Ireland

Interview: Intercontinental band, Maven Grace

You think it’s a challenge having two musicians collaborate from across the world? Try four musicians in four different places, scattered all over the wold. Maven Grace is a collaboration between four musicians in Ireland, Hong Kong, Rome and London. Regardless of the incredible distances between them, they create incredible music and I was lucky enough to get Jason and Henry to answer a handful of questions for me! First off, check out their new single and accompanying music video:

 

 

It is my understanding that Maven Grace unites members from Hong Kong, Ireland, Rome AND London. How on earth did you all find each other?

 Henry: Jason and I have actually known each other since we were children. Jason spent some time in the UK as a child, and we were drawn to each other at school because we were both obsessed by music.

 Jason: And we both had terrible shoes.

 Henry: Mary and I have also known each other for ages. Our paths used to cross on the gig circuit, and we always said that one day we’d end up working together.

 Jason: Mia and I met in Rome as teenagers. She was the coolest girl in town, and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. So, even though we’re scattered all over the world now, our ties to each other go way back. That makes everything much easier to deal with.

 

Touch on some of your individual projects before you came together as Maven Grace.

 Henry: I was in a band called Psychid that ended up supporting Radiohead at a big homecoming show in Oxford. I was so excited and then reality struck when I hit the stage – endless rows of people looking at their watches. By about the third song, a Japanese girl right at the front of the barriers had had time to create a big sign which she waved at us. It said “How long are you playing for?”

 Jason: I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap between east and west and after going to college in the US I ended up back in Beijing putting on a big festival. The Beijing Pop Festival was the first of its kind, and it was pretty insane introducing acts like Nine Inch Nails to a Chinese audience. Although it’s probably a good thing that they didn’t want to put Fist Fuck in their set.

 

Do you work together in one place or remotely?

 Henry: We work all over the place. Often we end up having to work remotely, but it’s great when we’re all in the same place. Mia just got in from Rome this morning for a rehearsal, and she was practising her parts on a small keyboard during the flight.

Jason: Writing at a distance can have real advantages, too. I love coming up with an idea in Hong Kong and winging it through cyberspace to the other side of the world.

 Henry: Because of the time difference, I have more time to work out how to say ‘I don’t like this’.

 

Tell me about your songwriting process. 

 Jason: Every song is different. Innocent Dreams all flowed from that opening line – ‘Innocent dreams don’t disappear’. Henry and I were just sitting there together playing guitar, and I don’t even remember why those words came into my head. But we just developed the whole song then and there from that opening idea.

 Henry: It’s great to have lots of different writers and processes all going on at once. The only constant is that we all rely on each other to get things finished.

 

How and when did music become part of your lives?

 Henry: My mother is a singer, so I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a central part of family life as I was growing up. And she loved everything from Bach to The Beatles. She actually sang with the Rolling Stones on the Let It Bleed album.

 

Who were some of the most influential people musically, be it friends, family or celebrity?

 Jason: I’ve always loved Springsteen and that classic strain of American songwriting. But as a kid I was also into some fairly extreme metal, actually! So my influences were all over the place.

 Henry: Let’s be honest – they still are.

 

What is the story behind the band name, Maven Grace?

 Henry: I’ve always loved the word ‘grace’. It has so many interesting and powerful connotations, so I knew that if I started a new musical project Grace would have to be in there somewhere.

Jason: The word Maven just feels like it belongs in front of it, though. You can spend forever analysing these things, but when you’ve got it right, you just know.

Name a few musicians/bands out there today that you really respect and who are doing things musically that are inspiring and important to you. 

Jason: Funnily enough we’ve just been thinking a lot about the artists in Beijing who mean the most to us, and I have to mention Howie Lee. He’s like the Chinese Aphex Twin and his videos are insanely imaginative and beautiful. Dead J is another Beijing-based musician I can’t get enough of. They’re not so well known in the West, but you should definitely check them out.

Henry: Whatever you think of their beards, it’s impossible not to respect ZZ Top. Next year will be their fiftieth anniversary without a single line-up change. That is truly inspiring. As someone once said, bands often form by accident, but they don’t stay together by accident. And when we need a shot of something coming from a completely different universe, Hot, Blue and Righteous off their Tres Hombres album works every time.

