Sonny Casey – “People’s reactions to my music here made me feel like this was the right place for me to be”.

Sonny Casey is an Irish songwriter residing in Berlin, who releases her new EP, Phoebe, next Friday the 26th of November. Sonny plays her first headline show show tonight at Prachtwerk, Neukölln. Doors from 19:30, show at 20:00 (ticket link at end of interview). Sonny took some time out beforehand to talk about her journey and the new EP.

Sonny, great to chat to you! Tell us, we hear you’re from Galway?

Hi! Great to chat to you too! Yeah, so I’m from Connemara, a beautiful but lonely place along the Ocean, about a forty minute drive from Galway city. 

So did you used to hit up Shop Street in Galway busking?

When I was sixteen I started jumping on the bus to the city and busking on Shop Street. There I discovered this magical world of wandering free spirits, independent artists and travelling musicians. I started busking every moment I could get, going to open mics, playing small gigs. This whole world of freedom and music just opened up to me. Inspired by that and having already travelled around Ireland busking, I quit my college course at nineteen and flew to Edinburgh to begin busking and travelling my way around Europe.

Inspiring! How is the busking scene in Berlin in comparison?

In Galway the busking scene feels like a family. All the buskers know each other and play with each other and if a new busker appears in town, they’re soon welcomed into the community. Most days you can’t walk down the main street without meeting other buskers or musicians. 

There’s definitely a busking scene in Berlin too, it can just take a bit longer to feel like a part of it. Because the city’s so huge, all the spots are spread out so often you can go a whole day of busking without meeting other buskers. Sometimes you feel like you’re the only one doing it, which can feel a bit isolating but can also be beneficial because you’re more likely to be noticed.

I’ve met some lovely buskers here though and most people react really positively to street music. And because it is a lot less common than back home, it feels like people sometimes appreciate it more here because they’re not expecting to hear you.

Your music has taken you throughout Europe – why stop so in Berlin?

That’s actually thanks to Katie O’ Connor, a fellow busker and singer-songwriter from Galway!  She took me under her wing in 2019 and I opened for her shows around Europe. We came to Berlin somewhere along the way and because she used to live and busk here she showed me all the best places to play.

The first time I walked out of Warschauer strasse station, the sun was setting orange and purple, silhouetting two street musicians in front of me. I felt this tingling energy in the air. I remember feeling something that no other place had made me feel before. 

During my travels around Europe, I kept coming back to Berlin. I’d busk all over the city and go to all the open mics. People’s reactions to my music here made me feel like this was the right place for me to be. It felt like a lot was happening, musical opportunities were coming my way and I also just felt this sense of independence, freedom and this buzz of possibility that just drew me in and made me move here. 

What can we expect tonight from your first headline show tonight?

I can’t wait. I’m also terrified. Nothing scares me yet thrills me more than being on stage. I feel like I’m ready to have my own show now though. I’ve grown a lot over the past few years and have slowly started believing in myself. I’ve put so much time and energy into this EP and I’ve been busking and performing these songs for so long I feel like they deserve some sort of a stage and send off into the world! 

I’ve been rehearsing with a band of four musicians, so it’s also going to be my first time playing a show with a band. I’ll be joined by another guest musician and an amazing singer-songwriter called Fedbo will open the night. 

I just want to create a night where everyone feels connected and moved, in a cosy, safe intimate space where we can all feel things and release them.

Your show stealing performance of Danny Boy on ARD won you a lot of fans here in Germany. How did that come about? 

Yeah I’m very grateful for that opportunity! It was someone I’d met at an open mic called Dan Eckhart who put me in touch with his friend who was looking for an Irish singer-songwriter for the show. I actually didn’t realise at the time that it was for such a big tv station! I’m glad I didn’t know though, otherwise I would have been even more nervous…

You avoided the pit traps of cliché and gave that song a real personal feel. This aspect of feeling personal runs through your own music. But how do you tackle a cover like that, to get that insight almost? 

It’s funny because I didn’t want my roommates to hear me practising that song as I really wasn’t sure of it. I went out looking for quiet parks with no people around and ended up rehearsing it in the freezing cold of Winter in Hasenheide park. When it got too cold outside I shut myself inside my wardrobe in my bedroom and tried to practise it there. 

ARD ©

I listened to all the covers I could find online but none of them really struck me, except for Sinead O’Connor’s acapella version but there was no way I could sing it like that. I realised I’d have to just make it my own so I just played it in a way that I knew worked with my voice. 

I’ve always just loved this song and felt connected to it. I remember being a child and watching a sad movie, at some point ‘Danny Boy’ started playing and I started crying without really understanding why. I think when you sing a song that’s not yours you really have to put yourself and your own life into the words and the story and the meaning otherwise it doesn’t feel real and other people will feel that too. Like you have to believe every word as though you’d written it yourself. 

I also feel like songs are a way to say the things that couldn’t be said otherwise, a way of communicating. When I was singing it for ARD, I suddenly started thinking of a family member who passed away before I was born. For some reason it reminded me of the stories I’d heard about him and it felt like this was a way for me to speak to him, so that’s who I found myself singing it to.

A Saving Grace, for example, feels extremely personal. Is it thus a conscious decision to bare all or (in this case) rather to bring light to the toxicity of abusive relationships? 

I don’t think I’m able to write without baring it all! I write songs in my diary so often there’s no line between my lyrics and personal diary entries. 

It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision at all to write about that though. I think if it had been, I wouldn’t have been able to write about it. At the time I actually had no idea what I was going through, I just knew that what I was feeling felt wrong and overwhelming and I had to get it out of me. I just wrote with those feelings, without thinking. 

In hindsight I realised I’d been writing with that inner voice that I’d been silencing for too long. And as time passed and I healed and processed things I realised the song was describing an unhealthy, toxic relationship that the song itself had helped me escape from. 

And congrats on the release of the new EP – Phoebe. Tell us about the title.

For some inexplicable reason ‘Phoebe’ is a synonym for five. There’re five songs on the EP so I thought it was fitting. When I discovered Phoebe also means ‘pure’, ‘bright’ and ‘the moon personified’, it felt like it was meant to be. 

The Moon finds her way into a lot of my lyrics. I like thinking of her as this higher power and energy source that can move us creatively, so calling this EP ‘Phoebe’ felt like I was honouring that. Also it’s taken me over a year to finish this and it’s been a tough, challenging process, so I liked how ‘Phoebe’ personifies it and makes me feel like I’ve given birth to something. 

artwork Sonny Casey ©

How did you come to work with Tom Osander? And what did he bring to the EP?

That’s all thanks to Christian, the owner of Barbobu in Friedrichain. He heard me playing the open mic there and sent Tomo my music. 

He brought magic to it. He’s completely connected to the vibe and feeling and knows exactly how to add to the songs without adding too much. I feel comfortable and safe playing with him which is so important. He’s also just a lovely, hilarious human so rehearsing with him is always great craic! 

I have to ask about the artwork for Phoebe, again such a striking image – how involved are you in the creation of the artwork and videos? 

Haha, that image was actually the lino print I made for my leaving cert art project five years ago! When I was making it for my exam I remember thinking that I’d have to use it as an album cover in the future otherwise it’d feel like wasted time.

I’d completely forgotten about the image until I was trying to come up with something for the cover a few months ago, I kept drawing this woman and I realised I was trying to recreate the image I’d made for my leaving cert so I thought ‘sure why not use that?’

I enjoy being involved with the imagery side of things. I feel like music, especially lyrics, and images go hand in hand, like each one inspires the other. Sometimes when I’m painting, words will pop into my head and often when I’m writing I’ll start drawing around the words. 

With my first music video ‘A Saving Grace’ it felt like I got a glimpse into the endless possibilities there are for joining music and images. I sort of took a step back in the directing process with that though as I was unsure of myself, but after that experience I realised it’s something I definitely want to explore more in the future.

I made the lyric video for my second single ‘A Thousand Setting Suns’ myself, because for me the words are the most important part of that song and also because I had a pretty non-existent budget for it! 

Directed & Produced by Francis Rogers

Finally, what’s next? Any Irish shows planned or back on German telly?

I’ve sort of done things backwards in the way that I’ve been performing these songs for years and now the record is finally out. So apart from the release show, I’m not really planning on gigging nor touring to promote it.

Now I have a whole bunch of new songs written and they feel so much closer to me than the ones from ‘Phoebe’, both emotionally and stylistically. So my goal now is to jump back into the music side of things. I want to continue writing and recording new songs and to take everything I’ve learnt with this EP release and move onwards and upwards from it. I’d love to plan some Irish shows in the future though and German telly can have me back whenever they want!

Tickets for Sonny’s show this evening at Prachtwerk in NeuKölln can be grabbed here and head over to Sonny’s Bandcamp to order yourself a copy of the new EP, Phoebe, released next Friday.

Shite Guinness Berlin – “As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint” and I don’t see any cream on a Pilsner”


Did the blog come about simply from a decent Guinness being hard to come by in the city? 

