A chat with Orla Gartland

For my last interview as Byline Editor of University Express, I had the opportunity of a brief but lovely chat with Orla Gartland ahead of her Cork gig in Cyprus Avenue in April. I saw Orla Gartland perform in Cyprus Avenue way back when in 2013 for the tour of her EP, Roots, so this was a nostalgic interview for more reasons than one.

Hi, Orla! How are you?

“Good, thanks. Currently sat in Manchester facing up to 2 weeks of neglected admin. Rock & roll.”

You are currently on tour with Dodie. How is it going?

“Really well, thanks. Dodie’s crowds are the best I’ve played to. I’ve learned so much about touring & feel more confident now about my live performance than I ever have before.”

You recently released a new single, ‘Why am I like this?’, it is a heart-wrencher in the beginning, and then picks up for the chorus (reflecting your bubbly self), and so relatable. What is behind this song – the thought process that brought about its creation and what you were expressing through it?

“THANKS! You charmer. The verses detail a couple of brief, regular real-life moments where I wish I’d acted differently, where I’d said or done something else in the moment. That’s me all over. Springsteen once described his song-writing with ‘The verses are the blues, the chorus is the gospel,’ – I wanted to try that with this song – the verses are specific to my own experiences, but I think the chorus line is something that rings through for a lot of people (especially the overthinking anxious types.. hey).”

You talk about moving to and living in London in a lot of your songs. How was that transition? What about it was daunting (if anything), and in what ways do you feel it was good for you?

“It was daunting but the best thing I’ve done. London is big & sprawling & terrifying but if you’re cut out for it I think it makes you work hard & fight for a career that you love – being around so many creative people really helps. I think if I stayed home I would have sat back and been content being the Most Talented Female Artist In Drumcondra, North Dublinwhereas now I feel more ambitious than that. I’m not quite set on world domination, but I’ve worked hard these last few years in London & built a great team around me – I guess the idea of a long career in music doesn’t seem so out of reach anymore.”

Patreon is something you use, a platform where fans can pay money to artists to receive extra content – in what ways has Patreon benefitted you? Do you feel it is important?

“Yeah, it’s a great platform. It works off the concept of patronage, an idea that’s been around a lot longer than I have. I run my Secret Demo Club on patreon – it’s a place where I send around original demos made in my bedroom to about 1000 people, who naturally are the people who care about my music most. So as well as a way of testing new songs out I can use the funds to tour and release more music without the need for a label – it’s a pretty revolutionary model for independent artist.”

It was the tour following the release of your EP Roots back in 2013 that I saw you perform in Cyprus Avenue. How do you feel you as an artist have changed since then, since Roots, and also your music – in what ways do you feel it has developed? What is the same, if anything, and what has changed, if anything?

“Ah cool! The core elements have remained the same – guitar is my main tool for writing & performing, I’d like to think the song-writing has remained honest & true to my character.. naturally I think I’ve just grown up as a person and with it I’ve had a chance to hone my live skills & my writing skills. I’ve learnt to produce my own music which has really helped me refine my sound, too – back then I was proud of the songs themselves but confused about what kind of artist I was. I feel a lot more set on that now.”

What are your plans for the future? Can we look forward to more music soon?

“Yes! My next single is coming the first week of April, and I love it. That song and my last single ‘Why Am I Like This?’ are part of a project I’ll be announcing soon!”

Orla Gartland, photo by @emilymarcovecchio via instagram

Published in the 2018/2019 University Express, Issue 10, by Byline Editor, Ciara Dinneen.

DeVINE right

You know what it is. Vine; the twitter of videos. When they were around, they were gold; six seconds of brilliance. Now they’re gone, but even still, two years since Vine was shutdown, we are still talking about them and using them; we quote Vines, we watch the infinite compilations on YouTube of everyone’s favourites, and it seems that even though the app may be gone, the love for Vines and the trend in and of itself lives on through our constant reference to and quotation of them.

Why was Vine so brilliant? In this day and age, the ‘too long, don’t read’ generation, we want things to be immediate, or at least quick; if we see that a video is any longer than 2 minutes we are instinctively turned off. It fascinates me, how we can spend so much of our time scrolling, but want to limit the time we spend concentrating on the one thing. Vine videos were 6 seconds long, and so the brilliance was not only in their comedy or effect, but the fact that they were short, and as such so sweet. As well as this short and sweet quality, Vine was the perfect platform for hilarious people to share their talents. It was a wholesome community of brilliantly and cleverly funny people where no one took themselves too seriously and everyone enjoyed a good laugh. It posed a challenge, an invitation to be as creative as possible, as you had to fit an intensely funny bit into a six second window.

We saw this in Zach King, who blew audiences away with his mindboggling magic tricks. How did he do it? Personalities like Amanda Cerny and Logan Paul fit comedy mini-movies and relatable moments into their six second squares. Jérôme Jarre took his comedy bits to the next level by not letting those that feature in them, in on them. If you know Jérôme, you’ll know what I mean by that. If you don’t, check him out. It’s worth it. MelvinGregg, Reggie COUX, and DeStorm Power are just a few more of the many stars of Vine, and worth noting too is Josh Peck, start of Drake & Josh, who showcased his solo comedic brilliance on Vine to the delight of those of us who watched Drake & Josh religiously on Nickelodeon every evening during our supper of fish-fingers and oven chips, or a bowl of cereal (shreddies or cheerios) at snack time. You can still watch all of the vines ever recorded and posted, as an archive website was set up after the shutdown of the app in January 2017. Vine.co is the archived website, and all you need to do is put the name of the person whose vines you wish to watch after that like so; vine.co/joshpeck.

Vine created a community, a culturally relevant community, of culturally relevant things; things we as millennial consumers can relate to and enjoy in the context of our fast-paced world of immediate and vast information at our fingertips; they thrive, and we drive them. In this way, Vine must be an exception to this ‘popularity of culturally relevant things’ concept, because it was undoubtedly popular, but it didn’t survive.

So, whatever happened to Vine? Founded in June 2012, it was bought by Twitter in 2012 for, reportedly, $30 million, and officially launched as a free app in the Apple store in January 2013. It became available for Android users shortly after, and within a matter of months quickly grew to be the most popular short video sharing platform in the world. One must wonder how something that was doing so well shut down after such a short-lived time in the spotlight? There are a few reasons. Firstly, Twitter had no money. That is a slight exaggeration, of course Twitter had and has money, but at the time they were struggling to turn over a significant profit, which means, as it does for most companies during times if financial difficulty, they had to make cutbacks. Twitter had to look at where they weren’t making enough money, and unfortunately Vine was cut.

Another contributing factor to the downfall of Vine was competing companies, like Instagram, who were making it possible for people to record and share short videos on their apps too. Vine stars were probably the biggest part of Vine’s success, but of course when you get big in one place, you move on to conquering or breaking it in the next. Although many remained loyal, the Vine stars that left Vine really didn’t help the situation. A third element to the downfall was that there was no room for advertisements, or at least advertisers cared little for advertising on Vine. Perhaps because the audience predominantly consisted of young teenagers, or perhaps there was no room on the app itself – where could you put the ads? Regardless of the reason for a lack of advertising sponsors, the result was the same as that foundational reason for Vine closing down: Vine wasn’t making enough money for Twitter.

Vine was more than a Twitter for videos. After all, it wasn’t created by Twitter, it was bought by Twitter just before its release. Vine was one of the few apps that stayed true to its original form and intent, with only ever so slight updates and changes. It remained a sharing platform for six second videos, no fancy add-ons. You know the like; Snapchat changing its layout and getting rid of the ability to view other people’s top-friends caused absolute uproar. Vine was never criticised for such things, and even its shutdown was on outward force, for Vine was adopted and had no control over the actions and decisions of its guardian. Not that Twitter is to blame. Simply put, shit happens and things don’t work out in the real world of capital sometimes. I simply mean to point to the organic and unwavering authenticity and community-driven nature of Vine in and of itself. Ironic, how Vine couldn’t do it for the Vine, in the end.

