The Thin Air Magazine: Issue 3

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Feature Niall Jackson: Championing the Self-Worth of Musicians // Primer Digital Beast Feature FIFA Records: Forever In Financial Arrears // Not Gospel Christmas is in the Heart ISSUE #003 | DECEMBER 2014 | FREE

ive Exclus AU Free Moad Downl

– From Seoul to Saunier U






M U S I C M U S I C & &






Foreword / Contents

Long Was The Year

Editor Brian Coney @brianconey Deputy Editor/Photo Editor Loreana Rushe @loreana Art Director Stuart Bell @stubell_ Reviews Editor Andrew Lemon @_andrewlemon_ Guide Editor Stevie Lennox @stevieisms Advertising, Marketing & Creative Co-ordinator Richard Crothers @CRUTHCAT Tune In Editor James Magill @jamesjmagill

Cover photo: Loreana Rushe

Cork Editor Mike McGrath Bryan @vilifier_ Contributors: Sinead Byrne Conor Callanan Brian Coney Rory Coomey Carlos Daly Richard Davis Mark Earley Mary Kate Geraghty Aaron Hamilton James Hendicott Niall Jackson Joe Laverty Cathal McBride Justin McDaid Dee McEvoy Mike McGrath Bryan Tim Moran Colm Moore Liam Murphy Will Murphy Shaun Neary Ian Pearce Michael Pope Steven Rainey Loreana Rushe Jacky Sheridan Conor Smyth Tara Thomas Dean Van Nguyen Jonathan Wallace

Mulled wine. Loads of mulled wine. Now.


ell, there you go. Another twelve months has come and gone - each of us older, not one of us younger. Rosier cheeks, dewy mornings and (wholly sufferable) family happenings shall soon abound. Hallelujah. On the other hand, office parties will, of course, get very messy, presents will be bought at the very last minute in a sweaty panic and you might well be due a spontaneous existential crisis in an acquaintance’s bathroom

on New Year’s Eve, momentarily paralysed in a fit of end-of-year self-doubt. If that does happen, worry not: mulled wine, good friends and great music exists and for that we must rejoice and fare most merry. Our festive gift to you? A totally free exclusive download of the unreleased, altogether immense ‘Houzer’ (nope, not Hozier) by MAU AKA Enemies’ guitarist Eoin Whitfield: Feliz navidad, amigos. Be excellent to each other. Brian Coney

Contents Photo of the Month ������������������ 4 Projection ������������������������������ 5 Inbound �������������������������������� 6 MayKay �������������������������������� 8 The First Time ������������������������ 9 Feature: FIFA Records ������������ 10 Feature: The Gift of Self-Worth � 12 Feature: So Cow �������������������� 16

The Record: Girls Names �������� 19 Primer: Digital Beast �������������� 20 Reviews ������������������������������� 22 Live ����������������������������������� 24 Not Gospel ��������������������������� 26 Hozier in NYC ����������������������� 28 88mph ��������������������������������� 30 Agony Uncle ������������������������� 31



December 2014


– Photo of the Month

Photo of the Month Carlos Daly


Little Dragon, Vicar Street, Dublin Image: Carlos Daly


ach month our photo editor Loreana Rushe selects one stand-out gig image from our fantastic team of hard working photographers. The photographer gets the opportunity to showcase their pic and share a few insights into how they captured it.

such a slick performer and the epitome of cool and the icy blues in this image and the fact they hail from Sweden too just really made this photo stand out for me. The symmetry between the two top lights, the second one haloing Yukimi’s head and the high hat to the left makes for a perfect composition.

Loreana: I really felt like Carlos captured the essence of what Little Dragon are about with this image. Yukimi Nagano is

Carlos: Bands like to use their lightning set-up as another way of expression to their art and while this look really cool for the

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audience, although this may sometimes pose some challenges for the photographers. The lead singer of Little Dragon is quite a character on stage and I wanted to capture some of that flair. While the lightning did not make it easy, being at the right spot (and some luck with the lightning) allowed me to get this stylish pose of her channelling some of that coolness. SHOT WITH NIKON D90, 18105 MM, 1/40, F 5,6, ISO 3200.



– Projection

An Alternative Belfast Christmas Cinema Guide

of today can only dream of. Highlights include Joe Dante’s riotous family favourite Gremlins (please let this be the year Santa brings me a Mogwai), followed by Escape from New York and Scrooged, Richard Donner’s alternative take on A Christmas Carol, on December 11, 13 and 18 respectively.

magine if instead of coming down the chimney, Santa abseiled down the side of your house using a fire hose, crashed through your window and shouted “Ho-ho-ho, now I have a machine-gun!” Or that Ebenezer Scrooge is a selfish television executive hellbent on ruining Christmas for all of us. Well, actually you don’t need to use your imagination at all (phew!) because I’m here to give you an Alternative Christmas Cinema Guide.

Better still, on December 19 and 20, a double screening of everyone’s favourite and the greatest Christmas movie of all time: Die Hard. Yipee ki yay, Father Christmas! Richard Davis


2014. The future. The city is in crisis. There is no Christmas cheer to be found anywhere. But don’t panic: the Strand Arts Centre has travelled back in time to that beloved era of the 1980s to bring us back some cult classics the cinema

trilogy. Expect big, booming CGI battles between elves, dwarves and something called wargs. Elsewhere, fans of Bill Murray will be pleased and frustrated with his return to the big screen in St. Vincent, as a grouchy neighbour who takes a precocious boy under his wing and, cue the music, learns a few life lessons himself. I know what you’re thinking: “that sounds good and all, but what I really want is a movie where Justin Long gets turned into a walrus”. Well, you’re in luck, as Kevin Smith’s indie horror oddball Tusk gets a wide release. A bit grander in concept is Ridley Scott’s slightly camp-looking historical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, an effects-heavy retelling of the Moses story with Christian Bale as Egypt’s liberator. He leads an insurrection against his adopted brother Rhamses, while enduring literally biblical disasters of plagues, storms and parted seas. If Batman tells you to let his people go, you should probably do what he says. Conor Smyth

