An edited version of the below interview appeared in the Downtown supplement of Cork's Evening Echo on Thursday, November 3rd.
Barrack Street serves up a bubbling, melody-infused post-jazz tonic this weekend as Land Lovers roll their indie-pop bandwagon into town accompanied by Cork’s very own psychadelic folk-rockers - The Altered Hours.
Along with fellow Popical Islanders Tieranniesaur and Squarehead (who play An Realt Dearg themselves on Friday night - November 4th), Land Lovers have been riding a wave of positivity these past few weeks having released their melodically-loaded yet lyrically poignant second album, Confidants.
Cormac Hughes (keyboard player) kindly invited me into his Land Lovers world to help me clear up a few things including - what exactly is Popical Island?
Popical Island is the last refuge of the kind of person who likes to dance and sing at the same time, rather than compartmentalising these activities. More specifically, it's a collective made up of friends who decided to formalise their bands' relationships in some kind of civil ceremony. We help each other put on shows, release records etc. We run a club night called Popicalia and we've put out two compilations worth of songs (aptly named Popical Island #1 and Popical Island #2) by ourselves and our favourite Irish 'pop' (loose term) acts. We've even released a Christmas EP - A Hard Old Station : Christmas With The Popical Island Showband - wherein we assembled an 18-piece big band to play some songs. It's nearly Christmas again, isn't it?
Bands, independent record labels, record stores etc. all have to help each other these days which creates a great sense of camaraderie, would you agree?
Of course. All these people overlap in what they do and should be collaborating for the survival of each other. The music market place has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. Large companies like Dell and the Richter Collective have strategic partners helping each other succeed for years, and music should be no different. The camaraderie comes from the enjoyment of what you do.
Land Lovers formally tipped its hat to the world in 2008. At this stage the band was just Pádraig Cooney all alone in his bedroom. I cannot help but feel Cormac’s version of the group’s evolution has been somewhat tweaked over the years.
Land Lovers began as just Pádraig Cooney. How did the band evolve into the quintet we now see today?
After Padraig created the album he realised that in order to play live he needed a band and went about advertising for one. Ciaran, Brian and Rob (old bassist) joined within a week of each other in around spring 2008 after 8 gruelling technical interviews and 3 more with HR. I joined later that year as the 5th member on keys. After a fruitful 2009, Rob got offered a place on Van Halen’s World Tour, a dream come true for him. Shane replaced him at the start of 2010 after getting kicked out of Oasis.
Is there still room left for more expansion? The reason I ask is I recently was at Bon Iver who has evolved from a folky solo act to playing with a ten-piece band.
We used an extra guitar/keyboard player (Belgium’s finest Jeroen Saegeman of the Popical Island bands Groom and Walpurgis Family) at the album launch to fill out the sound a bit more, so it’s not something that could we would rule out, from a live perspective at least. If we do go ahead with the often discussed Techno crossover record, we will need some on decks for sure.
Confidants is as much pop as it is indie/alternative. Do you feel this gives you an edge that many other bands might not have when it comes to choosing venues and attracting fans?
I’ll give you the short answer here, No, most venues don’t distinguish to that level of degree, we’re still lumped into the indie/alt scene.
Are there any particular tracks on the album that you are happiest with and why?
I think the song 'My Heart was Angled' was a track that took everyone by surprise when it was finished. Adding the fuzzy synth, wailing guitar solo and neck hair rising violin were late editions so it jumped from what we were used to nearly a new track to us.
Being of the mp3 age, Romance Romance and Confidants are both available online. Yet, on a recent trip to Dublin, it was heartening to see physical copies of the new album stocked on the shelves of the newly opened Elastic Witch record store (located in The Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street) and Confidants is now available to buy in our very own Plugd Records which is now part of the Triskel Arts Centre on Tobin Street.
I was in Elastic Witch in Dublin recently and I spotted a number of copies of Confidants. What does it feel like to finally have the album out and on the shelves?
There are a few emotions. Relief that your work is finally out there and pride as it is in a public place where anyone can buy it. Big Wow did a great job with the artwork, it’s very striking. Being a music buyer, I’d probably gamble on a cover like that. The album is even in HMV, which is strange to see.
It also struck me that half the stock in the shop (which is still a work in progress) was from unsigned Irish artists which is fantastic. Our own Plugd Records, who also have a tasty independent section, will be stocking your album too. Selling digital albums online is great but how satisfying is it to know people are still buying a physical copy of the album from the shops?