Do it for the Vine, lives on, however. We still love it, and maybe its short life was a good thing; the silver lining being that it can’t be changed. Vine had no time to develop in to something more than what it so simply was. There were no annoying updates or layout changes, no additional functions that took away from the simple six minute snippet video. We keep Vine and its pure simplicity alive with our subtle references to its best moments, our laughs as we mimic the comedy and voices of its greatest stars, and with our occasional binge watching of the compilations in ode to the best of the best of Vine that remain alive and popular to this day.

This article was originally published in the UCC Express in September 2018 in the Features section, authored by Ciara Dinneen.

Do you like drugs?

I thought maybe it was just me; that now I am in my early twenties and in college I am more exposed to the drug culture that is most prevalent amongst college students and has always been there. But settling for this assumption, the assumption that this is just the way it is and always has been and I just haven’t been exposed to it up until now, doesn’t satisfy me. It doesn’t dampen the niggling thought that hovers above the surface of my consciousness, the thought that there is a sinisterly dangerous wave of drug culture on the rise.

So I did some investigating; up until 2010 the most reliable research shows that the rise has been an overall one; that is, the rise in drug use in Ireland has been evenly spread among people of a wide range of ages, between 15 and 64. However in more recent years, if you look at 2010/11 to 2014/15 in isolation, the age considered to be young adults, people aged between 15 and 24, has seen the biggest percentage rise in drug use. I also read that a national student survey carried out by campus.ie in 2014 revealed that UCC students are more likely to have taken illegal drugs than students of UCD and Trinity. What is most frightening about young college students taking these highly dangerous drugs is that, a lot of the time, people don’t know exactly what it is they are taking; they don’t fully understand what these drugs are actually doing to their bodies.

Similar to the way alcohol and fast foods being bad for our health doesn’t stop us from consuming them, drugs being dangerous doesn’t stop people from doing them. As such, as a community in which the majority of us are young adults aged between the ages of 18 and 24, we need to carefully consider a drug policy that focuses on education and safety. UCC Students for Sensible Drug Policy Society are taking initiative in their own way; last year they handed out drug testing kits to students, advocating for smarter, safer use and for decriminalisation. The message seems to be: if you are going to take drugs, do them smart.

You should know exactly what you are taking; you should know exactly where the drug is coming from and trust the source you are getting it from. As well as that you need to understand what the drug is going to do to your body, in particular your brain. It is unlikely you’ll find any one single person in college that doesn’t have at least one friend who has experimented with drugs. Therefore, even if you yourself don’t partake, there is no harm in knowing a bit about the most commonly used drugs. While marijuana is by far the most popular illegal drug, more and more college students are beginning to experiment with hallucinogens, sedatives and stimulants; the most popular being MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) aka Ecstasy, Ketamine which is horse tranquiliser, and Cocaine. What I have here is short and vague and only a very simplistic synopsis of the information out there and you should do a lot more research before you consider experimenting.

Here is the very basics of what you need to know:

You might be peer-assured into believing the naïve assumption that drugs are a relatively harmless bit of fun; you only live once, and you may as well have a laugh and enjoy it while you can, right? I’m sorry, but when did it become only possible to have real fun and a proper young adult experience through partaking in this ever-growing drug culture, and who decided this? ‘Enjoy it while you can?’ Yes, because any minute now you might be sending yourself into cardiac arrest by going for that ‘one more line’, or damaging your brain in some way, quite possibly definitely. This attitude reflects a kind of mental dysfunctionality; how some have come to be desensitised to natural highs from life because of over-reliance on synthetic highs. To be frank, it is not only dangerous to insist on the so-wrongly-called harmlessness of synthetic drugs, it is also just pure and utter stupidity.

Chemicals are not a foreign substance to the brain. Our brains function through the process of natural chemical reactions, by sending out chemical information from one neuron or nerve cell to another. These chemical messaging that take place in the brain control and result in our bodily functions such as generating movement, speaking, thinking, listening, regulating the systems of the body, and so on. When we take drugs, we are interfering with this process, and no matter what way you look at this or no matter how small the dose, this is not a good thing.

MD anyone? Great craic, apparently. What does it do exactly? It effects the brain by increasing the chemical activity and production of three major chemical hormones: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. MDMA enhances the release of these chemical hormones from nerve endings and/or blocks their re-uptake, resulting in increased levels between the neurons at a synapse. The increase in the levels of dopamine in the brain leads to euphoric spike in energy levels, while serotonin is connected to mood. Now, as MD exhausts our brains in the rapid and intense production of both serotonin and dopamine, the come down is not pleasant. Your brain, because it is left depleted, has to reduce its rate of production and uptake of these chemicals in order to replenish its levels. This explains the depressed state in which users are left in for up to several days after taking MD.

Coke. Similar to MDMA, Cocaine wreaks havoc on the brain’s levels of dopamine. Normally, the brain releases dopamine in response to potential rewards, like the smell of good food. It then recycles back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells; re-uptake like above. Cocaine prevents the re-uptake of dopamine, causing excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells. This influx of dopamine interferes with normal brain communication causes cocaine’s high; extreme happiness, energy and mental alertness. Users may also experience intense paranoia, irritability and hypersensitivity to sound, light and touch. The comedown can feel a lot like the flu; runny nose, feeling generally run down, aches and pains and headaches… as such, the best thing you can do is get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, replenish your body with nutritious food and naturally, do not take cocaine again, ideally at all, but at the very least not any time soon.

Ket-outta here. Are you serious like? Horse tranquilliser? Honestly already rolling my eyes at whatever random ass substance it is that pops its head round into popularity next. As an anaesthetising drug, ket results in feelings of dizziness and light headedness but can also induce hallucinations. It has been said to result in schizophrenic-like characteristics in its users. Ketamine disinhibits the brain’s circuitry system, essentially putting a sort of brake on the system, which causes the brain to enter into a state of over-excitation in response to a stimulus. The comedown from Ket can include symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, and is just over all a not pleasant experience.

Alex’s Adventure of a Lifetime

In 2016, Nicole Ryan’s brother, Alex, passed away after taking a synthetic drug at a house party in Cork City which he believed to have been a less potent drug, but which turned out to be the lethal N-Bomb. Since, Nicole has set up an organisation called Alex’s Adventure of a Lifetime. Nicole works with students from secondary school level to college level carrying out workshops that aim to teach the young people of Ireland of the dangers of drug misuse. Nicole feels passionately about the need for education and the encouragement of safe use. Recently Nicole launched a harm-reduction card that clearly outlines what to do should anyone find themselves in a situation where someone has pass out after taking a substance. It includes a QR code that can be scanned in a matter of seconds, bringing up a a step-by-step video and what to do to help the person in trouble.

At the end of the day, the safest way to take drugs is simply not to take them. But if you’re going to do it, do it with a bit of education and cop on. If you’re going to do drugs, do so with caution. www.drugsand.me is a harm reduction guide for safer use of drugs and is a good place to go to get more information and learn more about the drugs you are taking, the effects they could have, how to handle the comedown and what to do when things go wrong.

