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. 


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.

Charles Hendy – A Mary Walloper

In the twelve months before lockdown Charles played over a hundred and fifty gigs, relying on an old Transit van to take the band on sorties from and back to its base in Dundalk. When the head gasket blew, the Hendy brothers crowd-funded a second-hand engine—a few free stickers in the post later, they were moving again. And in many ways that’s analogous to the story of their progress: their ethos is one of DIY and their success hasn’t been so much a meteoric rise as a grinding, widening spread of puckish charm. You can’t help feel that adversity, for all its inconvenience, is not wasted on the three. 

Fresh from a TV appearance on The Tommy Tiernan Show, The Wallopers were set to headline in Whelan’s, Dublin. One week alone would see them play two gigs in Germany and another in London, before flying home for a St Patrick’s Day show in the Cork Opera House. But, as the continent accustomed itself to the realities of Covid-19, Charles too saw previously clear horizons start to draw in around him. One by one, hard-earned gigs dropped off the calendar and the van’s hunger for diesel became a less pressing issue.

At the same time, fuck it.” 

The band adjusted to the patronising concept of the new normal by segueing into live-streaming from a pub they put together in the Hendy brothers’ house. Nights at home with The Mary Wallopers have proven popular with their fan base and even beyond, gaining them a following from different parts of the world. “Like, when we’re posting t-shirts, we posted a hundred and fifty t-shirts to America.” 

One of the many self made designs that adorns their band T-Shirts

Though their online shows are curated so as to have as much fan interaction as the internet allows, ultimately the trio play alone—not a scenario they’re used to. “We got our start playing in pubs that were rough pubs. On more than one occasion we were playing ballads while there was [sic] people fighting each other in front of us. Physically thumping each other.” 

Tonight, Charles is over at his girlfriend’s house whilst Andrew is isolating as a close contact of a confirmed covid case. Though pixelated through Zoom, Charles’ face is angular and lively. His speaking voice tallies reassuringly with the one he sings with—sharp and fluid in its enunciation, and full of the cadences and rhythms of Dundalk. “I’ve just been doing nothing. I bought a book of ballads today and I’ve been learning the tin whistle.

Despite initially being known as a hip-hop artist with the ironic-but-abrasive TPM, the word folk is surely relevant when applied to The Mary Wallopers and it’s not one Charles is about to shy away from. The genre leaves plenty of room for expression, all of which the Wallopers are keen to explore. “The songs are as punk or as rock ‘n’ roll as anything because they’re all about drinking and having sex and all that kind of stuff. They’re very raw songs.” He’s keen to emphasise that any preconceptions about the music being overly twee are misplaced: “It’s anti-authority music. It’s music for rebellion. Do you know what I mean? And that’s brilliant.”

We just thought, why doesn’t Dundalk deserve the effort?

Charles on the band’s decision to return home to Dundalk rather than hit for a big city.

Charles is happy to accept terms like low-firaw and DIY in relation to the Wallopers’ aesthetic, and often slips them into his own speech. When he talks of the folk music canon it is with an effortless and penny-droppingly-appropriate blend of respect and irreverence. “We’ve always said that we’re vessels for those old songs. There’s a duty that you have to deliver the song. When I’m singing Building Up and Tearing England Down I’m thinking of my own father, uncles, relations and people that I know that have worked on building sites in England in the sixties and broke their backs, literally, building houses.” 

There is, perhaps, an unspoken expectation that folk singers should somehow earn the right to sing about hardship through endurance of some difficulties in their own lives. So, given that “authentic” is a recurring adjective fans of The Mary Wallopers use to describe their live performances, just what is it about the three that rings true? Charles is cautious not to exaggerate his own travails. Though he has worked on building sites abroad, he acknowledges, “When you move to Holland and you’re Irish you’re considered an ex-pat, not an immigrant anymore. I’ve never had that feeling of going to a different country and people hating you. Lots of Irish people have and it happens here today.” 

In describing his father’s experiences as a labourer and machine driver he does so with matter-of-fact empathy: “He was made redundant in the end as a big ‘Thank You’ but then this pension he was paying into just disappeared. The bubble burst of the Celtic Tiger. We saw him work his arse off until he died. And he had nothing to show for it really—except Sundays, when he worked on things that he liked.” 

