“We have a city-based practice room we use a couple of times a week but it’s a pretty soulless room in the attic of an office block. We use it more for pure rehearsal, but our favourite place to actually break out new ideas and mess about in search of inspiration is a tiny little cottage between Schull and Ballydehob in West Cork. It belongs to an American friend of ours, but previously belonged to friends of our singer Joe’s parents, so using this connection we get to take the place over for a couple of weeks at a time.
It’s a small traditional thatched cottage that probably originally had just one room downstairs and one room upstairs, but has since been extended to the rear and side with – among other things – two fairytale like turrets. We set up our gear in the side extension. It’s a great sun-room with windows that run from floor to ceiling along the entire length of one side and French doors at the end that lead out to a stone cobbled area with a pond and massive garden beyond. The floor is tiled stone and one wall is the old exterior wall of the cottage. With so many hard reflective surfaces it can sound a bit harsh, but it’s got a wooden pitched roof and a couple of couches around too, so it kinda levels out.
Beyond the usual (guitars, bass, keys, amps and drums) we don’t use anything too revolutionary, but in the last year or two we’ve invested in our own recording equipment. Now we have a laptop and a few mics handy to record sessions and help separate the wheat from the chaff. None of us are sentimental about objects of inspiration, but I think the most important thing in any creative space is that you can feel really comfortable. Common household things like couches, rugs and lamps help to create this feeling. Also, a kettle, milk and tea-bags are vital ingredients of any session.
Unfortunately we don’t spend enough time here; we only get here about twice a year. But usually we’ll end up throwing around enough ideas to keep us busy for months back in town – actually doing the hard work of putting these ideas into some sort of structure we can call a song. The enforced isolation of being out in the middle of the country does help to focus our minds. City based rehearsals where you just pop in and out for a few hours in the evening can be hard to create in, because there’s often a time pressure, and it can take a while to get the concentration fully up. Because we all live in the cottage for a couple of days at a stretch, it helps to up the work rate because there’s very little distraction and often you end up working, without realising you’re working, simply because you’re chatting over breakfast or dinner or whatever, and showing each other ideas.
‘Nothing can come from nothing’ said King Lear, and so it is with Fred. Not once have we ever just ‘jammed’ and come up with an amazing song. Someone has got to have the kernel of an idea to begin with. Once this idea is put out to the floor, we mess it around, everyone throws in their two and six-pence, we try it faster, slower, half-time, double-time and so on until often we can be miles from the original idea. Some ideas are more fully formed than others and so may require less input from others.
The cottage is so far from town and any worries or stresses you may associate with the city. There’s no internet, and mobiles only work at the top of the hill. You have no choice but to focus on what you’re doing – or go for long walks in the country which we sometimes do as well.”
Cork five-piece Fred recently released their third album, Go God Go. They play Dolans in Limerick tomorrow, June 5th, The Pavilion, Cork on June 6th and Crawdaddy, Dublin on June 7th. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/fredtheband.