Saturday, 15 December 2012

Marina & The Diamonds

The music world is littered with female singers who've been groomed for pop stardom their whole lives. Their sound, looks and style are constantly dictated by record company suits. Marina & the Diamonds subverts these traditions at every turn.

It's a fine line she walks and of course there are compromises, but no one strides the line between artist and mainstream pop star quite like Marina. With hit songs like 'Primadonna' there's no denying her commercial draw, but she couldn't be further from the Britneys and Christinas of the world.

In Their Thousands

Having graced the cover of Hotpress and won a coveted spot performing at next year's Artur's Day celebrations, Donegal natives In Their Thousands have come a long way in 18 short months.

But it's little wonder. Made up of brothers Declan and Aidan McClafferty, cousin Ruairi Friel and longtime friend Liam Kelly the boys have been playing together in various projects for years. They're well known in their home county for playing in different cover bands, but they knew they would never reach their full potential playing other people's songs.

Spoiler Alert: They've moved on.

The Stunning

With killer songs like 'Romeo's On Fire', 'Everything That Rises' and 'Brewing Up A Storm', The Stunning were one of the most celebrated and popular rock bands to emerge from Ireland in the late 80's.

Although they never made the breakthrough internationally, they remain a fan favourite at home and still draw huge crowds whenever they perform. 25 years after their much lauded debut album Paradise In The Picturehouse stormed to the top of the Irish charts the band have returned. But founding member Steve Wall admits he's a little perplexed by the bands enduring popularity.

Hermitage Green

Hermitage Green became a Youtube sensation when their folk/trad cover of Florence and The Machine's Cosmic Love clocked up over 250,000 views. But the last thing these Limerick lads want is to be labelled a cover band.

“What happened was we started off as a jam session. We would play covers of songs that we liked and make an effort to make them original or make them our own. We had videos up of songs like Cosmic Love and they kind of snowballed.” Darragh Griffin tells us as we meet the band in a busy cafe.

All the lads.

Duke Special

By daring to pursue his artistic ambitions, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special eschewed the mainstream success he enjoyed on his first few records. But world domination has never been the most pressing ambition for the dreadlocked romanticist.

His more recent records, such as 2011's Under the Dark Cloth, were essentially abstract concept albums. In this case the record was inspired by the work of pioneering American photographers like Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz. And while the the quality of the music and lyrics never suffered, they were never likely to sit comfortably in the charts alongside Katy Perry or One Direction.

Friday, 16 November 2012


With a number one single under his belt and his debut solo album reaching number six in the charts, controversial rapper Dappy's solo career has gotten off to a flying start.

But despite reports to the contrary the Camden born singer says his own success will not spell the end for N-Dubz, the group with which he and X-Factor judge Tulisa made their names.

“No I'd never say no to it. I just think that Tulisa and me are doing very individually well at the moment and I think if we keep on making our individual projects bigger and bigger, when it's time for the actual reunion, the reunion will be bigger itself”.

Now with 100% less Dappy hat. 

Julie Feeney

With her debut album 13 Songs, Julie Feeney was a surprising but deserving winner of the inaugural Choice Music Prize. Her follow-up, the hauntingly beautiful pages was greeted with similar critical acclaim and cemented the singers stake as an Irish indie icon.

Ahead of the release of her third album Clocks, it seems fair to assume that Feeney might be feeling a bit of pressure, but surprisingly that doesn't seem to be the case.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rufus Wainwright

Life has never been particularly easy for Rufus Wainwright. Having overcome drug addiction and a notoriously difficult relationship with his famous father, Loudon Wainwright, the songwriter suffered another devastating setback with the loss of his beloved mother to cancer in 2010.

Fastforward two years and the purveyor of melodramatic orchestral pop suddenly seems more settled than ever. His first child, Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen was born to Lorca Cohen, the daughter of legendary songwriter Leonard. Named for Wainwright's mother Katherine McGarrigle, Rufus could only describe his newborn as “very, very beautiful”.

Just last August Wainwright also wed his long time partner, Jörn Weisbrodt, who he says will act as 'deputy dad' to baby Viva, at a ceremony in Montauk, New York. For this he thanks the recently re-elected President Obama, who oversaw the legalisation of gay marriage in New York during his first term.

Death In Vegas

Before last September's Trans-Love Energies, Death In Vegas hadn't released a record for seven
years. When Richard Fearless finally decided to bring his cult electro group back, he did so with an
entirely different approach.

The news that long time collaborator Tim Holmes, who also happened to be the only other
permanent member of the band, would not be returning shocked many Death In Vegas fans but
Richard has been quick to play down Holmes' role in the group. Having spent the majority of the
band's hiatus living in New York, the duo had drifted apart and by the time Fearless was ready to
take it up again he felt the need for a change.

Mystery Jets

The Mystery Jets have always been something of a question mark. When they first arrived in 2006,
their bohemian style and prog throwbacks coupled with the father son duo of Blaine and Henry
Harrison left audiences bemused. But the band were unconcerned about appearances, instead letting
their music do the talking.

It's a strategy that paid off. Since the irresistible twee of their debut they've undergone a number
of transformations on each record, surprising and delighting fans and critics alike and with every
step forward sounding more confident and assured. They continue this trend with their latest studio
effort Radlands, which they recorded in a three month period in Austin Texas.