Asking for it – the rape culture that is affecting us all

Disclaimer: Before I begin this discussion, I would like to point out that rape culture affects everyone, regardless of gender. Although most examples deal with the sexual assault carried out by men on women, it is essential to note that sexual assault is gender neutral; it can, and does, happen to anyone, regardless of gender. I do not wish to criticise the typical behaviours and attitudes of guys and men in general, just as I do not wish to criticise the typical attitudes and behaviours of girls and women in general. I simply wish to bring certain things to your attention; the seemingly little things that occur around us every day that we fail to consider the negative impact and wrongness of, because they have become habitual and normalised; the smaller and seemingly unimportant attitudes and behaviours we take for “just the way things are nowadays” that contribute to a more disturbing reality; the emergence of a rape culture.

 Do not dare tell us that we are asking for it by wearing short skirts. Do not dare tell us that we are asking for it by drinking too much and getting drunk. Do not dare tell us that we are asking for it by accusing us of dancing in that way, a way you wrongly and boldly perceive as a ‘clearly wanting it’ kind of way. Do not dare tell us that we are asking for it by being flirtatious, or not even that, by just talking and being friendly and smiling and making eye contact; friendliness, eye contact and/or a smile is not an invitation to touch a girl in whatever invasive way you want. Do not dare hold up the outfit a girl was wearing at the time of the assault as evidence in court and say that it proves how she was “asking for it” and think “sure, would you blame him”. Yes, this has been done, and it is nothing short of disgusting. Bullshit excuses. Think of your best friend, your sister, your future daughter, and ask yourself if you would brush it off with a flippant and ignorant “she was asking for it”. If so, well quite frankly, you’re an asshole, and I’m afraid there’s no quick fix for that.

 Some of the societal attitudes towards gender, sexuality and the way in which we interact have become corrupt and damaging in how they are so heedlessly accepted and have contributed to a big problem in our world today, and it is a problem we face most full forcedly as students in college; a modern element of society come to be termed as rape culture. Rape culture is defined as ‘a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality’. The term was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s, and in its more extreme form highlights the way in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence. Before diving into a deeper discussion on rape, it is important to consider the basics of the area, to zoom out and examine the big picture and all the little things that contribute to it: our attitudes towards gender and sexuality, how we behave when it comes to sexual relationships, how we handle these relationships and the customs that seem to govern them; these are the things I wish to address.

Think of the situations you have heard about or have even seen happen to people, strangers or friends, on a night out in a bar or club. The calculating, head-to-toe looks, the inappropriate whispered comments or sometimes not-so-subtle and bordering on harassing shouts, the evasive touches, the groping out of nowhere as people walk by… It is not ok to just push your hands up a girl’s skirt, even if you are kissing already. It is not ok to assume that just because someone is kissing you means that they want to go any further. “Agh, go on.” … “You should be flattered, it’s a compliment.” There are ways to flatter a girl, to flirt with a girl, to treat a girl, without making her feel as though she is only good for one thing. Being made feel like a piece of meat, a ‘piece of ass’ for the night, is in no way flattering or a compliment; likewise, allowing oneself to be treated as such shows a lack of respect and a deep-set insecurity that many are oblivious to. This conception instils a distorted twisted sense of worth; a girl feels worthless and like she isn’t pretty/beautiful/sexy enough if she isn’t approached by guys in such a way, while guys feel pathetic and like they aren’t confident/manly/brave enough if they don’t approach girls in such a way.

We must learn to talk, to be open about what we want and what we are comfortable with. As well as this we must learn to listen, to notice, to respect.  For the times we don’t speak, for the times we don’t vocalise what it is we want or are comfortable with, we must learn to look out for, notice and respect those silent signals; pulling away, sudden quietness, avoiding eye contact, any hesitation, be aware of these things and consider their possible meaning.

Please remember, as I said in the disclaimer, I am not criticising the behaviour of guys here; I am criticising the behaviour itself, the behaviour, whether it be carried out by a guy or girl, that we all assume isn’t a big deal, is just what happens and is just how things are. Not all guys give into this pervasive, normalised attitude; not all guys behave accordingly with these typical ‘lad’ behaviours. A lot of discussions on sexual assault deal with the effects on female victims and are coming from a female view point, but another aspect of rape culture exists in which the guys’ perception is effected unfairly also. It must be so hard, as a truly good-natured guy, to read about all of the facts and statistics about sexual assault and rape cases. Men – a lot of men, truly goodhearted men – don’t want to treat woman in some of the ways that are taken nowadays to be “what you do” or “flirtatious banter (flanter, right?)”. Many guys feel under pressure from friends to act a certain way, to treat girls with a particular attitude. A guy shy’s away from treating the girl he likes with the honesty, respect and courtesy she deserves for fear that he’ll get stick about it from the lads, for fear he’ll be seen as weak, or “whipped”, as if liking someone and being honest about it is a bad and limiting thing. Basically, sometimes guys are afraid to act like gentlemen because their friends will give them shit for it. This is an entirely unfair, misleading, restricting and pressurising misconception. Honesty about one’s feelings is not a sign of weakness; it is in fact a demonstration of incredible strength.

Louise O’Neill, author of Asking For It, interestingly points out in a documentary recently broadcast on RTE how we seem to have difficulty discussing sex, let alone sexual violence, even though we’re supposedly living in a sexually liberating society. In the documentary, Dr. Siobhan O’Higgins of the School of Psychology in NUIG explains why this may be so as she outlines how in Ireland we went from having “no sex unless you wanted to make babies” (the Catholic church’s strong influence advocated that sex was purely for reproduction purposes) to “having any kind of sex you wanted” in the space of 6 years, and this rapid turnaround in how we viewed and treated the concept of sex has left many young girls and woman (guys and men too),“feeling like they should be into all of this stuff; we missed out on sensuality, eroticism and failed to properly explore the concept of sex and sexuality within the Irish psyche”. Dr. Siobhan O’Higgins explains how many girls (and guys) feel as though they can’t ask for what they want, like they can’t talk about what they like and what they don’t like when it comes to sex, “because if you do you’re a slut” (or a manwhore).

Louise O’Neill, Asking For It

In an article for The Irish Times, entitled “Louise O’Neill on writing Asking For It: Unblurring the lines about rape”, Louise talks about the Steubenville rape case, which broke in the US in December 2012 and attracted worldwide media attention as shocking photos and videos of the horrifying incident were shared online. “A party full of drunken, horny teenagers. A young girl who had too much to drink, her friends laughing while her body was violated. Photos and videos taken, shared online, forever seared into the collective consciousness of the public.” In the same article, Louise talks about a time she asked a group of men in their early twenties, “why is it always the woman who is held to a higher moral standard, why is it always the woman who is expected to “behave”?”.  She says, “they all scoffed at me”, saying that the girl was “a dirty slut and a whore”. “What if it had been your sister? I asked them. Would you want to see her just thrown to the wolves for public entertainment? If she was my sister, one of them told me, I would be so disgusted, I would never speak to her again.”.

Notice here the issue of the double standard; it appears what is expected of woman is starkly different to what is expected of men, and vice versa. Likewise, what may be acceptable behaviour for a guy may be utterly unacceptable for a girl. Louise outlines the attitude that in basic terms boils down to “boys will be boys but … girls are expected to safeguard their virginity, to behave themselves in a ladylike fashion”. It’s a catch-22 for the girls; there’s innocent, prude, stuck up verses slut, whore, demanding and clingy. The girl who knows what she wants, knows what she deserves, is demanding. The girl who speaks out about what she wants is clingy. The girl who refuses a guy is stuck up and a prude; the girl who ‘goes for it’ is a slut.

