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Interview: Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 12th December 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Glasses-wearing, light-haired Oisin Leech of Liverpool-via-Ireland duo The Lost Brothers was so kind of answering my soul-searching questions about him and his writing partner Mark McCausland’s act, and I’m so pleased to bring the second half of my interview with him today. In today’s post, he tells us about what it means to be Irish and a singer/songwriter and how their new album was written and recorded. I also asked him how he feels about being a “sad song” band. Hope he got to his coffee pot in time without burning down the place!

In case you missed it (how could you?!? I kid…), read the first half of my interview with Oisin, head this way.

I also saw you at the Full Irish Breakfast programming on Friday at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub, which is organised and run by the amazing Angela Dorgan (who I see is a mutual friend of ours, as she’s listed in the thank yous for this album). Does being Irish colour your songwriting and if so, how?
That breakfast gig is up there with our favourites! Absolutely…we are quintessentially an Irish band. No matter how much time we spend rambling out east or west, we can never escape the fact that I was born in Navan and Mark was born in Omagh. I love this. Ireland… and Irish roots…it’s in our blood. My father’s ancestors played music in Kinvara in Galway and Navan for years before I was born. All huddled round a piano singing late into the night with a fire blazing. I saw the photos.

My grandmother ran a music hall in the 1950s called The Plaza. Mark’s grandfathers band The Moore Family actually played there, and my Granny booked them! We found all this out only a few years ago.

For me, being Irish is a million things, but as a songwriter maybe it’s all about the characters you meet, the rivers, the wild Atlantic Ocean, the rough rocks and heather of the Burren, the shadows beneath the trees along back roads of Tara. It’s endless… The Irish can sing the blues because they lived through the blues. But there’s another name for the blues…you can’t simplify any of those things. It’s just a feeling that finds its way into a song.

When I hear the wail of Townes Van Zandt or Robert Johnson, I hear a rainy day in Donegal in Ireland and when I hear the great Irish Box [accordion] player Tony MacMahon play a tune or great Irish singer Sonny Condell sing, I see a blue morning in upstate New York with the sun cutting through the trees. For centuries Irish and Scottish folk has been crossing the Atlantic, it’s all there in Bob Dylan or Everly Brothers song if you listen closely. I love the songwriting rock we cast our net from…. and it’s called Ireland.

Every time I’ve attended SXSW, I am struck by the brotherhood / kinship between the Irish acts, no matter where in Ireland they are from. This happens to an extent with the UK bands but because they’re all over the place and so numerous in comparison, I don’t see the same kind of support for fellow countrymen. Would you like to speak on that?
That’s great that you see a community of musicians among the Irish. I doubt any of us notice; we just all pitch in together without thinking. Everyone’s on the same road, and you have to help a brother or a sister along the way if you can.

Your fourth album ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’ was released this autumn, and I think it’s a beautiful record. How did you approach this LP compared to your three previous? How did producer Bill Ryder-Jones affect the songwriting and recording process?

We always thought we would do the first three albums as a trilogy all with similar atmospheres going through them.

Once the trilogy was over, we decided to make a change.

A new trilogy would begin.
We came at this album differently in terms of songwriting.
We kept dozens of cassettes with hundreds of song ideas.

It’s a more hopeful album.
Not sure why. It just is.

We wanted each song to tell a distinct story.
It’s a certain type of song that tells a story, and that’s the type of song we went after here.

We also decided that to start this new trilogy we would come full circle to our old adopted home Liverpool. The city we pick is crucial to our album. The atmosphere of a city ends up on the album. We had never recorded a Liverpool album before as The Lost Brothers.

We recruited Bill Ryder-Jones, who is one of the best young guitarists in the world right now. He plays sometimes with Arctic Monkeys. Another great band.

We were fascinated to see what Bill would do with these songs. Ironically, he stripped the songs right back to the basics with little bits of brass and added a few colours. This is our most stripped back album to date. It was brave of Bill to make that call.

Less is more and all that jazz…

Roddy Doyle [Irish novelist and writer of “The Commitments”] sent us a kind message a few days after the album came out saying that this album reminds him of a collection of short stories.