Initially, the idea of the page was to shame the pints of Guinness on offer in Berlin. I had a number of bad experiences in a few places and I thought I could have a laugh posting about them, hence the name of the page! But after visiting Home Bar and a few others, I quickly realised that there are in fact some decent pints on offer, so the page evolved into a blog. A place where the Guinness thirsty Berlin public can see where the good pints can be found, a place to bring awareness of bars like The Lir in general, while also having a laugh!

Is Guinness your go to pint too back in Ireland? Or is there an element of nostalgia at play? 

Guinness has always been my go to. In Berlin we are blessed with an exceptional selection of beers – whether they are German regulars, European options or local craft beers, we are spoiled for choice in quality. But back home, although Irish craft beer is becoming more mainstream, there is still a lack of choice for beer in the majority of traditional bars. It’s a funny one, once I see Guinness available in Berlin I order it, but I’m still happy if not, while back home I’m almost exclusively ordering Guinness.

Tell us about your own first Guinness experience.

Hard to remember my very first experience, but I remember I started drinking Guinness around the age of 19/20. A friend and I both have fathers who are drinkers of the Black Stuff, so it was only natural we’d follow in their footsteps. I remember being at a family wedding around that time and standing at the bar with my father, who said he’d get the first round. He turned to me and asked what I wanted, and to his surprise I replied “Guinness”. He couldn’t get over that I’d started drinking it, assuming that, in his words “all the young lads wouldn’t like it” and that I would be drinking Heineken or Budweiser. I, of course, explained that I started drinking the stuff and had a taste for it. To be fair, it was the last time he needed to ask me what I wanted to drink at a family occasion!

What’s more horrifying to you – hearing that Guinness is shipped out to bars here in syrup form or seeing bartenders pull the pint in one full go?

I can almost forgive a bar for importing the syrup, but I can’t forgive them for pouring a pint incorrectly. The pint of Guinness is an art form, from the pour to the presentation. But unfortunately, unlike conventional art, there is a right and wrong way to do it! 

0,2l glasses and pitchers? How can this be stopped?

The stuff of nightmares! Those glasses do make for a laughable experience but something needs to be done. I believe that there should be a Guinness rep who comes to Berlin (and other European cities) at least once a year, to visit the bars who have Guinness on their menu. Firstly, a taste and experience test could be done anonymously, with the rep revealing himself with the test results and most importantly, recommendations for improvement – how to pour correctly, new glasses to be provided (by the rep himself) and other best practices. This is not a requirement in Ireland for example, because the bars know a reputation for a good pint of Guinness is priceless, and they all have a strong supply chain for glasses, beer mats, posters etc. I think it should fall on Guinness to maintain their own reputation on European soil.

What it is so that makes a good pint here as opposed to home?

Firstly, letting the tap run for a couple of seconds before filling the glass is so important. It’s something that some bars in Berlin don’t realise they need to do – this probably goes for all beers – the pipes usually have some residue from the last pour, which could have been hours/days ago and you simply don’t want customers drinking that. Also, I’ve had some super cold pints in Berlin poured incorrectly, but still are very drinkable, then pints which are luke warm – these are the ones with no head and have a dreadful aftertaste. So I would say, temperature is a basic need – that is before we get to the pour (another story!).

Favourite synonym for Guinness? 

I use “Guin or Guinny” for standard pints, but hold “Creamer” for the deserved ones.

Top three bars in Berlin so for a good Guinness?

The top three so far are; The Lír, ShamRock’s and Home Bar. I have a real soft spot for Home Bar, I love going there – a fantastic overall experience.

Finnegan’s in Steglitz is definitely going to break into that. I went there to watch an All-Ireland Final a while back and it was like a pint you’d get back in Ireland. Of course, a notable mention for Badfish. So all going well in 2021, I’ll be reviewing these spots, along with others I have on my long list!

For those of us stuck here in lockdown – what’s the best Guinness we can get in the Berlin supermarket? Bottles, or cans? Isn’t there a special imported one in some places too?

To my knowledge, all that is available in stores in Berlin is the Extra Stout edition and the 440ml Draught Cans. I recently reviewed the Extra Stout. All I can say is that it didn’t go down well, check that out if you haven’t already seen it! My recommendation is to head to Penny, Hoffi (Hoffman) or Real for the Guinness Draught Cans, for the best lockdown Guinness experience. They didn’t exactly score high, but as I said in my review of them, they do the job.

Badfish import the barrels – have you noticed a difference in taste there? 

Before I started the page, I went to both Badfish bars this year and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences – particularly the one in Friedrichshain. Definitely, I did notice the pint being colder and creamier than the average pint in the city. The Guinness tap stands out and glows on the dark bar, and the barman knows what he’s doing when it comes to the pour. But, I have yet to review it outright. I got the chance to review the one in Prenzlauerberg as part of the Lockdownlite Series. Their takeaway pint was as good as it could get.

And are you affiliated with Guinness in any shape or form?

Nope, unfortunately not! @Guinness any jobs going let me know! 

There’s been great debate this year as to your identity – it’s been the cause of great discussion and second guessing. Why remain anonymous? 

I find the anonymity allows me to fully express myself. But to be fair, my significant other, some family members and close friends know of my true identity. In general, I would rather not have my face associated with my SGB profile. Particularly, when it comes to visiting bars, I want to receive the same treatment as every other person, to maintain the integrity of the blog. 

Will we get a big reveal at some stage? Or a prize for guessing correctly? 

No reveal at all, unfortunately. But, I do have plans for a couple of competitions for Berlin Guinness drinkers to win some prizes during Lockdown, to help with the pint drinking experience at home.

Any exciting plans for the New Year for the blog?

First off, I hope to get my hands on some of the alternative Guinness craft beer/bottles and write a review on those. I’m a keen cook, and so have a plan to do a Guinness based recipe series. I’ve started an “On Tour Series” while I’m visiting home, but I am happy to extend this to other destinations I hopefully get to travel to in the upcoming year. Most importantly, once Covid and Lockdowns are over with, I can get back to discovering the shite (and decent) Guinness pints in Berlin. 

What do you say to those who may advise you to give up the search and switch to just drinking local beers such as the many quality Pilsner that you can find in abundance? 

I’m sorry, but no – my love is for Guinness. As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint”. I don’t see cream on any Pilsner, do you? 

What’s your advice so to bar owners across Berlin with regards to the perfect pint o’ plain? 

Patience. Take your time. First, let the tap run for a second. 

Enjoy the pour at 45°, let it rest and watch the surge. Top it up and serve with a smirk, knowing you’ve played a blinder – you’ve just poured an absolute beauty. 

As long as you’ve done this into a Guinness pint glass, you’re good. Then, sit back, relax and watch your Guinness reputation grow and your staff’s tip jars overflow.

Keep up to date with where to get a decent Guinness over on ShiteGuinnessBerlin’s Instagram.

Mark Loughrey – “We will look back fondly in decades to come on this Golden Age for Irish songwriting”

Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Tell us a bit about yourself, and when did you start playing and getting into your own music?

Sure, my name is Mark Loughrey and I’m an Experimental Folk Singer-Songwriter from the North of Ireland, currently based in Berlin.  Originally I’m from a small village called Sion Mills, which is basically part of Strabane, a border town right on the line between Tyrone and Donegal.  Coincidentally the home of Paul Brady and Flann O’Brien.

I first starting playing guitar around 11 or so, had the classic ‘angsty teenager garage band’ experience, wrote loads of terrible songs before deciding to pursue music seriously and move to Belfast, where I still continued writing terrible songs actually, haha. It was there though that I really felt like I cut my teeth with music and found the passion for songwriting. Meeting and befriending like-minded, supportive souls who were writing amazing songs of their own was a really inspirational, life-affirming time and gave me the spine to take writing seriously as a craft.

Mark playing at Bookfinders in Belfast

Were the reasons musical that brought you over to Berlin?

Yeah, I first came here in 2015 at the end of a trip around Europe and fell in love with the atmosphere of the place. I had this really nice moment near the Lustgarten fountain in Mitte listening to some buskers play Smile by Charlie Chaplin where I was touched by how vibrant Berlin felt, and I thought about how I could actually move here someday.

With a lot of my songwriting heroes like Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell too, they travelled and documented their lives through song when and as they changed.  I also had these fantasies of living somewhere new and writing about the characters I would meet along the way, from the lens with which I saw the world as it too changed.

First album Treppenwitz was released when you were living in Belfast, so you had some knowledge of German given its title? Had Berlin then as such always been calling you?

Yeah, weirdly enough my high school did German classes and even now I can still hear my old German teacher screaming in my mind’s ear when I get a bit confused about the order that I should place multiple verbs in. Which is certainly helpful but definitely a bit of a double-edged sword.

The word ‘Treppenwitz’ itself evokes the feelings of fantasising about what should have been said long after you’ve missed the moment. It felt quite appropriate at the time as I knew whilst recording the album in mid-2017 that I would be leaving for Berlin once it was done , even though I found a really nice musical home in Belfast and wonderful friends.