Further details available at and

December Releases


t’s a bit chilly on the film front this festive season but don’t worry, it’s not all dodgy nativity comedies. Peter Jackson says goodbye (again) to Middle-Earth with Battle of the Five Armies, the conclusion to his Hobbit

Conor edits

December 2014


Inbound Tandem Felix

– Inbound –


andem Felix’s origins stem all the way back to schoolmates and group co-founders David Tapley and Evan Keogh who, as a couple of 14 year-olds, would come together after school to hone their craft as a musical comedy double act. Those jokey roots seem to betray their band’s grown-up attributes. With handsome melodies, heartfelt vocals and soaring orchestration, they operate in the same emotive alt rock corner as Jeff Buckley and Radiohead did in the Nineties, and likewise boast a poignant body of work thus far scattered over a handful of releases. Having established a following on the Dublin gig circuit, the group – fleshed out to a four piece with fellow childhood friends Fiachra Kinder and Conor Muldowney – released a superb collection of home recordings in 2009 titled Tweedledee (which they describe as more of a portfolio than album). But the Tandem Felix bravura was more fully realised on last 6

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year’s EP Popcorn. Recorded in Windmill Lane Studios and with backing from the Trinity College Orchestra, the expertly crafted five track set added trumpets, pipes, violas and cellos to the shimmering guitar lines, their arrangements maintaining poise even with added elements. The success of Popcorn has since been punctuated

with the equally impressive double A-sided 7” single ‘Ryan Hoguet/How Strange, The Weather’. A part of independent label Trout Records – whose roster also vaunts Spies and Jet Setter – the group are in good company, and are currently looking forward to opening for psychedelic jazz enthusiasts Syd Arthur at The Button Factory on December 13. Dean Van Nguyen

Inbound Ships / Participant



he musicmaking moniker of Dublin electronic/ambient singersongwriter Stephen Tiernan, Participant released his debut EP off the back of an intriguing and altogether impressive set at this year’s Hard Working Class Heroes Festival. With a selfproclaimed penchant for “sincerity” at their root of his craft – which proves both unmistakable and remarkable throughout

Photo: Ian Pearce

Hearts’ to recent-ish single ‘Space Inside’, the pair’s main strength lies in bass-led indie-disco territory. That said, their catalogue is flecked with more ambient moments, which points towards their aforementioned range of musical heroes.

In all, their accessibility should see them gain fans beyond these shores but given their successes to date, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be plain sailing for the duo when their eagerly-awaited debut album is released next year. Andrew Lemon

– Tiernan’s melds spectral soundscapes, understated vocals and paced guitar balladry on Bit Slow that conjures, amongst others, The Postal Service. Driving the whole thing forward is Tiernan’s carefully-considered distillation of vague romantic inclination and some lamenting wanderlust of the soul, informing each track with an inward-looking, almost Blue Nile-like

level of intimacy. Want a quick dose of what he’s about? Check out the EP’s subtle and shrouding lead single, ‘Shelter’, and make sure to keep your ears to the ground for Tiernan’s certain rise in 2015. Brian Coney

December 2014


– Inbound –

imon Cullen and Sorca McGrath AKA Ships appear to combine a list of influences which are, on the face of it, a hipster’s dream. Upon discovery that the Dublin duo take inspiration from the likes of Prince, Fleetwood Mac, DFA and more, it’d be tempting – and understandable – to write them off as just another blog-friendly band eager to show off how big their record collection is. From debut disco epic ‘Two


– My Wet Foot The latest addition to the Thin Air team, Fight Like Apes frontwoman Mary Kate Geraghty AKA MayKay shares a touring tale


he week leading up to a tour is a busy one. Rehearsing, washing clothes, tending to broken equipment, admitting to the tour manager that you’re a control freak and please may you go over his itinerary so that you can sleep soundly the night before. So on the week in question when something as inconsequential as a hole in the sole of my shoe came up it just wasn’t a big deal. Without flinching or stopping to consider the state of my life I picked up a plastic bag, stuffed it into my shoe, tucked my toes into it and went on about my business. If I’m to be completely honest I was actually feeling a bit smug for thinking of it.


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“What’s up, Mary?”Ah nothing. There was a hole in the sole of my shoe so I put a plastic bag around my foot but I think there might be a hole in the bag as well. Ah sure it’s grand. How are you guys?” Silence filled the once so vibrant van. An uncomfortable minute later...“Jesus. That’s disgusting.” “Ugh.” “Would you not just buy a new pair?!” That’s so embarrassing.” “Will we do a whip-around?” (meaning a collection of money). My initial feeling of “jeez, you judgmental bastards!” quickly turned to “Jesus. That is disgusting. Ugh. This is so embarrassing. I do not want to be the beneficiary of a whiparound.” I’ve just figured out what the recurring theme in my columns will be: ‘My longsuffering mother’.

I’ve never really cared too much about shoes, you see. I wanted them to look good alright. But Quality was not my middle name. My Mum used to stand bewildered pleading with me to just allow her to even contribute towards a better quality pair of shoes, ones in which the soles were not hanging off. Pfft! (imagine turning that down now). This was such a source of upset for her that (kind of) grown up me likes to let her know just how much I’ve grown. Just yesterday I visited her primarily to show off a new pair of shoes I’d bought last week. And I can tell you, it was worth it. I of course have negated any feeling of pride and joy she may have felt by writing about ‘My Wet Foot’ for all the world to see, but she also used to think that I perhaps was not using my experience and daycent English to its fullest, so hopefully that will balance it out? MayKay

Photo: Loreana Rushe

The van pulls up at my apartment. I’m unusually well prepared. I leap into the van with members of other bands, sound engineer, driver. Everyone’s sharing tales and

plans. I’m kind of lightly stamping my right foot on the ground and looking a bit forlorn.

The First Time Niamh Farrell

Photo: Joe Laverty

– The First Time Photographer Joe Laverty shoots and delves into the music-making, listening and loving firsts of Ham Sandwich singer Niamh Farrell

in 2004 I think, or 2005. I remember drinking lots of disgusting cider, seeing The Cure for the first time and getting really badly sunburnt. It was amazing, though.

First album you bought? I think it was either PJ and Duncan or Zig and Zag’s album. Cringe.

First favourite film soundtrack? The Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. I had it on tape and it got so worn out from me just playing it constantly. I still love it just as much as I did back then!

First album you properly loved? Definitely Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. It was one of those albums that came into my life just at the right time and I just cherished every second of every track. First festival experience? That would have been Witness

First song to make you cry? The soundtrack to Titanic - I cried from beginning to end. First gig or performance of your own? The first gig I ever played with a band was on 9/11. It was nuts. We played our gig in front of big screens playing the same footage of the towers over and over. Very surreal. First music magazine you ever bought? Kerrang! Every Friday when I had a free period in school, I’d go down to the shop and get the new issue of Kerrang! and a bottle of Irn Bru. Those were the days.

First band t-shirt/ jumper? I had a black Smashing Pumpkins hoodie that I never took off. It really went well with the rest of my black clothes, hair, eyeliner...

December 2014


– FIFA Records – Forever In Financial Arrears


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Keating was no stranger to the music industry himself, as he has been the drummer in The Frank & Walters since their inception, and whose 1992 single ‘After All’ reached #11 in the UK charts. Kiely, on the other hand, has been involved with FIFA since 2010, after the former was, “interested in signing a few bands which I happened to manage and so asked would I get involved”. The label’s name – rather familiar as it is – stemmed from the fact its founding fathers were indeed soccer fans, however the acronym, according to Keating, “quickly came to mean Forever In Financial Arrears”. One wonders: was the main reason for FIFA’s existence due to Keating and co. getting fed up of seeing bands they

liked not having their music released? It is something Kiely feels is the essence of what they stand for: “That’s exactly it and that’s how we still operate. We’re not genre specific - it’s basically if myself or Ash like what a band are doing and they have the right attitude, i.e. hard working and committed, and if we both agree then we approach that act about working with them.” Of course, the running of a label can obviously have its ups and downs, and while

Photos: Rory Coomey


fter spending more time than you should down your local with your mates on any given night, it’s a rare thing to find yourself enjoying more than your fair share of drinks without ever getting to the stage where your collective points of view leak their way into eager scheming. What you once believed could only ever be a pipe dream can very often seem that bit more plausible – pipe dreams like running one’s own record label. According to current staffer Eddie Kiely, it was this exact situation that his colleague Ashley Keating found himself back in 2005 having agreed “after a few drunken promises” to set up a label with his mates, which led to the birth of Cork imprint FIFA Records.

Feature FIFA Records

many folks may try and narrow it solely down to the nitty-gritty world of figures and ponder whether the label is capable of staying in the black, Kiely admits that it can be difficult. “There is no doubt that it’s tough and does take hard work and investment. Both myself and Ash work full time, we invest money in bands and we don’t take anything for ourselves. If we do make some money it goes straight into the next release.

“If we do make some money it goes straight into the next release. This is about myself and Ash’s passion for music.”

This is about myself and Ash’s passion for music.”

year Elastic Sleep, Dissolutes and The Vincent(s) have been making steps, albeit baby ones for now at least, outside of Ireland; the latter five-piece, for example, gaining more airplay in the US, Canada and the UK as a result of Dandy Warhols’ frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor remixing their track ‘Song For The Sea’.

Their current roster is made up of Keating’s own group of misfits, as well as The Vincent(s); a mix of grunge, psych and noise-pop, Elastic Sleep; a dream-pop band that exudes fragile melodies and ethereal feedback, Dissolutes with their blues-indebted riffs, The Would Bes; an indie-pop band from Cavan, Slow Motion Heroes - made up of members from Hope Is Noise, Rulers of the Planet & Cyclefly - and finally Hope Is Noise themselves, with their down and dirty punk.

So, with 2015 set to be the label’s tenth birthday, have FIFA anything special lined up? As it turns out, it’s an emphatic “yes”. “There will be new albums from The Franks, The Vincent(s) and Slow Motion Heroes. And we also plan on signing two new acts next year. But the highlight will be a very special gig which is planned to take place near the official FIFA headquarters in Zurich,” enthuses Kiely. Sure, that last one could very be yet another drunken promise but it would at least be in keeping with their original ethos. Conor Callanan

As you might expect, FIFA also don’t “do” contracts, meaning the artists get to own their music outright, with Kiely stating, “We operate with the mindset of trying to help bands, build their profile and widen their audience with the hope a bigger label will take them on.” In the last

December October 2014


Something all musicians can afford

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I am. What I’m trying to say folks is... I’m a musician and I’m not going to play for free anymore.” “Oh Niall, we’re delighted for you,” Mum replied almost instantly, jumping up to give me a hug. I was surprised. I thought she would go mad that I would no longer leave them alone in the house for the weekends, shooting off every Thursday in her little Nissan Micra, not returning it until the Sunday; her petrol tank at zero after yet another weekend of shows not paying us enough to even get over and back to Dublin. Dad was being his usual quiet self in the corner. He was always a man of

Illustration: Tim Moran

– The Gift of Self-Worth 12


t was a Sunday, almost a year after I’d last released any recorded music with any of the projects that I’m involved with. So, I suppose I was technically out of ‘work’ another full year. “Mum, Dad, I’ve something to tell you,” I nervously stated to my parents over banoffee pie at the dinner table. “I suppose I’m thirty-two now and I should have come to this realisation a long time ago. I suppose I wasn’t being honest with myself - I was too busy enjoying the weekends and the hedonism of ‘the scene’ and well, the community has always been supportive of who I am. What I’m trying to say is: I’ve realised who