We were fascinated to see what would happen when Bill got his hands on these songs. He approaches thing with a fresh edge. Apparently it’s our most forward thinking album to date!!!!
I’ll live with that.

With this album we also made a conscious effort to write songs in Dublin.
We had never written there before.
So we spent weeks and months writing in Dublin. We demo’d the songs with Sean Coleman and Gavin Glass at Orphan Recording. I love Dublin, and it gave the writing its own magic.

One of the album’s songs that made a huge impression on me was ‘Soldier’s Song’. It seems to me like a gentle yet brilliant protest song against the unnecessary wars and violence that go on in our world today, yet it doesn’t get overtly political. Did one of you take the lead on writing this, can you give us insight on how the song came about?
That song came in a dream. It’s a love song with a simple story. It started in Ireland, and then we finished it while waiting on a flight in LA in a motel. Delighted you like that song. We are always touched when people say they respect that song. We have never written anything like that before. On that recording, Martin Smith plays a beautiful old trumpet horn that he got in a flea market in old central Europe. No-one knows what type of horn it is.

Is ‘Derridae’ based on a real person/woman? If yes, is she aware that this song was written about her?
‘Derridae’ is a song that came in Dublin. Mark and I had just finished a show at Vicar Street (club in Dublin) and the TV was on in the hotel at 4 AM. Suddenly, these chords and melodies came to us in the space of 5 minutes. The words poured onto the page. But we needed a title …we needed a word that summed up the atmosphere of the song we were trying paint. So we just sang the song over and over and the name “Derridae” came from the ether. It’s a girl’s name that we invented.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkU7SUKux9A[/youtube]

My favourite song on the album is ‘Walking Blues’, as it encapsulates all that is good about the Lost Brothers’ music: an effortlessly classic sound. (In my review, I described the song like this: “Another deceptively simplistic song is ‘Walking Blues’, with its jaunty melody and piano notes. Its sweet message that if love is forever, it doesn’t matter what distance separates two lovers, because one day soon they will be reunited (“these walking blues will carry me back to you in time”) has certainly been used many times in popular song, but somehow in McCausland and Leech’s voices and hands, the sentiment has never sounded truer or more genuine.” At the time, I was missing someone who was far away very much, so I could personally relate to the song’s message. It is also optimistic; from a quick Google search on you, a lot of outlets seem to peg you as “sad song” songwriters. Agree or disagree?
Ha ha ha. Glad you like that song and your review nails it perfectly. Spot on.

Do I think we write sad songs? Well…for me a sad song can cut through steel. A sad song can stop you in your tracks and send you flying. Sad songs need to be sung. Anyone can sing a happy song. The songs I love are Randy Newman songs, Townes Van Zandt songs. Compared to those writers our music is like the Beach Boys!

Even the Beach Boys had stunning sad songs like ‘Disney Girls’.

Weirdly ,I don’t find our music sad at all. I meet people after our gigs and they rave about how the music lifted their spirits.

Some people find Leonard Cohen really uplifting, others get sad…. Depends on who you talk to!

We write what comes out of our souls with no filter and we don’t force it. People can think what they think. If they find it sad or happy, that’s fine by us. As long as the music moves people in some way.

Someday soon we will release an album of upbeat rockers!

Related to this, there are other points in the album that feel very autumnal to me in mood (for example, the instrumental ‘Nocturnal Tune’ and up tempo yet sad story about an itinerant, ‘Poor Poor Man’). Was this intentional?
Autumn is our favourite season, so yes, well spotted! A lot of these songs were written in the month of October too.

Compared to the average “popular” act these days, your recording and performance set-up has nothing to do with complicated electronics and overdone production. Do you feel this is something important to the ethos of the Lost Brothers and you see it continuing this way? Or could there be a time in the near future where you might change things up radically?
Where we did the new album is a place called Parr Street Studios, and it has some of the best gear in the world. We worked to tape, because it’s warmer sounding and it gives you less options. Sometimes less options is the way to go because you can’t hide from the song. Two voices and two guitars…that’s the essence of what we do. To capture that we worked with amazing people because if you get it right, the results are beautiful.