Pining for something after leaving the moment itself felt kind of fitting. I remember releasing the album on a Friday and moving the next Monday, which was incredibly intense.  It took a while to be able to listen to that record again but I’m super glad I have the timestamp of this momentous time.

Loughrey released his debut album, Treppenwitz, back in 2017. In German, Treppenwitz translates as ‘stair joke’ and refers to that moment when you’re coming down the stairs and the perfect and oh so clever retort comes to you – for a moment long since lost.

Opening track Aufmerksamkeit on the new EP, On Through The Veil, brings back the German – it’s somewhat of a light-hearted way to start a record that deals with a lot of darker themes. Has this been the influence of 2020 or were these stories you were compelled to tell? 

It’s quite interesting that you saw that, as this wasn’t intentional at all but makes a kind of sense as this year did begin with a lot of promise before it morphed into the weird, sticky space-time jelly it became.

I’ve always lived in Neukolln and never too far from the regular Maybachufer Markt. Living alongside all of these new cultures is still quite exciting and I love to stroll through the market, especially in the brighter parts of the year.  I always thought that the street vendors had a real musicality to the way they scream out to passers-by, ‘Zwei für ein Euro!’ and wanted to record it, which I did.  All the noises underneath the surface is the world of the market.

A German friend recently taught me too the word for attention which is ‘Aufmerksamkeit’, although it was described as an awareness or coming into a state of perception where you notice more things around you. Which just seemed too fitting not to use and a perfect place to start.  Walking around this market year round at the edges of the seasons always felt like waking up to change in a way, taking note of the shifting world around me and preparing for what was to come.

I wanted to capture this feeling too musically by introducing a lot of the instrumentation and colours that the listener could expect as the EP progressed.  I felt like it was a nice, light way to introduce the sound world to come but the songs just ended up just getting darker anyway because I am the buzzkill that I am, haha.

Was the record conceived in lockdown? Or had it been growing in you over a longer period?

This whole EP was born from the fact that I had grown quite overwhelmed by the process of the ‘recording that difficult second album’ cliché. The recording process was quite torn between here and home and was quite draining and frustrating as I had no idea what I was doing. I had these grand notions of a concept album but my ambition was definitely grander than my actual skillset at the time.

(Lead single) Nothing on a Truth was maybe 75% percent done by the time I decided to crack into the EP, and was intended for the album but I just didn’t think it fit as it was more of a story song.  So I actually decided to procrastinate and make an EP for it to fit within.

With EPs there’s really a beauty in the fact that they don’t even have to be in the same sound world, they can be perfect as four or five disparate ideas.  Of course, I’m a natural over thinker and it ended up becoming conceptual anyway in how all the tracks address change and its many faces.

Over the course of the lockdown, I recorded pretty much everything apart from drums in a small little nook room in my apartment.  Of course some friends from home lent their talents remotely as well. It was my first real go at trying to produce stuff mostly myself, as I always rely on my long term collaborator and dear friend, producer Carl Small, who ended up mixing and co-producing the record and who did a wonderful job.

In a way the process of being a hermit at home, getting into a state of flow and forgetting to eat and sleep was surprisingly super healthy, as it gave me a purpose to get through the overabundance of time we all faced. 

Not so different, 

You and I. 

Seems all it took was a lie, 

One that shook your whole life 

And left you there.

Broken lovelorn, 

On the rocks, 

While the Siren was with the Fox 

How can blood remain thicker than water? 

When your daughter’s not your daughter. 

Excerpt of lyrics from Nothing on a Truth. Image © Brinkley Capriola

Nothing on a Truth is heart-rending and evocative. A truly great catchy folk number – can you talk us through the inspiration for the rather sombre subject matter?

Thank you! Well, it’s a bit of a long mad story but I’ll try to keep it concise. This song is actually the oldest on the EP and I think I wrote it in 2017, a short while after I had this really cathartic road trip up and down the USA’s West Coast. It came from the memory of the last night of incredibly strange, yet wonderful, lone wanderings around San Francisco’s Castro District. It was there that I came across the central character of the song, Gendry, an incredibly kind and resilient soul who had his whole life uprooted by a lie from someone he trusted the most. 

I’ve only had this experience once before where I met a complete stranger and the two of us exchanged our entire life stories, including stuff never told to anybody else, and with Gendry this was the case also.  He was a wonderful fella and had a beautiful voice, which I found out while we exchanged songs.  

The mad parts of the story come in with the cast of characters that would swirl around us as we had this three hour conversation.  It was around Halloween I remember and there were a lot of free-spirits nearby who were residing in the area taking lots of mushrooms. They would come up at random intervals, say loads of far-out things then disappear for a bit. Also, people were walking around the streets bar-hopping dressed in costumes as well and there was one creep in particular dressed as a Dracula Elvis, armed with an orange-cape, who insisted on playing an Elvis song (full impression and everything) that really, really freaked me out haha.  He was the unfortunate mix of forward and persistent too so it took a little bit to shake him off before we could actually relax and enjoy the conversation again.

Anyway, towards the end of the encounter, we wished each other well and gave each other some words of encouragement before parting ways.  I have no idea what he’s up to or where he is now, but it was one of those amazing occasions where you just find a wealth of humanity in a conversation with a stranger.

It was such a crazy experience and I never forgot meeting him and find myself often wondering about what he’s up to from time to time, so I wanted to document our meeting.  All of the ingredients to the story took ages to simplify, and it seemed impossible to condense into a three and a half minute song but I got there eventually. Essentially, the point of the song is that it is a curious and terrible thing that our lives can forever change over the course of one bad day & perhaps not even by our own hand. The song itself deals with this change in the form an open letter posted to Gendry ‘from half a world away’. It’s filled with questions that may in fact never be answered by him but nonetheless offer a glimmer of hope and love to him, wherever he is.

How was that for concise?

© Brinkley Capriola

You’ve previously mentioned you have drawn influences from Irish folk traditions – talk us through some of those on the new EP.

Over the past couple of years in general I’ve always had at least one eye and ear cast back home to what’s been developing over there.  I think right now we’re in a new Golden age of songwriting coming from Ireland and it’ll be looked back fondly on in decades to come, it makes me immensely proud to be from there and eager to contribute in whatever way I can to the tapestry.

With this EP I was aiming for songs that would disguise heavier subjects under some cheerful, lilting melodies, a common cloaking device for a lot of older country songs but also a huge part of the Irish folk ballad tradition too.  Musically, I was attracted in particular to some elements of Irish folk instrumentations during the writing of this EP, especially ethereal, droning, dreamy textures as championed by the likes of Lankum and Lemoncello, alongside this powerful, brooding thing we’ve got going on in the Northern folk scene at the moment.

Thematically, folklore had a bit more of an influence this time. For example, birds being messengers between people crops up at the end, as I was quite homesick.  Particularly, the folklore image of the veil was something that struck me quite powerfully too, and helped tie all of these thoughts that were swimming around my head together. Commonly thought of in folklore as a barrier between this world and next, the idea of ‘slipping on through the veil anew’ was a beautiful thought that brought a comfort in a writing process that was otherwise quite difficult.

Your lyrics could stand alone as poetry – do you write these first? 

Sometimes, though it really depends song to song.  I used to do this a lot when I was starting out, I’d have a weird little story in my head and I’d try to map it out in a weird folk song but more often than not I was finding it a little bit restrictive and the songs were piling up in the graveyard – where the unfinished ones all end up.

A year or so ago, I started using more of a collage method to write which I’ve found not only frees up the possibilities and combinations of the language you can use, but also allows you to give the listener just enough breadcrumbs to fill in the gaps themselves between the stories and the more abstract or seemingly off-kilter lyrics.  Usually this involves combing through notebooks and rearranging them in a new way.

Though I still antagonize a lot about the words and they often take much longer than the music ever does. With ‘Pink Elephants’ for instance, the only lyric I had for ages was ‘and so it seems, we’re at the end my friend / when pink elephants are on the march again’, which I found in a really old notebook.  Like what the hell does that even mean?  It took a while to paint a world that not only made this lyric make a kind of sense but also one in which it could sum up the EP’s themes.

Focusing on how the words will look if they’re presented naked on the page without music and if still they hold up is important. Then and only then can I breathe a little and give the music a proper chance.

Mark playing at Herr Lindemann, Neukölln © Brinkley Capriola

In a time where live shows are sadly not happening have you anything else on the horizon to mark the launch? 

Alas, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the live thing might not be normal again until late next year. However, I really recently recorded a couple of live performances of some EP tracks with the beautiful group of friends that I’ve started playing with here, lovingly referred to by ourselves over Whatsapp as The Padre Pio Players, haha. They’ll feature the incredible musicians Conor Cunningham and Eamon Travers from the band Hatchlings (also from the motherland) and the wonderful violinist Denise Dombrowski, all amazing session musicians from the Berlin songwriter scene and dear compadres.  

During this lockdown also, I’m having a go too at making some videos will be hopefully put out over the next month or so too.  They’ll be a bit DIY but who cares?  I’m going home for the holidays as well to decompress where I’m planning to keep working on a lyric book/zine type thing for the EP, filled with drawings and poems, which I’m hoping also to put out in the New Year as well.  So yeah, there’s a lot still in the pipeline despite no gigs!