So many girls, too many girls, especially college students, can tell of at least one incident that occurred on a night out in which they were inappropriately touched in a way that made them feel uncomfortable and violated by a guy. Too many girls can tell of times they got into arguments with guys who were trying to take things further with them when they themselves didn’t want to and had to physically put a stop to what the guy was trying to do, sometimes having to push him away, almost having to fight him off. A friend of mine recently said to me, after getting with a guy at a house party at which both herself and the guy were drinking at, “I’ve got to give him credit for not taking advantage of me though”. No. You do not give a guy credit for not taking advantage of you. The fact that some girls feel this, feel as though they owe a guy for not taking advantage of them when they could have before, is where the problem lies. This is how these things that happen all too often contribute to a rape culture; it leads to girls feeling like what happened to them was no violation of their bodily rights when in actual fact it was; it leads to girls feeling like they can’t say anything about it because it “wasn’t actually rape” or “I didn’t say no though”.

This brings up the issue of consent. Consent is an important concept in a discussion about rape culture. There are many arguments and debates over what actually constitutes consent; what it is exactly and where can the line be drown between what constitutes as consent and what constitutes as non-consent. I feel as though many of the arguments can be boiled down to one or the other by rational, common sense reasoning; a person being drunk is not consent, not explicitly saying “no” aloud is not consent, dressing in a particular way is not consent, dancing in a particular way is not consent… Many campaigns about consent aim their messages at young guys and men. I think it is important, especially considering that double standards are an issue, that consent isn’t just about teaching guys when “no” means “no” and being drunk is not consent and a short skirt is not consent and so on… Consent works both ways. We must all be aware of consent and non-consent in general, not just gender based consent, but gender general consent.  

Let us not turn this discussion into a girl-on-guy, female-on-male argument or criticism; this is an opportunity to notice and become aware of pervasive societal attitudes, behaviours and norms that, if we open our eyes and minds to, we see happening every day; they are evident in the underlying fabrics of society and are contributing to a much greater problem than the one they seem to be when considered individually. Let’s not hide behind ‘the way things are’ or brush things that make us uncomfortable off with ‘it’s not a big deal’ or ‘it’s nothing, I’ll leave it’; talk about it.

This article, by Ciara Dinneen, was originally published in the 2016/2017 UCC Express in November 2016.

A chat with Tim Wheeler of Ash

Having recently released the seventh studio album of their 26-year long career, Islands, in May, Ash are still around, are still touring Europe and Asia, and still going strong on all fronts. If you haven’t heard of them, Ash are a three-piece rock band from Northern Ireland whose endurance and consistency has won them the quit-but-firm position as one of Ireland and the UK’s most loved rock bands. Giving a whole new meaning to the concept of never changing, Ash have remained steadily on their particular wave and style since day one. Delighting their fans with yet another trustworthily great album, described as “an open-hearted set of songs dealing with love and loss, friendship and betrayal, identity, salvation, redemption and rebirth… all the important stuff” and promised to be “the strongest, most exhilarating long player” of Ash’s career, Islands certainly delivers, reaffirming the trio’s status as one of the most idiosyncratic and singularly thrilling guitar bands to originate from Ireland.

We got to speak with Ash frontman Tim Wheeler while the band were in Milan on their tour back in November. Although Ash’s album came out in May, their touring was a little later than it usually would be after an album release, it being the beginning of festival season.

You guys played at a few Irish festivals this summer. Which one was your favourite?

“Electric Picnic, that was really fun. We played on the Friday this year. We only played there for the first time last year on one of the smaller stages, but this year we played on the main stage so that was great! We played a festival in Belfast, The Biggest Weekend, and that was on a Titanic slipway – that was cool because that was like a punk band show.”

You originate from Northern Ireland, but where are you all based now?

“I’ve been in New York for thirteen years now. Mark lives there too, and we’ve got a studio in Manhattan as well. Rick lives in Edinburgh, so we get together whenever we need to.”

You guys go way back. How did Ash come about all those years ago?

“We started in school. Myself and Mark started a band when we were twelve years old. It was a heavy metal type band, we were trying to be heavy metal… We struggled with that for a few years and then we discovered more alternative rock stuff like nirvana in ’92, so we started ASH with Rick then. So, it started in school and we’ve been playing ever since really! We were fifteen when we formed, and then we were seventeen when we got a record deal and started getting away and touring the mainland, and then it all kicked off in ’95 when we brought out ‘Girl from Mars’ – that’s when we started touring all over the world.”

Do you think the music industry has changed much between now and then, at least from your experience? Do you think it’s harder nowadays to make it?

“I think so, yes. I think there was more of a music industry, as in there was more money, I think in it that would help bands and young artists to develop. I think now you have to be quite clever and economical. Touring when you’re beginning is really expensive – you can lose a lot of money. We’re lucky that we had different companies to support us back then. Having said that, there is a way – you can promote yourself on social media, you can do a lot more stuff yourself these days that you would have needed record companies and press agents to do for you back in the day. It is probably harder to sustain yourself as a young band these days.”

Do you think streaming sites like Spotify have made it harder for artists to make money out of their music and what they’re doing?

“I think Spotify is starting to bring more money into the industry, just that it doesn’t necessarily go to the artist. It’s definitely better than no income coming in. As opposed to people downloading for free, at least it’s still bringing money in. It’s probably the next best thing to when people bought a lot of records. People are willing to spend a lot more money on vinyl nowadays and that can help a bit, the way vinyls have come back.”

Who were your influence back when you guys were getting started with the band? Once you got signed to the label and started working in studio, what material were you drawing inspiration from?

“When we started out as ASH we were really big into Nirvana, Pixies, Teenage Fanclub, all that kind of scene. Then we started getting into more classic stuff, like when we started working with our first producer Owen Morris he got us into Bowie a lot, The Beatles and Beach Boys as well. I like a lot of punk stuff like Ramones, Buzzcocks, Undertones… so we’re kind of like a hybrid of all that stuff; pop song writing with punk and alternative rock energy.”

At what stage in the bands career did you go from national to international and start touring all over the world?

“After we got signed we started touring all over the UK and Ireland, with maybe the odd weekend in Europe. And then as soon as ‘Girl from Mars’ hit and we left school – it was a hit two weeks after we left school, pretty much – at that point we did our first US tour, and Japan and Australia. From then on we toured Europe a lot as well.”

You toured the States with Coldplay in 2002. How was that?

“That was good. Coldplay were actually really big ASH fans from when they were at university. When we first met them they were really big fans, and then we became friends and they wanted us to come on tour so we did! That was just as their second album came out – they were getting really big at that point. We did a lot of support tours in the States that year, we were really trying to break the States so we spent the whole year pretty much supporting people.”

You supported David Bowie at one point too! David Bowie, Coldplay, Moby – was this year of touring with these artists a highlight for the band?

“It was good, but we definitely prefer when we’re headlining and touring on our own success as opposed to supporting people to be honest, but it was good fun! Maybe some of our shows in ’96 when we were at our peak or in 2001 when we were at another peak, when 1977 went to number one in the UK and when Free All Angels went number one, the tours of both those albums were our peaks – those are probably the best times really.”

You guys are known for the particular attention you pay to the lyrics in your songs. I wanted to ask you about your song writing process – what is your approach, and if you had to give advice to aspiring song-writers, in terms of dedication and attention to lyrics, what would it be?

“I have a lot of different approaches. I guess it’s often best if it is something that came from personal experience in the lyrics, y’know if it rings true and there’s a bit of real feeling in there, even if it is disguised a lot… Sometimes I write a lot and realise later what it is I’m trying to say, or sometimes my feelings will come out in the lyrics a lot. Say like ‘Girl from Mars’; I wrote that not long after breaking up with my first girlfriend and I think it was the loneliness and sadness I was feeling about that that somehow came through in a song about a girl from outer space, y’know – it wasn’t literal at all but I think there was some real feelings in it, that went into that song. I think don’t be afraid to take chances and write some weird shit because it’s way better than being boring – take risks and don’t be afraid to look stupid.”

You guys released albums in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Will we be seeing a release in 2019?

