This gig happened at the end of April this year in one of Dublin’s best-known venues, Whelan’s on Wexford Street. Close enough to our place that I could wheel my Nord Stage to the gig – handy! We had a team from Gigiddy.tv record the show and you can see three songs (I Am A Man, Perfect Day, and Tie A Ribbon) on their website. Discovery Gospel Choir sang with us for a couple of songs, which was great. Enjoy!
Hamlet Sweeney and I climbed the stairs to the auspicious Balcony TV studio a little while ago. Thankfully I didn’t have to lug the keyboard with me, just the cajon. We played ‘Sunshine’ which, after the gig in Whelan’s the other night (30 April) with the full band, is fast becoming one of my favourite Hamlet songs.
We’re starting a four-week residency in the Purty Loft on the 14 May (not the 15th, as Hamlet says in the video). Come along!
On Friday Hamlet Sweeney played his first gig of 2009, launching his release strategy on the world. He will release a single every month this year – the first one being ‘I am a man’. We recorded a handful of tracks in December with Karl Odlum (who has been the producer for, among others, Gemma Hayes) and some of these were then mastered at the iconic Abbey Road studios in London.
‘I am a man’ is one of the tracks that I’ve really enjoyed playing with Hamlet over the past year. Hamlet had recorded quite a full demo version in his home studio that impressed me from the outset with the dark, unapologetic tone of the words and music. It has a punchy riff – my keyboard version is different from his multi-tracked guitar original, which may get released on an anthology or B-side some day – and also now features a clarinet solo. This was good fun in the gig, as I got to switch between the two.
Playing with us on the gig were two excellent musicians, Gavin Fox and Binzer, who play together in the band Concerto for Constantine. It’s always interesting when Dublin musicians get together, swapping stories of who they all know! Binzer played on the initial recording sessions with Karl down in Wicklow (Karl was on bass) when we put down the basic tracks. Gavin I hadn’t met before, but he came in and did a great job with the songs. Which were:
‘Is she real?’
These first three were just Hamlet and I, the guys joining us at this point.
We played this at Bewleys and slowed it down considerably for this gig, helping the song find its natural groove, I think. It settled into a nice Del Amitri type feel.
‘Tie a ribbon up in your hair’
‘Canary in a coalmine’
‘Voices in my head’
‘The Una Molloy hangover song’
‘Hey girl (Ooh la la la)’
Dropped because of time restraints, which was unfortunate (’cause people really enjoy it).
‘Buy this song’
This was great fun with the band!
‘I am a man’
‘The boogie man’
‘I am a man’, the first of twelve releases this year, is available for download now. Here’s how:
- Text ‘music 2274’ to 57501.
- Enter the pin code you receive on downloadmusic.ie.
- Download the song.
This last step is very important. If you don’t download it, it won’t register for the charts…
Back in October, Hamlet and I went into the MUZU TV studios and recorded ‘I am a man’. Looks good, methinks. Keep watching and you’ll hear a couple of short interviews and ‘El Capitane’ as well as a video of David Bowie talking to Russell Harty, Hamlet’s choice from the fascinating archive available on the MUZU site.
For example, this video of Dionne Warwick interviewed on ITV. Which runs into a fabulous little chat on a tower block roof with Ian Dury…stick around for Jonathan Richman, Kate Bush being cute…you could be there all day! I was going to write that I thought there should be more tags, ways to search for a subject, but I actually quite like just diving in and discovering new things. Like TV, I suppose…
And what is it with presenters and names? “Dionne War-wick”… “Kate Bush…or is it Bush (rhyming with Lush)?”
A friend of mine posted a video of Arcade Fire, recorded in an elevator by the wonderful Vincent Moon for La Blogotheque, on Facebook. I’ve mentioned the site before, but it really is superb. Don’t be afraid of the fact that it’s in French – click on the archive, find your favourite band in the list and, chances are, you’ll find some great, inventive video.
On Monday I played at The Song Room with Hamlet (which is sadly having its last session next week – hopefully an appreciative venue can be found soon). For the first time we had Barry playing double bass with us, which is a great addition to the tunes. I brought my beast of a keyboard along and played that, the piano in the pub being unplayably out of tune, unfortunately; I also played cajon and clarinet and added some harmony vocals.