Building Up and Tearing England Down performed by The Mary Wallopers for Raidió na Life

In truth, given the band’s high gig tally, the uncertainty that goes with live music, and the fact that until very recently they’ve run everything themselves – booking, travel, recording, promotion – it’s hard to imagine what they do is easy. But, hard work and tragedy aside, the other folk cliché is that of hard living in terms of vices—the romanticised tendency towards self-destruction. “It’s incredibly hard work and people don’t like you saying that. You can’t have a routine and you can’t have a diet that’s anyway good. And every night you go to a gig it’s someone else’s night off. Do you know what I mean? So everyone is like, ‘Stay up, we’ll fucking go mad.’ You end up getting no food and too much drink. But it’s worth it.

Despite all the road miles involved in touring, not moving to Dublin or some other major population centre was a conscious decision, and one Charles feels strongly about. When he and Andrew decided to take music seriously it was over a phone call between Amsterdam and Hong Kong:  “We were considering moving to London or Manchester, but then the realisation came that we should move to Dundalk because—why doesn’t Dundalk deserve the effort? Why don’t small towns deserve the effort and the art? They need it and they deserve it more than places that are culturally rich.” Given the recent covid-revived interest in rural living, their attitude seems prescient: “We’ve always been very interested in the decentralisation of culture. I think it’s so important that, to see a concert in Ireland, you don’t have to go to Dublin to do it. People can become more proud, or content even with where they’re from and it’ll make art better and it’ll make it more accessible and it’ll make it less airy fairy to people.” His thinking is clear: cities provide the audience and infrastructure that bands crave, but maybe that’s too easy. “I firmly believe if you can make it in Dundalk you can make it anywhere. There’s a lot more against you in Dundalk or somewhere like that than there is in New York.” 

Catch The Mary Wallopers as part of the Irish Embassy’s Irish Night In. More info below.

Although rooted firmly in the borderlands of Ireland’s north east, the band has played on the continent before. Their “O’er the Sea on a Pig” tour saw them drive from Belgium to Italy and down through Germany where they played in Bonn and Linden amongst other places: “We did fourteen gigs in two weeks out of the back of a Ford Focus. We would do a bit of busking during the day to get money for food and then we’d send one of the lads away to walk around all of the pubs and see if any of them would give us a place to stay and pay us to play a gig.” 

Abiding recollections of Germany largely centre on the attitude to music there. Charles considers there’s a respect for the musician in Germany that can sometimes be lacking in Ireland where music can be taken for granted. “They were talking to us about particular songs that Irish people sometimes wouldn’t know, you know? They love Irish music.

With a background as an original artist where he pens tunes for TPM, one might imagine transitioning to a more jazz-like tradition of interpreting handed-down songs could feel limiting. Charles feels sure by the time their second album comes around they’ll have some original tracks on it, but does admit a trepidation in adding to their folk repertoire: “It’s a bit daunting writing songs for The Mary Wallopers. With TPM, it’s all cloaked in humour. You know? You get away with a bit more. There’s not as much pressure for creating a song because you can go, ‘It’s a joke.’”

As the three share lead vocal duties, there is a healthy competitive edge when it comes to finding and claiming material to include in their repertoire. As time passes, each is discovering their own niche, and swapping songs to achieve the best outcome is not unheard of. Whereas Charles claims his brother is more animatedly musical, “Words is [sic] always the thing for me. In my singing style as well, you’ll notice I’m very particular about pronouncing stuff and getting every word as clear as I can get it.” Though initially drawn to light-hearted or comic songs, with experience comes the confidence that has seen Charles embrace darker material. Of particular interest to him is breathing new life into medieval songs, finding the contemporary in the ancient. “If there’s something a bit odd in the melody and if you can’t argue with the sentiment, then that’s the main thing.

At present a self-titled EP featuring their break through hit, Cod Liver Oil & The Orange Juice, is on release and can be found on Spotify. After recording a full length album, the band decided to mothball the whole thing: “By the time we were ready to release it we actually thought that we were after getting better at playing the songs than the recording. The EP is kinda [sic] stuff we weren’t going to release so that’s why we put it out—we’re not going to release these so let’s release them.” There is finally an album in the offing though, together with an increasingly eager audience ready to receive it.