“I think so! We may have a new single, possibly, and I think an album out in early 2020. Half-way through recording the album already but we’ve been doing so much touring it’s been on hold for six months. If we hadn’t been doing so much touring it would be finished already… We’re looking forward to getting back to the studio and finishing it up!”

Originally published in University Express 2018/2019 Issue 9, on Tuesday 12th March 2019, Byline Interview by Byline Editor, Ciara Dinneen.

An interview with Wild Youth

I had the pleasure of speaking with Conor and Dave of Wild Youth the day before they headed off on a European tour with Kodaline. Very excited about playing in many cities, Conor explained how he was looking forward to Paris the most, “My brother got engaged in Paris and I’ve never been. He always talks about it, so I can’t wait to see Paris. I’ve also heard that Lisbon is one of the coolest places in the world.” Bands on tour move around from place to place fairly quickly, but the guys were hopeful that they would get to spend a few hours in some of the cities at least. “In some cities you get maybe two or three hours in the morning,” explains Conor, “and then maybe two or three hours after soundcheck to go out and get coffees”, to explore a little bit. Conor and Dave joked about going to the Eiffel tower and then going to put a lock on the bridge; “Conor and Dave [on a lock] haha”.

I wanted to know how Wild Youth came to be. Dave explains how himself and Conor have been friends since they were teenagers, “We’ve always been in the same circle. We always wrote music and played music.” Dave and Conor were both in a band, but not the same one, for a while. It was when each of the bands the guys were in started breaking up that Conor and Dave, while on a night out together, decided to go back to what they use to do together; “when we would just sit in the house and play music and see what happens, so we just did that,” explains Dave. “Then we were approached during our first ever gig together. We were playing at a fundraiser in school in Dunleary that same week we decided to play music together. One of the speakers was a music manager and he approached us. He was like, ‘you guys are amazing, I’d love to work with ye’,” but the two guys explained how they weren’t really a thing, just friends playing music together.

But at their second gig together the two lads were approached again, “Then we were like ‘fuck maybe this is actually something’, so we put our head down then and started writing songs”. All of their favourite artists were bands, “we always wanted the electric guitar, drums, and everything”, the whole band ensemble, so they approached Cal; “Cal came to rehearsals and he just fit in perfectly,” explains Conor, “then Ed came along and the dream just clicked straight away.”

It was during a rehabilitation period after a bad accident that Conor get really into his music; “I played a bit before; I played bass guitar and piano before, but when I had my accident I was house bound and couldn’t leave for a couple of months, and it was actually around that time Dave used to just call up. We would watch music documentaries, mess around doing covers and try write songs on piano. It was great for me because it kept me occupied, kept my mind off everything, and it got us so much tighter and closer as musicians and writers. It’s funny because back then Dave was playing guitar and I was playing piano, but now in the band I’m playing piano and Dave is playing the guitar!”

Wild Youth

The origins of Wild Youth is undoubtedly organic. Conor and Dave explain how they were just two friends enjoying playing music together; “There was no big plan or intention to be a big band – we were just doing it cause we loved it, and it just mapped its way from there”. They believe that “forcing it” just doesn’t work – “we never got into it because we wanted to be famous. We just did it because it was genuinely just our favourite thing to do all day; to just go into my front room where we had the piano and play songs all day.” You can definitely tell the difference between a band that are doing it for the love of it, and a band that are pushing themselves for the sake of making it big; “People can see through things easily.”

I was curious to know what kind of music, what artists and bands, these guys were listening to and covering in those days. “Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, The Script, and some old school stuff like Prince, Bowie, The Beach Boys… a bit of everything, Mumford & Sons too, a very eclectic, big giant pallet of music. We don’t really have just one particular genre that we love.” Dave spoke about how they would have to know a wide range of stuff when they used to busk; “When you’re busking you do everything you can. It’s great because, now, it gives us so dynamic when it comes to writing and being in studio, the fact that we never stuck to one particular genre when we were messing and writing. We did so many different genres; we incorporate Bee-Gee’s harmonies with Prince guitar on top of a Script piano melody, or whatever! It gives us dynamic when it comes to writing, that we’ve got a broad knowledge of music and instrumentation.”

Conor and Dave revealed that Wild Youth are currently working on an album. Are there more singles to come before the album’s release? “We’re going to release a new single in January, then we’re going to do an EP at the end of January, and after that EP maybe there’ll be an album or another EP and then an album, we don’t know, but we’re going to go with the next single and the EP anyway, and decide from there.” There is no doubt that these guys have lots of material up their sleeves, that’s just there and waiting to be released – very exciting news for all Wild Youth fans. “Everything is in really good shape. We’re so excited about how our new stuff is sounding. We really feel it showcases who we want to be, and who we want to continue to be as a band.”

I asked Conor and Dave to tell me about their favourite gig, but I may as well have asked them to pick a favourite song; “We have honestly the best time ever when we play on stage so we look forward to every single gig we do.” As they are from Dublin and have fond memories of going to see some of their favourite acts in the likes of The Academy and Workman’s, if they had to answer they would probably pick a local venue. They’ve played Cork many times, “We supported The Script there”, and say that the crowds here are always insane (up the rebels), “but we’ve never played our own show there.” So naturally, the guys are excited to be headlining their own Irish Tour and to be playing these places as the main act for the first time.

Taking a different approach to this question, I got the guys to describe their dream gig: “Red Rocks, or else the Hollywood Bowl in LA. Or Croke Park of course, that’s always been the dream since we started the band.” When it came to deciding who would support them, the lads were hesitant and didn’t want to seem egotistical, but I encouraged them that they could pick anyone, dead or alive – describe your dream gig, no matter how apparently improbable; “Kings of Leon, Imagine Dragons.. can we have a few people play with us? Make it like a Wild Youth Festival? We’d have The Script, we’d bring The Beach Boys back, would definitely have Imagine Dragons playing, Anderson .Paak, King Princess, Maggie Rogers… this would be an unreal festival! Arctic Monkeys, Niall Horan, we’d have them all”. Hell yeah it would. Can we make this happen?

To round off a great chat with Conor and Dave of Wild Youth, I asked where they would like to see the band in 5 years’ time. “We’re super ambitious, without being cocky. As we said, we never got into this for fame or anything like that, but we’re super driven and we want to try play the biggest music venues all around the world. We love playing live, we talk about how we map out the stage, the lights for shows, and everything we want to do and achieve will be possible on the biggest stages so that’s always been our goal and our aim – to not ever take our foot off the peddle, and to not stop writing music, making music, to not stop touring. We’re not the kind to take a two-week break after a tour; as soon as we finish a tour we are like ‘when’s the next one? When are we back in studio?’. We just wanna keep going all the time. We just hope that in 5 years’ time we’re still as close as we are now, playing the biggest stages.”

Wild Youth

Some Quick Questions:

Favourite current artist: “We love King Princess at the moment. Hozier’s new single is absolutely stompin’, like, all over that like. The 1975’s new stuff is great. A Star is Born soundtrack is sick, phenomenal.”

Least favourite current artist: “I don’t know. I like what I like and I don’t listen to what I don’t like. I don’t linger on it too much; music is a choice for everyone, it’s not my place to say [what’s good and what’s not]. One thing that bugs me is current pop songs; y’know the one’s that start off as a nice song, and then goes into like a dance song, this clubby kind of house – it’s no one in particular, it’s just a certain style. Other than that we love all genres, we really do.”

Other hobbies, apart from music: “I love fashion and clothes. We love movies, we’re movie addicts; our favourite thing is to go to the cinema. We love coffee. I love computer games. (Conor reveals that Dave is a computer game addict.) I’m a nerd when it comes to computer games. Right now I’m obsessed with the new COD. I don’t leave the house unless I have to, for the band.”

