With his staring eyes, square jaw, lengthy black hair, and dark suits, the image Galway born vocalist and songwriter Larry Beau presents to the world is that of a roguish Victorian dandy.
His passions include 19th century romanticism, early horror movies, folk tales, ghost stories, lost love, lust, and tragedy. Yet Larry does not describe himself as a Goth.
“I certainly wouldn’t fit into the Marilyn Manson category,” he tells me during our Thursday morning interview, “but if I am a Goth it’s more the old fashioned, spooky eerie, Romantic idea.”
Larry is about to launch his second album with a theatrical concert in the Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday October 29 at 8pm and the stage will be made to look like a rose garden with archways.
Larry Beau was born Declan Burke in Killchreest, outside Loughrea, near the Sliabh Aughty mountains. He grew up hearing his parents play Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, and Irish trad before getting into Queen, The Doors, and Classical music himself.
It was only in his early 20s that Larry started to take a serious interest in the Gothic and Romantic and it was sparked off by a visit to Co Kerry.
“I was one of those eternal students in university,” he says, “when I eventually left I spent a year in Dingle. I spent a lot of time collecting ghost stories and mysterious tales from the locals and that was inspirational for me.”
By this stage Larry was writing songs and becoming interested in performing. His imagination fired by the stories he collected, he produced a ‘folk opera’ which he staged in Dingle and which included a character called Larry Beau.
“Larry Beau is a character who is half fool, hence the ‘Larry’, and half romantic, hence beau, the French for handsome. He wanted to create a beautiful world but tragedy came out of his efforts, so I hung onto it as my stage-name.”
The finishing touches to his development as Larry Beau came during the near 10 months he spent as a member of San Francisco’s Omnicircus.
“It’s an erotic robotic cabaret,” explains Larry with a laugh. “It’s run by this man who creates these panhandling robots and he brings them out every now and again to taunt the middle class. I was part of a troupe. I was the innocent bystander in the midst of all the debauchery and strippers. I had to come on from time to time to sing a love song and calm things down.”
While Larry accepts that many people will see him and what he does as ‘Goth’, he prefers to be called a ‘minstrel’. “The term minstrel is good as it refers to a singer who comes on stage and performs and the theatrical aspect is important to what I do,” he says.
In 2005 Larry released his debut album Peepshow Stars which enjoyed positive reviews and introduced listeners to his mix of singer-songwriter, folk, and romantic and dark pop.
Now Larry is set to release the as yet untitled followup. Possible titles included Dreams Of Eden (until he found out that another band had used that title ) and the extremely suggestive Romantra 69. “I thought it might be better to tone down that last one,” he jokes.
The album is being readied for release but audiences will get a chance to hear these new songs at the Town Hall show.
“The new songs are still catchy,” he says, “but I’ve tried to be braver with this album. I’m trying more things with my voice and the songs will be more complex. There is also a classical influence to what I write and we will have a grand piano and trumpets as well.”
Among the new songs will be a trilogy charting the adventures of a character Larry has created called Suicide Maybelle.
“She was a real life character I discovered in a Nuala O’Faolain novel,” says Larry. “She was born in Ireland but after committing some crimes here she fled to Chicago and became a notorious thief.
“When she was elderly in the 1920s her guard asked her to recount her life story and it was a very juicy, hairy life she led. I just found it fascinating that this woman created a new world for herself and it makes you feel patriotic in a weird way. Nuala O’Faolain came across it and based her novel on it.”
Larry admits to having many characters in his songs through which he explores different ideas. Is he a believer in Oscar Wilde’s assertion: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
“There are many truths,” says Larry. “What is important is how you tell your own truth and the climate in which it is presented. If there is an element of magic that will appeal to people rather than a bare fact without scaffolding.”
Away from the music, Larry admits he is still “a farm boy at heart” and enjoys getting back to Killchreest when he can. “It’s always good to see mum and dad and my grandmother who’ll be at the show,” he says. “I like helping out on the farm and meeting the old crazy neighbours.”
For tickets contact the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.