Jake Bugg

What a year it has been for Jake Bugg. The 19 year old’s Nottingham born singer-songwriter
has scored a UK Number 1 with his debut album, supported the Stone Roses and has just
embarked on a tour with Noel Gallagher.

It comes as no surprise then that the teenager, who has drawn comparison’s to such disparate
artists as Donovan and Alex Turner, has also become the new poster boy for British guitar

Chin up Jake, it can't be that bad. 
Bugg’s melding of 60’s folk and late 00’s indie riffage on his self-titled debut hits the perfect
balance needed to send the music press’ hyperbole machine into overdrive. But the terms
being thrown around, like ‘the future of music’ and ‘next Dylan’, are shrugged off by the
shrewd youngster.

“Sometimes you gotta pinch yourself, you know. But it’s what I’ve always wanted to do so
I’m just really enjoying it. People are always going to try to compare you and pigeon-hole
you to be honest. All I want from this album is just to literally inspire young people to start
writing proper tunes again”.

Bugg doesn’t say much in interview, but he reveals himself with the few words he uses.

When he says he wants to inspire young people to write proper tunes again, you believe him.
Upon reaching Number One with his debut, he commented that it was his job “to keep that X-
Factor shit of the top of the charts”.

There’s an authenticity to Bugg’s music of which he’s very proud of, and which hasn’t been
skewered by his popularity in the press. It becomes apparent again in his influences, the
music of Donovan and Bob Dylan is hardly typical of what an 18 year old would listen to.

“Not really, but that stuff just sounds great to my ears. You can never really understand why
you like something, but that’s just the music I enjoy listening to”.

Bugg started writing songs at just 14 years old. Songs he wrote at 15 and 16 are now
appearing on his debut album. There’s a fluidity and honesty to the lyrics to suggest that at
least one of the tags attributed to Bugg, that of ‘precocious talent’, was correct.

Largely the songs deal with Bugg’s upbringing in Clifton, which was once the largest
housing estate in Europe. He spins tales of soft drug use, running from police and dangerous
run-in’s with knife wielding gangsters.

On his song writing, Bugg claims he seeks to bring truth to the stories, but also to use his
imagination, creating what you might call an honest tale.

“I think it has developed definitely. Of the process I’m not really sure, I enjoy sitting down
with a guitar and just seeing what seems possible to me. I think it’s good to be honest but I
also enjoy the idea of making stories as well. I like to mix the two”.

Bugg’s road to fame started when he was chosen by the BBC to appear on the Introducing
Stage at Glastonbury 2011. Shortly afterwards he signed to Mercury Records. He eventually

caught the eye of Noel Gallagher who proclaimed him “the future of music, he’s like Dylan
meets The Arctic Monkeys”. It wasn’t long before he was lined up to support the Stone Roses
at their now infamous secret comeback show in London.

“It was incredible mate. I never thought I’d ever get to see the Stone Roses live, let alone
support them” is Bugg’s rather straightforward offering on the subject.

But there have been many highs for the young Jake Bugg so far. Already he counts Noel
Gallagher, Lily Allen, Elton John, Chris Martin, Damon Albarn and even Donovan among
his fans. There are the honest songs and inspired melodies of his debut album and the
tantalising product of how good he might one day be.

But what does the man himself consider the high point so far?

“There’s been a few a few to be honest, going on tour and supporting the Stone Roses, Jools
Holland, T In The Park and all that. But my favourite bit is actually sitting down and writing

It might just be a line, but if he means it Jake Bugg should have a very bright future ahead.

De La Soul

Concept albums can be a tricky proposition. Some are made by musicians exploring the full
depths of their creative expression. These records can push boundaries and even forge new
genres. Some however, can be so loosely thought out and lazily pieced together that they can
destroy the artist’s credibility entirely.

Enter De La Soul... or should I say First Serve? The ground-breaking hip-hop group
have teamed up with French production duo Chokolate and Khalid for a record which
follows a fictional band (First Serve) making it in the music industry and all of the trials
and tribulations that go with it. In typical De La Soul fashion it’s a remarkably fun affair,
grooving past the many pitfalls which can make concept albums such a laborious concern.

Just look how much fun they're having. 
“The idea of doing this album really didn’t come to us” Dave Joliceur tells the Beat “We
were approached by the two producers, Chokolate and Khalid, from Paris maybe two and a
half years ago. They approached us and we heard music and thought it was kind of cool. It
would be something different in the interim of putting together the next De La project. We
thought why not let’s try it out? And that’s how it went down”.

The album sees Dave and fellow De La member Kelvin Melcer assume the roles of Deen
Witter and Jacob ‘Poplife’ Barrow respectively. Witter comes from a single-parent home,
while Poplife from a privileged background. The pair meet at school and connect over a
shared love of hip-hop.

Over the course of the record it becomes evident that these characters are extremely well
developed. The duo have even turned up to interviews in character. But when they were first
approached Dave admits they were staring down a blank canvas.

“We went into this album not knowing what we were going to do. We knew we were going
to tell a story of some sort. So it began and developed itself with the music. The music led us
to where the story went, the mood of the music, the vibe of the songs and then wrapping it
up around the concept of two guys starting to be this group. Then obviously there are tough
times, success, betrayal and so on and so forth. It definitely was conceptually a project that
we grew into and figured out along the way”.