Favourite Netflix series: “Making a Murderer, Ozark, any kind of crime-thriller. One with Jessica Biel, can’t remember what it’s called. 13 Reasons Why, as well, very eye-opening. Makes you think about the times you saw stuff in school, you ask yourself what if I had said something or done something, asked them if they were ok… There is stuff that you see in it that you’ve seen in real life in school before, people acting a particular way – it does go on.”

Originally published in the 2018/2019 (Volume 22) University Express, Issue 4, by Ciara Dinneen, Byline Editor.

A Night at the orchestra

Last night I went to see Cork Concert Orchestra’s Mahler 5 concert in City Hall. I am a member of the orchestra, but sadly wasn’t able to take part in this concert due to college, work and personal commitments. It was strange sitting in the audience again – but what an absolute pleasure it was too. The concert was incredible – an astonishing performance by soloist Ioana Petcu playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor and Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64, and of course an impressive rendition of Gustav Maher’s Symphony No.5 by Cork Concert Orchestra themselves, under the conduction of David Brophy. I was not only taken away by the exceptional quality of the performance, and the music itself, but a good friend of mine led secound violins beautifully which added to my passionate enjoyment of the whole experience.

If you’re not into classical or orchestral music you’re probably thinking what the hell is this one rambling on about concertos and symphonies and all that. If you are into classical music, you probably know I’m holding back a little and only synopsising the experience. My love and appreciation for the beauty, importance and magnificence of classical music is a topic for another, much longer post.

I went to the concert with my Mum, and before it we went for dinner in a restaurant I had never been to but certainly hope to return to: ORSO, on Pembroke Street in Cork City. We both had the same main – falafel (the best I’ve ever had) displayed gorgeously on soft flatbread with sweet potato, a delicious sauce I do not know the name of, with slices of house pickle, carrot and something called dukkah (I had to google what this is – it’s a condiment consisting of a blend of herbs, spices and crushed nuts). It was exquisite – the kind of dish you eat slowly, to savour it, because it is that good. With our main we enjoyed a deliciously refreshing cocktail made up of gin, elderflower, lemon juice and Prosecco. For dessert we shared the chocolate board, or as I called it, chocolate lovers porn-on-a-plate (even though it was served, as the name suggests, on a very cool wooden board). There was a thick and velvety chocolate mouse toped with chilli flakes, a honey-comb chocolate brownie with a small dollop of cream and a raspberry compote, a baileys basket with what looked and tasted like whipped white chocolate topped with sliced strawberry, and last but not least a chocolate and peanut butter truffle incased in a chocolate coating. We enjoyed this accompanied by the obligatory after-meal Americano coffee. No, I did not take any pictures – I am not that level of blogger, yet.

Business card I picked up in ORSO – looks to be part of a small group of restaurants under the same owner(s).

I really needed a night like the one I had last night. When you’re going through a rough time, it is easy to retreat into yourself and push people away, or at least avoid being in company with anyone – and sometimes you need to do that, but not for too long. Let people be with you – you don’t need to talk if you don’t want to, even though that is a great thing to do if and when you can, with the right people – but even just surrounding yourself with the people that take you out of yourself for a while.. Call it a distraction if you like, because that is what it is, I guess, but distractions aren’t always a way of avoid something – sometimes, distractions serve as a way to ease the hurt, to ease the blow, of facing something. Allow yourself to hurt, and to be by yourself with that hurt when you feel you need to, but remember that you do not need to hurt alone all of the time.

Ciara D. 24/2/2019

The rise of whenyoung band

Originating from Limerick, this trio have made their mark on the music scene both in Ireland and the UK from the great city of London which they now call home. University Express were lucky enough to get to see whenyoung on the last date of their UK and Ireland tour in back in November in Cyprus Avenue, Cork. Chatting before their set, Aoife Power (singer & bassist) and Andrew Flood (drummer) revealed that the three were well and truly wrecked after a thoroughly enjoyable tour, and that they were looking forward to getting to head back to Limerick for a bit after their set in Cyprus Avenue. The appearance of guitarist Niall Burns signified that it was time for the three to hit the stage.

Despite being at the end of a long and tiring tour, whenyoung pulled off an energetic and highly impressive set. It was clear that they love what they do, constantly connected, smiling and interacting with each other, and with the audience, while performing, encouraging the audience to dance and thanking them for coming along. Aoife’s voice strikes a unique balance between rock-power and angelic delicacy, Andrew and Niall showcasing impressive technical skill and energy while never overpowering Aoife – each bringing their own vibe that blends so nicely together.

Before the show, we sat down with drummer Andrew to ask him a few questions.

How did whenyoung come to be?

“Limerick is a small town – we got to know each other from hanging around town, through mutual friends and house parties. There was a place called Costello which we used to always go to, and we still do when we’re back. This music was a bit different and the crowd was a bit different. We had a shared love of the same music, so that was our in.”

Had you a very musical upbringing?

“We all kind of grew into a love of music. I would have played a bit when I was younger, Aoife played a bit of traditional music. It wasn’t until we were teenagers that we found bands that we loved, older bands like The Clash or Blondie, and other bands around at the time like The Libertines, The Strokes and The Killers. It wasn’t until then that we made our way in music.”

When did ye start playing gigs?

“It wasn’t until we all moved to London within six months of each other – moving to London and not really knowing anyone, not really having a big plan, we found our arts studio and just started playing together and writing songs together. After a few weeks we booked a gig wherever we could find one – that’s how we started out really.”

Was the move to London a tactical one, for the purpose of starting a band?

“No. Niall moved over first, he always wanted to go. I took a break from university because I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to continue what I was doing, and came over and just never went back. Then Aoife came over a fee months later. Myself and Niall where already playing together so we were trying to get Aoife on board – it wasn’t really premeditated, it’s just the way it happened for us.”

Have ye an interesting story about how ye got one of your first major gigs?

“Aoife used to do gardening for the manager of Florence and the Machine, and she had a café/record shop so she gave us a gig there and started managing us for a while then. It was after that we hit a good streak and started getting good gigs and stuff!”

Biggest musical influence?

“Patti Smith. She’s someone we always come back to as an inspiration. Not just for her music, but for her whole ethos, her poetry, her writing and literature and everything.”

whenyoung’s latest single ‘Pretty Pure’ was released by Yala! records, the recording label of Felix White, formerly of The Maccabees, and Morad Khokar, music publicist. “It was amazing, because obviously we’re big fans of The Maccabees,” explains Andrew, “but also just the fact that as an independent record label they’re so incredibly supported of new music and are such an important part of the UK scene at the moment.”

‘Pretty Pure’ was a one-off single with Yala! records, however, as whenyoung have signed with Virgin TMI. “We’ve just released ‘Given Up’ as a single [with Virgin TMI], and that’s going to be part of an EP,” Andrew reveals. This EP was released on the 9th November. “Our first big release with Virgin, and we’ll be going in to record our album in November too. We’ve been ready to record an album for a while, we have a load of songs, so now that we found our producer and have got a label we’re really excited to go in and actually record it!”

Sounds like whenyoung have done a lot in the last year, and that there is lots more to come. Definitely a band to watch.

This interview was originally published in the 2018/2019 University Express Issue 7 on Tuesday 29th January in the Byline Interview section by Byline Editor, Ciara Dinneen.

You just can’t Uppbeat the Irish music scene – an interview

Originally published in the 2018/2019 University Express, Issue 8, on Tuesday 19th February 2019 – Byline Interview by Byline Editor, Ciara Dinneen (that’s me).