Feature The Gift of Self-Worth

few words but I was waiting for his judgement before the shock of finally admitting to them and myself that it was OK to be a thirty-two year old Irishman expecting to get paid for my work. Finally Dad spoke: “Does this mean you might finally be able to afford to move out?” he said, with a hint of sarcasm. Dad had dealt with the highs and lows of having me living at home into my thirties. Mostly lows actually - me on his laptop Monday through Thursday trying to solicit gigs and reviews for our independently-records over countless emails and blog submissions. They were hugely supportive in reality, much like the rest of the independent music community, on both sides of the border. That said, they never bought any of my records, much like the rest of the independent community, on both sides of the border. All joking aside, unfortunately the above scenario wouldn’t make me unique. Hundreds of independent bands are in the same shitty situation as my shitty bands. Sure, there is good grass-roots support, but what musician amongst us hasn’t played a show in Limerick or Belfast or wherever to a handful of people on a rainy November

night, skulling back the crate (singular) of free beers between the bands in an effort to make it all seem worthwhile? In fairness, things are getting better and some phenomenal promoters have stepped up to the mark, making sure bands are paid regardless of overheads, but all that means little for those nights where you do pull in to your own (or your parents’) driveway at 2am on a school night, waking up with memories of a cool show, sure, but also hungover from cheap beer and €50 lighter for trying to do something creative that you’re passionate about. “There isn’t even a proper band van rental company in Ireland for christ’s sake!” you scream into the bathroom mirror at your increasingly red face. You get up and go again anyway. During breakfast you turn on the radio. They all claim to play more Irish music, more of the time - they tell you as much, jingle after jingle. The thing is I only hear the same few stations playing the same few bands and the same few songs: Two Door Cinema Club, The Riptide Movement, Snow Patrol, U2, The Coronas and Hozier. There is no “etc...” to that sentence - that’s about it!) R.E.M and Michael Jackson even count as Irish here due to

“I’m a musician and I’m not going to play for free anymore.” our daft quota loopholes in the broadcasting laws. In fact, I think Ronan Collins on RTE is the only daytime radio DJ not heavily playlisted and I can’t see him playing Hands Up Who Wants To Die anytime soon. “It’s just not fair!” you blubber into your cornflakes. The only chance I have of hearing any of the bands whose records I’ve bought in the last year is at the exact same time those bands, or I myself, am out playing a show. That is, after 9pm. And for every Paul McLoone or Nialler9 there is a Donal Dineen or Dan Hegarty being dumped later and later into the schedule - by our public service broadcaster, no less. In Dineen’s case, being dumped full stop. Much like his No Disco TV programme on RTE a decade ago now (granted that was long after he had moved on) our best presenters are being buried deeper and deeper into the schedule, December 2014


Feature The Gift of Self-Worth

deeper and deeper into insignificance. I’ve pitched music TV shows only to be told not only do they not rate, they don’t get enough viewers to even record a rating percentage (under 1,000 viewers counts as zero.) “Where am I to go?!” you yell at your impossibly slow computer. Imagine for a moment the controversial Irish Water corporation were concerned with Irish Music, installing meters outside your house to see how much music you were consuming for free. Until we are forced to think about an issue or until it concerns us we tend to ignore it. I get that a lot of people don’t care about this issue because it doesn’t concern them. Regardless, I’m not ignoring it any more. We all listen to music and I’m done filtering through pure unadulterated rock into your homes at no cost to anyone except us stupid musicians with our hands loosely clasped on the creative taps (I’ve milked that analogy about as far as I can now). ‘Right, well at least I can look forward to summer’, I tell myself, so many festivals in Ireland. Sure, there seems to be one a week, all of them full of Irish music and even better, loads of independent bands seem to get a run out. Vantastival, Le Cheile, Knockanstockan, Castlepalooza, Indiependence, Sligo Live … Electric Fuckin’ Picnic! Yeah, man, the dream is alive. So easy to submit now too - an MP3 of your song, link to your one thousand fucking social media pages you just have to have. Click, click, done. You wait... and wait... and 14

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wait. Then the replies come. Usually with one of three answers. A) Dear X, thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, at this time our bill is full. Our budget does not allow for any further additions at this stage. (Subtext: There is no budget for Irish bands). B) Dear X, thank you for your submission. We would be delighted to have you play. Unfortunately or budget won’t allow us to pay you for your set but we will see that hospitality sort you with beers and of course you are welcome to stay on-site for the duration of the festival. (Subtext: There is no budget for Irish bands without PR). C) No reply. (Subtext: we’re too embarrassed to reply). Answer C is actually the least insulting of the three. It hurts less. It’s not that my bands or any other band is entitled to play any or all of the festivals but independent music is changing quickly in this country.

Niall Jackson: Not Asking For Much Photo: Carlos Daly

Feature The Gift of Self-Worth

“I appreciate that promoters at lower levels struggle to make ends meet but two wrongs don’t make a right.” It used to be you released a record, whether on your own label or some small imprint, you toured your ass off for it around Ireland once or twice -maybe abroad for a week if you get lucky - and in turn you got a fair run out at the festivals. No? To my eyes it seems that’s all being scuppered by one too many party promoters putting on ‘boutique’ festivals without a clue about how to treat the acts propping up their bills and too many PR companies doing a band’s work for them. One only needs to look at Westport Festival earlier this year or reports on the recent Samhain festival to realise just how bloody hard it is to put on a festival properly. It’s as hard as being in a band. So, yes, I appreciate that promoters at lower levels struggle to make ends meet but two wrongs don’t make a right. How can you expect your festival to make money if you don’t have the good faith in the acts you’re booking to even pay them? I’ve been asked by many music friends if I’m responsible for the many Facebook and Twitter profiles popping up which are doing their best to help out Irish acts on the circuit. The truth is I haven’t time

to put my energy into yet another online medium that in all likelihood won’t result in bands getting paid in this country. But it shows that I am not the only one who’s had enough. I’m sure it’s the same across most genres of music in Ireland. The only way things will change is if bands go back to basics and say no to anyone expecting them to play for free. Sure, if you’re a young band starting out, you play your first few shows for free, maybe even a full year of shows. But then you get good, you even start being told you’re worth something, so start placing that worth on your work, otherwise no-one else ever will, and the shit-stained cycle goes on... For those who say catch up, get used to it, it’s all online now. Fine, I’ll play along - I have been for many years but there’s no infrastructure there on the old information superhighway. We’re all getting high for free. Your Spotify account is not a replacement for going to shows or buying a band’s output. If you like a band you should support them. Whatever happened to that ethos? As for the government? Don’t even start me on the government. Niall Jackson

 Niall Jackson has played in Bouts, Swimmers, Autumn Owls, The Star Department, Modern Skins and many even shitter bands. If you would like any of his records they are currently propping up his bed in Rathgar, Co. Dublin. He is happy to sleep on the floor in exchange for your ears. Mail niallcjackson@ for a portion of the legs of his bed.