I’m really enjoying this multi-instrumenting at the moment. We played:
- Mr Slim
- El Capitane
- Street lights
- I am a man
- The Una Molloy hangover song
- Hey girl
- Boogie man
- Perfect day
‘El Capitane’, ‘I am a man’ and ‘Hey girl’ are all new since the last gig. ‘El Capitane’ reminds me of the Gorillaz a bit with its lazy groove, semi-chanted confrontational lyrics, and “…da, da, da dada dadaaa…” refrain. ‘I am a man’ is a down and dirty bluesy slice of masculine proclamation that is great fun to play: I switched to the electric piano 2 sound on the P200 for the punchy, descending chords of the riff. ‘Hey girl’ is an out-and-out pop song with Hamlet’s characteristically charming lyrical style painting a delightful, carefree picture of a ‘Before Sunrise‘-type relationship. This one we played totally stripped down, Hamlet playing and singing and me singing, humming and clapping.
Hamlet kindly let me do a couple of my own songs and I did ‘Make it home’ on the piano and ‘Face in a frame’ on the guitar. Franzi got some good shots and I got a warm round of applause and some nice compliments. These are my two best songs, I reckon, and it’s been great to play them a good bit over the last few weeks. Next thing is to record them…
I was impressed by the band on after us – Lisa McLaughlin and a couple of talented chaps on guitars and assorted other instruments: flute, melodeon, glockenspiel. They created a variety of really effective accompanying textures for Lisa’s vocals using an impressively portable setup. I envied them somewhat with my gargantuan keyboard.
Wednesday night was Hamlet’s gig in Whelans Upstairs. Barry joined us again and we played a good set – more able to settle in and enjoy the music now we were more familiar with playing the songs together.
- Is she real
- El Capitane
- Mr Slim
- Street lights
- Canary in a coalmine
- I am a man
- Buy this song
- The Una Molloy hangover song
- Perfect day
- The boogie man
- Why must love die
- Hey girl (ooh la la)
The new songs went down well, and the crowd enjoyed the night. Great fun!
I played at The Song Room on Monday night, a new singer/songwriter night at O’Sullivan’s on Westmoreland Street hosted by Hamlet Sweeney and Brian Brody. Brian opened the night with some of his songs accompanied by a harp augmenting his guitar. Ria followed with a band and had us grooving. Hamlet and I did a set next and then I finished the night:
- ‘Raise your glasses’
- ‘My belly’s empty and my heart is sore’
- ‘I love you madly’
- ‘Face in a frame’
- ‘Make it home’
The last two went down really well, which I was pleased about. I played ‘Make it home’ on the piano that’s a feature of the pub – nice to play on a real instrument.
I met Hamlet Sweeney back in January at The Purty Sessions in Dun Laoghaire; he was on the bill and I was playing with Jill. I really liked his humorous songs and thought he did a great job of performing them. About a month later he got in touch and asked if I’d play with him at a launch gig he was putting on in the Bewleys café theatre.
He sent me some demos, we chatted a couple of times and visited the venue before meeting up on the afternoon of the gig to rehearse. Plans to get a bass player had fallen through but there was a piano there so I was able to add body to the sound on that and on cajon. Everywhere I play the cajon people comment on it; it has such a remarkable sound, especially if you’ve never seen one played before and some dude on the stage starts thumping his chair all of a sudden!
- ‘Canary in a coalmine’ – Hamlet opened on his own with this lovely song, capturing the audience’s attention in the intimate room.
- ‘Is she real?’ – I added a nice little ostinato on the guitar.
- ‘Boogie man‘ – when Hamlet heard I played the clarinet, he suggested I try it on this tune. It was great fun to play (it has a kind of ‘Hit the road, Jack’ feel to it and calls for some audience participation on the chorus, which went down well).
- ‘Sunshine’ – a groovy, bluesy tune which I played on piano.
- ‘The Una Molloy hangover song’ – piano again.
- ‘Breathe in the light’ – to the cajon with some backing vocals in the refrains for this epic, gospel-y song.
- ‘Voices in my head’ – this was particularly good, I thought. I added a simple piano part to the second half of Hamlet’s haunting song. Very effective.
- ‘Street lights’ – Hamlet’s done a video for this one with a guy who I met at the gig, Mark Doherty, which should be interesting to see.
- ‘Perfect day’ – a song that Hamlet’s had some success with on radio in other parts of the world. A summer song 🙂
- ‘Buy this song’ – funny lyrics! I put in the drum intro from ‘Gold digger’. This’ll be great to play with a band.
- ‘Mr Slim’ – Hamlet’s ‘beef’ song.
- ‘Why must love die?’ – Hamlet went out into the middle of the packed little room and sang this alone. Lovely moment and another wistful beauty.
One of Hamlet’s friends captured ‘Voices in my head’ on video: