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.

Landers – Washing with Water review

In an era where it’s easy for any reflecting person to lapse into agonised scrutiny of our fraught and dangerous times, the art that seems to have fared best has been that which has markedly distanced itself from the uncertainties of our lives.  Landers are an accomplished trio of musicians who offer sweet relief from the daily tumult with an alluring span of music, which ranges from clear-eyed folk to experimental jazz. 

Defying the impulse to create and upload content instantly, Landers, consisting of Dubliner Christopher Colm Morrin on vocals and guitar, and the Berlin born rhythm section of bassist Paul Breiting and drummer Max von der Goltz, have been steadily releasing the fruits of a productive pre-Corona recording session at KAOS, a warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin, in the form of four singles. Together, these releases paint a captivating portrait of a band who manage to infuse a folk core with a tantalising potpourri of textures and soundscapes.

From left to right; Max, Chris and Paul.
© Daniela Elorza

Their first two releases, Clear Blue Sky and Just Thinking, already showcased their limber musicianship and aptitude for writing limpid melodies: the former showcasing Morrin’s gorgeous falsetto over an elegant bass riff; the latter demonstrating a Motorik beat redolent of Kraurock legends Can, over which Icelandic guest musician Sölvi Kolbeinsson provides elegiac saxophone.

But the other tracks from each release have been just as intriguing –  Nothing to Say (Pt.3) from Clear Blue Sky displays the music school credentials of the rhythm section, with Breiting’s distorted bass dancing alongside von der Goltz’s crisp, inventive drumming, over which Morrin adds hushed reverb-drenched vocals and guitar textures in something far closer to experimental jazz than folk; and Heart is in the Land – Reprise, from Just Thinking, conjures an ambient wall of reverb and delay over which cymbals fizzle and bass chords hum, recalling post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky.

Latest release Washing with Water adds further nuance and intrigue to their sonic palette and continues a trend of coupling a catchy title track with a compelling counterpoint. When interviewing the band late last year, I was struck by their absolute lack of ego, and the dedication of each member to serving the overall sound rather than saturating the music with individual contributions. Nothing epitomises this approach more than 22, Washing with Water’s opening track, where the band are happy to sit back entirely and allow friend Vincent Audusseau to take centre stage in an ambient sound collage which layers fragments of acoustic piano originally recorded for the title track with squalls of delay and feedback. This Brian Eno-esque piece recalls Moss Garden from Bowie’s Heroes album, with piano chords trilling and splashing like cooling rivulets of water, before being smothered by buzz saw jets of white noise, with nods to Revolution 9 by the Beatles in its disconcerting texturing.

22 serves as an enigmatically cinematic prelude to the beautiful Washing with Water, which opens with a chiming 6/8 acoustic guitar figure, over which Morrin wistfully sings: “Floating in this lake/ Feeling the world go by, go by/ Drop after drop/ Smile after smile, after smile.” Tapping into our need for release, renewal and escape, the song undulates with unhurried grace, before being borne on the wings of Breiting’s sensitive bass playing, and von der Goltz’s understated drumming. Audusseau’s piano is again employed to shimmering effect, with cascading piano chords completing the picture of a lakeside idyll far removed from the uncertainty of our times.

With their latest release, Landers once more prove their remarkable ability to blend a mix of influences into two tracks defined less by individual showmanship than by sonic adventurism and musical selflessness. In doing so, they continue to display their knack for conjuring an array of moods and soundscapes and offer an enticing promise of what’s yet to come.

Washing with Water is available to listen to now on Spotify 

As with their previous EPS, their latest release is also available on hand made limited edition tape cassette here, designed and crafted by Berlin based artwork and graphic designer Daniela Elorza.

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.      

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

Perlee – A Band For All Seasons

At times during the drowsy summer we find ourselves in, an uncanny sense of normalcy seems to cover Berlin, with so much outwardly reverting to “business as usual”. But then we are jolted back to our new reality of uncertainty, where fear for the future battles with our desire to escape into the untroubled haven of yesterday.

Following on from their majestic Slow Creature EP released in March, Perlee perfectly encapsulate such conflicted feelings with their gorgeous follow-up Half Seen Figure. Consisting of old demos made in Ireland which have been dusted down and remixed during lockdown in Berlin, the duo fuse a sense of familiarity with subtle additions to their sonic palette: three songs that flit gracefully between unease, restfulness and yearning, providing sinuous, gauzy “Kopfkino” for the world outside.

Artwork by Christopher Morrin

Starting with an ominous crackle and a serpentine, Elliott Smith-like guitar figure, first song Sticky Blood uncoils like a snake under a blood red sky, threaded through with Saramai Leech imploring you to “shed your skin, let the light in.” It‘s brooding, restless and tantalising; her voice a hushed, dancing shadow invoking you to unburden yourself amidst striking imagery of scalded hearts and sticky blood thickened and set into wax.

