Musical Rooms

February 27, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 15: Our Brother the Native

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 2:25 pm
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“The place I make music, is in my mom’s house, specifically the basement and the living room. The living room has lots of natural light from all the windows, and my mom has decorated it with a lot of country and rustic feel. It is very warm, inviting and an encouraging place to play/write on the piano.

The basement however, is more for my other side. This is where all the electronics and amps reside. I like playing down there at night with only a little bit of light. i have spent my whole life down there in one way or another and i feel much closeness within the concrete walls. The family belongings and cluttered storage makes somewhat of a fortress for when I want to escape.

There are various things I need to have down there – I like to have some of my writings in case a song starts to develop and fit with a particular verse I had written prior. And of course I need some sort of instrument with me, usually my banjo. I come home four days a week to work, the rest of the time is spent at school. But when I am home I try and isolate myself and get as much done as I can because i know there will be a few days where I unfortunately won’t have access to my music stuff.

Due to school commitments, I have to have schedule for making music, but if I get some really great ideas I may drive home one night, or definitely write them down. I like to be alone in these spaces, so silence is key, no distractions, and that can be hard with my family living there. What I love about it though, is that I grew up in it, and it has aged with me. it is comfortable and familiar to me.”

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Recipients of CD of the Week from Jim Carroll in last Friday’s Ticket, Our Brother the Native are three US teenagers – John-Michael Foss, Chaz Knapp and Josh Bertram (who sent the above piece) – who make eerie, exceptional music. Their album, was released last week on Fatcat. For more information on the band, including tracks, visit www.myspace.com/ourbrotherthenative.

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February 22, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 14: Dry County

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:23 am
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“Each member of Dry County has their own individual recording space with a computer running Cubase SX or Ableton Live and filled with various noise making bits and pieces and most likely prefer to work in these spaces. But as a band, during the recording of Unexpected Falls, our favourite recording space was actually a house we rented in Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow. ‘Gaynors’ Place’ was a detached house on a hill overlooking the mountains with the closest neighbour about a mile away, so we could really turn stuff up. It had several great rooms for recording, all producing very different results. The living room, and our main recording area, had wooden flooring and a high ceiling and we found everything just sounded brilliant in it. There was also a conservatory which we used quite a lot for guitar takes. Proper studio heads will tell you these environments are a ‘big no-no’ but we don’t really stick to the rules of recording and we ended up with some amazing sounds which made it to the final mix of Unexpected Falls. One of the things which stands out for me and something I’ll never forget the sight of was our vocal booth which we built out of open doors, chairs, broom handles and duvets. It was very claustrophobic but again it worked for us and a lot of the final vocal takes were performed here.

While recording and writing it was very important that we all felt comfortable and like we were in our own personal recording spaces with all our gear. So we all pretty much brought our whole home studios with us, both the expensive equipment (synths, samplers, effects units etc.) and the cheap and sometimes broken toys and gadgets (Speak ‘n’ Spell, stylophones, Autoharp), which are all so important to the Dry County recording process). The most important piece of equipment for us, though, has to be our main PC running Cubase SX with all its weird and wonderful plug-ins.

All in all we spent three separate four-day stints at ‘Gaynors’ Place’ writing, recording, mixing and listening from about 10am to 2am. We had a couple food breaks in there, of course, although I forgot to eat quite a lot. This was probably because it was such an easy place to work in, it was comfortable and in the back arse of nowhere, so we knew we weren’t annoying anybody.

The best thing about the space was the mouse who lived by the fireplace in the log bucket and we’ll definitely be going back there to visit him and of course to record the next Dry County album.”

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Dry County are nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. They play the Choice Music Prize gig in Vicar Street on February 27th, Childline Rocks @ The Academy, Dublin on February 28th, The Spirit Store, Louth on March 7th, Black box, Belfast on March 21st and various UK dates in April. For more information on the band, including tracks, visit www.myspace.com/drycounty05.

