A Further Shore: An Interview w/ The Vagabonds

Photo: Karl McCaughey

With Lookleft selling well across Ireland (its in every Easons north/south) it is about time I shared an interview I did with The Vagabonds for the last issue.

The Vagabonds have been making waves on both sides of the Irish Sea lately; Dave and Pa took time out to chat with LookLeft.

The Vagabonds began life as a two-piece after Pa and Dave met while studying in Cork, later adding Niall Burns and Niall Clancy after moving to Dublin. There is no bravado here; both are open about the bands humble origins two years ago.

As Pa explains “we practised for ages and we were still shit after a year, playing shit gigs. We thought we were great but we weren’t.” They never let this get them down however, enjoying playing and improving all the while. Dave took some heart from hearing Blur’s Damon Albarn interviewed saying for the first two years they were absolutely abysmal adding [as a band] “we’ve got better now.”

They must be doing something right to attract the attention of legendary producer Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths and Babyshambles). Dave explains the coming together “We would love to have a more exciting story but we just sent him an email with a demo. His manager got back saying he was interested in working with us but it would be expensive as an unsigned band. We didn’t care”. Although jumping at the chance there was some trepidation said Pa “We never recorded with an established producer, just some demos so it was quite an experience, very daunting, not in a bad way.”

The resulting debut EP Another Victory for Hysteria is superb. The response according to Dave has been “positive, good amongst our peers. It’s not as though I don’t respect the opinion of other bands and people we know working in music but it’s a bit like your mother saying your good at football, I would rather hear it from Alex Ferguson.” It was largely ignored by the mainstream media except “Paul McLoone and Dan Hegarty who played it quite a bit and we’re thankful for that but I want to hear our songs at half two in the evening when people are listening.”

A wider issue emerges, whereby home-grown acts get a raw deal at the expense of more established acts. Both are adamant “things should be better here. Take Radio 1 in the UK, you are likely to hear a new band or one you haven’t heard before. Ireland is big enough to have an indigenous ‘scene’ like Scotland, but too many bands have to leave Ireland to make it.”

From their experience the odds are against the artist as Dave outlines “In Ireland anyway the promoter, venue and vintner are all making money off the bands who aren’t” adding, “we want to be able to work as musicians and make a living. Anyone who says otherwise is a fucking liar. Unfortunately we can’t do that here. You get gigs in Dublin but they are reluctant to pay ya”. Pa agrees saying “We’re not looking for €300,000 deals. Just enough to put into the band and make a living”

The band would love to make it from Dublin but have their sights set on cracking the UK with Dave explaining “We are looking towards England, not to belittle Ireland or that, we are gonna take a risk because we believe this band can work.”

The band has already been noticed and received support from Strummerville (The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music), a UK based not for profit organisation aimed at helping up and coming artists.  Dave speaks fondly about them.

“They do very good work and they’re giving us some backing. Our music kind of fits in with Strummerville. We have a song John Mellor, often referred to as our homage to Joe Strummer which it isn’t but it fits in with their agenda. It’s nice to have a link to the UK”. Pa has similar sentiments adding “It’s nice to be recognised by this kind of organisation.  It’s like we’re something unusual in the UK we can’t get a decent gig is Cork, Galway or Derry but we can get them in Brighton, London and Manchester. “

Their aforementioned brash punk rock sound makes them standout from other bands, explaining it Dave chuckles, it was “a complete and utter accident. We just decided to turn up the amps and distortion, we ended up loud. There is more sophistication to our approach now. Many bands try to be avant-garde for avant-garde’s sake; we know certain types of songs that will work for this band.”

It will be interesting to see what comes next from these guys who hope to hit the studio with Stephen Street once again in the summer. Unfortunately The Vagabonds may not be on their own looking abroad for their future; in this case Ireland’s loss will be Britain’s gain.

Their debut EP is available for FREE from Bandcamp.

 The Vagabonds – 46A

 Download: The Vagabonds – John Mellor via Strummerville

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