The album itself contains some of the freshest sounding material to come from the De La
Soul posse in years. Songs like Must B the Music feature danceable groves and some of
their most natural flows since their 1989 classic 3 Feet High And Rising. Dave attributes this
reawakening to the fresh minds of their collaborators, Chokolate and Khalid.

“That’s what’s always cool about having an outside party or a newcomer or somebody that
you’ve never worked with before come into the picture. It definitely gives us the opportunity
to challenge ourselves in someone else’s world, in someone else’s space and then vice-
versa pull them into ours. It’s how we felt with the Gorillaz project. When we’re pulled into
something new and something different and not as safe as is in the De La environment it’s
always fun. It’s testing yourself and we’re all for that”.

With De La Soul celebrating their 25 year anniversary this year it is tempting to consider
that First Serve is an effort by the elder statesmen of hip-hop to reinvigorate their sound. But
Dave is of a different view, that experimentation can only make them a better band when the
next De La Soul record lands.

“This project is as we always do. Place a challenge in front of us and try in some way shape
or form to complete it, get it done and look back and say ‘OK love what we did. What can we
learn from it? Where can we build from it?’ And so on”.

“For us the 25 years really didn’t... we take our years as they come. When you celebrate
things like anniversaries or what have you, we kind of take those with a grain of salt. It’s
the people around us who are proud of what we do. For us 25 years is an accomplishment,
but at the same time there’s more work to be done and we’re just ready to keep it going. We
love doing this music, this hip hop thing and although it might take us 4 or 5 years to put out
a new release or put new music out, it’s enjoying the moment in between those releases, so
we’re having a good time doing it”.

De La Soul’s place in the hip hop echelons is an unusual one. Always set apart from
perceived legends of rap such as N.W.A., who staked their claim on the basis of being
gangsta, De La Soul have built their reputation on forward thinking experimentalism. As
such Dave was a little nonplussed when they were accused of mocking modern hip-hop stars
with the First Serve album.

“The landscape is cool and it’s growing. We came from a different era so were not going to
be able to adhere to the fashion or whatever. But when De La Soul do a project we’re making
a statement, we’re challenging hip hop. It had nothing to do with Kanye or Rick Ross or Puff
Daddy. We’re making an album about two people who don’t exist. When De La Soul do an
album they expect us to convey something, to make a statement”.

The Killers

As Elbow entertain the masses at Stradbally, The Killers’ bassist Mark Stoermer sits back
stage waiting for his band’s headline set at the Electric Picnic. The group have played a
handful of dates since returning from their 2010 hiatus. If he’s nervous it doesn’t show.

As strains of ‘Build A Rocket Boys’ resound around the arena, Stoermer sits coolly, as
though this is advice that he’s already taken. When the Killers bid a temporary farewell after
2008’s Day & Age, they left as one of the world’s biggest bands. Four years after that album,
in a vastly different musical landscape, the pressure is on ahead of the release of their latest
effort, Battle Born.

Look out Secretariat!
“I think every album has its own pressures. You always have to prove something. If our first
album wasn’t good then we wouldn’t even have a career. You could also say the same thing
for the second. Although not everyone got it at first, I think once we toured Sam’s Town live,
it made sense and it allowed us to continue to do what we do. It made us a better live band
too. I think Day And Age continued along those paths too. So I think, break or not, it feels the
same. There is a pressure, but it doesn’t feel any different”.

At a time when guitar bands are finding it increasingly difficult to get noticed, one wonders if
the band’s draw remains strong enough to restore them to their former heavyweight position.
But this is an older, more mature Killers, where egotism may not count for so much.

“For me personally I just hope that we continue to make records that we can honestly
say ‘this is the best record that we can make’, and we’re not at that point where we’re just
phoning it in or smacking a Killers label on it just to get out there and play a best-of set.
Hopefully when the records out, this new material is fresh and people are interested. As long
as that’s happening that’s what’s important to me, not necessarily being the biggest band in
the world”.

The band has commented that Battle Born has been one of the toughest albums of their
career to create. Scheduling conflicts meant that five different producers were used during
the recording process. It’s an impressive list, alongside regular collaborator Stuart Price it
features U2’s Steve Lilywhite and Bob Dylan/Neil Young man Daniel Lanois. Remarkably,
considering the amount of different input the band no doubt received, there’s an incredible
flow to Battle Born.

“I think it was up to us at the end of the day to tie it all up. We were kind of the executive
producers; there was no one lead producer with a vision for this record. We were all a little
nervous by the end, thinking ‘Is this going to make sense?’ I think by the time the album was
mixed and we signed off on the final track listing it did make sense and it seems to have a
flow. That’s because each producer may have brought something to the table, but at the end
of the day, we’re going to be us, we still write the songs”.

As a record Battle Born stands up among their best efforts and is perhaps their most
consistent since Hot Fuss. Drawing on elements from each of the first three records the album
is the sound of a band maturing in their own skin. With noticeable nods to Springsteen, Tom
Petty and The Who, it’s a record that’s stadium ready, and one expects those stadiums to be

full when the album is toured.

While Stoermer is clearly pleased with his band’s results on the new album, he’s wary of
following a similar recording path on future records.

“I would hope that on the next record, we do trim it down and there is more of a clear vision.
I think this record was a tough process. Though in the end I think it’s a great record and we
figured it out as we went along. Before on the previous two records, we’d gone with thirty
songs or so, recorded twenty of them and then taken 12 songs or so and that would be the
record. This time we’d have three or four songs, go record with a producer, go back and write
ten songs, go record another two or three with someone else, bring in someone else”.