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February 18, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 13: Kíla

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 12:59 pm
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kilaroom2

“The place Kíla have been using to make music for the past few years has been in Celbridge in Marina Guinness’s house. It is a wonderful space; we can make as much noise as possible, we can allow our imaginations run wild and it has been very kind to us in terms of music written and recorded. It has five big windows and so the room is bright. It is quiet and has high ceilings that allows the sound to wander from us, not making it too lively. In this room, we usually have a lot of instruments with us, including a section of percussion instruments, a row of guitars and our collection of weird instruments in another corner. When we’re recording we can move around the room hitting and playing things until we get the right sound.

What we need most here is quietness. It’s in quietness that all the really good stuff comes out of. But we also need clarity of sound, because with this clarity, you get the ability to hear each other and good stuff also comes from that. How much we’re actually here can really depend. Our stints playing can go from three hours to eight hours at a time. And if we’re recording, sometimes it’ll stretch out to 12 hours – these are called divorce hours!

In the last few years everyone has had babies, so the time to get together for music and the schedules have altered. Now it’s about grabbing time that is planned well in advance. In creative terms, when I walk or cycle, I sing or hum a tune – a lot of music comes to me this way. Also in my semi-awake semi-asleep phase I also get a lot of inspiration coming to me. My advice is to always have a Walkman beside you to capture these moments.

What do I like most about this room? The big windows opening to the sky…”

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Kíla are one of Ireland’s most respected acts, fusing trad and world music, incorporating bodhrán, djembe, congas, bongos, guitars, tin whistle, low whistle, clarinet, bazouki, mandolin, bones, flute, saxophone, percussion, drums, double bass, fiddle, viola, hammer dulcimer, accordion and uileann pipes. Their current album Gambler’s Ballet is nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. They play the Choice Music Prize gig in Vicar Street on February 27th, the Glór Music Centre in Ennis, Co. Clare on February 29th, An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, Co Donegal on March 1st, the Pavillion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire on March 7th, Áras Chrónáin, Clondalkin on March 8th, the El Feile Festival, Sala Apolo, Barcelona on March 15th, the Clarion Hotel, Sligo on March 16th and the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day. For more information on the band, including upcoming gigs, visit www.myspace.com/kilaofficial.

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February 14, 2008

Musical Rooms rolls on

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:50 am

musicalroomsThanks so much to everyone who mails, the bloggers who say nice things about it, gets in touch via Facebook, or tells me in person how much they love the Musical Rooms series. It’s great to hear that it strikes a chord (honestly no pun intended) and that it interests people who are not just musicians or music obsessives.

The frequency with which they appear will crank up a notch in the next two weeks, as I hope to put most (and hopefully all) of the nominees for The Choice Music Prize, which takes place on February 27th. So far, we’ve had Adrian Crowley, Delorentos and the latest one from Super Extra Bonus Party, so watch this space.

Thanks again for all the feedback, it’s really appreciated.

Update: Ian says he’s not good at the link love, but even he hearts Musical Rooms.

February 13, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 12: Super Extra Bonus Party

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 3:49 pm
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sebproom

“The creation of our music takes place in a lot of separate places – with seven members contributing equally, the basis of different songs can be formulated in loads of spaces! But the one I think that ties us all together is the kitchen in the house in Terenure where we did most, if not all, of our debut.

The house is what you’d expect: table and chairs, a cooker, a fridge, a kettle and a lot of posters/scribbles/written abuse towards members of the band! It’s a big enough space though so we are able to set up whatever needs to be recorded, be it synths, guitars, drums, whatever. It’s nice because in my experience, being in a professional studio somewhat adds to the pressure, especially if you are funding it yourself. We are lucky in the sense that Sean our engineer is able to get quality sound wherever he goes, so recording here was a doddle for him. He just sets up his rig and away we go.

As weird as it sounds, the most important things to have here are the other members of the band. I think it helps immensely to have the other lads there cracking jokes and basically taking your mind off the task at hand, providing advice in between bursts of comic relief. During the recording of some of the guitar parts, we couldn’t use the takes because I was laughing so hard. Apart from that, not much except Sean and the kettle! Some instruments would help as well I guess…

I spend as much of my free time as possible, even though I don’t live here! I like demoing stuff here because I always work well in surroundings I’m comfortable with and I think the rest of the lads would agree. I have a simple setup of a laptop and a USB box to plug my guitar into or a mic into and I record whatever I want then pass it onto Mike or Cormac and it’s then passed around. When we actually get down to it we are very efficient now that I think of it! We all just live for making new music so the vast majority of our spare time is spent demoing or recording or finishing tunes – we’ll be full time hermits before the summer comes!

