Tag Archives: northern ireland

Interview: Kevin Baird of Two Door Cinema Club

kevin baird

AUSTRALIA and Two Door Cinema Club are no strangers.

The Northern Irish indie-pop trio have graced our shores a number of times for both headline and festival shows, but their upcoming appearance at Splendour in the Grass will be their biggest test Down Under yet. With a new label and material behind them, expect them to rise to the challenge, says bass player Kevin Baird.

Hi Kevin. What’s the plan to get yourself into a Splendour-headlining frame of mind?

I think we’re going to be super-excited to play. We haven’t really been playing much this year; it’ll only be our second or third show we’ll have played in all of 2014 at that point, so we’ll be really up for it. I think it’ll probably the biggest headline festival slot we’ve ever played, so it’s pretty exciting and we’re just going to go for it. I don’t think we’re going to be too nervous or anything; we’re just going to enjoy it.

How did you feel when you heard you were headlining?

I think if it had been last year or the year before we might have felt a bit of pressure, but the overwhelming feeling now when we get asked to headline things, is like ‘finally’. We sort of feel that we’re ready to do it, and it’s where we want to play on the bill. We’ve played enough and we’ve done enough big slots to know that we can headline a festival, so it’s really nice to know that you’ve got to that point. We always looked at other bands who were in that position when we’d be playing at midday or whatever and hoping we get to that point. So, the overriding feeling is happiness.

Will you do anything differently from a normal TDCC show?

I don’t think we’re too protective of ourselves in that way; even if we’re headlining a festival, we’re not under the illusion that everyone there is a massive Two Door Cinema Club fan. I think a lot of bands make that mistake. We’re obviously aware which songs translate better to someone who’s not a massive fan, and it’s all about pace and speed and not really giving people a chance to relax. We’re not going to be spending 30 seconds between songs talking rubbish, or standing in silence tuning our guitars. It’s all about momentum when you’re in a big outdoor arena; I think at a festival you just got to get on with what you’re trying to do.

Will you be playing any new material at Splendour?

We’re sort of toying with the idea at the moment. We’ve been writing a lot of new stuff while we’ve not been playing shows this year. We haven’t quite decided if we’re ready for an unveiling or not, but if we were to do it, I think Splendour would be a very nice place to do it.

How much have you written?

I think we’ve lost count, but we’re working in double figures in terms of ideas at least. The first album was very different, because there was no pressure. We just arrived with the album, recorded it and it was done. With the second, we sort of wrote 15 or 16 songs and 11 of them ended up on the record. I think this time around we’re trying to be a bit more conscious of having more choice, so we’re just writing as much as we can, hoping to have about twenty or thirty songs to pick from.

Are you looking take your sound in any new directions with the new material?

We were writing the last record in 2011 and a lot has happened and changed about what we are listening to, our perspective of things and our lives in general. It’s more natural to sort of write what we feel like writing, and that just naturally comes out differently. We actually find it much more unnatural to just rip ourselves off, if you know what I mean. Any time we’ve tried to do that it’s come out as a terrible song, so we end up doing whatever feels right at the time. Luckily for us people have liked it so far, and hopefully they’ll like it when we release another record.

After your second album, you left the Kitsuné label and signed with Parlophone. Was there any particular strategy behind that?

We left Kitsuné at the end of our record contract, and we felt like we wanted a change. Parlophone were one of the labels interested in signing us. Kitsuné have always been incredibly amazing and have been a really positive force in our music, image and everything. But at the end of the day we sort of became a bit frustrated – and it’s a horrible thing to say – about money, and although Kitsuné put everything in and we couldn’t ever have asked for more, we’re quite ambitious. We have quite large fanbases in places like Singapore and Malaysia, and we feel like we need to be releasing albums there, so that was one of the things that made us want to go with a big company; to make sure the records come out in these places. The previous two albums; they had to import them from Japan or Australia. Parlophone are amazing; they’re the small family relationship of an indie label, but with a major machine behind it.

If you could have a cameo role in any TV show, past or present, what would it be?

The Sopranos. It’s just the best TV show ever. I’d like to be one of the animals that Tony Soprano loves, but I don’t think that would be possible. So I’ll be some sort of animal keeper, so Tony Soprano will like me.

Which celebrity or musician would you be happy to sit next to on a long-haul flight?

Not the other guys in the band! Someone who’s not very talkative, because I don’t like to talk. Someone who is really boring.