We loved getting our hands recently on the EP in cassette form. Brought us way back!

Yes actually, I’ve made a limited run of cassettes for the EP featuring the actual EP itself on one side, and four B-Sides on the other.  I decided to go with cassettes partly due to a few lessons learnt from my time busking in Berlin.  Most people who bought CDs didn’t have a CD player but still wanted to give a symbol of appreciation and patronage.

If no-one has CD players and no-one has cassette players, then what’s really the difference?  They’re kind of just mementos and, dare I say, tokens, given to someone who likes your music anyway. Plus, with cassettes I really enjoy the DIY approach to making them and their quirky artworks.  Several other Irish artists in Berlin also seem to be championing tapes too.

They’re available on my Bandcamp if anyone fancies one and I like to feed into my fantasies of being a postman so I’ve even cycled a few across the city already. Hit me up if you want one!

Finally, Boyzone or Westlife?

Haha, I’m not too sure what to say here, John! I’d maybe go with Boyzone purely because of the size of their cajones in doing their Late Late debut in front of such a dead audience haha. Just kidding, someone sent me that video again the other day and I still laugh at it from time to time. Thanks for taking the time!  All the best!

For anyone unfamiliar, you’ll not regret it.

For more on Mark, check him out @markloughreymusic and support him over on Bandcamp.

Cover Picture by
© Madeline Manning

Landers – “it’s beautiful to play with musicians who take time to work with silence and space”.

Let’s kick it off at the beginning. Who are Landers? How did you come together?

Christopher: Without getting too bogged down into it I came to Berlin in 2011 and I’d done a lot of music back in Ireland, had been doing shows on and off before I moved here. And then I was in a couple of different music projects. I even did a movie as well. Spent two years making a movie here called Black Hole Berlin which was at the Shebeen Film festival. I was enjoying music more in the background but I was writing a lot of poetry for about three or four years.

I didn’t lose hope with music but I certainly wasn’t in the mood to create (anything). So I was quite lost with music to be honest with you. I slowly got myself into electronic and ambient music at the time and I was trying to find something that would make me in the right mood to write again. So I was kinda finding sounds for around a year on guitar and, yeah, that kinda evolved into me realising that I had something to feel again with music.

So I had a selection of sounds and maybe a couple of songs here and there and I asked Dani (Colombian artist Daniela Elorza), who actually does our artwork, who just said “hey listen, just do music again, come on – you can do it!” And I was like, “oh hey, yeah I’ll do it”. It’s actually the truth. She pushed me to reach out a little bit. Someone told me about Max, who plays drums and we had a coffee at Modular one day and I told him these exact words “I’m totally lost and I’ve no idea what’s gonna happen and I don’t really expect anything to happen – do you wanna play and jam?” and he was like “yeah, let’s do it”. Then I asked him if he knew a bass player per chance and he said he did – Paul.

Max. Yeah, Paul and me go way back. We are both from Berlin. We went to the same school and we started to play music at the same time and then we soon started playing together in bands. So that was our connection. If ever I needed a bass player or he ever needed a drummer we are each others’s go-to guy!

From left to right: Paul Breiting, Christopher Colm Morrin and Max von der Goltz.
© Daniela Elorza

When did the three of you first meet all together then?

Christopher: Pretty much the day before New Year’s Eve at the end of 2018. We had a jam basically. It really was an incredible moment ‘cos first off we weren’t hating each other! We liked the vibes. But at the same time I realised I was dealing with two people who came from the Jazz Institute who were quite experimental, very open minded too sound-wise and I was really, really into that. Coming from a poetry point of view it wasn’t contained or it wasn’t contrived and just trying to write “songs”. Even though I tried to bring in “songs” at the beginning but by March 2019 we were coming to terms with that that it may be different. First, in my mind, I was just gonna ask these guys to come play my songs but I quickly realised “no, this is much bigger” and I was able to let go of the fact of being just a songwriter on my own doing my own thing. We opened it up completely and wanted to share it all the way which was great for me, personally. I was able to let go of control really ‘cos when you do music for a long time you’re kind of hesitant to go into things as easily anymore but I felt a lot of freedom with the two guys.

Paul: I can only speak for myself but I think also for you it was the case that it felt really free, like these first days playing together. I can’t even point out what it was, or what it is, but it is super rare. I have rarely experienced it playing music with other people. Like it’s really quite something that you meet people that really it’s a given space that you feel like you can contribute what you can and it’s good and inspires the others. It really was a unique experience, even those first few times we met. Especially us (Max and Paul) coming from a school which wouldn’t have these elements at all.

Christopher: And I’m coming from a place where I can barely play my instruments! I’m really more into words and images and stuff like that so it’s paradoxically really working well.

Max: I think like, for me, we really quickly built up the trust within the group that none of us felt judged. That opened up so many things that we could try. We still do. We sometimes go places that we never went before, like “wow, what did we just play there?”. And that (feeling) is unique as Paul said. To just try things together and that sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Paul: I kinda have the feeling that you brought that into the band. But it’s maybe something that evolved from the three of us playing together. Like I really learnt a lot about minimalism. About limiting yourself and being really selective about choices. Being aware of the choices you make musically. What is too much, what is enough. How little can it be. These are all things that evolved so much between the three of us. You can also hear that, I think. We have these really simple songs that are just two chords but I think they really transport such a strong feeling regardless.

Aidan Floatinghome recording the band at KAOS
© Christopher Colm Morrin

And these songs were recorded earlier last year already?

Christopher: What happened was an old friend of mine from back home, Aidan Floatinghome, we asked him if he would record what we were doing. It wasn’t planned as a release. We just wanted to put ourselves in a room for three days and see what happens. This was back in April 2019. We had practically nothing then, just the bare bones of songs to be honest. We spent three days at KAOS and those three days were really incredible moment for us. We had planned several things but they didn’t happen the way we thought they would. So there were a lot of these moments, all recorded live, with a very limited amount of microphones. We ended up changing a lot. Clear Blue Sky was totally rearranged for example as we were running out of time and wondering what are we gonna do and we tried six versions with loud drums and thought no, just bring the drum machine in and just put the poem over the sound and we just split it up in different parts and that was it then – in the moment. Bear in mind we had only known each other four months at that stage.

Paul: We had wanted to record something, we had wanted to capture that moment. And we did. (laughs)

Clear Blue Sky is very ambient, then Nothing to Say (Part 3) feels like a quick decision then to pare down that tone?

Max: Yes, but it was also realising that we had too much going on. When we got in that room, it was intense. In a creative way. It had a natural flow and we had this opportunity to give everything a shape and we were on a similar level that gave us the opportunity to make decisions which wasn’t possible before that’s session. The fact that we were in that room for four days gave us that strength to make these decisions.

Paul: And also to throw in earlier what you said about minimalism, I also think we did that more so in the session with Clear Blue Sky like with “let’s not actually have drums there”. It was fun with drums but it doesn’t need drums. Let’s reduce this to almost nothing happening in the song.

That indicates that members’ egos aren’t an issue in the band?

Christopher: For me, I remind myself through this thing to always remember when your ego is just talking way too much – just breath, relax, remember what you should feel. For me, I keep forgetting what’s important to feel and the music that we do reminds me very much of what to feel. One of the main things to do is to take myself away from it – my ego – and allow softness to come in. It’s the delicateness of things, ‘cos we are three sensitive guys. It’s all very emotional, if I’m being honest. Whether it’s rehearsing or a show it’s always extremely emotional. Which is soppy in a way but no, it’s important. To stick to what feels really good. I don’t know if we could ever be some cheesy rock band or something. What it comes down to really is pulling the right chords into the heart.

The KAOS retreat in Schöneweide
© Christopher Colm Morrin

Any common influences musically that you bonded over?

Christopher: We have have our difference influences but I’m a big Mark Hollis fan from Talk Talk and it was really beautiful to work with two musicians (here) who really take time to work with silence and work with space. It’s just a philosophy for me right now in my life – more space!

Paul: I think we all have our favourite things and I think the others share that and appreciate it but we all have very separate big things for us. But we don’t have that one band we all love – I think!

You mention this longing of space and between Clear Blue Sky and Heart is in the Land half of your tracks released thus far reference nature in their titles.

Christopher: Say with Clear Blue Sky, it’s more me just dealing looking out my window for a year as I was going through depression at the time. Isolation was going on a lot in my life and looking out the window was something that I felt had a nice calming effect. Heart is in the Land then was this kind of reach or effort to always to reconnect to something more grounded. Feeling so lost that subconsciously these themes – land, sky and nature – all help us feel a little bit better in our lives. They’re really just words about feeling lost. Lyrically, I have to admit that the lyrics I write are quite sad.

So do these lyrics then start first as poetry or during the recording process as a reaction to how the music is developing?

Christopher: Yeah, they are poems. Both those songs started as poems.

Did you have a vocal melody in mind for these so before recording?