Of course, hammering out tunes at high volumes late at night in a residential area is not without its problems. Our gaff is at the end of a row, and our one neighbour, for the most part has been pretty tolerant/deaf. Naturally enough there have been times when we’ve pushed him over the edge. On one occasion, he called around to the house the morning after a pretty intense recording session. He looked pretty half eye’d, probably from lack of sleep. When I opened the door he stared at me, and as I began to feel uneasy he stepped forward and said “Ye better get off whatever the fuck it is yer on” then turned around and stormed off.

Personally speaking, I can never write to a schedule. If I want to do something decent, it usually starts with me sitting down with a cuppa while the lads are busy doing something else, with me just messing on the guitar. If I hit on something I like, I’d set up the laptop and get it down. But no really strict hours. I’ve been getting up at 9 or 10 this week because I want to get more done but the week before I wouldn’t get cracking until maybe 2 or 3. I’m the only one at the moment not holding down some sort of day job so I can afford to take my time whereas for the rest of the lads it’s not so easy. They still crank out the tunes at an alarming rate though.

In creative terms I’d be inclined to say that isolation isn’t important? Obviously it’ll be different from the programming end of things because I’m sure there’s nothing more annoying than someone staring over your shoulder while you are trying to work on something just so. Myself and the two Stephens (Fahey and Conlan) will work on something together, then pass it on to either Mike or Cormac. We never work alone as such because everyone is involved in the writing process and contributes to the songs. Another reason we like working in this space is that you are never isolated because everyone is just a few feet away in the front room. That, way, even if you are beavering away on your own you can stop and a few other pairs of ears are there immediately for a quick listen!

I love the homeliness of the place. I mean, it’s a kitchen! We are all pretty chuffed with the fact that a few diversions aside we were able to put together an album here having never done one before, and just being here makes you think of what we did before and what we will be doing. It’s messy, it’s not very warm and it can get very annoying trying to do a part while someone is rooting in the presses for that last penguin bar but it’s cool and I wouldn’t be in a rush to record anywhere else.”

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Super Extra Bonus Party’s 2007 album Super Extra Bonus album LP is nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. They have just released a 12″, ‘Everything Flows’ (vid here), which includes remixes by Cadence Weapon, Jape and Nouveaunoise. They play Baker Place in Limerick this Friday and are also appearing at the Choice Music Prize gig in Vicar Street on February 27th. For more information on the band, including upcoming gigs, visit www.myspace.com/superextrabonusparty .

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February 8, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 11: Delorentos

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 3:56 pm
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“Our place in Portrane is my favourite place to make music. We have a small apartment that we converted to a practice room in Portrane in North Dublin, on a peninsula, with an estuary on one side and the Irish sea on the other. Portrane is a quiet place because it doesn’t lead anywhere, you can’t drive through Portrane on the way to anywhere else, you have to want to go there. The village was renowned for having a massive Psychiatric Hospital, on hundreds of acres. It had it’s own farm supplying the patients and staff, it was self sufficient. Unfortunately it is in bits and pieces now, with only a handful of patients and staff, and much of the buildings are abandoned. For Dublin, it’s quite a country place, it’s quiet and isolated which suits us down to the ground.

In the apartment we have every piece of equipment we own (and some stuff that other people own). We record all our practices on a small 8-track and take MP3s with us to listen to in our spare time. When we come back a couple of days later we can sort out what works, and what doesn’t work. That 8-track, along with the lists of all the songs we’re working on are the most important things in our practice space (apart from the band itself)

We are there every other day for hours and hours, usually at night time and we tend to stick to practicing every second day. We try to do full days where possible and work as long as we can. When inspiration hits, we stay as long is it does. We have come to realise that you have to spend as much time together as possible to make good music. We never settle on or songs and are constantly changing them as we think of new melodies and pieces of music.