The Mary Wallopers’ music stands out in any setting, but it is live that the full texture of delivery is best appreciated. The more raucous the setting, the better—their gem is one that gleams brightest in the dirt. It’s perhaps because of this that the success of their livestreams from an empty room has been so impressive. Over the past eleven months or so we’ve all tuned in to audience-free content that has tanked but these are guys who can generate intrigue apropos of nothing. 

Pressed on something positive up ahead, Charles’ response is clear if not unpredictable: “For 2021, gigs. That’s all we care about is that gigs are on the horizon finally—the fact that we can go back and play songs to a load of people that are going mad drinking and roaring and shouting.” 

On the day after our chat, the van-breaking-down motif seems to proffer itself as some sort of metaphor for the balladeer’s struggle. I message Charles to say I’ll call later for more details on the event but in the end I don’t bother. His response to the request: “Lol. No problem, we can do that. We have many breakdown stories…” 

The Mary Wallopers feature as part of “An Irish Night In”, a free online event hosted by the Irish Embassy at the Ambassador’s residence in Berlin on Saturday, January 23rd @7pm CET. Register here for the event.      

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.

Thumper – Exhilarating grunge pop for troubled times

The RAW-Gelände is usually a Valhalla for ragtag, DIY punk aficionados – a graffitied, rundown staple of Friedrichshain nightlife on Revaler Straße, where excitable young tourists and leather jacket wearing punks congregate for long nights of hedonism. But this is Thursday 12th March, and Europe is in the midst of putting public life on hold to tackle Covid-19, and the closing of Berlin clubs and bars is an inevitability. As a result the music venue Urban Spree is ghoulishly quiet. The former locomotive sheds of the RAW-Gelände are eerie in the absence of the usual throngs of people. Even the drug-pushing sentries seem denuded in numbers, and half-hearted in their entreaties to the small pockets of party-goers to buy their illicit wares.

Artfully-executed grunge pop

Everything is about to close down. But before it does, there‘ll be one more blast of “bubble gum grunge” energy, courtesy of Dublin-based noise pop sextet Thumper, who pound through an intoxicatingly fun set of music that manages to distract the crowd from uncertainties outside. Their music fuses the indie rock riffs of bands like Wavves and Parquet Courts with the scuzzy, fuzz-pedaled guitar sound of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth – a coalescence of influences that seems purpose-built to wow packed audiences in venues like Urban Spree. In normal circumstances there would surely be a sweaty crowd moshing together. But tonight there is a smattering of people in attendance, understandably careful to maintain their own space and avoid physical contact, but treated nevertheless to a course in artfully-executed grunge pop.

Having cultivated a dedicated following back home in Ireland, Thumper played sold out shows in London earlier in the tour, but crowd sizes in mainland Europe have differed. “We played to a full room in Brussels the other week“ says frontman Oisin Leahy Furlong to us after the show. “And then to six people in Cologne yesterday“. Inconsistencies in audience numbers don‘t seem to visibly sap the energy of the band, who grin throughout the set, although offstage they tell us about the physical toil of heavy touring. “I‘ve already needed my neck massaged twice“ says bassist Dav, when we tell him about the cricks to our necks caused by headbanging for the last hour.

Image by Nicholas O’Donnell

With music this propulsive and catchy, it’s very difficult not to jump animatedly in appreciation. Starting as a one-man-band, their lineup has grown over the last few years to encompass a three-pronged guitar assault spearheaded by Oisin, bass, and two drummers. An augmented rhythm section ensures a relentless, metronomic beat that serves as perfect scaffolding for feral, fuzz guitar riffing. The band open their set tonight with new single Ad Nauseam to a crowd initially reluctant to approach the stage. But thanks to the bantering efforts of Oisin and the rigorous, relentless drive of the band, by the time we get to seven minute euphoric set closer Down, the crowd has given itself up to the wall of sound, converted to the raucous display of euphoric energy in front of them.