Recent single Slow Your Eyes comes into focus next, effortlessly flipping the mood to one of sun-kissed languor, with Cormac O’Keeffe’s chiming guitar heralding a simple, two-chord progression which melds with his whispered vocals and lush keyboards to suggest My Bloody Valentine playing Dear Prudence by the Beatles. The harmonic simplicity is perfectly accompanied by his soothing and reinforcing words: “you are a lens you can let the sun rise”, a gentle entreaty to turn off your phones and engage with the present.

This delicious sliver of serenity then dissolves into an aching portrait of yearning with Leech returning to lead vocal duties for the arrestingly beautiful closer Bird and the Statue. Ushered in by the stentorian tones of Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners reading a snippet of Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince, this gentle lullaby pirouettes on a graceful piano figure, with the bird pleading to the statue to “give me the ground to fall at your feet, give me the words you want me to speak.“ The combination of the Wilde-inspired narrative, Leech’s heartfelt vocal delivery, and O’Keeffe’s sighing guitar accompaniment conjures a widescreen picture of impossible love and longing, once again displaying the duo’s knack for eliciting intense emotions with tastefully minimal instrumentation.

Footage taken from ‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, a 1943 American short experimental film directed by and starring Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid.

While so much of today’s music comes across as either cloyingly optimistic or contrivedly morose, Perlee continue to entrance with their masterly use of textures and striking lyrical imagery, accessing shades of emotion that manage to paint a full picture of the human experience. I had first seen the band enchant a reverent audience at the Fitzcarraldo Film Bar in Friedrichshain in January, their music providing intoxicatingly ethereal diversion from the howling winter outside. Half Seen Figure, which sweeps us seamlessly through feelings of unease, effervescent lightness, and elegant yearning in just over ten minutes, proves that Perlee are a band for all seasons.

Half Seen Figure is available now on Spotify and also on limited edition cassette over on Bandcamp.

Cover Image by Sofia Kent

June Hope EP review – “balmy, introspective dreamscapes”

Conversely, the downtime from live music and enforced introversion may be something of a gift for the creative spirit. Musicians around the world speak of prolific output under lockdown, and the current febrile atmosphere is ammunition for many songwriters. Following swiftly on from last year’s magnificent Commander of Sapiens, Galway psych-pop musician Eoin Dolan’s June Hope arrives as a sonic encapsulation of the conflicted feelings shared by many of us in these times. Its four tracks bristle with opulent orchestration recalling the likes of the Beatles’ White Album and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, creating balmy, introspective dreamscapes that oscillate between joyous abandonment at one moment, and weary uncertainty the next.

“June hope, where have you gone? Covered in a shadow” ponders Eoin in the reflective, titular first track over a shifting blanket of shimmering guitar chords redolent of The Beatles’ Julia, before resolving in a bed of flutes and mellotrons. “I can’t fault your timing” he sings in the chorus, suggesting both guarded optimism for the changing of the seasons, as well as uncertainty for what we have in store.

“Dolan conjures a sense of timelessness

Second track Supermacs turns the wistfulness up a notch, recounting idle days spent on Galway’s Salthill promenade playing slot machines. “I’d often fill my minutes up with nothing but looking out for you” Eoin sings, accompanied by mallet percussion, organs and chiming guitars. It conjures the fevered fantasies of adolescence in a blue-skied snapshot of youth. And with its uncanny ‘60s production, this depiction of bustling seaside idleness seems an age away.

We bounce then to the exotic Cairo Café with its promise of relief: “I’ll meet you at the Cairo Café, let all your problems be gone”. Cooing vocals meld with tremolo guitar, energetic bass and Latin percussion to evoke an effervescent sense of wanderlust and the promise of romance.

But this optimism is short-lived as we plummet back to Earth in the haunted closing track Gardening Magazines and Peppermint Tea, Eoin allowing himself to “sit back and fall into my dead domain”; the reality of a dreamer plucked from a dream and thrown into brooding, November darkness. The song, and the EP as a whole, manage the admirable achievement of both speaking to us about our precarious, confined circumstances, while conjuring a sense of timelessness, buoyed on by lush, retro-futurist orchestration and Eoin’s accomplished production. “Just the thought of a summer breeze and I’m reborn”, he sings, offering glimmers of hope amidst the murky skies. The world continues to spin on its axis, and tomorrow is another day; the palpable promise of a return to our uncaring, unfettered selves pervades the EP, and it’s this belief in tomorrow that will see us through these uncertain times.

June Hope is out now and you can hear it here now 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 about cultural exchanges between refugees, asylum seekers and locals.

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.

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.