FRESH FROM a series of acclaimed gigs in the US and France, rising County Galway three-piece The Deans are back on home soil for a series of gigs over the festive period.
They play Monroe’s next Wednesday, December 21, at 10pm, followed by appearances at Campbell’s Tavern in Headford on December 22, and Foyle’s Hotel in Clifden on December 23. The gigs will see The Deans augmented by a horn section and the shows coincide with the release of their latest single ‘Subterranean Wanderer’.
Formed in 2007, The Deans have since become a musical force to be reckoned with. The band is fronted by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Gavin Dean, but if he is the group’s helmsman, a captain is nothing without his first mate and in The Deans this role is played to perfection by Gary Keon who has been pivotal in the story of the band.
With his thunderous, exciting drumming and soaring vocal ability, Keon’s contribution to the group is immense. Completing the line-up is recent recruit Ronan Lally on bass and vocals. Lally has performed and toured with bands throughout Ireland since his mid-teens. His rocksteady bass style and unique vocal are a fabulous addition to the three piece.
Gavin’s songs are suffused with romantic notions, stories of travel, and a lust for life and The Deans’ sound is immense; melodic vocal harmonies allied to a hard-hitting rhythm section while their live performances are second to none.
Ahead of the group’s homecoming gigs, Gavin Dean took some time out to talk about the trio’s recent exploits and forthcoming projects. The conversation took place by phone on Monday evening and, while Galway found itself buffeted by wintry storms, The Deans were snugly ensconced in the pleasant French town of Joigny in Burgundy.
The Deans are becoming increasingly well known on the Continent. Over the past two years they have toured extensively there, playing venues and festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and Holland, including an eye-catching appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
“We’ve got a very good fan base in Europe now,” Dean declares. “In Spain, for instance, we find audiences are really fanatical at the gigs, which is great. Irish people can be a bit more reserved in comparison for whatever reason.”
As well as making their mark in Europe, The Deans recently made their first foray to the United States. The group did a showcase gig in Grey Advertising in New York. Grey is one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world and create the advertising campaign for the Superbowl every year.
“New York was a wonderful experience,” Dean enthuses. “As well as the show at Grey’s, we did some gigs in well-known venues like Webster’s Hall and Kenny’s Castaway and we really enjoyed playing those.”
If the band enjoyed the gigs, the audiences were equally appreciative with one commentator declaring that the Webster’s Hall gig was ‘a near religious experience for many in attendance. The Deans are the best gift New York’s gotten in a long time. They’re in a class all their own, a complete musical package!’.
The Deans’ early sound was strongly rooted in blues rock but since then it has broadened and evolved to take in a range of influences. “Roots Rock” is the answer Gavin always gives when asked to define the band’s musical stylings.
“Our influences vary greatly,” he says. “We listen to a lot of folk, country, soul, and blues. On the way to a gig we could listen to anything from Bob Dylan to Paolo Nutini, from Bob Marley to Lonnie Donegan. We don’t really listen to much heavy rock music. That heavy sound we have is just something that happens, we can’t help it.”
Dean goes on to explain how, as a teenager in Athenry, he first got interested in blues and American roots music.
“I remember hearing Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ when I was 13 and it just blew me away,” he says. “Then I heard Kurt Cobain covering a Leadbelly song and that led me into exploring blues and then the likes of Dylan and folk music and so on, I just found my way around basically. Also, my dad had a huge blues collection and lots of issues of Mojo and Record Collector so all that was there to draw on.”
Dean reveals that the group have assembled a lot of new material over the past few months and he is also excited by the impact Ronan Lally brings to the group’s sound.
“Ronan is a really strong singer and it’s opening up a lot of possibilities for what we can do with the vocals and harmonies on the songs,” Dean says. “We’re looking forward to exploring those.”
The Deans’ upward trajectory is set fair to continue in 2012. January sees them back in the recording studio in France while July brings a return visit to the United States.
“We’re doing a series of gigs in the States,” Dean discloses. “As well as New York, we’ll be playing shows in Texas, Georgia, and all down the east coast to Florida. And we’re getting a lot of interest from producers and agents there as well so it’s looking very promising on that score.”
In the meantime, The Deans are all set to inject some rollicking, rocking pizzazz into Galway’s festive season.
Tickets for their gig in Monroe’s are €10 (contact monroeslivevenue @gmail.com or 091 - 583397 ); Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover are €7 ([email protected] .com or 093 - 35454 ); and Clifden are €7 ([email protected] hotel.com or 095 - 21801 ). See also www.facebook.com /thedeans