“So there was never a starting point where we thought ‘we’re making a record now’ or
we had a vision. This album developed as it went along, which in a lot of ways makes it
something special but at the same time it was a very tiring process, more than any other
record that we’ve done”.

Stoermer, along with Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vanucci each enjoyed success
with solo albums during the band’s hiatus. There were fears that this would result in a longer
absence from the band, but Stoermer reveals that for them, nothing quite compares to The

“I think the way we work together is kind of like a puzzle that happens to fit well. Although
we might mix it up now and then, what every person brings to the band is something that
makes the whole what it is. The whole, for whatever reason, is that thing when lightning
strikes. There are millions of bands in the world and we happen to be one of the ones who
got to do it for a career and be headlining festivals like this. I think that’s a product of the
unknown thing that happens when the four of us get together”.


With their lush melodic arrangements and the sparring boy/girl vocals of Fin Divilly and
Freya Monks, Cocophone are a group that have cheekily flirted with Irish audiences for
years. Ahead of the release of their much anticipated debut album they look set to make the
step up. But, as the Beat discovers, it has been a long road.

Cocophone first started around seven years ago, following a house party in Freya’s at which
Fin absconded with her copy of Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins. After returning
the CD to her, Divilly invited the violinist to jam with him and his friends. In the time since
their writing partnership has flourished and Cocophone have been touted as ones to watch on
the Irish music scene.

But frequent line up changes meant it would be a long time before the fruits of their work
would be available to a wider audience.

“It was like we were approaching a bus stop. Before for years we had always talked about
recording an album and we had never gotten around to doing it. It was a continual thing every
year of gigging and doing home recordings. We were always trucking along and when we
decided to do this album and had set the date and had people playing with us, it was suddenly
like we could see a point we were going to reach that we didn’t know what was going to
happen after” Fin says.

It wasn’t until they had gotten into the studio that Cocophone’s line-up was solidified, with
the introduction of multi-instrumentalist Shane on drums and percussion and sound engineer
Scott on keys and guitar. These additions injected new life to the bands sound.

“When we got involved with other people, I loved embracing the freshness they brought to it.
There was a resurge of energy as well with some of the songs that were years old. Suddenly
you’ve become more interested in songs that you’ve taken for granted again”.

On their debut album Reservoir, Cocophone’s music often deals with thoughts of introversion
and isolation. Their lyrics are thoughtful, at times striking and often literary. Musically
there’s a notable ear for melody and some stunning vocal work from the talented Monks.

But Divilly feels they has evolved past the duo’s writing dynamic, that formed the basis of so
much of their early work, into a fully fledged band.

“We brought a lot of emotional baggage to the album, myself and Freya. We hadn’t decided
after the album, what was going to happen. A band mightn’t have happened as it was there.
So everyday you want to embrace everybody’s opinion and take it all on.

“What I love when I listen back to the album is all that new influence. But it was hard to
accept, because you bring so much baggage to it that it’s like your baby. It can be hard to let
go. But we did that, and the result is that a band has come out of it. We’ve grown closer and
now the material is coming from all five of us and that’s the way I want it to be”.


Kimbra is probably still best known as the finely painted dark brunette beauty from Gotye's uber-hit Somebody That I Used To Know. But the New Zealand born singer was already a success in her own right on that side of a world long before the duo took over the internet.

“My record was pretty much finished, the Australian version of it anyway, when I met Gotye. I had a couple of songs on Youtube and they were getting some good hits. I had about 2 million views before I worked with him, so there was definitely a nice momentum going. But of course having that song come out, people seemed really interested in what I doing from that song.

“It gave me an incredible platform to then release my music in parts of the world and have an instant audience. I feel so glad for that. Also to have been involved in a collaboration that has been so well respected... it's given me a platform to now share my own record”.

The Number 1 single has currently ammassed over 287 million views on Youtube, giving Kimbra the kind of exposure that no amount of money could buy. But at the time, the singer was surprised the track was even under consideration as a single.

“I think it's been a phenomenon that no one could have predicted. When I heard the song I just sort of knew that it was very strong and that it would resonate with people. But it didn't cross my mind that it would go to the charts, just because Gotye is actually quite a left of centre artist anyway. He was this experimental, electronic indie act in Australia so even when he told me that song was going to be a single I was surprised because it seemed something that would be more of a reflective, arty moment on the record. But then everyone started to just kind of penetrate and it started to grab everyone and we were like 'Wow this is getting pretty big'”.

With her debut album Vows now repackaged with the addition of six new tracks for its western release, Kimbra looks set to make the evolution from internet sensation to pop star. But she does so on her own terms, fusing her eccentric jazz style with R'n'B beats and sunny pop hooks.

The version of Vows released here is quite different to the original released in Australia and New Zealand and the 22 year old starlet seems to have been drawn into a creative frenzy in her post-Gotye fame.

“They're songs that I recorded in America at the end of last year. I wanted to do a bonus track or one extra track for the album when it came to release it in the UK and America. But I ended up writing all these new songs. I worked with a few really great producers like Mike Elizondo who worked with Dr. Dre and Fiona Apple and Greg Kurstin who is one half of The Bird and the Bee and he's done production for the Flaming Lips and The Shins. I just really hit it off with a few people and ended up writing all this new material which I figured I would add to the record and have it as a representation of where I'm at musically now”.