Yes we have big plans down the road to do something very differently!
I’ll tell you some other night.

Christmas is coming soon. What do you hope to find under your tree?
I would love if Dylan brought out another Chronicles book. That’s my Christmas wish. In the meantime I will stick on some Harry Nilsson and watch The Godfather on repeat.

What are the Lost Brothers planning going into 2015?
Yes, we plan to come to the States. We also have a very busy festival season ahead in 2015. It starts in Glasgow in January with Howe Gelb.

Calexico are also on the same bill. Announcements soon.

Thanks for the chat. I enjoyed that. I better go get the coffee off the cooker. It’s burning….

Many thanks to Oisin for doing this interview with me (this was grand!). Cheers to Terry for sorting this out for us.

 

Interview: Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 11th December 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Without a doubt, The Lost Brothers‘ fourth album ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’ is one of my favourite albums of 2014. (Read my review of the LP from this post back in September.) The Irish duo, now based in Liverpool, make songwriting seem effortless, as their beautiful, poignant songs bring forth real and strong emotions that seem all too lacking in popular music today. In part 1 of my interview with the fairer-haired, bespectacled half of the Lost Brothers, Oisin Leech tells me about their last UK tour that recently concluded and how he became inspired to become a musician.

Stay tuned for the second half of this interview posting tomorrow.

Hello Oisin. Where do we find you today? What are you up to at the moment?
Hello there…. We are getting ready to play a great TV Show called Other Voices this week down in Dingle in lower mystical depths of southern Ireland. Just polishing my boots and packing my music here.

You recently finished off a pretty massive Irish and UK tour from the end of October through November. A tour that long sounds intense and gruelling. How did the tour go, and how were your new songs received? What were the highlights of your trip, were there particular dates that stick out in your mind?
This tour was our favourite because it was just us, two guitars, the new songs, and people in a room ready to hear the songs. We weren’t supporting anyone on this tour, and we had to do longer shows. We rose to the challenge and loved it. A lot of the gigs sold out, which is encouraging when we are working hard and giving it all we have. This tour has been a lot of fun.

As the tour progressed, the new songs took on their own life and developed each night. One lady in Switzerland actually came up after our gig and said that the new songs stood out in the set like glowing emeralds amongst the older songs. That was the best thing I’ve heard in a while!

All the gigs were great.

But our Liverpool show stands out because all the players who played on the new album came down and joined us on stage including our producer Bill Ryder-Jones and Nick Power from The Coral. Our pals Jack Cocker and Scott Kearney helped too. We loved it that the studio engineer Chris Taylor even turned up!

It was an emotional night with the longest aftershow I have ever witnessed. We sang Paul McCartney songs ‘til way after dawn with tears of laughter falling on the floor.

One of the earliest press releases of yours I read said that the two of you met in Liverpool. Yet both of you are Irish. Where are you both originally from in Ireland, and where are you based now? And how did Liverpool end up being the place where the Lost Brothers formed? I heard something about a library…
We are from Meath and Tyrone in Ireland. My dad’s family are originally from Kinvara, Galway, and my mum’s family are from the North of Ireland in Buncranna. My mum sings and plays piano, and my dad has a great singing voice too and plays a mean fiddle. I was lucky to grow up around music in our house in Meath. My Grandmother Mae had a beautiful voice, just like my mum and my sister Saramai. I have memories of my Granny playing piano and singing way into the night. Blue songs with the sweetest melodies.

These days we spent most of the year on the road travelling writing and recording with no fixed abode. We have a Lost Brothers “Song Cave”, which we retreat to sometimes …but even I don’t know where that is. It just has a piano and a fax machine and one old lamp.

Why Liverpool as a base? Well…it drew us there separately 11 years ago with a” magnet of song”. The Beatles, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Coral. For years, we were mystified by the music that came out of this city. We both formed different bands there and met in record shops and street corners over the year talking about music … Soon a friendship started. We spent many days and nights in record shops huddled over a gas fire and vinyl from all over the world. Liverpool is a cauldron of energy and musical dreamings and we dived right in.