Christopher: No, not with Clear Blue Sky. I don’t think I had a melody, no. It came with the influence probably of Paul’s bass. I may have. I can’t quite remember and it doesn’t really matter in the end ‘cos it’s again about getting over the fact of who owns what. It’s about getting to the point of feeling collectively good. That’s really it. That’s the beauty of playing in a band where you’re sharing all the way. Nobody owns anything anymore – it’s just all for the greater good.

© Camila Berrio

Both EPs were recorded at the same KAOS session then?

Max: What happened was we had these few ideas with we went into the warehouse with and we ended up with a lot more songs than we expected and then we weren’t sure really how we would end up releasing them. Or if we even would. We let a little time pass and realised that we actually really liked these recordings, they were so raw. They are from the early stages of our development yet there’s something special in them.

Talk us through the mixing process so long after the fact, as it were.

Paul: We spent quite some time figuring out the mixing as a lot of time had passed since the recording that of course our ideas and visions of what we’d wanted had changed . So, we worked on them, doing overdubs, improving the things that weren’t perfect. So, what was funny was that whatever we did we always ended up going back to the original takes. We might’ve felt excited about the new mixes for a couple of days but then we’d realise they didn’t transport that original feeling that we had felt. We really always wanted to commit to that first take in that recording session and how important that moment was for us as a band. Even with all the imperfections in there, we still really liked it.

Christopher: There are two more EPs to come yet from it. We split them up like that.

Paul: In the end we had so much material we thought to release it all but not at once but take our time.

So can we expect to hear then Nothing to Say parts 4 before then getting parts one and two, Star Wars style?

Max: There will be a part 4 coming actually!

Paul: But one thing about the releases was to show the two worlds that we have within the band. (On the first EP) Nothing to Say is more out there somehow and Clear Blue Sky is more of a “song” in that it has more of a format in a conventional sense.

Max: We really wanted to combine these two extremes that we’ve worked on. Bring them together.

© Christopher Colm Morrin

Heart is in the Land from the new EP brings the listener almost immediately into a space of contemplation and without lyrics.

Christopher: That’s the thing. I love songwriting so much. That’s my background but what the project has shown me is that instrumentals and landscapes are a huge part of it. Just as important as the “song”. Sometimes lyrics though get in the way, weirdly enough. We found it difficult in the beginning with the two worlds.

Paul: We didn’t wanna just go with one aspect of our sound.

Do you split the rehearsal process as such so, between the conventional format and then letting loose?

Christopher: Depends on the mood. We are rehearsing for a show at the moment. Whereas the first rehearsals we did were like three hours of just forty-five minute pieces each of just jamming. These long passages of time and we were exhausted by them. It’s heavy but after listening back you realise it’s actually interesting stuff. I hate to reference things but Dirty Three were a big band of mine that I loved. Those kinds of movements that I enjoy instrumental-wise. Less songy like.

Max: These explorations really help with inspiration. And to shape a band’s sound. Because we really have this situation where everything is possible and sometimes great ideas can happen. Even if it’s just a moment that passes and we never play it again even spending time doing that helps the band find its sound. It’s really essential.

Christopher: Sometimes I have this desire to just do experimental shows, not knowing what we’re gonna do at all. An hour set completely improvised. A big part of this thing is being in the moment and not knowing what you’re gonna do at all is a great thing. I’m tempted to just let it be completely free in the future.

And you have an online show coming up this Saturday?

Christopher: We were due to play a couple shows at Petersberg Art Space but due to the latest restrictions we will be streaming now from our rehearsal studio instead. It’s just the way the times are.

Live at Bar Bobu in Friedrichshain before lockdown
© Camila Berrio

How do you respond to the positive feedback that listeners and critics have given to your first EP?

Christopher: We are probably too involved with ourselves to mind what is said (positive or not). I mean, a quote from somewhere isn’t gonna change really what we’re thinking. We are deep in search, in the middle right now of a tunnel and digging deep in terms of what we’re doing next and that’s all that matters really. Even though to be honest with you we don’t have a clue what we’re going to be doing next! The uncomfortableness of choice is with us and maybe that’s somewhat unnerving too! If we were some indie rock band in Dublin trying to get PR we might be worried but because we don’t think that way, the openness is part of it. We are looking for more experimentation, more ideas, more angles and that’s it. It’s not about writing a hit pop song. It’s about playing together and seeing what feels good.

Max: It’s about keeping that feeling we had from the beginning, that freedom.

Paul: I remember we did a weekend session (recently) where we jammed and went very experimental and that direction felt great. And that can only happen when we don’t know what to do. It takes energy but we enjoy that.

Back to basics again then, is the band name influenced by the aforementioned calling to nature?

Christopher: I had the poem, Heart is in the Land, and I asked Dani what do we call this thing? We listened to the song and she asked me “what does it feel like to play with the two guys?”. And I said, “it feels like I’m coming down a little bit and just landing, coming down onto the ground feeling safe and good with these people”. Which is one of the most enjoyable feelings in the world. That groundedness. And she was like “what about Landers?” and it stuck. You could say she’s our spiritual manager!

And Daniela is responsible for the artwork too.

Christopher: That came about after she went to Peru and took photos of landscapes and she had done a lot of photos there and she discovered that at the end of the reels of films there were these mad colours coming through. That’s where the idea of the EPs’ imagery stems from – the death of the roll of the film.

Max: We are so lucky to have her on board. She’s so committed. She’s made all the cassettes handmade for the two EPs now too.

They look great, they even feel great. Anyways, thanks guys for taking the time and best of luck for the upcoming show and releases.

Band: Thank you!

The Just Thinking EP cassettes – designed by Daniela Elorza
© Daniela Elorza

Landers’ second EP Just Thinking is now available for streaming on Spotify and for a limited run the EP can be found on cassette over on Bandcamp.

Landers play this upcoming Saturday evening at 10pm Berlin time and info on where to stream that show can be found here.

Cover image by Daniela Elorza.

Orian – “I discovered acoustic soft music to ease the pain and help the soul”

Hi Joey, how are you keeping?

Not too bad and yourself?

Good, good, thanks. Let’s start at the beginning with a cliched question in how did you get into music?

I’ve always been into music since I was young. I started learning the guitar when I was seven. My Mum and Dad were always really into music. They play a little too but not in any proper capacity. Like, Dad tips away on the oul fiddle and Mam used to play piano a bit but there was always music in the house and they were always listening to Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, Nina Simone or Johnny Cash. So I got a really good upbringing on what I consider still to be really good music. We always just had certain traditions like when we in the car going somewhere we would have music on or during the Sunday roast there’d be a couple of albums thrown on on the record player. So I’ve just always been surrounded by music and I guess I just took to it. Then when I went into secondary school I became obsessed with heavy metal which still is kind of true to this day. I formed a metal band and took it quite seriously, probably too seriously really, and then I had my first girlfriend and then she broke my heart six weeks later – as it goes – and then I discovered acoustic soft music to ease the pain and help the soul.

Berlin was a place with more possibilities for me than back home.”

Then I went on to UCC and did music there, did a masters then in musicology. When I was in Cork I had always gone in to college to get better, to expand my learning but like, I also just wanted to become a singer songwriter down in Cork. I was really influenced there by the likes of Mick Flannery. Him doing folk rock and just doing really well for himself. So I kind of went down that route for a while and that’s how it all started.

Image by Paul Tobin

How did you end up making the move to Berlin in 2016?

When I was in Cork I got in touch with a booking agent over here in Germany, Triona Cummins, and she offered to book a few gigs for me over here. And I’d always heard that Irish artists have done well out in Germany and so I wanted to give it a try. Triona would book me out here for a week or two every six months for a couple of years and then one of the times I came over the tour was cancelled ‘cos all the buses and trains in Germany went on strike and there was no way for me to get around. So I was in Berlin and I had a week to do nothing and Triona kindly gave me her apartment for the week and an old friend of mine, Paul, had just moved here and he showed me around and I felt like, that Berlin was a place with more possibilities for me than back home. I had finished college by then, was teaching music and playing bars which was great but like, I didn’t wanna be doing that for the rest of my life and needed a change.

I grew up in a place where you gotta play it safe – I don’t wanna live like that.

Lyric from 2019 single “Tryin'”

And how is it getting into the scene for you in Berlin now as an independent artist?

So yeah, I’m independent but have a great support system in my manager and distributor. I’ve been working on my own since 2014 but Berlin is a really good place to be an independent artist because there’s a lot of really nice venues you can play. But I also think it’s very difficult here too ‘cos it’s hard to make money here as a lot of venues just won’t pay artists. This is a recurring theme here among musicians that because there are so many musicians who wanna play that the venues either won’t pay them on purpose or only offer these “pass the hat” deals. And a lot of musicians don’t agree with that. But of course there are some really nice venues too that do pay and there are some just really cool venues that we regularly play too. There is a good scene, a lot of cool venues with open mic nights too to get you to meet people and it’s a good spring board for other places in Europe.

Orian’s new single Ask You Twice – Artwork by Anny Wong

The remix for Tryin did rather well on Spotify, almost 170 thousands plays thus far. Does that add pressure to these upcoming singles or help?