There are a surfeit of gloom-laden, introspective artists eager to document the horrors of the world outside, and ‘fun’ doesn‘t appear to be in the DNA of many bands right now. So the sight of this hirsute troupe of grunge rock lovers thrashing their guitars and pounding their drums so gleefully offers a welcome respite from a world turning upside down. But that’s not to say that the band members are necessarily carefree party animals offstage. “This is just one side of me” Oisin tells us while chomping on an apple after the show, when we remark on his theatrical stage presence, and predilection for running amongst the crowd. The other side is introspective and thoughtful. The band listen to Fionn Regan and Leonard Cohen on the tour bus, rather than The Stooges or The Melvins. Oisin‘s solo project, Anamoe Drive, displays gorgeous dream pop sensibilities redolent of Wild Nothing. He tells us how much he admires Leonard Cohen‘s ability to say so much in so few words, and the gleefully scuzzy guitar sound of Thumper disguises the agonised, arresting imagery of his own lyrics. “When I’m in my room milk curdles in the sun. When I’m in my room bring a magnet to the haystack. When I’m in my room cat eyes glare through the smoke. When I’m in my room alone” sings Oisin in In My Room as a plea for camaraderie in an anthem against solitude.

Time for reflection

And indeed Oisin exudes a natural gratitude and pride for being in a band of like-minded musicians that has allowed Thumper to tour Europe and gradually expand their fan base, spurred on by increasing radio coverage by the likes of Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens, culminating in the release of last year’s excellent Out Of Body Auto-Message EP produced by Girl Band’s Daniel Fox. The band’s inexorable ascent to mainstream status might seem a foregone conclusion, but Covid-19 has clouded immediate plans in uncertainty. Before starting the show in Berlin, their gigs in Karlsruhe and Paris had been cancelled. So what does the future hold for the band now that their European tour has been curtailed? “We’re taking every day as it comes. At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat as other musicians” says Oisin. Their debut album is more or less under wraps, and he tells us there’ll be plenty of time to write album number two now. “I thought I’d be in Europe all month, so I had sub-let my apartment. I might not have anywhere to stay in Dublin when I come back now” he says half-jokingly.

Thumper are indeed just one of thousands of talented young bands whose ability to make a living by gigging has been cut short by the virus. We can only hope for their, and indeed all our sakes, that they have the conditions to return sooner rather than later. As we leave them to enjoy the after party of what will turn out to be the unexpected last night of the tour, we return home thankful for the exhilarating jolt of grunge rock energy they’ve given us. Because if there‘s anything that will see us through the necessary cultural shutdown in Europe, it’s the knowledge that there’s a world beyond our four walls, and that there are likeminded lovers of jubilant, scuzzy grunge rock waiting to be partied with.

Thumper – (You’re bringing me) down

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

Paddy Mulcahy – “A cathedral of serenity”

One of the joys of the city is that every district has its own multitude of treasures. Wedding is one such place, where the energetic, multicultural pulse of Seestrasse transforms suddenly into the sleepy, streetlamp-lit Liebenwalder Straße, where Mastul, tucked into the corner, shines out like an artistic beacon. And the mellifluous, lyrical piano music of Paddy Mulcahy and Kelly Wyse gives many of us the soothing, transportive break from the hubbub of life in the capital that we need.

Limerick-based Paddy Mulcahy is here as part of the Modellbahn series, curated by Seattle-born Berlin resident Kelly Wyse. The series is described as a set of concerts of “experimental, improvised classical music“. This description might be a turnoff for some – isn’t experimental classical music supposed to be austere, impenetrable, aloof and cold? The venue, for a start, is anything but austere and cold. The pleasant bohemian chatter of Mastul’s bar area leads to a dimly-lit, cosily- wallpapered backroom, where lines of benches are placed before a majestic old upright piano with its myriad of hammers, pins, pegs and strings on display for all to see. And eagerly awaiting are a mix of wine-sipping classical music aficionados sat next to seasoned club-goers here to break a weekend of hedonism with some cultural enrichment. The overall effect is like being in a temple, with the piano placed like an alter before the expectant throng, a promise of spiritual reward from a higher source.