December 2014


Feature So Cow

Words: James Hendicott Photos: Loreana Rushe

– So free, so divisive, so talented –


aving started out as an unlikely outsider artist in the K-Pop heartlands of Seoul back in 2005, Tuam, Co. Galway native Brian Kelly’s So Cow also found a niche in pushing against the curve. It was a harsh but effective education: his noisy, punk-driven lo-fi ethos stood in direct contrast to the polished, looks-obsessed world of infectious hooks and cover bands. Forced to find his own path, Brian enhanced the valuable underground connections he now thrives through, but faced charactertesting challenges along the way. Comment obliquely on 16

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Korean celebrities at your peril, he’s learnt, or risk genuine vitriol.

 “Korea was a weird scene”, Brian recalls. “You’d go and watch eight or nine expats in a row play ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay, and maybe there’d be one slightly new wave style band. I got to know a few local people. I couldn’t really speak to them, but I’d end up playing with them anyway. I just enjoyed their company. Living in that kind of isolation helped with developing a distinct sound; it was easier to do my own thing. In Korea there was literally nothing to

be a part of, which meant you could do anything.”

 Being a blank canvas in Seoul’s pop-centric heartlands, Kelly naturally fell into an affiliation with the more alternative blog scene. The internet is a hub for his art and the centre of its disparate feedback. “I started recording music when MySpace started”, he explains. “To me, it was the natural thing to do. I have absolutely no problem with some Argentinean kid posting a zip link to one of my albums. The 45 people that go to that blog would have a tiny chance of hearing

Feature So Cow

“In Korea there was literally nothing to be a part of, which meant you could do anything.”

Right: So Cow’s Brian Kelly

me otherwise. It leads to nice online conversations, and it’s the closest thing we have now to the indie-ish network. Obviously it’s not a business, but it’s superb.” A track titled ‘Moon Geun Young’ - a leftfield tale of the Seoul TV celebrity’s advertising prowess that features the actress alongside a tale of heartbreak - was to see So Cow’s buzz reach its height. “’The Moon Geun Young’ seven inch came about because I friended a band called DC Snipers on MySpace”, Kelly remembers. “Mike from the band obviously checked out the So Cow page and found ‘Moon Geun Young’. He went on to a message board and posted about it. I’d normally get about 15 listens a day, and I logged in from an internet café in Korea and I had about 400. That filled me with dread. Unbidden attention freaks me out. I Googled So Cow, and found four pages of a thread, with the first guy going “this is sub-Television Personalities shit”, and the second saying

talks about Hyori and other cheesy K-Pop. I found it funny, but it also made me feel a little weird about leaving the house, like I should probably shave or something.” Fortunately the intimidation never left the digital arena, and since returning from East Asia, Kelly has found himself graduating from bedroom recording – including over 60 tracks currently online for free download – to this year’s studio recording The Long Con, with Greg Saunier of Deerhoof. His latest is still distinctly individual, quipping on subject matter ranging from musings on John Deacon’s dark side to an angle on pubs that could only come from Galway. “The studio album came about mainly because So Cow became more of a collaboration, between myself, Jonny White on bass and Peter O’Shea on drums,” Brian

it’s amazing. And so on. It was very weird. At the end of it somebody put my single out, which was great. All other interest stemmed from that.” 

 ‘All other interest’ turned out to be good and bad, with So Cow briefly exposed to the internet’s dark side when national newspaper the Chosun Ilbo posted a blog on the track. “It got 20,000 listens in a day”, Brian explains. “They kept saying stuff like ‘this guy looks like a pervert, why is he singing this horrible song about our hero? If I saw this guy I’d shoot him!’ It was the kind of place that normally

December 2014


Feature So Cow

notes. “It’s more difficult to get all of us into a bedroom. Dealing with playing guitar, singing, failing technology… it just became easier to pay someone. Before that it was six or seven months of doing bits when I had a day off. It was like Lego, just moving things around until they sounded good.” These days, far from representing an altered cliché in being ‘big in Korea’ – though a number of blog still believe he’s Asian - Kelly finds his success is disparate and global, with So Cow popping up as often in The


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States or South America as in Ireland. Influences range from the obvious – My Bloody Valentine – to obscurities like cult 80s kiwi rockers The Chills. The sound is abrupt, messy, lo-fi and stark.

 Still, having left the bedroom studio, Kelly can’t resist diving right back in. “I’m recording a Brian Kelly EP now, which is kind of a new side project”, he tells us. “I don’t think anyone who’s heard So Cow will be surprised by the production choices or the way the songs go, but it’s me on all the instruments. It’s 60s pop,

punk, noise, production lite. I do miss that style of recording, making decisions at the drop of a hat, sometimes wiping everything to start again. Some people might call it being a control freak, but it’s something I do when I’m not working and not doing the washing up, so I try to do it my way. I’m very content and happy right now, having just got engaged. That makes lyrics more difficult. We’ll see how it turns out.” It’s been one winding road. Knowing Kelly, happiness will bring its own inspiration. James Hendicott

The Record Girls Names

– The Record Girls Names Start Together, Belfast

Currently in the studio, Girls Names’ bassist Claire Miskimmin talks album number three

had a chance to listen to what we’ve done as an album yet - but a lot of the songs have a real different sound from each other. The New Life was written as one body of work in its entirety, to be listened to from start to finish in one go, so it will be interesting to see how we put this together and make it flow (if we want it to flow at all). We have no fixed dates yet we should have this wrapped up by the end of the year and hopefully out by next Spring or early Summer. Claire Miskimmin