Kimbra is not your typical pop singer, nor is she trying to be. Her music is as likely to reference Bjork or Kate Bush as it is to draw comparisons to Lily Allen. The record is ultimately a pop album, but one which is superbly crafted, drawing on many eclectic influences.

“I guess that just comes from so many palliative influences and trying to listen to as many different singers as I can. That helps me stretch my influences as far as possible. I enjoy the idea of involving theatrics and music and putting in twists and turns. Jazz as a genre is interesting in that sense because it's all about bringing some kind of unpredicted twists and turns. Even musical theatre is a genre that's always playing on surprise. I really enjoy artists that bring that into the pop world. It makes me think of Prince and Michael Jackson of course, as artists who have done that.

“I think my music is maybe some kind of progressive pop, or certainly has specific elements of being experimental. I would get too bored if I were to stick to too many 'perfect' formulas. I think the excitement of making music is to push the envelope a bit and see where you can take a piece of music, while still keeping it catchy and melodic for people to sing along to. I think taking some risks is what I find most fun”.  

Alabama 3

Throughout their career, Alabama 3 have relied heavily on a single manifesto, to bring their gospel of blues, acid-house and country to the masses. In nearly 20 years the band haven't amassed a huge number of hits, but that doesn't mean their gospel hasn't been heard.

When harmonica player Nick Reynolds picks up to talk he's in good spirits, if a little weary from spreading the message.

“I'm recovering mate, we had a large one last night” he says, in exactly the manner you would expect from a South Londoner who also goes by the name Harpo Strangelove. “There was an event that was a forerunner to the Olympics sort of thing down on the docklands, it's crazy down there. Very different to England”.

The band are here to attend the premier of 'Songs For Amy', an independent Irish film which features Alabama 3 on it's soundtrack and an appearance by the band themselves.

Set in County Galway the film tells the tale of a struggling Irish musician who writes an album in an attempt to woo back his estranged girlfriend. Reynolds describes the film as a 'darkly comedic' romance and was delighted the band had the opportunity to be involved.

“We were at the Galway Film Fleadh last year. We happened to be in a bar and we ran into Fiona Graham, who wrote the film, and she mentioned she was looking for a band to get involved. Of course she didn't realise at the time that we were in a band, and I just said 'Why not us?'. So she checked us out and liked the vibes and it went from there”.

Reynolds is keen not to give too much away, but is full of praise for the films stars.

“It was a scream, there were great vibes on the set. It's a fantastic darkly comedic love story. There's another, fictional band in the film who are actors but they do a great job. They're very convincing as a band. There's some great interaction between us in the film, you can tell we had a lot of fun”.

In recent years Alabama 3 have taken to performing stripped down acoustic shows as a four piece rather than their chaotic full band shows which would often involve ten or more of them sharing a stage. Although it wasn't their intention when it started, Reynolds reflects that this has opened up new avenues for the group.

“The acoustic thing started as a bit of fun in Brixton. There's a lot involved in getting the full band together. We started gigging acoustically in bars and found that it went down really well. We could afford to play smaller venues and which led us to doing acoustic tours in Australia and New Zealand, which led us to being invited back for full band shows.

The thing is when you've got ten people in the band along with technicians and whoever else it's very expensive to tour. You need to play big auditoriums and have them filled to make it viable. It's opened up different possibilities for us. It's the same band, just a different format”.

While on paper Alabama 3's genre splicing might seem intimidating to the casual music fan, their music is more accessible than one might think. Reynolds believes the stripped-down performances has brought the music to those who might have previously kept their distance.

“It's more blues and country without a lot of the other things we usually have going on. A lot of people get put off instantly when they hear 'Country-Acid House-Blues'. It's a gentle initiation that people can get into and discover us. It's a good introduction”.

After the premier of Songs For Amy the band will be taking their stripped down shows on a short tour of Ireland with appearances in Limerick, Cork and Galway. And after a busy summer of touring and festivals they'll be back with a new album in September.

Which about wraps it up. Except it just wouldn't be an Alabama 3 interview without a mention of The Sopranos, would it? One has to wonder if the band have any regrets about their song 'Woke Up This Morning' soundtracking the series. But there are no regrets from this charming man.

“It's a wonderful thing. We're very proud to be associated with such a prestigious show. We're not embarrassed by it at all. I mean, at this stage it's led to the song being played on the Simpsons twice, and you really can't grumble at that”.  

The Temper Trap

Sometimes a song can take on a life of it's own. There are countless artists who, despite their best efforts will forever be remembered for a single three or four minute track.

Soft Cell, Dexy's Midinght Runners and A-ha have each released numerous albums over careers spanning several years and yet they are all remembered for just one song. It's doubtless that when it came to recording their sophomore album, The Temper Trap were painfully aware of that fact.

The runaway success of their single 'Sweet Disposition' made the band a household name seemingly overnight. It appeared on every radio playlist, in commercials and was played at every sporting event you can think of. For a period between 2009 and 2010 the track had a bizzare omnipresence, such that it felt like only a matter of time before you would hear it again.

Blame these two.
So when the time came to record their second album the band were determined not to fall by the wayside. They refused to bow to expectations and set about simply making the best record they could.