 

Is an EP for full length in the future for Maven Grace and when can we expect another release from you?

 Jason: We’re planning to get another song out there before the end of July. SEE “Something Strange” above! 

Is performing live/touring something you all would like to do and how difficult will that be to achieve given the distances between you?

 Henry: We’ll be performing live and touring, for sure. In fact, we’re playing a great festival at the end of the month, Standon Calling, alongside Goldfrapp, Bryan Ferry and Gaz Coombes. Rehearsing is a bit of a challenge when we’re thousands of miles apart, but nothing worthwhile is ever that easy, is it?

Jason: And I don’t really need to rehearse as much as the others anyway. I’ve got it all down.

 

Big thanks to Lewis Fromberg for setting this up and for the band finding time in their busy schedules to answer my questions! You can follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Album Review: “Beneath a Yellow Moon” by I Have a Tribe

Beneath a Yellow Moon is the debut record from Dublin, Ireland’s always-smiling, heavily-bearded, passionate poet-of-a-musician, Patrick O’Laoghaire. His musical project goes by the name I Have a Tribe and after two EPs, he has released an 11 song full length, heavily decorated with intimate vocals, gorgeous piano and undeniably impassioned lyricism. O’ Laoghaire’s voice is simple but perfectly on pitch, his vibrato fluttering high above. His voice is playful, his Irish accent exposing itself now and then, and his enunciation is immaculate; no word is in question. He speaks like a true poet, his words are the center of his songs and the English language his tool.  His lyrics are sharp, witty, smart and perfectly executed. They are surrounded by building, swirling instrumentals that stack upon each other. Every song ends somewhere higher, somewhere bigger and more beautiful than its beginning. Every track is the song for a separate story. Each song speaks to the listener so individually, as if each one is the theme song to a different short film.

 

o-laoghaire

 

This record took me by complete surprise. After being introduced to his single “Cold Fact”, I was instantly a fan but this song is more subdued than many of the other pieces on his record. So, upon my first listen to Beneath a Yellow Moon, I was shocked by the rich, cinematic composure of every track. The opening cut, “Passage”, is an honest, transparent piece about growing up, being frustrated, throwing in the towel, questioning everything but having no shame and moving on. The following track, “La Neige”, is equally as beautiful. He plays with harmonies, layering husky vocals upon each other, gospel harmonies hang hauntingly in the background amidst O’ Laoghaire’s fantastical instrumental organization. Over and over again he repeats, each time with more fire:
I’m lost for words, when this occurs,

Through the seasons, reveals the reasons.

 The song finishes with one simple, stunning statement:

 Take the right to be human.

If one was to listen to one song on this record to get an idea of who O’ Laoghaire is as a musician, it would be “Battle Hardened Pacifist.” It’s the perfect example of how he plays with his words and how he uses the power of instruments to make them more meaningful. The song rises and falls again and again, taking the listener on what I now understand to be the typical zealous-rich musical ride that O’ Laoghaire creates.

 

 

Then there is the 9 minute ballad, “Casablanca”, in which the cornerstone lyric appropriately is:

Here’s looking at you, kid.

O’ Laoghaire’s voice reaches such a level of passion, it almost completely disappears, a sweet piano melody tinkers along until the very end. In this song and others, you hear traces of the non-musical aspects of playing the piano: the sound of the keys when they are pressed, the pedal creaking. These qualities bring another level of honesty to his music.

This record is an absolutely glorious celebration of music and poetry. They are weaved together in such a way; it is not possible to pull them apart. Beneath a Yellow Moon was released October 14th on Groenland Records and is available for purchase on iTunes and via Groenland Records.

“Once Told” by HAWK

This dark and lovely track by Irish group, HAWK explores Ireland’s ancient and archaic views regarding pregnancy and abortion. About the track the band says they want to shed light on Ireland’s:

“archaic mindsets and processes which systemically lets down women, especially those in more vulnerable circumstances”.

Despite the weight of the subject matter, “Once Told” is a blackened but beautiful song. Lead singer Julie Hawk’s vocals float above potent drums (Sam Campbell) and striking guitar (Matthew Harris) and bass (Chris Handsley).

“Once Told” will be released February 19th of 2016 via Veta Records.