Photos: Shaun Neary


ur approach to the writing this album is certainly different to The New Life. Before going in to record, we rented a cottage in the middle of nowhere, saw no-one else but each other and did nothing but play music from morning ‘til night. That gave us the bare bones of the album and this time a longer recording schedule has given us the opportunity to experiment and the writing in the studio. We are still in the thick of it at the minute - so we haven’t

December 2014


Primer Digital Beast

In this latest installment of Primer, Sinead Byrne talks to Conor McIntyre and Tim Moran of Digital Beast, an animation and illustration studio based in Block T in Smithfield, Dublin. Hi Conor and Tim. Can you give us a bit of background on Digital Beast? We’re a two man directing and illustration team. We work primarily in advertising and music. When and how did it start? We started proper almost four years ago but we’d been doing little animated sketches and shorts together since our college days just for fun. We play in a band together called BATS and directed two music videos for our first album, as well as making a 20

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Where did the name come from? The name has something to do with the fact that we used to have really slow crappy computers and we’d literally spend sleepless nights ‘beasting’ through projects to get them finished on time. How would you describe the work you make at Digital Beast? Eclectic to say the least! As you can see form our illustrations we have wildly different styles. We also sometimes cross the streams to come up with a hybrid of both of our styles. We work in everything from 2D and 3D illustration/animation as

well as having made the move recently back into live action direction. We like having a big bag of tricks at our disposal so that we can really service the project with a style that it deserves rather than imposing a look on it. What medium to you each prefer to work in? At the moment we’re both really excited by 3D animation and are currently working on a personal project in that medium as well doing 3D builds for some recent posters. By the time we finish our latest 3D project we’ll probably be dying to do some live action or 2D animation again. What artists have had the biggest influence on your work to date? We’re both huge comic book fans. We’re really into Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Will Eisner, Geoff Darrows,

Photo: Mark Earley

Primer: Digital Beast

video for our buddy Vinny McCreith from Adebisi Shank’s project The Vinny Club. We would also illustrate posters and album artwork for ours and our friends’ bands. It was a part-time pursuit/ hobby at that stage but the videos got a bit of attention so we started to think maybe it could be something we could do full time. We signed up to a production company in London and directed a video for Killing Joke soon after. After the guts of a year pitching on relatively low budget videos for huge acts we realized that music videos alone would not be our bread and butter.

Primer Digital Beast

Charles Burns and people like that. We’re both huge film buffs also. All the usuals, Kubrick, Scorcese, Friedken, Nolan and so on. As far as animation goes we’re in awe of the work people like Buck, Johnny Kelly, Giant Ant and Psyop are doing in the field of advertising at the moment! As you’ve mentioned, you’re both in BATS. Does art influence the music you make and vice versa? BATS definitely plays a huge part in what Digital Beast do. We use the band as a springboard to try new things out for posters, music videos, album stings and album artwork. There’s always something that needs to be done so it’s great to have an outlet to get work out there. It also gives us a chance to try out less commercial ideas and get a bit darker. Because we spend most of our days

making commercial and accessible work for clients with DB I think it’s pushing our sensibilities in BATS towards the darker, less commercial/experimental end of the spectrum as an antidote to that. What would be your dream commission, individually and as Digital Beast? We’re both coffee nuts so we’d love to do a funky coffee commercial. Maybe a coffee bean beating the crap out of a teabag only to be sentenced to death by grinder. Can you discuss the exclusive work you both created for The Thin Air. Because you guys are a music magazine we wanted to make a series of illustrations called ‘Being In A Band’. The idea was to make posters based on the less glamorous side of making music. Having

“I think it’s pushing our sensibilities in BATS towards the darker, less commerical/ experiment end of the spectrum.” played in various bands for years we’ve come to realize that only a small amount of time is actually spent making the music. The rest of the time is spent doing heavy lifting, sitting in vans, lurking in cupboards (or back stage areas as they’re called) waiting to play or researching equipment that you can’t afford. It’s a tribute to the hard work musicians do that people rarely see.

December 2014


Reviews Releases

– Reviews

Crows Better Off Dead

Coupled with a childlike sense of enjoyment and amidst all the aggro and viscera, Better Off Dead remains strongest on more creative tracks such as ‘Power Trip’ and ‘Malediction I’, and while songwriting occasionally swings and misses, Crows’ vicious energy remains enticing from beginning to end. Aaron Hamilton

Better Off Dead, the debut LP from Dublin five-piece Crows, exists on the darkest fringes of hardcore punk; the short song structures, the furious pace and the waxing political are all present, along with a penchant for sludgy breakdowns and chugging guitars. The album is similarly full of pleasant contradictions. Pseudo-political vocal samples and venomous screaming are juxtaposed with ‘I hate my job’ angst, and the thick wall-of-noise mix meets a raw punk purity that could have been spoiled if overproduced. Instead, the production works to remedy the occasional rehashed guitar riff, and ensures a Converge-like level of cacophonous rage throughout. 22

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September Girls
 Veneer With their debut album, Cursing the Sea, garnering a lot of positive feedback upon its release, September Girls may have felt the pressure when it came to its follow up. However, it’s safe to say that with Veneer the Dublin band have successfully managed to not only keep hold of their reverb-heavy and melody-

induced style, but are also explore far more ominous subject matters. Opening track ‘Veneer’ highlights their appreciation of all things garage, with its fuzzy basslines and crashing drums taking centre stage. That said, at times it does sound a little too raw, with the vocals suffering due to being inaudible for the most part. On ‘Black Oil’, the spoken vocal delivery entwines itself rather effortlessly amongst the song’s continuous barrage of distorted guitars, murky imagery and thunderous beats. There is a far jauntier feel to ‘Melatonin’ – largely down to Jessie Ward’s spectre-like vocals - and its multi-layered approach, including some hardened bluesy riffs battling it out against softer keyboard sounds. Closer ‘Butterflies’ finds the girls in delicately harmonious spirit, all while being surrounded by a cacophonous blend of drums, keyboards, guitars and a harrowing bass solo that, despite threatening to spill over at times, are all reigned in at just the right moment. Conor Callanan