“At first we just kept all that stuff away, it was just us again in a little rehearsal room. We were trying to be in the place where we were when we were writing the first album and there was no expectations and no pressure. For the most part I think we were able to achieve that.

Obviously when you start playing the songs to your label and to producers you become more aware of the expectations and the pressure mounts a little bit then. By the end of it certainly there was a bit of that but overall I think we were able to do it very naturally”, drummer Toby Dundas says.

Though the band were wary of record label expectations, in particular the need to match the success of Sweet Disposition, they saw no point in trying to recreate the song. The new albums first single 'Need Your Love' is a hook-laden, synth-heavy bombast in comparison to the slow burning heart-tug of it's counterpart, as bassist Jonny Aherne is keen to point out.

“It's one of those things. For Need Your Love, everyone was invested in the hope of what that song could possibly do. Some of us thought it had quite a pop sensibility and then others thought it might be flying a little too close to the sun. Anytime we talked about Sweet Disposition, or trying to recreate it, we all knew that we didn't create that song on purpose. It just sort of happened. To try to mimic another song would have been really weird and wouldn't have come out right. As Toby said earlier we were all trying to just write and not worry about anything else”.

For the most part the band have stuck with the key ingredients that made their debut album Conditions a success and added elements to expand on what has gone before.

“When I think about this band, at the centre of it has always been a desire to experiment with new toys and always develop our sound. I don't think we've ever felt that we've come to a point of arrival of what we want to sound like. We've introduced some new instruments and solidified our touring member Joeseph to become a proper member of the band” Jonny says.

A key element in the band's development has been the recruitment of Tony Hoffer as producer. Best known for his work with electro and synth focused bands (M83, Phoenix) Hoffer proved the perfect catlyst for the bands 80's influenced pop.

“He saw what we were doing and obviously with all our synthesiser influences that's a world he's pretty familiar with and he's got a great collection of vintage gear. We headed over to L.A. to his studio. It was a really great, relaxed recording environment compared to other times we've recorded. It felt like a very creative space and everyone was bringing up ideas. If we had sounds in our heads that we wanted – for example I'd say 'I want it to sound blue' – Tony would dash off into his synth cupboard and suddenly there you go, it sounds blue!” an entusiastic Toby tells me.

Hoffer's influence on the album is telling. Where many bands might have crumbled under the pressure – and many have, as mentioned earlier – The Temper Trap sound more relaxed and confident on their second album than they really have any right to be.

The self titled sophomore release stays true to the bands original sound. But there is enough of a development (as well as some damn catchy singles), to ensure they won't be remembered for the wrong reasons.  


For most teenagers, or musicians, rubbing shoulders and performing with their idols while the blogosphere erupts in their praises would be enough to lead them to believe they've made it. Not so for Jack Colleran, the fresh faced youngster behind electronic sensation Mmoths.

“I don't understand why anyone would want read an interview with me” he states. “Just because they like my music or whatever, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm an interesting person”. For the sake of my job I politely disagree, but it's not hard to see where he's coming from.

At 18 years old he's been holed up in the same room all day doing interview after interview when all he really wants to be doing is making music. Surely the music could do the talking? But then again, this is a guy who's been vouched for by Flying Lotus and done remixes for Bon Iver and Interpol at the same time as sitting his Leaving Cert, so interest is pretty high.

“It's cool to know that there are a lot of people interested but it also puts pressure on me. I always want to think that I haven't done my best yet and the last EP is just one step and from there it's going to go up and up. Not necessarily in terms of popularity, but for myself, I always want to think that I can do better. I think once you've thought that you've done your best, then you won't do any better than that”.

It's an incredibly mature attitude for someone his age, but then again the subtleties that belie his musical landscapes have always suggested that Colleran has wisdom beyond his years.

The music itself has been lauded in all corners. His slow burning rhythms and arching soundscapes intertwine with the lilting vocals provided by various collaborators. Perhaps Mmoths greatest strength is their awareness of the space that they have in each song, and how they use it.

“I don't know how other people write tracks but I never sit down and plan something out. It's more just experimenting and allowing things to happen as they happen. I think you just need to listen to it and let it take it's own shape. I just wanted to music that wasn't in your face, like everything else that people are listening to these days”.

Interest in Mmoths grew after the artist was contacted by American producer and musician Flying Lotus, who was full of praises for his work. But it's a subject the youngster is somewhat bashful about.

“It's weird. When you're so behind that person and you've respected their music for whatever period of time, and then they hit you up on Twitter saying how much they like you're music it is cool. But I don't see that as any different than another person who buys the EP off itunes. I was never into the whole concept of musicians as artists. I never really followed the artist, I just follow the music”.

It's perhaps his instinct of following the music that led Colleran to remixing tracks on behalf of some of his favourite artists, including indie giants Interpol. And, as you may have come to expect by now, Colleran is somewhat self-deprecating about the whole affair.

“It was the first time I had ever taken a band who work with conventional instruments and put my own spin on it, it was interesting. I'm not too fond with that remix, but it was cool at the time to know that they were into it. It was an interesting time, trying to balance doing fucking homework with this remix I had to do for fucking Interpol”.

Wallis Bird

Last year Meath songstress Wallis Bird found herself snowed in and alone in an isolated
cottage in Connemara, with little more than a guitar and a microphone to keep herself
entertained. This is just one part of an amazing journey in the recording of her latest, self-
titled record.

