DAITHI Ó DRONAÍ, the immensely talented young fiddle player, whose imaginative sounds and unorthodox style has generated much interest in music circles, is about to release his debut EP.
Daithi will launch the seven track EP Embrace, with a free show in the Róisín Dubh tomorrow at 9pm. The EP was recorded in The Forge Studio in Galway city and produced by Dave Phelan from the band Lost Chord.
“I am really happy with it,” Daithi tells me during our Monday morning interview. “I think we have something really original. The EP is the result of 14 hour day sessions. It was an intense atmosphere and I think the music has this urgency and sound of pushing forward. The idea was to get it as energetic as possible and it will also work well live.”
The EP is a highly impressive collection of instrumental music from the precocious Clareman, featuring his signature style of looped and percussive sounds and seamlessly incorporating elements of Irish trad, indie, math-rock, post-punk, and electro/ambient music.
Daithi is originally from Ballyvaughan in The Burren, Co Clare, and grew up in a family steeped in traditional music.
“My granddad is well known in traditional music and from the Ó Dronaí side there is a long line of musicians,” he says. “I learned to play the fiddle from my aunt-in-law. The Ó Dronaí family is very, very, traditional and there is no room for stepping outside of that, but they have been really, really supportive.
“They know that what I’m doing is not trad, but trad is a style that comes out in my playing by accident. It’s very very noticeable that the melodies I play are slightly trad, but with indie and math-rock mixed in.”
Daithi’s distinctive style is a mixture of playing the fiddle with a bow and by plucking the strings with his fingers. “It’s why I went for the violin,” he says, “you can do so much with it and no other instrument has such a clear sound when it is plucked.”
Daithi has also gained attention for the way he arranges and performs his music. He plays entirely solo with no pre-recorded tracks. Instead he creates layers of sound, counter melodies, percussion (such as by tapping his violin as a drumbeat ), and accompaniment through the use of a loop pedal. “You can play a melody and the pedal allows you to put it on a loop and then you can build up different sounds on top of that,” he says.
It is no surprise then that Canadian indie-pop violinist Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy ) is an inspiration to Daithi.
“He was the first person I saw using the fiddle as an instrument in its own right to create other sounds and build up a piece of music,” he says. “His technique is similar to mine but our approach is different. Another big influence has been Foals. They really struck out with new ideas in math-rock with their clear tone and I wanted to translate that onto the fiddle.”
Daithi’s fusion of trad, indie, and electro comes out strongly on all tracks on the EPs, particularly the title track, but then he is a voracious music fan, keen to experience and learn from many styles as a way of sparking his own creativity to produce something original.
“There will be sounds on this EP that you won’t have heard before,” he says. “Dave and I spent a lot of time searching through various drumbeats and samples to find exactly the kind of beat we wanted and then we tweaked them and put various effects on them and put them together so that they became something very original.”
Daithi first came to attention through his appearances on The All-Ireland Talent Show and Must Be The Music. Both gave him an audience and the latter show resulted in two singles which charted in Britain. Appearing on the programmes also saw him earn enough money to be able to record Embrace. That said, he is not keen to be known as ‘the guy from the TV talent shows...’.
“There is a stigma about the quality of acts that appear on such shows,” he says, “but if I hadn’t done them I wouldn’t be close to where I am now as I’ve since played Electric Picnic and Castle Palooza. It was a means to an end. I never let anyone introduce me as being from those shows, you have to step away from it and out of that shadow.”
Embrace will not only impress through its music but also through its artwork and packaging. The cover has been designed by Daithi’s girlfriend Ciara Cooga,n and features various drawings and emblems all of which have their own, humorous, hidden meanings.
“If people are going to buy a CD these days they want it to be something special and memorable,” says Ciara. “The EP will come with some mini-colouring pencils so that people can colour in the images on cover of the album and make it their own. That way they have a connection to the EP and it makes it more personal for them.”
Embrace is available on daithimusic.bandcamp.com for €5. Physical copies will be on sale at the Róisín Dubh show as well as at Daithi’s gigs in the Workman’s Club, Dublin (Saturday ), Spirit Store, Dundalk (March 3 ), and the Pavilion, Cork (March 6 ). Daithi will also perform on RTÉ 2’s Other Voices on March 9 at 11.45pm.