A year ago this month a group of Galway buskers got together for a jam session that went so well they decided to strike out as a proper band, and so Galway Street Club was born.
Their first bona fide gig was at the Róisín Dubh where they promptly won an open mic event and, almost a year to the day later, they will grace the Róisín stage again on St Patrick’s Day two gigs, at 5pm and 9pm.
Over the past year the group has built an ardent following and ventured out of town for rousing gigs in Cork and Dublin while still regularly captivating the crowds on Shop Street with al fresco sessions of their mighty sound. The Club currently comprises 12 members and is something of a musical United Nations with representatives from Germany, France, Spain, Argentina, and America, as well as Ireland.
On Monday afternoon at the House Hotel, two of Galway Street Club’s Irish members - guitarist James Dillon, from Tipperary and ukulele player Laura Corcoran, from Laois - met me to chat about the group’s first year of existence and plans for the future. They began by telling me how they each made their way to Galway.
“I came up for college four years ago,” James reveals. “I was doing astrophysics and made it to second year but it got a bit too intense for me and I dropped out to play music for a while. I wasn’t making enough to support myself so I was on the point of moving back home to Tipperary. Then the band started and now I’m on the best money I’ve had in my life and the band is all I think about now; it’s absolutely the best thing that has happened to me.”
“I also came up for college,” Laura adds. “I’m still in middle of doing an arts degree, I am studying French and Italian. It was after my second year in college I started getting involved in the busking community and that made me want to stay in Galway to play music. The open mic gig at the Róisin last year was our first formal gig as Galway Street Club and it was what gave me the feeling we are on to something here.”
“It’s been fantastic since we started,” James enthuses. “We started as a bit of craic then we saw the response we were getting and we felt it would be a shame to not do something with this, so we kept going. Getting to pack out the Róisín was amazing. Our energy is definitely a massive selling point. We’re pretty loose in terms of our actual sound, it’s the energy that draws people in and I think we can mould that.”
With so many members I ask how they regulate the rehearsals and choice of music? “It’s definitely a crazy sort of atmosphere when you have 12 people playing different kinds of music together,” James laughs. “During our band practice there is a lot of shushing going on and people are there playing their instruments but the energy is crazy. I think we try as much as we can to not tame it. We fine tune everything but we try to send the energy out. We try to be as democratic as possible but whoever brings a song into the band will be the leader for that song. I haven’t noticed an overall band leader emerging but I like it that way.”
Up to now, the group’s repertoire has consisted entirely of cover versions but it is a measure of their focus and application that they have started working on original material.
“We just had a meeting about that the other day actually,” James reveals. “We’re in the process of rehearsing a few hours every day and we are creating a new set list where we are writing the songs and getting ready to come back and hit the streets with it. It is the same kind of system, nearly everybody in the band writes music and we try to keep it as communal as possible. Basically we were at the stage where we didn’t want to stay in the old avenue, that is just the natural progression of things with our music, I imagine it will be more rewarding. We’ve been playing covers for the last year so that is an added layer of support you are gonna get, because people already know the songs so it will be great seeing how they react to our new material. We’ve rehearsed a few of our original songs before but never brought them out.”
Reflecting on Street Club’s multi-national musical gumbo, Laura says she cannot wait to see how the band's original music will sound "because we have so many different influences". She notes: “There is going to be a lot of creativity and ideas flying around so it will be interesting to see how we nail them all down and where we decide we will go with all the songs. But no matter what we make and what genre it fits into, it will have always have our own style to it.”
“Even our fan base is mixed!” James observes. “With all the tourists coming through the city, new people are seeing us every day. We saw that last summer, and we have thousands of fans now on Facebook from everywhere.”
“Basically we are trying to get our own sound going,” Laura concludes as she describes where the band see themselves going. “We want to be playing as many gigs and festivals and even busking in the street, we just want to be out as much as possible. We have more of a plan this year because last year it just happened really quickly so we hadn’t that much time to prepare but now we can plan to be more efficient and we’ve been practising regularly.”
This year looks like being another rollicking year for Galway Street Club and they will definitely be rocking the joint big time at the Róisin Dubh on St Patrick’s Day. Tickets are €5. See www.soisindubh.net