Soon, after being pals for 5 years we started writing songs for fun.

That’s back in 2006/2007. We had to because ideas were falling from the sky with every rainfall and with every sunrise. We lived near Arnold Grove where George Harrison was born.

How did you get into songwriting and wanting to be a performer? Was there a defining moment / album in your childhood that was a major encouragement?
I studied classical cello for 5 years but soon discovered that I loved punk music… From the age of 12, I collected punk albums. Bands like Stiff Little Fingers, The UK Subs, Alternative TV, The Ruts… I went to punk festivals by myself as a kid!!! Then, at the age of 14, a pal Alan Quinn played me a cassette of Dylan’s ‘Freewheelin’’ album on my Kitchen stereo. I was frying an egg at the time, and I turned to the stereo and fell around the room laughing in total amazement at this music. It blew open my mind. The egg burnt on the frying pan as my pal explained who Dylan was. Then the next week he gave me Beck albums, Bowie, Captain Beefheart and Nirvana. I read so many books on Nirvana, which led me to track down Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie and brought me all the way home to Irish genius albums like those of Planxty and Sweeney’s Men. I started busking in Dublin that summer and busked around Europe for 6 years. I lived in Naples and sang on the streets and learned my craft.

Somehow I ended up playing rhythm guitar in Neville Staples’ (singer from The Specials) band in bull rings around Spain for a spell!

Then came the move to Liverpool where my band The 747s started. We toured with The Raconteurs, The Strokes, we recorded ‘Baby I’m Yours’ with Arctic Monkeys. We had a ball. We also toured with The Basement, which is how I met Mark from Lost Brothers. Then the new chapter began.

I think you have some of the most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard in my life. Do you have any special regimens / rituals / drinks / etc. you keep to so to keep your voices fighting fit?
Neither of us smoke and on tour we try to look after the voices. Usually the voices look after themselves. If ever we can find it, we use [a] honey and vinegar mix to keep the throats well oiled. That was a George Harrison trick.

As an American, I have to admit I don’t listen to a lot of the musical genre called Americana, which is what a lot of outlets seem to associate you with. Do you agree with this classification? If yes, are there other artists in this genre you admire / think you could be accurately compared to?
I don’t see our music as Americana at all. I see it as “the Lost Brothers sound”. It’s our sound that’s born out of our ramblings on the road. Everyone should have their own sound. It’s like having a stamp. It can constantly be changing too. William Blake said, “the artist’s job is to create… Let others compare and contrast.” No matter what you do, people will always have to put your music is a box and categorise it. That’s ok but it doesn’t interest me.

Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison were so influenced and inspired by American music, but it’s still intrinsically Irish. They have probably influenced American music massively by bringing Irish Soul to the table.

I listen to Dinah Washington, Beck, Billie Holiday, Planxty, Andy Irvine, Fred Neil, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Ger Wolfe, Sonny Condell, Fugazi, anything with heart and soul…the list is endless.

Who are your favourite songwriters, and why? Are there any that you think your fans might be surprised you’re a fan of?
As writers, I like Phil Lynott, Fred Neil, Shane Macgowan, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, Carole King, Paul Brady, Bill Ryder Jones, The Coral , Alex Turner…I love ‘70s punk writers like Mark Perry from Alternative TV. Prince is such a great songwriter. Mindblowingly good. Beck’s new album is stunning.

On his new album, Beck appears in the desert wearing silver robes and speaking in tongues of crystal and cold fire. The songs are immaculate. The precision and emotion in this album makes it so special. This album was my close companion as we toured the world. I love it dearly. Great songwriting.

My first experience seeing you live was at SXSW 2013, where I saw you play the [email protected] night on Monday with Girls Names and Tim Wheeler.
How did you find the Austin experience? Was it everything you imagined, was it surprising, etc.?

We love Austin and we love playing in the States in general. We get very excited and inspired in Texas. The horizon widens and songs appear. Something new always comes out of a trip to Austin. I love the moment where the evening just steps in and everything turns a lazy yellow.