I don’t know! I mean, the remix for Tryin is not really the kind of music I like nor the kind of thing I listen to. I did it with a really cool producer here but we kind of pushed it in a really poppy direction and it just happened to do really well. I don’t even really consider it part of my catalogue as it were. It was done with a label in Sweden and the reason it came out so poppy is the label in Sweden wanted it that way and then as a result (of that) it’s had so many streams. But what does that mean exactly? As it didn’t exactly make me any money, think I got about twenty euro for it. It looks good but what does it mean?

Tell us about your name Orian.

Yeah, it’s the Irish name for (my surname) Ryan with the Irish pronunciation but just without the proper spelling!

That wasn’t a conscious decision then to change the style of music when you changed from performing under Joey Ryan to the moniker Orian?

I think with Tryin’ there is the remix and then the proper version and that was my first single as Orian and what happened basically was I was doing the Joey Ryan thing for six years, had done two albums, had an iTunes number one single in Ireland back when iTunes was a thing and that was all going fine but I just wasn’t listening to that kind of music anymore and I really wanted to try something that a bit different. I was talking to some people who were working with Universal Music here in Germany and they were advising to go a bit more poppy and I think what happened was I probably listened to them too much and I don’t regret it as it was an exciting thing to do but that’s kind of why I changed the name ‘cos if I decide that that’s something I don’t want to do any more then I can go back to being Joey Ryan without tarnishing that!

“the new stuff has a more indie and 80s vibe

I also feel more comfortable when it’s not my name on the record cover. Or when people ask me am I in a band and I say it’s Joey Ryan, “oh that’s me” and that just makes me super uncomfortable. I don’t know why but it just does. Whereas if I say Orian most people don’t know that’s just my second name as Gaeilge. I have a disconnect which allows me to experiment a bit more or care as much about what people think. ‘Cos you always want people to like your music. It’s been a bit of a journey though. I have had to rethink things after the singles last year (Tryin and Holding On) as they were maybe too poppy. I think the new stuff is still poppy but has a more indie vibe, we have more synths and an 80s vibe to the songs coming.

The lyrics are still heavy, dark even. Even if some songs are “pop” in nature.

Dark is appropriate. I think that’s cos I’m a huge fan of metal. And dark indie stuff like Cigarettes after Sex, Future Islands, Bon Iver, The National. This stuff is all super dark. Oh and Phoebe Bridgers. She’s dark as hell but I love her. I like to keep my lyrics nice and serious. I don’t like to write about love I guess.

Image by Paul Tobin

It feels like pop can be a dirty word but on the other hand pop hits aren’t easy write either. And deserves it own resect too.

That’s the thing. It’s very hard to write a real pop song that’s like gonna make hundreds of thousands. If it were so easy everyone would do them!

Any gigs on the off that restrictions are easing in Berlin?

I was supposed to have a few gigs in November but they got cancelled. So right now, unfortunately no. I think for me, I was content in so far as I did a big German tour in February before COVID went down and I did fifteen shows so I was able to mentally say “you know what, I did my tour for this year”. Normally I wouldn’t do two tours that size anyways. Next year will be difficult though but we are gonna try cos I wanna play and I miss it so much.

Orian performing an acoustic version of Tryin at The Famous Gold Watch, Berlin.

Finally “Ask You Twice” is the first fo five upcoming singles. So does mean there’s an album?

I took a year off to figure out what it was I wanted to go for. I stopped working with some of the label people to go for a direction of music that I myself would like to listen to and then when I met my new manager he was really supportive of that. He said “just go away and write some songs, and don’t care about what genre they are” and I worked with my friend Roman who’s a producer and we have a very similar music taste. We are both huge metal fans! Out of those sessions came this specific sound. And Ask You Twice wasn’t just produced by Roman but also Joschka Bendner who co-produce dit and Roman finished it with the vocals and Joschka had just a really nice approach to the production that was very different to what I’d done before and when we were in the studio he really added all these cool layers that made it sound so interesting and had such a cool atmosphere. He really brought the vocals out.

So yeah, it’s gonna be an EP with these five songs and the sound is gonna become more apparent as the singles get released as an indie guitar led sound but with big emphasis on the vocals and the atmosphere of the songs. We started writing more songs so hoping towards an album maybe but who knows, may be just the EP. Let’s see how it works out.

We wish ÓRIAN all the best with Ask You Twice and his upcoming singles and will let folk know here once they’re out!


Cover Artwork by
© Anny Wong

Eoin Dolan – “Recording puts a microscope on your art, and it’s very unforgiving”

Eoin, isolation seems to be treating you well. You are maintaining that garden of yours well it seems. Focusing any of the new found time on new music since the tour isn’t happening now?

I’m in great form. This day to day living, with less pressure not to go anywhere and an opportunity to do music and reading, suits me. At the minute I’m recording an EP (June Hope) which is gonna be very different. More personal, a bit pop too. It’s not as politicised as my previous work.

While much of your music thus far has had different setting and characters that clearly don’t apply directly to you, they still feel heartfelt and personal.

My songs are partly fictionalised. I like to be imaginative and think we all have a touch of the Walter Mitty in us at times. I look for different strands – sometimes they’re more interesting. Seeing where the different threads end up and I might add certain truths in then.

Eoin Dolan is more likely to be found on his social media giving his followers gardening tips or classic Coronation Street memes than he is to be plugging his own art. On the latter, we suspect the Curb Your Enthusiasm fanatic may be acting a little tongue in cheek…

Digitalisation allows you to do your recording then from home?

I do all my recording at home, yeah. It’s controversial stuff but in a lot of ways I’d say digital, in a  lot of respects, is better. The advancements that have been made in recording technology are great. I wouldn’t have been able to record all the stuff I have done if it wasn’t for the development of digital recording. Analog is not available to the majority of artists and you need a certain knowledge too there that most might not have. Digital gives you a certain avenue to be really creative and I think that’s reflected now in Irish music and the standards have gone up massively. I think the talent has always been there in Ireland but people are given the opportunity now to record more as it was just too expensive before to record.

“The studio is an instrument in itself

Before you also might have had well-meaning sound engineers but they were maybe not necessarily great producers so you’d end up with material that doesn’t capture the character of a band – and I also believe that the more you record (yourself) the better you get at songwriting too. There are a lot of philosophies out there with regards to the purpose of a studio but I’d say that a studio can be used as another kind of instrument in itself that’s integral to the creative process rather than just there to capture the recording itself. Or at least that’s the way I work anyways. 

In your work thus far, I think digitisation has helped add atmospheric aspects to aid the settings, such as in Space on previous LPs, that you may not have got as easily on analog?

I do love the idea of tape and I think analog recording is really cool – I’m not condemning it! Maybe if I had the resources and the space to have all the equipment maybe I would use it, but being practical, I don’t have it so I think digital is great without condemning the older means of recording. Just comes down to the fact that the output of artists is improving as people are getting more opportunities to be creative. Look at the last 15, 20 years since digital recording became more affordable – you see more and more records being put out, more diverse genres of music. It’s interesting too cos nowadays a lot of the recording techniques are going back now, a lot of the plug ins even in a  digital format now will make it sound like it was when recording was analog!

Studios used to intimidate me”

Songwriting is a craft though, it takes time. It took me a while to figure out a style that I was comfortable writing in and performing in and getting my sound together. The writing part of it and learning an instrument is very similar to the recording in that you need to just practice it. Recording puts a microscope on your art, and it’s very unforgiving. I was lucky in that I studied sound engineering (in my mid twenties) and the teachers were good and so were the people in my class. Until then I was always looking at the studio as something that intimidated me. There for the first time, we would be at Windmill Lane recording students or young bands. They’re looking at us as the engineer then and us then seeing it from another perspective where I’m not as emotionally attached. I can then be objective and a lot more clinical just to get the best out of artists and getting their best work out of them.  I was seeing myself in these guys. You get so blinkered in your world view (as the recording artist) and it’s so difficult when you’re so blinkered you can’t stand outside and look at things objectively. One of our teachers, Niall, came in and I remember him saying the key to success is to make decisions quickly. You don’t have all day in the studio and if you can’t be decisive you’ll end up with a lot of unfinished material.

Irish Culture Berlin’s pick of five from Dolan’s immense back catalogue

You’ve always been a big guitar player but we don’t always hear them or maybe just not as predominantly on your recent work – is this intentional?

The majority of the songs I write are on guitar, though some on piano but I’m ruthless – I’ll get rid of a lot of stuff. Initially say there might be a lotta guitars, say rhythm, but if they don’t work – if it’s shit, I won’t mourn its loss. I’ve made that mistake in the past, regardless of how long has been spent on it, you have to cut it if it doesn’t fit. Be quick and say “that’s it, gone”. You can’t let ego get in the way. If the song is good enough, if it has a good melody, message or vibe it’ll carry that through another instrument too. 

If you go back to the sixties and Serge Gainsbourg, guitar isn’t the leading force. It has a great groove to it but it’s coming ‘cos the drums and bass are good. They are locked in and that gives everything the motion. The guitars are there, not as decoration but they’re also not there to drive the song. 

