IRISH TRAD band Lunasa have rightly been described as a ‘supergroup’ and considering it’s members include Trevor Hutchinson (ex Waterboys ), Sean Smyth (Donal Lunny’s Coolfin ) and Cillian Vallely (Whirligig, Paddy O’Brien’s Chulrua ), it’s a verdict hard to argue with.
Over the past decade they have been a successful touring act in Australia, Japan and the USA and have built up quite a fanbase. This year saw the release of the Story So Far… album and to celebrate, the band and guests play Radisson SAS Hotel on Sunday July 27 at 9pm as part of the Galway Arts Festival
Fiddle player Sean Smyth is one of the founding members of Lunasa and has seen many ups and downs with the group through the years – including surviving a tornado in Atlanta where the band had to go to the basement of the venue and continue their gig!
“The whole 10 year thing has sort of snuck up on us without us realising,” he says. “We’re the sort of band that has always looked forward to the next album, the next tour, or the next song. So, to kind of look back and re-visit some of our old tunes was a very interesting project. Trevor took on the responsibility of putting together the Story So Far album and fair play to him he did a brilliant job.”
Lunasa started out under the name Sean Smyth and Friends but as things progressed and more tours were in the offing a new name for the music entity was conceived.
“I’ve sort of been blamed for the whole thing starting!” says Smyth. “What sort of happened was that we were offered a major tour of Australia quite early on and for that we had to have a name for the group and an album.
“The promoter was quite interested in working with Trevor Hutchinson and he kind of indicated that Trevor would be interested in working with us. The band sort of came together organically but we seemed to gel together well musically. Trevor and I came up with the name literally before we got on the plane to Australia. We did a promotion photo and actually the line-up for that was very different to the band that took to the stage for the tour! But it sort of worked.”
Lunasa’s music has been described by Hutchinson as “traditional music with a groove” and the group owes a great debt to The Bothy Band, Planxty, and De Dannan.
“Anyone who works in the genre of traditional music you can’t but be influenced by those groups,” says Smyth. “I remember my uncle Sean McGarry introduced The Bothy Band to our house in Straide in Mayo in the late 1970s and it was a real revelation to me.
“I listened to that music over and over and I was really struck by the energy of the whole thing. Then I moved to Galway to study medicine and I sort of forgot about it but eventually I got involved in the sessions scene in the city and through that got together with Lunasa and sort of re-discovered the energy of that music.”
Apart from music, medicine plays a big part in Sean Smyth’s life and he is a practising doctor to this very day.
“I suppose I’ve two professions,” he says. “It’s funny because I can remember going to visit somebody in Cavan who was very, very sick and when I arrived they sort of bolted up in the bed and said ‘Are you the doctor I saw playing on The Late Late Show last Friday night?’”
For tickets contact the Galway Arts Festival Box Office, 1-5 Merchants Road, on 091-566577. Online booking is through www.galwayartsfestival.com