The hugely experimental and rather excellent ‘Wallis Bird’ is the third album from the
singer-songwriter and it delivers on the early promise of her first two efforts, ‘Spoons’
and ‘New Boots’. The album was recorded against the backdrop of a former communist
broadcasting station in Berlin, the London riots and of course, the lonely Connemara Cottage
and Wallis allowed these settings to inform the sound of the record.

“That was the reasoning behind most of the song writing, it was allowing whatever came
in to affect the recording. Things like the weather, the season at the time, my surroundings,
the rooms where I was recording, the equipment I was using. I allowed every single facet of
whatever was happening; flatmates running in and out, riots, whatever, just to come in and be
part of the record”.

Wallis describes the album as sounding ‘free’ and it’s little wonder. For large parts of the
album she allows the sounds of nature to form the beats and rhythms to her songs, which can
be heard on tracks like ‘Heartbeating City’.

“I literally left the microphone on and pressed record for quite a lot of this record. I
thought ‘I’m not going to construct anything; I’m just going to let it all happen’. That led to
this huge soundbed that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like if I left a microphone on there would
come all these natural rhythms of people walking in, stamping their feet, or a bird singing in
time or pots and pans rattling and sirens going off”.

While making the album Wallis was conscious that where she was recording was having a
large impact on the sound of the album. This led to her to taking off to Connemara by herself
for ten days.

“I thought that would be really interesting for the record. To go in to somewhere where I’m
completely fucking alone, nobody can help me record. I couldn’t turn to somebody and say
how do you do this I just had to learn. I had to spend ten days alone in the middle of nowhere.
I couldn’t be reached, the roads were closed because of the storm last year. So I got there and
I was blockaded in. I had no telephone or internet” she says.

“I thought it was going to be fantastic, I thought I was going to go in there and be able to
record naked, do whatever I want. But what happened when I went in was that I got freaked
out, because I can’t remember the last time I had been alone for that long. I had no radio or
anything, nothing to entertain me only myself. When I got out there I was just so tired of
listening to my own voice”.

At this point Wallis took a step back and found herself listening rather than playing and this
is when she allowed the natural sounds to come in and take their place in her album.

It’s clear that Wallis has a keen sense of adventure, something which she tells me she
inherited from her parents.

“My parents are massive risk takers. They had seven kids and when I was a child we moved
up to nine times. They just put us under their arms and left and went on an adventure. That
was very uplifting to say that no matter what, you’ll make ends meet. They just have a
positive idea, to go for it”.

It’s the same positive idea that shines through ‘Wallis Bird’, a record that quite literally
sounds like someone freeing themselves of inhibition. There are reference points of course,
Wallis herself points to Radiohead and Villagers, but the final product is all her own. It is
perhaps best put, in her own words.

“I wouldn’t aspire to be anybody but I derive from everybody that I’ve ever loved”.


Spiritualized's Jason Pierce has often cut a troubled figure during his 30 year career. Between drug and alcohol abuse and persistent and often life threatening illnesses, the 46 year old was also struggling to match the success of his landmark 1997 album Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.

Now fully fighting fit, Pierce is riding a wave of critical acclaim he has not seen since the release of that album. Ordinarily this would not bother him. But Spiritualized's seventh studio album was recorded under strange circumstances. During the recording Pierce underwent chemotherapy for an unspecified liver disease and for much of the process was under heavy medication. Not a whole lot different to other Spiritualized albums you might say, but Pierce himself claims to have very little memory of even making Sweet Heart, Sweet Light.

“There was no control (on this record) so I don't know how different it would have been if I wasn't on those drugs. I think it would've been quite different and not so confusing. Usually when I make a record, especially when I'd finished it, I got a real idea of what I'd made and what I'd done and that's why I don't worry about how it's received, what kind of record it is or how it's reviewed. I've got that already fixed in my head. This one, really I had no idea. So it was almost a shock, and huge relief when people started really liking the record. Usually that doesn't bother me either way”.

People 'really liking' the record might be something of an understatement on Pierce's part. It's a rare thing but even on first listen Sweet Heart Sweet Light sounds like a classic. From the upbeat bounce of 'Hey Jane' to the Bowie nodding 'So Long You Pretty Things', Pierce kicks and screams, cries for help and finds redemption for just short of one glorious hour. What isn't an understatement is that Pierce really has no idea how he got there.

“I don't really know. I think it's really important when you make a record to just be honest and write down how things are and I don't really think about what kind of record I'm trying to make. If I really wanted to make a pop record - and I don't think I have made a great rock pop record, but people have written about it as being just that, I think it's quite failed in that respect. But that's how music evolves – it's all in the failings, it's all in the bits that go wrong”.

The album might not have even happened had it not been for a series of anniversary shows Pierce played for Ladies And Gentlemen to coincide with the release of the remasters of the seminal album. Before the tour Pierce was wary of going down the nostalgic route, but performing the album live convinced him to try and make something better.

“They were glorious shows to do and also we couldn't have performed that at the time of the record's release. We weren't able, a lot of that record was put together in the studio, it wasn't played live and we weren't able to do that. So to be able to play with 50 piece orchestras, especially in some of the places we took it was quite amazing but all the time there was a little voice in my head saying 'Don't stop here, don't get involved in this because there is something deeply unsettling about admitting that the whole thing is over'”.