Serge Gainsbourg, with his dog Nana, as taken by Andrew Birkin. Dolan says too that his new EP, June Hope, is largely inspired by his listening to of early 60s’ French pop.

There are a wealth of Irish bands, particularly from the East coast having great success internationally the last couple of years. And in the last year the West coast and Galway seem to be rising to that too, with some incredible talent and labels such as through Citóg and Strange Brew.

The standard has gone up unbelievably. If you look at the Choice Music awards this year, for example, there are just some really really strong artists. The scene is small (in Ireland), even the population, to cater for what’s there. The standard is phenomenal. Sometimes even these bands don’t get the audiences they deserve. And now in the digital realm, there are so many youtube tutorials etc. to help bands (get their sound right and out there). We had bands in the past here that were so tight but they’d go into the studio and the record would sound shite.

But the music scene, the whole system is set up in a way that’s not meant to be fair in any way shape or form – this whole thing that if you work hard enough at it, it’ll work out – is malarky. It’s pure money driven. And connection driven. But even with connections it’s still money driven. Sure, I’d say even with my tour cancelled I saved money. ‘Cos the whole thing would be costing me more to play. And I’d say that’s the same for a lot of the bands out there. I feel sorry for bands who’d had the big festivals this summer, they’d have lost big income there. Then again, they’re often the bands with the money to begin with. They’re the tip of the spear for representing Irish music abroad but in some cases they’re not necessarily the best but just the ones who have the money. You need money to do it.

What I’d say therefore to young people starting in music is to get yourself a skill, one in music or video production that you can not only use for your own art but you can actually get work out of too so that you’re still involved in music too in some way.

Crater of my Heart taken from Dolan’s 2019 LP “Commandor of Sapiens”. Video by David Boland.

But does that not seem a shame that your music doesn’t (yet) reach a wider audience?

I just laugh at it, just find it funny cos I won’t ever pay for PR and I know that may mean I’ll never to get to the point where I could tour regularly but that’s fine ‘cos you can sink a load of money into PR too and get nothing and be just left feeling very angry. Whereas now, (how it’s set up with digital home recordings) I can just record here for the rest of the evening if I want and continue to do so ’til I die. Whether people listen to it or not, that’s fine.

For all the talk of digital, are there any plans or desires there to bring vinyl versions of your music out?

Yeah I have a good amount of stuff recorded on different albums (released on CD or on Streaming platforms) over the years. I plan on putting a “best of” compilation out later this year on vinyl. Again though, it’s just so expensive to duplicate. To make money back you have to be touring with it. But people are conscious that vinyl adds a certain levity to the whole thing. 

Speaking of touring, will Berlin be back on the cards whenever things allow it?

Most definitely. Will have to see how and when things pan out but will be back in Berlin hopefully soon.

The timely and aptly-named “June Hope EP” is out now and you can hear it here now on Spotify, or purchase it on BandCamp, or check out www.eoindolan.com for more updates on Dolan’s work. Dolan is also donating 100% of sales from the EP to The Melting Pot Luck – Galway, a non profit community group set up in the west of Ireland to help bring cultural exchanges between refugees, asylum seekers and locals.

Cover Image by New Pope.

Áine Gallagher – “It’s just a fun way to engage with the Irish language”

Áine, thank you for taking the time out.

Can I say one thing at the start? And this doesn’t bother me, but just to save embarrassment for later. I pronounce my name “Ai – nya”.

Here is where I showed just how much in need of Irish lessons I myself am. I had pronounced the accent on the “Á” like “aw”, so Áine’s name like “aw – nya”. For all the non-Irish speakers out there that ‘accent’ is actually called a “fada” in Irish – cos we’d like you to learn one or two things about Irish in this article too!

I’m so sorry!

No problem. You would never know that when you see it written. It’s a different dialect.  It’s from Donegal. 

So, now I have to ask is that where Enya gets her name from?

She’s from Donegal but her name is Eithne. I think in Donegal Eithne is often pronounced Enya and she’s just changed the spelling to be phonetical. Maybe for international purposes?

Áine. I want to get this right! And actually the fada brings us nicely into your work and that you’ve made your name until now as an Irish language comedian.

So.. I wouldn’t describe myself as an Irish language comedian! But I’m a comedian and I have a special interest in the Irish language and specifically to use comedy as a way to promote the language. And to make it more accessible for people in general. And the way that I can do that is because I’m not a native speaker myself. I’m just the average person who learned it in school. You know, the majority of Irish people like the language but we feel guilty that we don’t speak it and we feel shame that we should speak it more but don’t have the opportunity to speak it more – anyways it’s a horrible negative cycle – but underneath it all, we really like it and would like more chances to speak it. So I just fell into doing Irish language comedy and I initially felt way out of my comfort zone doing it but then I realised that the skill that I had was to connect with the average Irish person and so I developed this method of using Irish within my stand up that is for people who haven’t heard the language before or for the average Irish person who thinks they’ve forgotten it all from school but they haven’t forgotten it all! But just haven’t really had a chance to hear it. And that’s what’s really nice is that people afterwards say, “oh, I’m really surprised, I understand a lot more than I thought I would”. 

But, I’m also a “normal” comedian. My work doesn’t just evolve around the Irish language but it may be regarded as the most meaningful that I’ve done until now. I’ve been performing as a comedian now for ten years, been living in Berlin under a year and yeah, just gigging all the time. Learning German now over here too, that’s been inspiring me a lot. That’s just a fun topic learning language, the experiences and the embarrassments.

Any sets or pieces about learning German in the offing? The comedy clubs here tend to have very international crowds so many may relate?

It’s mainly international crowds yeah, so the anecdotes about language go down well cos the audience are a mix of people trying to learn the language but also Germans appreciate them too about their own language. 

And have you tested the Irish language stuff here too?

I have done some of it, and like in the documentary “Grá agus Eagla” I have developed a whole show which is me as an Irish teacher teaching Irish to a class that is in itself the full comedy show and I’ve taken that to Edinburgh and around Europe and it always goes down well. Something interesting is in Ireland I describe myself as a “guerilla Irish teacher” when I’m performing and then (on stage) haha I’m gonna teach you Irish instead! In Ireland I find that I can’t really advertise the Irish language aspect because people get scared already and stop themselves from going whereas in international places people are more open as they don’t have the shame, many don’t even know there is a language called Irish. Germans though are very interested in Irish culture in general, I find, and especially in the traditional music and poetry etc. And now loads of people are even learning Irish on Duolingo, it’s become so popular. 

Time to get personal Áine – What brought you to Berlin?

Oh no!! Ok, the truth is I moved here because my boyfriend was here. That’s the real answer. My more feminist answer is “you know, was a great time for me to do something new, I’ve always lived in Ireland, try a new experience” but also the truth is I had started to do more and more comedy professionally year by year and it takes a lot of courage to break free of it all  and say, “ok I’m gonna do it”. I thought moving here would be a good challenge, you know, take the safety net away – and see if I could do it. You know, it’s been good so far. It’s been a slug, a hustle. But I do feel like I’m starting to get momentum now and it’s given me a lot of confidence to do it. I think you’re inclined to take more risks if you’re away from home. And then my boyfriend and I broke up a month ago, just at the start of corona, anyway the nice thing was I didn’t have the feeling of what am I doing here in Berlin but I do feel good here. And I’m excited to be here. It’s a new challenge. 

You’ve been working a new web series lately?

Yes! The web series is called Irish Matters. And it’s for anyone who knows Nationwide we are describing it as the new and improved Nationwide exploring important issues around the Irish language and culture. The presenter is called Jane, she has this dead pan, one viewpoint, clear idea about things. She asks quiet objective straight forward questions which creates a lot of opportunity for fun as the series moves on. And then the “pretend” production company who decided to make Irish Matters are just struggling, they’ve never had a hit and it’s like “let’s just make something in Irish, doesn’t matter if it makes any sense or not cos if it’s in Irish your guaranteed to get funding and airtime!

Everything wrapped up now on the series?

Yes, everything is shot. We have three episodes that we are going to release. First episode is coming out this Monday and then the others will come out bi-weekly then. We will have it on our Facebook Page and on my website. We’ve graded the Irish so in the first episode there isn’t much and there’s a bit more then in the next episodes. It’s just a fun way to engage with the Irish language and to try not make it more accessible and not this scary horrible thing that we all dread. 

You have a very subtle way of acting in the series, which is vital in comedy of course.

I haven’t done much acting but I think it’s very Irish, subtlety. Probably what I miss most about Ireland is the subtle jokes. You realise how good Irish people are at subtlety when you are away.

You had a few events, and shows organised before Corona disrupted everything – any word yet on when the shows you’d had may be rescheduled to?

Cant really say, was supposed to do my “Edinburgh” show at Curious Fox in Neukölln and another night there of storytelling so that’s just all postponed. We will see when we can rearrange! Let’s see when, hairdressers are opening again which I am delighted about! I really need a haircut! Anyways, I have more events with the Irish Embassy too but will keep everyone posted when it’s back on!