Reviews Releases

New Gods
 Gods of Punk EP With their debut EP clocking in at a mere eight minutes, Dublin’s New Gods are not in the mood for dawdling. The band know exactly who they are and what they want to do. They are young, loud and snotty punks with influences such as Black Flag, Stiff Little Fingers and Dead Boys. It’s vaguely sleazy and rather garage rock-y and a lot of fun. All of the songs are covered in this thick layer of welcome lo-fi fuzz with appropriately mixed vocals; rising just above the music to be coherent but not too far as to be separate. Gods of Punk does very little new, though. Be it the Henry Rollins bark on ‘Killer Creeps’, the opening bassline of ‘Apokolips’ – which bears more than a passing resemblance to Black Flag’s

‘Six Pack’ - or the manic energy of ‘New Rose’-era Damned on ‘Sweet Mutation’, the majority of what is being done here has been done before - and a very long time ago too. But while Gods of Punk is derivative and a bit forgettable, there is enough meat here to satisfy anyone yearning for a bit of classic mid-1970s punk. Will Murphy

damned or otherwise. The quartet dabble in a more rootsy folk than their Americana and Bluegrass leanings might at first suggest, taking in swindling, murder, death, and the Devil herself among the more tender asides and sharp-tongued country love songs. The tale of heartbreak detailed in ‘Broken in Two’ is given an injection of levity by the five-string banjo that drives it; the instrument that lends a knotty cohesion to the album’s various tempo and temperament changes. The livelier cuts are the ones that mine a darkly mischievous vein; the band’s accomplished musicianship and vocal harmonies coming to the rescue when things get that bit more maudlin. Elsewhere, tracks have been resurrected from the Black Magic Doll EP and ‘Memories of New Orleans’ and its reminiscences of hokum and voodoo, as well as “jazz and blues and Cajun cool” speaks most overtly of their pedigree. The ballads are achingly sincere, but their allure isn’t as great as that of the album’s droll backroom blues and country, playful love letters to the music Wookalily are devoted to. Justin McDaid

 All The Waiting While In terms of making music, Wookalily see no distinction between the shores of these lands and those of America, nor between the ditches of Northern Ireland and those of hell; All The Waiting While is a songbook to be sung and shared with likeminded souls,

December 2014


Reviews Live

– Live

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014


ealing the deal on the second ever Northern Ireland Music Prize (deservedly won by Belfast-based conjurer of acoustic doom Robyn G Shiels) Northern Irish alt-rock legends Therapy? performed their landmark 1994 album Troublegum in its entirety at Belfast’s Mandela Hall last month. A life-long aficionado of the Andy Cairns-fronted three-piece, our Dublin-based photographer Shaun Neary captured the show – as well as performances from More Than Conquerors, Sullivan & Gold and Shiels – in an AAA shoot. Here’s a selection of his shots from the night make sure to his full set online at

Top: Mike Edgar and Andy Cairns, above: More Than Conquerors’ Kris Platt, left: Michael ‘The Evil Priest’ McKeegan. Photos: Shaun Neary


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Reviews Live

All Tvvins w/ SPIES

Future Islands




Photos: All Tvvins - Dee McEvoy, Future Islands - Loreana Rushe


t’s a typically rainy November night in Belfast and downstairs in McHugh’s Dublin quintet SPIES warm us up as we come in from the cold. Formed in 2009, their tight rhythm section and glacial guitars recall Echo & The Bunnymen, whilst Michael Broderick’s fragile vocals evoke Villagers’ Conor O’Brien. All Tvvins, meanwhile, haven’t been around very long, but have a lot to live up to, comprising as they do of two of Ireland’s most esteemed musicians of recent years: Lar Kaye from the recently-departed Adebisi Shank and Conor Adams from the currently inactive Cast Of Cheers.

he first of two sold-out shows at Vicar Street, Future Islands’ fourth time playing Ireland coincides with their audience growing considerably in size, not least thanks to that performance on Letterman. But as tonight goes some distance to confirm: the hype is more just and the band’s insatiable frontman, Sam T. Herring, is more than just a meme on Twitter. Touching on themes of heartbreak, tears, love and melancholy which permeate through their New Orderinspired dance tracks, their latest album, Singles, gets a good airing tonight, with songs from their previous releases peppered throughout a set that peaks for many on nigh on omnipresent single ‘Seasons (Waiting for You)’. An unforgettable performance and then some. Liam Murphy

The pair attract a sizeable crowd tonight and luckily they’re fully able to deliver the goods: familiar tracks, like set opener ‘Book’ and ‘Know Go’, already feel like old favourites, whilst unfamiliar ones burrow their way firmly into the memory upon first listen. It’s a natural progression from The Cast Of Cheers but with added synth loops and treated vocals, plus the injection of Kaye’s trademark mathy riffs; frenetic yet melodic. Looking towards next year, hopefully they won’t leave us waiting too long for an album release. Either way, it sounds like it will be well worth the wait. Cathal McBride

December 2014


Not Gospel Christmas

Christmas Is In The Heart Y


The recent release of an anniversary edition of ‘Feed the World (Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?)’ featuring an updated line-up of popstars and other light entertainers raises the usual ethical dissonance. Here are, for all intents and purposes, a collection of people removed both from artistic integrity and the humility needed to possess such a thing, serenading their target markets with a familiar song, that will raise a sum after costs, a pittance compared to the personal wealth of the participants, before the topic at hand is largely forgotten about again by a befuddled casual-music audience that’s moved on to slavering over the January sales. 

 (This is where I’d like to draw attention to Irish independent charity single Christmas Hearts, which is

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the complete opposite, I might add, with all proceeds going directly to the Peter McVerry Trust. In perhaps an allegory for independent music itself, all of the joy of creation and all the hard work involved directly benefits the charity, creating a more substantial gift.)

 Short-term popstars drumming up short-term awareness like walking ads. All year long, we’re surrounded by these fake smiles and salesmen, beaming from the billboards these guys share space and airtime with. A better life awaits, some other time, when you’ve consumed. Nothing changes. It never helps. Keep the scenery up. All year long, shit we don’t need. More so in the holidays. Pressure to meet expectations. 