Recurring motifs around which dynamics undulate and harmonies evolve with slow-building intensity

Kelly Wyse is first to play. He charms the audience with a collection of pieces loaded with grace and beauty. His website describes his music as having been influenced by Ravel’s ‘Gibet’, a piece “where the same B flat octave ostinato remains constant while harmonies and dynamics change around it.” This concentration on repetition pervades his own music: recurring motifs around which dynamics undulate and harmonies evolve with slow-building intensity. Pieces such as ssSwan unravel from the piano unhurriedly and elegantly, whetting our appetites for Kelly’s solo album Pastoralia, which is set for release later this year.

A short break reminds the ensembled audience that they are in the backroom of a raucous Wedding pub rather than floating on a river at sunset, the door being opened to allow us to refill our drinks and mix with the joyful clatter of revellers at the bar. Then headliner Paddy Mulcahy takes to the stage, unfurling a Limerick flag to dampen the sound of the piano and achieve a muted, percussive tone that brings the audience to an awed silence. Telling us that he had fallen in love with sythesisers when recording latest album How to Disappear, Paddy adds the synthetic swooshes of a Korg Monologue keyboard and ambient delay of a Roland Space Echo to the mix, lifting us away from Wedding to an oasis of calm, wanderlust and orange-hued skies.

Paddy explains that this pared-down setup is a far cry from the heavy-duty one he uses when playing back home in Ireland. But it’s a mark of the music’s quality that motifs from pieces such as Sunset Connoisseur and When Away embed themselves in our brains like earworms, regardless of the setup in which they’re played this evening. And when, after the music has finished and this cathedral of serenity reverts to the smoky backroom of a hip Wedding bar, the music continues to resound in our heads. If ‘experimental’ piano music is always this intoxicatingly beautiful, perhaps Berliners seeking a break from the pell-mell of city life should consider introducing more ‘experimental’ music to their own busy schedules.

Cover Picture by
© Shane Vaughan

Perlee – transcendent dream pop balm for a cold winter’s night

The Filmkunstbar Fitzcaralldo has long provided a source of sanctuary from windswept evenings in Berlin. And ensconced in the DVD-lined basement of the bar, Perlee’s ethereally beautiful music dashes all thoughts of howling winds and Tuesday blues from the enraptured, seated audience, transporting us instead to a smoky dreamscape of moonlit skies and yearning.

Hailing from Meath but now based in Berlin, the duo fill the basement with cooing, dovetailing vocals underpinned by Saramai Leech’s lush, cinematic keyboards, and Cormac O’Keeffe’s delicate, reverb-drenched guitar. Opening with the sparse, tear-inducingly beautiful Chain Of Coral, and closing with forthcoming single Charlie’s Song, their set veers from haunted, fingerpicking wistfulness to sun-kissed dream pop redolent of Beach House and Slowdive.

“This feeling of plenty is in my bones”

The overall effect is less of watching a set of songs, but rather of being taken on a journey through a dreamworld, alternating between states of wide-eyed wonder watching whales under starry skies, to ineffable waves of longing and torment in shadow-cast post-apocalyptic landscapes. The duo manage this with seamless, carefully-crafted musicianship, where unison vocals splinter into spectral harmonies, and unexpected chord changes light up plaintive, autumnal moods with lingering rays of hope.

‘This feeling of plenty is in my bones’ sing the duo halfway through the set, mirroring the enchantment of the audience sat upon their upturned beer crates. Set to release their next single Charlie’s Song on February 21st, and their EP Slow Creature on March 27th, Perlee may soon be set to fill ever-bigger spaces with their delicate sounds. But on this cold winter’s evening in Berlin, they made the cosy candlelit basement of the Filmtheater Fitzcaralldo a haven for all in attendance.

Perlee play next in Berlin at Bar Bobu, Friedrichshain on March 7th 2020.

Cover Picture by
© Greta María Ásgeirsdóttir

Perlee at Filmkunstbar Fitzcarraldo

The Meath natives who have made Berlin their home have been productive in recent months gigging hard. This led to recording the EP with acclaimed producer Julie MacLarnon (who has previously worked with fellow Irish acts Lankum and Duke Special, as well as The Vaselines).

Check out their debut single Chain of Coral below and prepare to be moved.

The doors will open from 21:00 and show starts 21:30. Entry €5 at the door.

Filmkunstbar Fitzcarraldo
Reichenberger Str. 133
10999 Berlin

Cover Picture by
© Mattia Stellacci & Lena Hansen

Junior Brother – “I connected with his place in the arcane, weird and demented world”

Hi Junior Brother, excited to take your show on the road and to a more European audience? 