I hope we play Texas again soon.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview and Oisin’s answers to the TGTF Quickfire Questions to post soon.

 

(Charity / Holiday! ) MP3 of the Day #864: The Lost Brothers

 
By on Thursday, 11th December 2014 at 10:00 am
 

The Lost Brothers have written and recorded an absolutely beautiful song – yes, it’s sad, but sad in the “aww…” heartstring tugging way – called ‘Little Angel’. After listening to it below, you can download it for free from the duo’s SoundCloud, but Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech ask that instead of paying for the song to instead donate to UNICEF to make a child’s life brighter this holiday season. Dig deep, folks!

Stay tuned for the first half of my interview with the bespectacled Leech coming your way in an hour; the second half will post tomorrow morning.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-P9850LS8[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: The Lost Brothers perform ‘Derridae’ and ‘Soldier’s Song’ on The Saturday Night Show Sessions

 
By on Monday, 3rd November 2014 at 4:00 pm
 

Irish duo The Lost Brothers recently played on their homeland’s tv station RTE’s The Saturday Night Show Sessions, and here are two videos from the show of ‘Derridae’ and ‘Soldier’s Song’. Both songs figure prominently on their fourth LP ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’, out now on Lojinx. Joining them on fiddle for this special performance below is Steve Wickham of the Waterboys.

The act have just started an extensive UK/Irish tour; catch them live through the end of November. Just yesterday, we featured the new promo for ‘Spanish Reprise’ as our Sunday Video of the Moment.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRJrQ8aRkvs[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4QV5_GRec8[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1665: The Lost Brothers

 
By on Sunday, 2nd November 2014 at 10:00 am
 

You really wouldn’t expect two Irishmen to write a song that has Spanish flavour, would you? Yet with their twinkling guitars, The Lost Brothers have exactly done that with their instrumental ‘Spanish Reprise’.

The song features on Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech’s four album effort ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’, which was released in September on Lojinx. (You can read my glowing review of the latest Lost Brothers‘ LP here.) The promo itself, following on from the animated clip for ‘Derridae’, is part animation, part reality, allowing the listener and watcher to imagine his/her own story to the music. Watch it below.

The Lost Brothers are now on an extensive UK/Irish tour through to the end of November; all the dates are listed here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXHuTsfimDE[/youtube]

 

The Lost Brothers / October and November 2014 UK and Irish Tour

 
By on Thursday, 25th September 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Irish singer/songwriter duo the Lost Brothers have announced a lengthy tour of Ireland and the UK for this autumn, following on the release of their fourth LP ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’, which our own editor Mary reviewed here. TGTF has also recently featured two individual tracks from the album, ‘Gold and Silver’ and ‘Derridae’. Tickets for the following tour dates are available now.

Wednesday 29th October 2014 – Dundalk Spirit Store
Thursday 30th October 2014 – Dublin Cafe Du Journal
Saturday 1st November 2014 – Limerick Dolans Warehouse
Sunday 2nd November 2014 – Bray Harbour Bar
Monday 3rd November 2014 – Ballymore Eustace Mick Murphy’s Bar
Thursday 6th November 2014 – Naas Middle Earth Music Club
Friday 7th November 2014 – Dublin Whelan’s
Sunday 9th November 2014 – Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s
Monday 10th November 2014 – Manchester Castle
Tuesday 11th November 2014 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds 2
Wednesday 12th November 2014 – London St. Pancras Old Church
Thursday 13th November 2014 – Brighton Komedia
Saturday 15th November 2014 – Sheffield St. Andrew’s Psalter Lane Church
Sunday 16th November 2014 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Monday 17th November 2014 – Liverpool Studio 2 Parr Street
Wednesday 19th November 2014 – Lahinch Kenny’s Bar
Thursday 20th November 2014 – Galway Róisín Dubh
Friday 21st November 2014 – Derry Sandino’s
Saturday 22nd November 2014 – Donegal McGrory’s
Wednesday 26th November 2014 – Belfast Errigle Inn

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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