THE STRANGE Brew Summer Shindig 11, the long running clubnight's annual summer get-together at the Róisín Dubh, celebrating the very best of Irish indie music, with gigs in the Dominick Street venue's live area and upstairs bar, takes place on Thursday July 30 from 8pm.
Headlining will be Belfast indie-rock/electro-pop trio Not Squares, whose impressive second album BOLTS, featuring 'Fall Far' and 'Oops Said Hi', both of which caught the attention of music critics and bloggers, was released through Strange Brew Rekkids, founded by Gugai, the DJ/promoter behind Strange Brew.
“Gugai had championed us for years, back since 2009 when we played our first gig in the Róisín," Not Squares' Michael Kinloch told me. "Galway has become our second home. We’ve always gone down really well every time we’ve played here. We knew Gugai had a record out [Elaine Mai’s debut EP], so we mentioned the idea to him and he was enthusiastic about it. We’re really happy he agreed to it and that it’s coming out on an Irish label."
Four of the most exciting, and by this stage best established, Galway indie-bands play the Shindig - Oh Boland, Dott, Grounds For Invasion, and Boyfights. Ahead of the event, they took time to talk to the Galway Advertiser about their music, their future plans, and upcoming releases.
The songs of Tuam trio Oh Boland bristle with energy, sharpness, and a raw energy that draws on punk and sixties beat. In Niall Murphy they possess a songwriter with a brilliant eye for slice o'life detail and an uncanny ability to mix aggression and tunefulness.
"The Oh Boland sound?" Niall muses, when I ask him about the band's inspirations. "A healthy dose of scum, a healthy dose of pop. It's definitely indebted to the whole sixties garage thing and sixties pop in general. We try to make it super simple and super melodic. But I'm a big fan of noisy music, so Oh Boland's sound is really the junction where the two meet. In terms of influences, it's sixties garage, Big Star, early Replacements, Dinosaur Jr, and New Zealand bands like The Clean."
Niall says most of his lyrics are inspired by his day job as a barman. "I work in a bar back home in Tuam, mainly doing day shifts. So I have a lot of time on my hands," he says. "Most of the lyrics come out of boredom over all things, some are personal things, others more observational. Bar workers see and hear some weird stuff! It's not so much back of beer mat, Randy Newman troubadour stuff, as someone trying to keep one's brain from caving in."
Oh Boland's debut album, Spilt Milk was recorded earlier this year. An advance copy was heard by So Cowe's Brian Kelly who has declared it one of the best collections of songs he has heard from an Irish band in a very long time - high praise indeed. So when can we expect to see it released?
"We were farming it out to several small American labels with interest expressed from two who unfortunately have their release schedules full until later this year," Niall replies. "I can only speculate it'll be out later in the year."
Dott are another band who combine the rawness of garage with the sweet melodies of pop, but on their own, very particular, terms, as heard on their delightful EP Button, magnificent debut album Swoon, and the Carousel EP split release with Night School. The good news is more new music is on the way, although the Shindig may be the last chance to catch Dott as we currently know them.
"Dott are just about to relocate to Toronto," says band leader/singer/songwriter Anna McCarthy. "Well, half of us are while the other half stay in Galway, but we're not going to break into two versions of Dott like Black Flag and Flag. The Galway half are going to wait with bated breath until we return while the Toronto version of Dott will find some replacement members and start gigging in Toronto."
Anna also says a new EP is on the way: "We have an EP in the bag we're hoping to release a few months after our relocation to Toronto and then we'll be hitting the road around North America. We're hoping to have the next EP out by early 2016." She also reflects on the evolution of her band's sound: "When we started out we were mostly influenced by retro pop like The Ronettes and the Beach Boys but over the years we've been steadily adding in heavier guitars and evolving into more of a nineties guitar pop sound like Breeders."
Boyfights (pictured below ) are Galway's best kept secret, a stunning collision of guitarist/songwriter Fuz Reily with impossibly cool vocalist Liza McCann - ably assisted by guitarist Simon McDonagh and percussionist Dan Nestor - who deserve a wider hearing from Irish indie audiences. That wider hearing may be around the corner as the band is set to release a five-track debut EP.
"We're currently working on the finishing touches," Fuz tells me. "It's a long time coming but it only really feels like the band makes sense now. We took a while to find our voice and hone our sound. We're working on new stuff now and that's exciting. Most of our audience will recognise most of the songs on our EP. It's great to document them and move on."
Fuz also has special praise for the added dimension Simon brings to their sound. "Having Simon in the band really changed things around a lot," he says. "We have way more freedom to play around as songwriters. It's a whole new level. He adds such a cool fresh element to our sound. He's a great guitar player. I think our styles suits each other in all the right ways."
While the above mentioned acts are resolutely guitar bands, Grounds For Invasion are a very different beast, being full-on indie-electro. The band is centered around Tracy Friel (lyrics/vocals ) and Will O’Connor (music/production ), with the recent addition of Dave Shaugnessy on drums. How did Tracy and Will join forces?
"I heard Tracy perform a song she'd written at a gig in Monroes," Will explains. "She didn't sound like anyone I'd ever heard before. The song was full of vocal melodies I'd never think of. I thought she might juxtapose well against my more clinical songwriting style. Thankfully, I was right!"
January saw the release of GFI's debut album, Dying Stars, and one of its stand-out tracks was 'Bruce Lee'. "The music was originally a Nine Inch Nails-style industrial metal track, but it wasn't coming together right," says Will. "I added some funky percussion, stripped out the crunchy guitar and it was suddenly a disco song. At the same time, Tracy was watching lots of Bruce Lee interviews on YouTube, some of his quotes were bouncing around her head, forming the inspiration for her vocals."
The band have already started work on the second album which will "feature a mix of live and electronic percussion". While the band have not set a deadline in terms of a definite release date, Will says it will be "more than likely be out late next year".
"In the meantime, we're releasing a remix EP in late autumn, featuring contributions from some of Irelands best producers," he says. "So far, they've really outdone themselves, we might actually start gigging some of their versions instead of our own!"
Also playing on the night are Daithí, Gangs, Spies, New Pope, Jet Setter, Tandem Felix, No Monster Club, Paddy Hanna, Zinc, and Strays. Gugai will DJ afterwards. Tickets are €5 from the venue or www.roisindubh.net Admission includes a free pint of Hophouse 13 and a free CD for the first 200 through the door.