. It’s hard to find the time sometimes with work but thankfully over the last year or so I’ve had a more 9-5 job
so I find more time during the week to write. I write best generally when I’ve a weekend afternoon to myself, I can get loads done if I’ve four or five hours to really go at it. I go into an odd, almost trance-like state for a few hours, I lose track of time, I forget to eat (believe me, that’s not my usual modus operandi) and at the end of it there’s a song. Sometimes I come back to the song a few days later and I ask myself what the hell I wasted a whole Saturday for to come up with this rubbish. But sometimes I don’t and it makes it all worthwhile.

For anything we’ve written so far it has begun with me working on a song by myself and if I think it’s going somewhere I send it to Law and then she adds in her bits and then we work on it together. Her bits often being the melody, hook and funny things like that which I tend to overlook sometimes. We’ve never really sat down together and written something from scratch. I think if we did we’d end up killing each other – Law is much more finicky than I am about everything being in tune and whatnot, it’d probably take a year to finish a single song.

The creative process starts with me opening a blank project on my audio sequencer Ableton Live (a German program which I now know and love so well that it’s like an extension of my arm; it’s also the only piece of musical equipment at which I am even vaguely proficient). I think that moment is even better than the point of feeling a song is finished. It’s like starting a new book by your favourite author, not knowing the plot or having read reviews. It’s maybe not the most useful feeling – I’ve started hundreds of songs and finished far less. The program is so good and I’ve so much virtual musical equipment on it that opening the program is as bit like opening the door to Abbey Road, there’s no excuse not to be able to write something good there. I started off writing DJ Shadow rip-off tunes and I’m still very much in the habit of starting a tune with a sample I’ve grabbed from a CD or record and then building the song from there. Nine times out of ten I’ve gotten rid of the sample after a half hour, but for whatever reason that seems to spark things off for me.

What I like most about this space are the boundless possibilities. And they make the tea the way I like it there.”

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The Holy Roman Army are Chris and Laura Coffey, a brother and sister from Co. Carlow, Ireland. They blend samples, synths, vocals and guitar to create music that encompasses electronica, hip-hop, dub, post-rock and shoegaze indie. Their debut album, How The Light Gets In, is out now on their own Collapsed Adult label. This weekend they play the first in a series of planned gigs by Ragged Words. Also on the bill are Adrian Crowley and Hunter Gatherer. The gig takes place at Dublin’s Twister Pepper and tickets cost €10 (plus a small booking fee) and can be bought here. For more information on the band, visit www.myspace.com/theholyromanarmy.

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