“I knew I wanted to make another great record, if that's the right word to use, I don't think you can really say that about your own music. But part of me was full of this horror that this music that I loved so much was folding back itself, it was all turning back on itself going 'Here's a great moment from ten years ago and here's another great band from 15 years ago'. Everybody is reforming and playing over old ground. And then there was a kind of shock that I was getting involved as well, that I was doing the same”.

The success of Sweet Heart Sweet Light has put paid to any suggestions that Spiritualized would become just another trip down memory lane, and having over come his health issues Pierce is looking forward to getting the new material out on the road.

“I didn't do the treatment to make a record, I wanted to get well enough to tour, that's what I enjoy doing most. I'm properly back to where I should be now”.

On Sweet Heart... track 'Freedom', Pierce sings “I got no right to be here”. Whether or not the line is a reference to his health, we should all consider it lucky that he is still here, much in the way Pierce himself believes in luck.

“It (Ladies And Gentlemen...) got quite lucky and became a lot of people's favourite Spiritualized album. So to equal that, or to equal that in peoples minds, it just felt that it had gone somewhere, it all kind of worked out”.

Lisa Hannigan

A musician who can count a Mercury Prize nomination, appearances on Later… with Jools
Holland and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno along with double platinum sales as the fruits
of their debut album might be expected, if not forgiven, for appearing a little smug.

Meath songstress Lisa Hannigan can list all of these achievements and more but smug is the
last thing that can be said about her. As I speak to her ahead of the release of her sophomore
album Passenger, she’s refreshingly humble about her work. But I can’t help but wonder if
success has raised her expectations.

“I have no expectations at all” she says, “I want people to hear it and I hope they come see
me play but there’s no point in having any expectations. It’s wonderful just to be able to do
this and tour.”

Touring has been a constant in Lisa’s life for some time. She’s been doing so almost
consistently since the release of her debut Sea Sew in 2008 and on and off for seven years
before that as part of Damien Rice’s band. It makes sense then that themes and songs found
on Passenger are very much informed by her time touring.

“I wrote most of it when I was away on the road. A lot of them built around the idea of being
away from home, trying to target that. When you are travelling so much there are things that
you carry around with you; love and friendship and heartbreak. All that stuff”.

The theme is captured perfectly on the album’s cover, which merges maps of the main
locations where the album was written (Dublin, Brooklyn and West Cork). But as much as
travelling has formed the songs, Lisa’s song-writing has been informed by her travels. Much
has been made of the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome and she is grateful to have new
experiences and the emotions that go with it.

“When you’re doing your first record you’re doing songs that you’ve been writing for your
whole life, but the short span of time you have writing the next one makes it a different

She’s almost lured into breaking her characteristic modesty when I press her on what makes
this album different from Sea Sew.“I think it’s much more confident and cohesive than the
last record’, she says, before adding with a giggle, ‘Also I can play my instruments better on
this one!”

She does however get quite excited on the topic of the guest appearance on Passenger.
It’s understandable, since it’s none other than folk demi-god Ray LaMontagne. The New
Hampshire troubadour lends his pipes to the track O Sleep, a lush, haunting lullaby. The duo
are a match made in heaven, LaMontagne’s raspy delivery perfectly complements her own
airy inflections.

“We had met a few times before and I had written this song and I thought to myself ‘just ask
him’ because he has the most beautiful voice. I was nervous about it because it is a big ask,
but I had nothing to lose and luckily he said yes straight away.

He happened to be in London and had a day off when we were adding strings and horns and
stuff to the album and he came in and did his piece, it was so lucky that he was there. He was
great to work with, I had imagined the song in my mind and that’s what he made it”.

In anticipation of the album’s release, Lisa invited filmmaker and friend Myles O’Reilly
to capture her at work in the studio. Dubbed ‘The Recording Diaries’, the beautifully shot
footage invites fans into delve into her creative process as she hones her craft in a rural Welsh

“I’ve known Myles O’Reilly for a while and I absolutely love the work that he does. I just
thought it would be nice to have a document of the whole process, it’s something you can’t
really do yourself because you’re just too busy in the studio”.

It’s been a lengthy journey for Lisa, but then she has come a hell of a long way. It’s been
four years she parted ways with Damien Rice. After featuring prominently on his records and
touring with him for the best part of a decade they parted ways in acrimonious circumstances
one fateful night in Munich. But while Rice has fallen off the radar, and seemingly out of
love with making music, Lisa has embraced it with both hands and forged a career in her own
right. One wonders if fate would have taken her down a different road, had she remained in
his company.

“I don’t know. There’s no point in guessing what might have happened but I’m very happy
where I am now. I’m very lucky to have worked with Damien, it got me where I am today.
I’m sure no one would care about what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for that. It’s made the

This may be true, then again it could be Lisa’s trademark modesty shining through once
more. The reality is that she’s made two records drenched in homespun charm, ethereal
beauty and gorgeous lilting vocals and gained a small legion of admirers in the relatively
short time she’s been solo. Primetime US chat show hosts don’t hand out slots to backing
singers, they go to artists deserving of a wider audience.

She may see herself as a passenger, but this is her journey. Her time with Damien Rice may
have brought her to prominence but it is now just a dot, fading on the horizon. For now she is
happy to continue on the road, wherever it may take her.

“I don’t know if I would miss it, but when you’re travelling there is always that feeling that you’re
trying to get home in the end”.