I’m always very happy to play for audiences in new places, and I’m looking forward to getting to travel and see lots more of Europe than I’ve seen before. It’s also the longest tour I’ve been a part of so far, so that will be a great experience.

How did the tour itself come about with The Murder Capital?

I think the band’s management got onto my management to ask me to join them on the tour. I’m glad they asked and even gladder I said yes!

© Gavin Ovoca

The Murder Capital are an Irish post punk band from Dublin, who also released one of the great albums of 2019 with their debut, When I Have Fears

The mix of tenderness and humour on Pull the Right Rope resonated with a lot of listeners, not just from song to song but often from one line to the next. Is performing for you every night as emotional a rollercoaster as it can be for your listeners?

Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, it’s a really intense experience for me pretty much every time I play a gig. Live, I try to click into a certain energy that is potent and that taps into a certain frequency which will hopefully be picked up on by spectators and listeners. It’s hard to explain this energy I pursue but I can certainly feel it when I get there. 

You’ve spoken before about the influences of the Kerry landscapes on your music…

The weirdness and natural, ancient atmosphere of rural Ireland is something I try to convey through every aspect of my music, particularly the atmosphere of where I grew up in Kerry. I can’t explain with words the feeling these landscapes bring up in me, so that’s why I put them in my music – hopefully some people will pick up on these distinct, abstract elements but if not, it’s not the end of the world – they’re still there for me.

Junior Brother’s debut album, Pull The Right Rope, was released in May 2019 to great acclaim and was recently shortlisted for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for album of the year 2019 alongside Fontaines D.C., Mick Flannery and Soak, amongst others.

Speaking of Kerry, is Richie Kavanagh’s wit an influence?

Richie Kavanagh conveys through his songs a beautiful sense of rural naivety which lifts my heart and soul every time I hear it. 

You yourself have a rather unique sound, and yet of course we can hear some influences from Planxty to Nick Drake to Joanna Newsom too.

In Planxty I heard the thick atmosphere of rural Ireland conveyed so potently on their album The Woman I Loved So Well. Nick Drake was very important in this very same aspect, through his natural and hypnotic guitar plucking. Joanna Newsom and Derek Bell got me very into harp music, with Newsom’s voice being a huge inspiration to me when finding the courage to sing in my own voice. 

These artists, among others, helped me to shape my style, as I used elements from these and many other sources to create a mixture which sounds different to most things I suppose.

Tell me about your stage name, Junior Brother, is it true that it originates from a play you studied in college and if so, what is the play? And, what was it that drew you to it? 

Yes, it’s a character’s name in The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton, and I read that when I was doing English in University College Cork. The play dates from a period which I feel a strange aesthetic affinity with, late 16th/ early 17th century England. The play is insane and violent and beautiful, and Junior Brother is a malicious outcast in the very outer margins of the action – I connected with his place in the arcane, weird and demented world of the play.

So, you have a few shows in Germany over the tour. Have you been a fan or been influenced by German culture in the past?

Krautrock has been quite a big influence, acts like Can, Neu and Kraftwerk I discovered really early on when I was just starting to get bored of more conventional music as a child. In terms of cinema, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder had a huge impact early on, and of course Werner Herzog is a brilliant force of nature as an artist and is an influence as well.

Show starts at 8pm with Junior Brother, doors from 7pm, Monday the 3rd of February 2020.
Tickets available here.

Musik & Frieden
Falckensteinstraße 48
10997 Berlin

Cover Picture by
© Nicolas O’Donnell

The Murder Capital by
© Gavin Ovoca

TAU & the Drones of Praise – Bushfire Relief Fundraiser

Get down, donate what you can and have a good time with great bands to boot.

TAU are a transcendental psychedelic rock band based in Berlin, headed up by Dubliner Shaun Mulrooney – who many may know well from being the lead of one of the great noughties’ Dublin bands, Humanzi. TAU may have a very different sound, which you can get a feel for below, but Mulrooney’s energy, voice and magnetism remain as strong as ever.

Enjoy the show!

Marie Antoinette
Holzmarktstraße 15-18
10179 Berlin