I think the fact that we have always made our music in isolation from the practice rooms in the city has meant that we’ve developed independently to other bands. We write together and being isolated means we are rarely, if ever distracted. We have always had the time and the space to spend hours and hours playing over pieces of music, arguing about how to make a song work better, and in that way we’ve made progress at our own pace.

I like that through the window you can see the sunset over the Estuary. During the summer we write with all the doors and windows open, so the sound carries around the Peninsula and people that are mowing their lawns or sitting in their gardens can hear what we’re doing, which is both good and bad.”

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Delorentos’ current album In Love With Detail is nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. This month, they play Dolan’s in Limerick on February 16th, The Granary in Killarney, Kerry on February 22nd, Cypress Avenue in Cork on February 23rd and the Choice Music Prize gig at Vicar Street, Dublin on February 27th. For more information on the band visit www.myspace.com/delorentos.

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February 4, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 10: James Yorkston

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:56 am
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“My rehearsal room for the last 10 or so years was an an unused dance studio in a 16th century mansion house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I guess at one point it had been a youth club or the like, as it’s walls were covered in pages of Smash Hits! magazine from the mid-eighties – Kylie Minogue, David Hasslehoff, Adamski plus a whole heap of folk I’d never heard of. It’s a big old room and I when I first moved in I found the whole place a wee bit eerie. The load in was up a narrow, winding, stone staircase, which was a nightmare when moving the Hammond organ and Leslie speaker that we used to use in my old band.

When the my old band split, I kept the room on. It was ridiculously cheap – £100 a month – and started using it for the JY recording. Most of the songs from my albums were at least demoed up there, with quite a few being released. I think on the last record, The Year Of The Leopard, four of the songs were entirely recorded by myself in the rehearsal room.

Being a community centre, the room was surrounded by other, smaller rooms, where other bands would rehearse. Mostly this didn’t affect me, as I tried to get there by midday and leave at 6pm, which would be too early for the other bands, who on the whole had jobs and such. Or were just late risers. Sometimes though, I’d be shaken out of my slumber by the sound of the band upstairs playing an Oasis song over and over. And over and over. Or the band to my right doing their sub-Depeche Mode tunes. The fusebox for the entire mansion was based in my room, and on two occasions I tripped the fuses of the rooms with the offending bands in, just to shut the blighters up. On the third occasion, I accidentally tripped my room’s switch and lost the afternoon’s work. I took that as a sign not to do it again.

I had all sorts of folk up there to do interviews and filming. It was very easy to direct them to a council run mansion. It got pretty cold though – the windows were decrepit and doors ill-fitting. I ended up smuggling up a small gas stove and using that from late October to May. One Swedish guy came away with the impression I was winding him up and wrote quite a scurrilous account of our meeting – as if I’d set myself up in this windy old house to appear eccentric. Hmm.

I shared the room with another band – a part-time band made up of (I imagine) bankers and finance folk. Real people with real jobs. The deal was, they got three nights a week and a weekend day, I got the rest. Easy peasy. Their equipment was the best money could buy – shiny P.A., expensive, pristine Les Paul guitars, 24-piece drumkit, etc. They even hired in a lighting rig for a few months, I guess so they could pretend they were on stage. My gear, on the other hand, was old and gigged. The only items of value being the guitars. Everything else was just left in its case until it needed using, surrounded by JY merchandise, broken equipment, boxes of CDs from bands of yore and old cider bottles.

I moved out earlier this year when I bought myself a wee house back in the East Neuk of Fife. I have a room dedicated to music in the new place, so gave up the old place. I was delighted when I heard it’d been passed on to Tom Bauchop of the UNPOC – a band I occasionally play in, so I’ll be back, for sure.”

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As well as making his own music, James Yorkston regularly plays with the Fence Collective and UNPOC. He is signed to Domino who have released three of his albums – Moving Up Country (2002), Just Beyond The River (2004), The Year Of The Leopard (2006) and last year’s compilation of b-sides and eps, Roaring The Gospel. He regularly releases work on Fence Records and Houston Party Records. For more info and details of upcoming gigs go to www.myspace.com/jamesyorkston.

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