 Christmas lights reflected in murky city river waters. Avoid disappointment, buy early. Buy into this. Reach out and help the wealthy fight a poverty they don’t understand, through royalties on a song they wrote, with the kind of cultural insight that misses Ethopian Christmas by twelve days. Let them know, indeed, and buy into this, avoid disappointment in yourself, ‘til the next time you need the dissonance tuning out. Mike McGrath Bryan

Illustration: Jacky Sheridan

– Not Gospel

ou’d pass the big houses, laden with decorations, driving around rural North Cork during the boom. Laden with lights and other trimmings, veering sharply into the realms of frippery. “There’s people going homeless”, my father would say, musing into the lights of the harbingers of holiday tidings as they zipped past, “and people are wasting their money”.

December 2014


Hozier Live in NYC

– Hozier

Live at New York’s Irving Plaza


will soon not be fit to hold his ever-growing followers. After the big hit finale of ‘Take Me To Church’, the first encore – an inspired cover of Amerie’s ‘One Thing’ – got the room heaving, before the endlessly uplifting ‘From Eden’ brought the night to a rapturous conclusion. People drifted out into the damp New York night, with their feet lighter from when they went in, collectively assured that what happens next in the Hozier story will be interesting and inevitably huge. Joe Laverty

Photos: Joe Laverty

Photo: Joe Laverty

ast month, Hozier played the second night of a two date stint in Irving Plaza in midtown Manhattan on a Friday night, as the incredible and seemingly unstoppable rise of the Bray singersongwriter continued apace. Playing to new-found and diehard fans - as well as a thronged enclosure of New York’s finest, chattering VIPs - the show was evidence that Hozier is the man of the moment, as he rounded off his 2014 US tour in a venue that


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December 2014


88mph National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

(NOVEMBER, 1974)

– 88mph

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation chestnuts roasting on an open fire. He’s a hardworking man, caring and devoted to his family, so he’s due a little peace and quiet, right?


n reality, the true meaning of Christmas is disappointment. You got a pair of socks instead of an XBOX? Disappointment. You have to spend time with a doddery old aunt instead of hanging out with yer pals? Disappointment. Hell, I’ve even had two long-term relationships come to a messy end at Christmas. Despite what the adverts say, for a lot of us, Christmas isn’t a happy time. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) doesn’t believe this to be the case. Despite previous family holidays ending in disaster (and occasionally death), he wants nothing more than to have the perfect Christmas with his family gathered around him, and


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When it was first released back in 1989, Christmas Vacation was seen as another disappointing instalment in the Vacation series, with both it, and the previous sequel European Vacation coming nowhere near the sharpness and freshness of the original. But time has been particularly kind to it, the passing years enshrining it as a bona-fide Christmas classic. What really stands out is the incredible sense of heart and warmth that flows through every minute of the movie, presenting us with a beautifully nostalgic take on the family Christmas. Clark wears his festive jumper with pride, and watches old home movies in the attic. He wants to spend his perpetually late Christmas bonus on a pool for his family. Upon learning that cousin Eddie can’t afford presents for his two children,

Clark dips into his wallet, despite his own financial problems. In Clark’s world, Christmas is a time of happiness, of love, and of kindness. Despite the myriad setbacks that happen to him, he keeps moving on. When his boss, played by Brian Doyle Murray cancels the Christmas bonus, and gets kidnapped by Eddie as a Christmas gift, Clark is ready to stand up and face the music, accepting his own role in the crime. Impressed by the incredible sense of warmth from the Griswold family, his boss relents, and everyone ends up getting what they want. This is a fairy-tale we can all believe in. So yes, whilst Christmas tends to throw everything its got at us, perhaps we can learn from Clark Griswold, and face the difficulties with a smile, reflecting on what we have, rather than what we have not. As Christmas Vacation shows us, it’ll all work out just fine in the end. Steven Rainey

Agony Uncle Kissing

Agony Uncle Agonising? Le Galaxie mainman Michael Pope is here to help.

sing This month: Kis


nogging. Shifting. Making out. Bumping uglies. Mashing face caves. The interrogation of John Arbuthnot. Whatever you call kissing, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. My job is to write about it, not to listen to your bullshit. I bet you’ve never even kissed anyone, you desperately ugly idiot. Talk us through your first kiss. Was it like something out of a fairytale? FIONA, BELFAST

Illustration: Loreana Rushe

For god’s sake, Fiona. Here we go again. We both know you were my first kiss outside that Wimpy on Boucher Road. Why do you pursue me wherever I go? LEAVE ME AND MY FAMILY ALONE. Gene Simmons of KISS is a notorious bollocks. What would you do if he knocked on your door asking for a cup of sugar? MARK T, DERRY I wouldn’t kiss him but we’d probably do some hand stuff.

You’ve been beamed into an English TV studio in 1996. Would you rather kiss Dame Edna Everage or Lily Savage (and why)? BRIAN, DUBLIN Neither. I’d be too busy trying to get my parents to have their first kiss at the Enchanment Under The Sea dance. My brother and sister are nearly disappeared from the photo, Brian!’


No lips, just all tongues like in pornos. Who is the best kisser ever? JEAN, DUBLIN Sorry, I’m just going to have to address Brian’s time travel question again. His use of the term ‘beam’ in reference to time travel is wholly incorrect. ‘Beaming’ is Star Trek terminology for the almost instantaneous dematerialization, transmission and reassembling of matter over a distance. It has nothing to do with time travel, Brian.

Kiss From A Rose’ by Seal. Good, bad or merely tolerable? SEAL FAN, OMNIPRESENT

To me it’s like a growing addiction that I can’t deny.

Hugging or kissing?

It’s the apocalypse. You’ve five minutes left on Earth. Who would you kiss? DAVID, DUBLIN I could kiss my girlfriend but I’ve her kissed loads of times. Would I have time to make it to Kerry Katona’s house?


I hate you, Brian. Is Prince the best kisser of all time? LISA, DUBLIN

Prince and Sinead O’Connor had a punch up in his house following the success of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. She had to scale a wall to escape at 5am. So I’m guessing YES.

We all know what a French kiss, but what is an Irish kiss?


December 2014


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