Irish Matters can be viewed here, or take a look over at Áine’s Twitter and to keep up with the latest on her shows and series.


Images by
© Kevin Handy

LANDERS – debut EP release

Beautifully apt title for the Spring days ahead of us, staring up from our balconies, with a pair of equally evocative tunes to match, Clear Blue Sky is LANDERS’ first release. The two track EP was recorded with Aidan Floatinghome at KAOS over four days in Schöneweide last year. Aidan will be known to many readers from his own solo projects down the years, or his work with Perlee, Wallis Bird or Hundreds.

Now we haven’t had the fortune to see these guys live yet, though we have heard many great things from others who have done so. Of course, given this whole Corona business, we may not see them for a few weeks yet live again in the city but we will keep you informed whenever the cancelled gigs are rearranged. Until then, click on the link above for a spin and if you like what you hear, head on over Landers’ Bandcamp to share your love and support.

Abandoned Berlin – “I have to know what it is I’m not supposed to see.”

First of all, thanks Ciarán for taking the time to talk to us about the new book. The term “Abandoned Berlin” has become synonymous with the exploration of old sites around the city, almost like Hoover has been for vacuum cleaners. What does the site’s and book’s success say to you about its readers?
Thanks John! I must say I was pretty surprised by the success of the Abandoned Berlin project. I only started it at the time because I thought the story and information on how to get in – it was about Spreepark – might be useful to someone. I literally started it because I thought it was a waste to have an old abandoned amusement park just sitting there, hidden behind an auld fence, forgotten and ignored. Then of course the story behind its abandonment was pretty mad, too, so I had to write it up. I write for a living so I guess I have a natural drive to do that. But the popularity of that post about Spreepark and the subsequent places I wrote about shows people have a healthy appetite for tragic stories, especially when they can then visit the “scenes of the crimes” themselves. I guess people also share my curiosity for what is around them, especially the “verboten” stuff that other people don’t want you to see.


You’ve been gracious in the success and appeal your website has had on others – encouraging people to follow suit. Aside from learning to appreciate the sites and what they behold, what is the impact on you personally from the explorations?
I guess I’ve come to realize the fickleness of human endeavor – the efforts people can put into something, only for it all to be rendered moot at the end of the day. I mean, this isn’t always the case, obviously, but there are so many places discarded after serving their purpose that it just shows how wasteful we all are. Some of the stories were incredibly sad, but I’m happy to have played my part in helping at least ensure they won’t be forgotten.

Flughafen Rangsdorf


You mention on the site that what drew you in initially were the stories that these sites longed to tell. And of course, the “verboten” signs which cry out to be ignored! Has this just been the case for you since moving to Berlin or had you these adventurous and cheeky desires as a child back in Ireland too?
I think we all have an urge to do whatever is “verboten,” but maybe that’s just an Irish thing. I think not. But I know that the Germans are far more obedient when it comes to obeying warning signs and instructions not to enter. For me it’s like a red flag to a bull – I have to know what it is I’m not supposed to see, I need to know what wonderful secrets are just waiting to be discovered behind the fence. When I was a kid we had a game we called “The Death Zone,” which basically involved just running through neighbours’ gardens, climbing one wall and jumping into another, then another and so on, all the while looking out for the surprised home-owners and any nasty dogs they may have had. It was fun, but nerve-wracking sometimes. We got caught a few times and had to spend lots of time looking for a “lost ball” that never existed.


Volume 1 dealt with some of the more well-known hotspots – much of this down to the exposure you initially gave those sites. This book sheds light on some (currently) lesser-known relics, which makes the volume relevant. What is your thought process in choosing the next location to discover? Have you particular themes you strive for?
My aim is to document as many of these sites as possible before they’re gone. The first book had more of the more well-known places, I guess because I knew about them, but as I’ve been writing I discovered others and I get a lot of tips from people on places that I haven’t written about yet. I don’t really have any parameters or conditions for writing about new places. It’s just a race against time to write about as many as possible.

Flughafen Johannistal

Yet a number of abandoned airports appear in the new volume. As you allude to in the book, it’s been a topical subject this last decade in the city.
It’s just crazy how many airports there are! It’s quite remarkable. I didn’t go out to specifically write about airfields or airports, but it just happened. Berlin has a thing with airports – it can’t build them (anymore) and it can’t leave the ones it wants to leave. Tegel will probably stay open forever, while they’ll eventually give up on the idea of Willy Brandt Airport, aka BER or Berlin Brandenburg International, ever opening at all.

Tell us about the risk involved. Falling ceilings and rotten floorboards must be aplenty. But also security or police. Has your risk assessment changed as you’ve gotten older?
I take less risks now because I have kids, two sons, and I came to that realization when I was alone in an abandoned factory about to jump across a great height and I thought to myself, if I don’t make this I’ll be leaving my son without a father. I only had one at the time. I’ve two now so I wear a helmet. Only joking! But I am much more careful than I was before – I’m not just thinking for myself anymore.

I wanted to ask you about who took the photos when I then saw that you are also a photographer. Have you always been taking the shots for AB or has this developed over time as a way to document the sites better?
I’ve always been taking the shots. I mean, the first time I went to Spreepark on that fateful day, there was just me and a camera. The camera has followed me since. The words were always more important to me, but lately the photography has grown in importance. I started studying photography at the Neue Schule für Fotografie in 2018 and will be finished – I hope – in late 2021.

The writing throughout is refreshing and humourous – it’s also cynical and at times scathing of the politicians and investors who are often responsible for the very derelict sites which you write about. The book is dual language, so German and English texts are beside each other yet the translation into German has lost neither its wit nor its bite. Do you do work on the translations yourself to maintain that?
Thanks, I appreciate that. The translation was handled by my publishers. It’s a small local-run endeavor, the Bebra Verlag in the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, and they’re good people.

Trabiwerkstatt


You’re very well read on German history and culture – where did that interest stem from?
I did German in secondary school, did quite well, but when I got here 10 years later I found I could only say, “Ich heiße Ciarán und ich bin vierzehn jahre alt” and not much else. I really expected all the German I learned would come flooding back into my head. It didn’t. I was always into history in general except for the period I was in school, when they killed that interest with their obsession for learning dates of events. They should have called it calendar studies. Once I got out of school I rediscovered my love of history – which is basically the story of everything that ever happened before. Of course a lot of interesting stuff happened in Germany. But interesting stuff happens everywhere.

A question on anonymity? Many Berliners will be familiar with your blog and first book but will know little about you, not your name, nationality nor your appearance. We don’t see your face on AB at all, nor in the short film from Jordi Busquets. Is being discreet a tactic to help evade security in future explorations or rather to shun “celebrity”, or something else entirely?
I don’t really see the need to plaster my name everywhere or post selfies on the site. I prefer to stay in the background and let the stories take the limelight. This comes from a desire not to be nabbed by security or Polizei or the like.


Finally, a bleak one. With Covid-19 looking like potentially closing thousands of businesses in the city we could be seeing a lot more abandoned sites in the years to come. Great for the future explorers, but devastating for society, culture and workers. What can we as citizens be doing in Berlin to help protect locations from becoming derelict?
Ah man, I really hope that isn’t the case. I really don’t want to see any more
abandoned sites – with the possible exception of BER – than are out there
already. This corona thing is a disaster, but nothing is more important than life. First of all we need to do everything we can to preserve it and hinder the spread of the virus. That means staying in. Yes, it means not going off to explore abandoned sites with friends. As citizens, we should avoid ordering things through Amazon and the like, but look for local small businesses that will take orders online and support them as well as we can. The local shop. See what notices they’ve left in their window. Maybe they’re relying on online orders. Support artists too – they’re really feeling the pinch. This is the time we really have to stick together, albeit at a distance.

Verlassene Orte/Abandoned Berlin Volume 2 is now available here and don’t worry, orders will still be shipped and delivered during these days of isolation!

All images on this page by Ciarán Fahey

Inhaler – Dublin indie rockers hit Columbia Theater this Thursday

Young Dublin indie band Inhaler land in Berlin this week as part of a wider headlining European tour. The gig this week in Columbia Theater will be their Berlin debut and a great chance to see a band in an intimate setting that many are tipping for stardom.

The band have had a busy year supporting the likes of Noel Gallagher, touring the U.S. with The Blossoms and selling out across the UK – accumulating quite the passionate fanbase along the way. Reminiscent of early day Killers with catchy tunes matched by smart, witty lyrics we can see why. They may only have released a handful of singles thus far but have amassed over 8 million plays on Spotify and frontman Elijah Hewson seems unfazed, “I’m just trying to write about the joy of being alive, being a teenager, and the bad things that can come with that. I don’t like it to be all happy and I don’t like it to be all sad”.

The show starts at 8pm with support coming from Stockport band Fuzzy Sun. Doors from 7pm this Thursday, March 5th. 
Tickets available here or check out our Instagram account for a chance to win two free tickets!

Columbia Theater
Columbiadamm 9 – 11
10965 Berlin