Finish this sentence: fuck the expense, send me a case of…

Umm… Cooper’s Pale Ale. Love it.

TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS JULY 26.

For Splendour in the Grass

Directors of Good Vibrations: “It felt like it channelled a bit of the original spirit of that gig”

richard dormer

TORN apart by the violent sectarian divide known as The Troubles, Belfast in the 1970s was the last place you would have expected to see a musical revolution.

Enter Terri Hooley: founder of the Good Vibrations record store and label, which helped kick-start the bomb-ravaged city’s punk scene. The film of the same name tells the story of Hooley’s life and the bands his determination inspired, as directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn explain.

“We became involved in the film while there was just a brief outline written by Glenn [Patterson] and Colin [Carberry], the writers,” says D’Sa. “They had originally come up with the idea. We knew a bit about Terri Hooley through the music scene he was involved in, and we knew of him as an extraordinary man who had lived through extraordinary times. I think what really appealed to us about the story when we came across it, was that we realised that this was just not a story about a local legend, but a really universal story about someone who was a light in the darkness during the worst of times for a lot of people. It was a story about music and youth in general; just that spirit of youth that won’t be downtrodden. This was a time when young people wanted to be going out, meeting people and working out they were, but it wasn’t safe for them be to be out, meeting their friends in town and doing those kinds of things. It’s a story about that compulsion, that determination to go out and live your life, despite whatever dark forces are closing down the city you live in. That was something we felt that audiences all over the world might respond to. We also knew it was an opportunity to tell something that was celebratory with that distinctive dark comedy wit that is born of this place. I think we found that we had the opportunity to show all of that in the story and to create something of a celebratory spirit that was perhaps going to be a new way of looking at it.”

The Northern Irish conflict is not widely known about or understood internationally, but ‘Good Vibrations’ is a story with universal themes, says Leyburn.

“I think there were a lot of things about this story that we hoped would have a universal resonance,” he says. “Especially in the times we live in today. There’s conflict all over the world, and there are kids and teenagers facing the same challenges as those in Belfast at that time. Our story is a positive one; one that we hope has been told with humour. There have been films about The Troubles in Northern Ireland that tend to focus on soldiers or prisoners or whatever. That is the story we’re telling; it’s just about a different thing. It’s about that spirit of resistance and people who refuse to be defined by the dark forces around them. We’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world to film festivals. It’s been played in South Korea, the Czech Republic and the list goes on. A lot of those audiences have connected with it, and there’s a resonance to their own recent histories.”

At 65 and retired, Hooley no longer owns the store, but was an active influence in the making of the film.

“To tell the story, Terri had to be on board,” Leyburn says. “The fact that he was able to get to know us was important to him and to us. I knew of Terri and his legend; I’d seen him around Belfast and bought records from him, but I didn’t really get to know him. Through the process of developing the script and the film I got to know him really well. Terri has a very unique way at looking at the world. He’s a unique story-teller, and tells stories that are very vivid and interesting. I think for us to get to know him as well as we did helped us to bring a bit of his verve for life and telling stories to the screen. Also, just for the spirit of the thing; he came to the set and there was always an open door for him. You can’t make a story about somebody who’s still around and shut them out; I think that’d be the wrong way to approach it.”

While the story is one of inspiration and punk rock, the directors were keen to paint Hooley in as realistic a light as possible.

“He’s obviously a flawed human being, as we all are,” says D’Sa. “He’s a very generous person, and that comes across in the film, and once he was happy for us to make the film, he was particularly generous about it. He trusted us to go and make the film. It’s not going to connect with everyone if you make someone appear like a saint, and we had to tell the story to be true to what we were trying to say. The first screening we had when we finished the film was for Terri himself. We sort of hoped it would be just for Terri and his close friends and family. We wanted him to see what was a potentially difficult portrait of himself in a way, and we wanted to give him a chance to see it without anyone there. Typically for Terri, he wasn’t worried. He did bring a group of close friends, but for Terri that tends to mean about 200 people. We watched it in a room full of people who had been there at the time, and of course we were worried about what his reaction was going to be, but at the end Terri was in tears and made a lovely speech; he was very gracious and said how much he had been moved by the film. He has travelled with us a lot, and come to screenings all over the world. I think it’s just typical of the person that he is that he’s felt good about supporting it and sharing his story with the world.”

Game of Thrones actor Richard Dormer plays the title role, and was an easy pick for the job, says D’Sa.

“From the very first stages of developing this film, we knew Richard was the actor we wanted to cast,” she says. “Not only is he a phenomenal, subtle actor, we knew he was going to be brilliant at inhabiting the role and soul of this character. He also understands the DNA of the place and the time. We did a pilot, and Richard kindly agreed to come and play the role in a few early scenes. That was job done; once we had screened the pilot to the financiers, any of their concerns seemed to wash away at that time, because they could see what they believed, and that was that he was going to do an incredible job. It’s a very dynamic, charismatic performance, but one which also allows you access to the vulnerability to of that character. We’re really glad he’s been cast in things like Game of Thrones and big movie parts, and it’s incredibly well deserved.”

richard dormer

The story culminates with a huge punk gig, organised by Hooley to pay off the label’s debts. Luckily, the directors were able to call on another Belfast band to help out.

“We had a lot of support from Snow Patrol, who are executive producers and financiers of the film,” D’Sa says. “It was really down to them that we were able to get 2000 extras. On our budget we couldn’t afford to do that, but the Snow Patrol guys put out a call on their fan site asking people to show up at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, dressed in appropriate punk clothing for a couple of hours filming. Of course, within an hour, we had our 2000 extras for the scene, and the treat for them at the end was that the guys would play a two-hour acoustic gig after filming. So, we all these extras in punk clothing, the entire cast and crew was there, and it was a really joyous experience that felt like it channelled a bit of the original spirit of that gig.”

GOOD VIBRATIONS IS IN CINEMAS JUNE 12.

For Scene Magazine/Scenestr.

Record review: Van Morrison – Moondance: Expanded Edition (2013, Reissue)

Van Morrison

How do you describe a stone cold classic album like George Ivan Morrison’s Moondance? The answer is you don’t; it describes you. Using words on a document to discuss the ins and outs of a collection of tracks that absolutely embody the very fabric of music itself is like trying to make the wind blow or sun shine. There are so few albums that can arguably be put into a category above and beyond the normal “masterpiece” slot into a level of a kind of transcendental majesty, and Moondance – Morrison’s 1970 second solo album – is certainly one of them.

Ranked at 65th spot on Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’, if that means anything at all, Moondance was recorded only a few short months after the release of another classic, Morrison’s brilliant debut Astral Weeks, near Woodstock in upstate New York. Its blending of R&B, folk, soul, rock and jazz; all wired through its intensely controlling writer’s Celtic, stream of consciousness style, makes for some seriously special results.

Opener ‘And It Stoned Me’ is a beautifully narrated tale from Morrison’s childhood and the best song here. In 1985 he said “I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.” The perfectly-paced track is perfectly constructed so as to allow the listener to float alongside the young Van as he makes his way through that countryside day in Northern Ireland. The addition of a lightly tinkling piano solo and subtly twining saxophones, and Morrison’s fixation on the glass of water “carried from the mountain stream” all add to the overall effect of a near-perfect childhood memory.

The title track is next, and despite the instant change of style to a song with an unmistakable jazz swing, Morrison’s voice makes it a smooth transition. There’s even a flute over-dub behind the vocals that gives the track a lighter air to go with the walking bass line. Fourth track ‘Caravan’ is another bona fide classic. The song – playing on Morrison’s fixation with gypsies – features yet more wonderfully descriptive lyrics. “And the caravan is painted red and white; that means everyone’s staying overnight, ” he sings, although it has to be said that the live version on The Last Waltz with The Band is probably even better (later track ‘Brand New Day’ is said to be inspired by The Band also). ‘Into The Mystic’ again explores the idea of the ‘gypsy soul’ in ethereal fashion, and ‘These Dreams Of You’ has the trademark Morrison groove that makes his live performances so special. Closer ‘Glad Tidings’ is his warning about the music industry and the trappings of celebrity lifestyle; ideas that Morrison has stayed true to over forty years later.

In terms of extras for this expanded edition, it’s what surrounds the songs that is most intriguing. From Morrison making false starts on ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ and getting crabby with his band, to snapshots of multiple takes of each song, and alternate takes that are just as good as the album versions; there’s plenty here to keep Van fans intrigued.

Forty-three years later and every song on Moondance still sounds bloody amazing. That’s why it’s a classic album.

Live review: Ash + Blonde on Blonde + Charlie Horse – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 21/8/13

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“Like the baby Jesus, Ash were born in a lonely stable. The sleepy Northern Irish village of Downpatrick is about as far away from the throbbing heart of the rock ‘n’ roll jungle as it gets. But like all such places, it’s packed with countless kids intent on escaping. And with Ash, it started the way it always starts – with two guitars, a drum kit, seemingly boundless energy and invincible optimism. ”

So says Ewan McGregor’s voice-over at the start of the Ash documentary Teenage Wasteland, as a trio of spotty-faced teenage wannabes thrash around in a series of fuzzy video clips from around 1992. It’s been a long twenty-one years since those heady days of busting a three-chord groove at Downpatrick Civic Centre, but while their music may have changed, the memories of those glorious mid-nineties days haven’t. Ladies and gentlemen, please get comfortable while this review gets a touch nostalgic.

Tonight’s show begins with a suitably exuberant set from Sydney band Charlie Horse, followed by proud Fortitude Valley rockers Blonde on Blonde, whose frontman coaxes the growing crowd to the front of the floor by promising that if we all “come forward, I’m not gonna touch you. Okay – I’ll probably touch you.” The quartet are probably too talented and stylish to be covering the likes of Oasis‘s ‘Hindu Times’, and while they do it well, their final track – new number ‘Weekend Behaviour’ – is much, much better.

Now: Ash. Being forced into this world in the same Downpatrick hospital ward that spewed forth the probably-delightful bundles of humanity that eventually became the indie-punk-pop heroes, in some roundabout way makes me feel like I understand them. For the three inarticulate Northern Irish schoolboys, making music was all about escape. They’ve taken the limited abilities that they were given at the time, started running, and never looked back, while managing to save Irish pop music from the shiver-inducing hideousness of the fucking Cranberries while they were at it. Most of what they’ve achieved was the result of a work-rate that would kill off many a lesser band, and singer-guitarist Tim Wheeler’s ability to write punk-pop songs that spoke to us like a fibre-optic cable hard-wired directly into the deepest recesses of our very souls. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

Tonight, the band take to a Hi-Fi stage awash in blue light, and launch into opener ‘Lose Control’; the three-piece immediately sounding tight, powerful, and incomparable all at once. Tim Wheeler has essentially always been a poser; the Flying-V in his (still surprisingly youthful for a man pushing 40’s) hands is evidence of that, and Mark Hamilton – while having put on a few pounds since 1977 was released in 1996) has lost none of the energy that has always made him so fun to watch on stage. The bassist’s ability – in the band’s early days – to perform while horrendously wasted was always worthy of admiration, in this writer’s opinion, and drummer Rick McMurray is just Rick McMurray – hammering away at the skins without so much as changing facial expressions all night, or probably all his life.

1977 spawned no less than four singles, and the next two tracks, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Girl From Mars’ are two of them. Watching the band perform such classic tracks makes for a strange, wonderful, and somewhat distressing feeling; when you realise that these songs don’t belong to you solely, and that there are hundreds and possibly many thousands of people to whom they are every bit as sacred; when the lyrics are so intertwined with memories of your own adolescence that it’s hard to tell them apart and it feels like someone is dictating your very thoughts on a public platform. After ‘Goldfinger’, Hamilton stands on the monitor, stares down the audience with a look of extreme distaste, grits his teeth and mouths “COME ON” like his life depends on it. Like I said – powerful stuff.

The crushing and often overlooked ‘I’d Give You Anything’ and softer ‘Gone The Dream’ precede the first ape-shit moment as ‘Kung Fu’ has the audience losing their collective marbles. “Kung Fu/Do what you do to me/I haven’t been the same since my teenage lobotomy,” sings Wheeler with as much energy as he did way back when, and the crowd give it back in nostalgia-tinted spades. A blues-y interlude and a bit of a crowd sing-along is a nice touch, before the final single ‘Oh Yeah’ and it’s devastatingly close-to-the-bone story of bitter-sweet teenage love.

Once 1977 is done and dusted the band have free reign, and brilliantly delve even further into their catalogue with ‘Jack Names The Planets’ from 1994 mini-album Trailer. Jumping back to the post-1977 era, they continue with ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, and despite a stoppage to allow a bone-headed security guard to get his meaty paws on a crowd-surfer and Wheeler’s exclamations of “We’re trying to have some fucking fun,” the shows continues with an encore including ‘Shining Light’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ in a strong finish.

You can say they’re just a pop band. You can say there are better bands out there. You can call it nostalgia or nineties-revival. But the simple fact is this: Ash playing 1977 is a bloody beautiful thing. Powerful stuff.