Ireland, it seems, is currently moving through an experimental development in regards to its music scene, producing an increasing number of artists that are veering away from the more general singer-songwriter vibe (there is nothing at all wrong with this genre, of course, but it did become the typical for a while), breaking into an interesting blend of hip-hop, rap and techno music that is contributing to the creation of a new, uniquely modern Irish sound. While many deny rap music’s place in an authentically Irish music scene, it is no surprise that rap has become a genre through which Irish artists are increasingly expressing themselves; when we look back to our root traditions of sean-nós and story-telling ballads, one cannot deny the close connection to a rap style of musical expression.

One such artist is Uppbeat, undoubtedly a name to watch in 2019. Originally from Mayo but currently living in Dublin, Finn, the man behind Uppbeat, began writing at age 11, inspired by his parents who are both painters; “because I’m really bad at any other form of creativity, I tried writing. I used to listen to a lot of punk and rock music and eventually that developed into rap. When I started listening to rap, I said to myself ‘shit I should try that’, because I used to write just pop songs. Now I’ve moved even beyond rap – I don’t know what you’d call it.” In his latest works, most notable the hit-single ‘Tsunami’ and the EP Enter Aquarius, Uppbeat displays a unique blend of rap and an intensely atmospheric vibe.

Having heard and loved Uppbeat’s ‘Tsunami’, and been excited by hearing about Uppbeat’s release of his EP Enter Aquarius, which so successfully delivers on its promise to take you on an intimate journey through the thoughts and feelings of a young person in Ireland, I was anxious to talk to Finn about his music and what Uppbeat has in store for the future. Describing the EP as “a little glimpse inside who he is as an artist”, Uppbeat explains the meaning behind the name, Enter Aquarius; “I am an Aquarius, so the EP is basically me giving you a glimpse of who I am and where I am from. It’s an introduction to Uppbeat, what he is and what he sounds like.”

You address aspects of growing up in Ireland in your music. What is it exactly you address, and what is the message you are trying to get across?

“A lot of Irish artists are tackling a very specific side of things, like one certain path, whereas a lot of the music on the EP, [Enter Aquarius], is relatable to anyone in Ireland. Like, ‘Irish Blood’ is talking about a lot of people in situations they feel they can’t survive, like in college with issues like housing, and obviously mental health, all that – basically a very mainstream person’s experience of life in Ireland. It’s not too in depth or in detail, it’s just your average day to day stuff. The EP was more music driven, it wasn’t that conceptual – I had a lot of the songs already done before, then I just pieced them together as an EP. The main idea was to capture the majority of Ireland in one vibe as opposed to one very specific walk of life.”

Where did you record the EP?

“Most of it is recorded in a studio in Swords, in North Dublin, which is run by producers Chilli and Shortcut. I stumbled across them this year – they’re absolutely incredible. ‘Tsunami’ was recorded by a guy called Tunde (mixedbysimba) – he records a lot of the urban, hip-hop stuff in Ireland, he’s based in Tallaght. One or two of the tracks were recorded with a guy called Kreo Ghost, he’s from Waterford. So between those three places, but most of it was recorded in Swords.”

What do you think of the music scene in Ireland currently?

“I absolutely love the Irish scene. I’m a fan of so many of the people in the Irish scene. I think it’s such an extraordinary scene compared to any other scene at the moment – I actually think it will be on the same level as say the UK or America; it’s got its own sound. Very few other places in the world actually have as many artists that are as developed as ours, look at the likes of Jafaris, Kojaque, Chasing Abbey and Rejjie Snow, people that have already made it, they’re all not just semi-okay artists, they’re all very, very good artists; I’d call them all top-tier artists. They’re creativity is extraordinary. In Ireland there are very few average artists; everyone is at a very high level. Their exposure may not be, but their actual music and videos and everything is top-tier, I feel.”

It is so true that the music scene in Ireland is really kicking off and seems to be going somewhere new and great…

“I think it’s in a really healthy place and that it’s going somewhere incredible. There is so much to it; it’s not as basic as it looks from the outside. There are a lot of stories. We even have an Irish drill scene, which is like the rawest strain of street music coming out of the UK. There are so many niche scenes within the Irish scene and that’s what I think it making it a healthy one; it’s not just the one sound, everyone has a completely different sound, and that’s healthy. I feel like that’s how you know a scene is going to grow. Like, there’s only about two or three sounds coming out of the UK, whereas in American there are thousands of different sounds, and the same in Ireland; there are about four or five, six, maybe ten different sounds coming out of Ireland and it’s good to see that.”

Do you think streaming sites, such as Spotify, are making it difficult for artists to make a living?

“I think Spotify is a great thing. It’s actually so easy to get your music out there on Spotify. Yeah, it is rubbish that Spotify only pays like 0.006%, but also if Spotify wasn’t there, there probably wouldn’t be any way to monetise it, so at least it’s something. One of the amazing things about Spotify is that it is so easy to discover new artists and people are actually looking for new artists. In terms of making money, that’s more of a gigs thing; that’s across the board, not just in Ireland. So it’s definitely more of a performance-driven industry than it is sales and streams.”

It’s so great to hear how positive you feel about being an Irish artist in Ireland.

“I actually feel blessed. This is the perfect time. We are so lucky to be making this music at this time in the world, because it’s only just becoming a cool thing. Like, obviously we were here before, and it was cool then, but it’s becoming so much more so; people are actually looking for new artists and loving what is coming out of Ireland and I think the Irish scene really is going to become something that people look to. They already are, like blogs wise, there is a lot of exposure coming in for the Irish scene. We just need to keep delivering and keep actually stepping up to that mark. I think we’re in a really great place and that it’s just a matter of about two years before things are at a really high level.”

Have you ever received any negative feedback, claiming that rap isn’t an authentically Irish thing and asking you why you’re doing it?

“I think that’s absolutely mental, like. We’re writers. Irish history, and going back to Irish mythology, we’ve always been writers, so I think the fact that we make rap music couldn’t make more sense. The amount of poets and the amount of different creative writing artists, and there are other amazing artists in Ireland doing others things too, but we are champions for our writers. Obviously we didn’t grow up with a culture of it in the same way that America has, but we have our own culture. If you go to Limerick, for example, it’s just a bed of culture when it comes to hip-hop; if you go there on a night out you’ll bump into someone, just a lad, chilling there, rapping or spitting bars or whatever. There definitely is a huge culture here. In terms of feedback I get, nothing too bad. Obviously it’s not all positive. Everyone around me is involved in what I do, so there isn’t anyone in my life that would be negative about it. You do get shit, like, but that’s all part of it.”

Apart from Irish traditions, are there any other cultural influences that you experiment with in your music?

“Something I find really interesting and what I’ve been playing around with a bit recently, and you can probably hear it on the EP as a lot of people would say that my accent on the EP is very African sounding, are the tones of voice that are in say afro-beat music or scat style. It’s very similar to sean-nós singing; it’s all in the same space vocally. That’s another thing I find very interesting: if we actually use that whole tonality of sean-nós singing over hip-hop music – I think that’s something that could be played around with as well, if it’s done properly. Blues is another thing: blues is huge in Ireland, and hip-hop comes from blues. It’s all connected! Where I grew up in Mayo it’s all blues bands, rock bands, and it just makes sense that that progresses into hip-hop, we’re just a few years behind the rest of the world.”

Hip-hop is incredible, but some of it does get a very bad press…

“As much as it is great, a lot of hip-hop is still incredibly sexist and homophobic; it just isn’t really saying anything. You get this over-saturation of everyone talking about the same thing and it really pushes certain stigmas and makes them stronger, which isn’t great.”

Who are some of your favourite current artists?

