Villagers - stripping down and spreading wings

Cian Ó Cíobháin.

Cian Ó Cíobháin.

THERE IS an endearing group of musicians doing the circuit at the moment. All wonderfully talented, creative, and in love with what they do. Watching them perform is always a pleasure.

A perfect example of such musicianship is Conor O’Brien. From the ashes of 2007’s ‘next big thing’, The Immediate, comes Villagers. A quirky energetic group of musicians, Conor created the group on the back of some heavy song writing upon the demise of his former band.

This resulted in the release of Hollowed Kind, a four track EP which was written and performed by Conor, recorded by guitarist Tommy McLaughlin, and released by drummer James Byrne on his Any Other City label.

On the success of this Conor and co have been supporting Bell X1 on their nationwide tour. He’s also writing new material for an album he hopes to record soon, and preparing for some upcoming solo gigs. He’s also playing guitar for Cathy Davey. Now that’s dedication!

Taking time out of recording Cathy’s new album, and ahead of a string of headline gigs across the country, including Roisin Dubh this Saturday, Conor lets me know he’s looking forward to playing Galway again.

“The gig will include the five piece band,” he says. “We will be playing a lot of new songs, well all the songs are new. Some will be very new. It could be a complete disaster!”

Conor describes his sound as a bit rock’n’roll and a little bit folk. “The acoustic guitar gives our songs a folk feel,” explains Conor. “It feels good to be hitting something wooden!”

Villagers played Galway recently as support for Bell X1, and have just confirmed they will be supporting them again this summer at the Marquee in Cork.

“They’re gentlemen,” says Conor. “We had a blast on tour with them. They seem to have a pretty consistent show, no flagging, their mindset is right. We’d stand at the side of the stage and take it all in. It’s a big production, and fascinating to watch.”

Conor admits Villagers stage production isn’t as polished, but feels a stripped down staged suits them best. “We were told before to get back drops and fancy lights,” he says, “but we like the idea of just rolling in and playing songs, letting the lyrics bring the atmosphere.”

Conor seems almost proud of the band. “The band is pretty amazing,” he says. “They’ve learned all the stuff and made it they’re own and I’m really happy with that. The album will be recorded like the EP. I write and chose the songs.

“Tommy has a studio, I’ll record all the instruments myself, it gives the album a bit more of a solo feel. Afterwards I’ll bring the album to the band and changes might be made for the live shows. I see recording as a blueprint. The players are so good they get bored if they just played the same way every time.”

Although the album will be recorded independently Conor isn’t saying he’ll never sign to a big record label. His looming solo ventures in Britain are as much a meet and greet with industry folk as they are a chance to spread his wings.

“When is comes to signing to a record label it all depends on who’s working for you. It could work out really well,” Conor adds optimistically.

One thing is for sure Conor is keen to spread is music as far as possible. “I really want to get my music out there, I want to travel the world!” he says.

And with a CV like his, and friends in the right places it’s a very possible reality.

Villagers play the Róisín Dubh this Saturday at 9pm. Admission is free.


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