Personally, I am delighted people still buy records and CDs. MP3s mean nothing to me anymore. I work all day on a computer with word documents and spreadsheets in a file structure. The last thing I want to do is browse through a file structure to see what I want to listen to. An MP3 can be completely discarded with a delete button. At least a CD or vinyl is tactile. You have great artwork with vinyl and you can sell it to someone, you can’t sell an MP3 second hand can you? I’ve heard of people selling World of Warcraft profiles recently for thousands of pounds. WTF?!?
Outside of Ireland who are Land Lovers currently listening to?
We ALL live for Wolves in the Throne Room. I think that’s an accurate sweeping generalization of the band. Some members have been caught listening to The Fresh & Onlys and Sonny & The Sunsets. They were dealt with accordingly.
The show you are playing in Cork is with the wonderfully talented Cork band The Altered Hours. How did this come about?
We asked a local Shaman named Tombstome for some bands to check out. We liked The Altered Hours a lot and pursued them.
If the November 5th show in An Realt Dearg goes well (which I am sure it will) do you feel the rest of your Popical Island pals will follow suit and travel Leeside to share a bill with other Cork bands?
That’s the plan. Everyone likes coming down to Cork to play, but realise that we may not be known down here, so it’s a slow process of creating exposure and building up a fan base. We have played poorly attended gigs before and that is the worry. But we also played a very well attended gig with a local Cork band and the buzz was great.
It kind of goes back to the camaraderie thing again doesn’t it? Everyone needs to help each other so if a Dublin band (or any band not from Cork) plays a show with a Cork band in Cork it helps bring a crowd that, as an unknown/unsigned band, they would not have been able to draw by themselves. In turn that gives the Cork band a chance to play a show in Dublin themselves with the Dublin band bringing their fans/friends to the Dublin show. There is no such thing as doing it all by yourself these days. Would you agree?
This is an excellent point and is where Popical Island comes in. We have a monthly club night called Popicalia where we put on bands so we have a bill to offer people who make music we like and are willing to come up. In exchange we need gigs south. No matter what city or town you are from, bands want the same thing : to play gigs elsewhere, bring it on the road. Bands themselves should be facilitating these moves as you can’t expect promoters to want to put on everyone, especially when money is involved.
The recent Hard Working Class Heroes showcase/festival displayed the incredible array of Irish talent currently on show at the moment and Land Lovers were marked by many national papers as one of the highlights. Would you agree Ireland is currently experiencing a bit of a purple patch as regards musical talent?
It’s an interesting question. While I recognise there are loads of great bands around, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is a purple patch. The internet and home recording software have made it easier for bands to get their stuff out there. Blogs are timelier than fanzines so music gets to the listener quicker. Sites like Bandcamp and MySpace allow you to listen to music instantly. So my point is, maybe there has always been a high level of talent but much of it unearthed.
Do you have any other favourite Cork bands?
My favourites are The Altered Hours, Altar of Plagues and I’ll Eat Your Face.
On the morning/afternoon after the gig what memories do Land Lovers hope the crowd will take away with them?
I hope they like us enough to come see us again and to bring one extra friend. I also hope they take a physical memory, like an album or Ciaran’s shirt.
And personally what do Land Lovers hope to have achieved from the show?
It’s all a building process. We just want people to have a good night out and think they didn’t waste their night when they could have been in Rearden’s or The Classic. We are realistic to know we probably won’t change the world ‘that fateful night in An Realt’, like Arcade Fire did in that 5 man tent at Electric Picnic, but even a few extra fans that wouldn’t previously have listened to us would be achievement enough. Oh, and a few albums sales.
I have already spoken to quite a few folks who are looking forward to Saturday night’s gig but the question is : is Cormac?
Being from Cork myself (not the rest of the band), I’d say Cork is looking forward to having me.
Ever played the animal game before? (Basically you begin with one letter, eg. 'K', and everyone has to name an animal beginning with this letter. The person who cannot name an animal beginning with 'K' loses one life).
The easy animals such as 'Kangaroo' are always taken quite early so can ye give me a rare animal beginning with 'k' that I can use as back up for the next time I play the game myself?
A description of the animal would also be helpful as people tend to try and make up names as well as using mythological beasts!
The Wilderness of Manitoba said 'Degu' (a small rat) to 'D' which was far more imaginative than Megafaun's 'Cougar'.
Kraken ( /ˈkreɪkən/ or /ˈkrɑːkən/) are legendary sea monsters of giant proportions said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway and Iceland.
I saw one in Kinsale one time, so they definitely exist! Failing that, a koala, a kiwi. What about a Klingon?
Land Lovers and The Altered Hours play a FREE gig in An Realt Dearg on Barrack Street on Saturday, November 5th