“I really love J. Cole, Flatbush Zombies, I love a lot of the UK scene. I literally grew up on grime, since I was about ten I’ve been listening to grime. That was a really interesting scene to see grow. A guy called Yela Wolf, he’s from Alabama, he’s incredible. On an alternative buzz, I also like the Horslips, they’re an Irish band, they’re absolutely incredible. I like so many people. Like, Irish wise I like nearly everyone on the scene. I actually don’t think there is anyone I don’t like in the Irish scene. Mura Masa is amazing, probably one of my favourite artists. FKJ, too.”

Dream collaboration?

“I don’t know why, I have a weird thing where I really want to collaborate with Lana Del Ray. I just think she’s really cool. Mura Masa would be very high up there; I’d actually love to make a whole project with Mura Masa. I’d prefer to go with people that aren’t just straight hip-hop artists, but on the hip-hop front A$AP Rocky would be really cool person to collaborate with. Yela Wolf would be amazing as well. Phil Lynott would be really cool, from Thin Lizzy, he’d be very interesting”

Who is your least favourite artist at the moment?

“To be honest, I don’t have a least favourite artist, because everything is way more than you think it is. Like, if you listen to say mumble-rap you might think ‘this is shit’ but it’s not, it’s genius – the way they can tap into tones and certain sounds, even though the artist is mumbling, it’s genius. I think it’s really ignorant when people in music are like, ‘oh all you’re doing in rap is this’ or ‘all you’re doing in country music is this’, but there is so much more to every type of music so you can’t ever right it off as shit. Obviously there is music I don’t like, like I don’t like music that promotes toxic shit. That’s something that’s really draining.”

A chat with Bee, from the Tullamore Trio ‘Chasing Abbey’

Originally published in the Byline Interview section of the 2018/2019 University Express, by myself, Ciara Dinneen, Byline Editor, on Tuesday 18th September 2018. 

From traditional trad trio to hip-hop, urban pop group Jonathan, Ronan and Ted grew up in Tullamore playing music together. Although coming from a traditional background, the guys spent the majority of their time listening to hip-hop and rap. In 2016 they began to work on making the kind of music that they loved and listen to. The result is Chasing Abbey, a unique blend of pop and hip-hop with a subtle yet distinctively urban-Irish influence. Jonathan spoke to the Express about the beginnings of Chasing Abbey and what this dynamic plan on achieving in the next few years.

Where does the name ‘Bee’ come from?

“Bee is my childhood nickname, so that’s where it comes from.”

Yourself, Ronan and Ted make up the trio that is Chasing Abbey?

“Yeah! Ronan, Ro, and Ted, Teddy C!”

I read somewhere that the three of you used to play trad together, so you come from a musical background.

“Yeah, we started off as young lads. Our families are Irish traditional sort of families in the music scene so we were brought up in that. I suppose it’s kind of the thing in the midlands, or in most places in Ireland really, that if you want to play music the first thing you play is trad, so you have your tin whistle lessons here and there, and there’s always a session or something going on, so that’s how we started. We actually met each other through that, and all happened to be in the same school, so it went from there.”

At what point did you decide to start pulling away from the traditional scene and start writing and creating your own style of music?

“I’d say it was around 2014. We were in cover bands together, so we were playing music together for a good few years before we started working on Chasing Abbey. We pulled away from all the cover bands around 2016. It was probably the start of 2016 when we said “ok we’re playing folk and trad, but when we go home we’re listening to rap and dance”. We felt we needed change, to start making music that we would listen to, so we cut involvement with other bands and the ‘ceoltas’, we got in a room for a year, bought a whole load of instruments and equipment and just started making music that we’d actually listen to ourselves. We didn’t actually know that we were working towards Chasing Abbey at the time. We hadn’t decided before we did all of this that we were going to form a group called “Chasing Abbey” and do all this sort of music. We just got into a room for a year and made tunes, and then Chasing Abbey just happened.”

Did you find that year of creating stuff difficult because the style is so different to what you had been playing before?

“Well, it was full of life; that year was full of energy. We had been stuck in this bubble of banjos and guitars and stuff, and the possibilities are endless. We had a lot of equipment available to us, like synths, so we could make any sound. It was a very interesting year. We never found ourselves bored. I suppose it was hard because we had to get used to all of the software and stuff, because usually we’re playing a physical instrument, but it was definitely a very exciting year. We still use a lot of the stuff that we wrote in that year today!”

The technical side of things must have been difficult to get used to, especially when you’re just so used to playing live…

“I did a year in music tech in LIT, so that helped us out a bit.”

Do all three of you work together with every aspect of your work, or would each of you have your own specific aspect that you’re best at and are responsible for? So, the tech-guy, the melody-maker, the lyric writer?

“An idea can come from any one of us; any one of us can come up with a lyric or a melody or something. It’s definitely very much a group effort, but when it comes to finalising stuff, I supposed I’d be on the programming and tech side, beats and stuff, while Ro would be on melody, and Ted would be on lyrics. A lot of the lyrics and stuff are co-written, there’s no set way, but when it comes to signing off on things, y’know…”

I read a bit about how you came up with the name Chasing Abbey, and it’s really interesting. Tell us about that.

“When we were in that room together for the year a lot of the tunes we were making were very pop, and so we started referring to that audience as “Abbey”. Abbey is genderless, ageless, and all that. It’s a nickname; we nicknamed the audience we were making tunes for “Abbey”. For months, whenever we made a tune, we would ask ourselves “Would Abbey like this?”. That’s how we gave a track the go-ahead or how we would decide if we should scrap it and start something else. That went on for ages, and when it came to picking a name, we had come up with loads of names but nothing was sticking, and everything was very new to us, all the names were very new. When one of us said “what about Chasing Abbey?” that felt very real because we had been referring to Abbey for so long, so then Abbey became like a symbol for ‘the dream’; Chasing Abbey, chasing the dream.”

Who would be your favourite popular artist at the moment?

“Kendrick. I speak for us all there.”

Who would be your least favourite popular artist at the moment?

“Ooh. Right, umm… I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I actually just don’t listen to anything I don’t like! If the other two were here (Ro and Teddy C) I’d probably be more quick fire but, no, I can’t answer that!”

What has been your favourite gig so far? The one that is most memorable.

“Our favourite gig of 2017 was 100% Indiependence. It was crazy. It was our first packed tent at a festival. We’ve played at festivals before, but only to half-filled tents y’know? I can’t remember what act it was, but whatever act was on just before us in another tent was literally just finishing before our scheduled time, and just a few minutes before our gig we were sat at side-stage being sound checked and all, and there was not one person in our tent, and were thinking “aw this is going to be terrible”. We had geared ourselves up and said “ok look, this isn’t going to be great, let’s just take it as a practice”… The next minute we turned around, the other gig had obviously just finished, and there were hundreds of people rushing into the tent! The tent was full. It filled up in that 5 minutes. It was the craziest feeling ever. Longitude as well this year was definitely another highlight so far. We have our Irish tour coming up this year so I’d say that’s going to top it.”

A lot of artists would agree that generally it’s the audience that makes or breaks a gig.

“Oh yeah, exactly, and the audience down south are just crazy!”

You’re all from Tullamore. Are you still based there?

“Yeah, we have our studio here in Tullamore. We’ll be here. We won’t move. We’ll go to and come back.”

Heart is there? In Tullamore?

“For sure.”

Where would you, Chasing Abbey, like to be in five years’ time?

“We’ll make an album next year, then tour that album, and then (in five years’ time) we’ll probably be on a tour of the second album, a worldwide tour. In five years, that’s exactly where we’d like to be. Making tunes and playing gigs, that’s all we want to do.”

If you were lucky enough to have pocketed tickets for Chasing Abbey’s sold out gig in Cyprus Avenue on Thursday 20th September, it’s the first gig of their Irish tour so get ready to party because it’s going to be a great one.