Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview: John Barker from 98FM'sTotally Irish

John Barker may not be a name you are familiar with, but he is one of the most important men in Irish music today. As the Presenter of 98FM's Totally Irish, Barker champions Irish music, often bringing it to the mainstream media for the very first time. Most recently debuting Zombie Cops new single "You Do" on the show. Barker has also championed AIMR favourites Sacred Animals and Squarehead.  

We caught up with him to discuss his take, on the Irish music scene today. His "top tips" for the future and his plans to make Irish radio, totally Irish.

Did you always want to be a radio presenter?

Well I always wanted to be involved in the media in some form, but probably more as a journalist. Then in 2004 my friend Daragh O’ Tuama and I began presenting a show called Abú on Dublin City 103.2 FM once a week and the hook was quickly lodged...
How did you come to present Totally Irish?

I had been working on the radio show Splanc on Newstalk 106-108FM every Friday night for 3 years doing sports and entertainment when the opportunity came up in January 2010.
Music is obviously an important part of your life. Where you in bands growing up?

Hmm yes I was in a band for a year back in 2000. I was the lead-singer who constantly sang off key but didn’t know any better. We made an EP that cost us a lot of money and we gave it to everybody we knew. In hindsight we shouldn’t have, it really wasn’t very good...I still play guitar and record songs on a cassette dictaphone. I learnt my lesson though and keep all the tapes in a shoe-box.
Who are your favourite bands, be it Irish or international?

This answer could be pages long...Some of my favourite Irish bands at the moment are Funeral Suits, Fight Like Apes, Villagers, O Emperor and The Cast Of Cheers.
My favourite international bands are Beirut, The National, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams and Interpol.
Have you always had it in your mind to champion Irish music?

Yes, as soon as I started in radio I had an idea of doing an Irish music show that would promote up and coming bands and create a platform for their music to be heard.
The show is very detailed in relation to where bands are playing next and release dates Do you compile all this information yourself or do you have a research team behind the scenes?

I do it myself as I like to know what I’m going to be talking about as much as possible. My colleague Shane Prunty also does a lot of work on the show every week.
Do you go to many gigs looking for new bands and new music or do you rely on bands sending you demo's and links etc?

It’s probably a mixture of both. I go to a lot of gigs and have discovered the likes of Planet Parade, O Emperor, Sweet Jane and Enemies from seeing them play live. However, through cds being sent in and reading music blogs etc, I’ve discovered artists such as Jennifer Evans, The Danger Is, Sacred Animals and Our Little Secrets.
What should bands do, or not do, to give themselves the best chance of getting their song on the radio?

I guess pretty obvious stuff like making sure the recording quality of the song is good and that the song is a little bit original and catches the attention of whoever is listening to it. I think there are some Irish bands who are reluctant to take risks with their music and instead play it safe, when it might be better for them to experiment with their sound...and, I know this is a cliche, but have faith in your music, because if the song is good enough chances are that somebody will pick up on it, whether it’s a radio station, a music blog or another band tweeting their recommendation.

You present the show in both English and Irish do you enjoy a "cupla focal" outside work?

Yes I have a degree in Irish from N.U.I. Maynooth and am also an Irish & English teacher in a secondary school in Dublin.
Do you believe that an Irish band can do a Super Fury Animals and bring the mother-tongue to the mainstream. If so who?

It is weird how Welsh is perceived as being a ‘cool’ language and Irish isn’t. I guess it would be seen as being too risky to release music in Irish and I’m not sure it would work in mainstream music anyway. It’s hard enough as it is for Irish bands to get radio play! However If any one can do it I’m sure Jedward can. I don’t know how that would go down with all the gaeilgeoirs though.
You are very careful (or so it seems) to ensure the show is not Dublin-centric. Where are the best music scenes outside of Dublin?

To be honest there’s an amazing music scene all over the country at the moment. I get cds and emails from bands from nearly every county in Ireland. Outside of Dublin there’s a really good music scene in Galway (Daithí O Dronaí, Go Panda Go, The Kanyu Tree, Milan Jay, Lost Chord etc) and there’s also some amazing bands from the North (Japanese Popstars, Cashier No 9, ASIWYFA, Yes Cadets, The Lowly Knights, Paul Shevlin etc).
What Irish bands get you going at the moment?

There are loads...I really like the new stuff from Funeral Suits. Joshua from Japanese Popstars is a great song. I saw James Vincent McMorrow in The Pepper Canister Church recently and have been listening to his stuff more and more. The Sounds Of System Breakdown have a new EP out called Colour which I like. Also a new one from Delorentos called Bullet in a Gun, check them out on YouTube playing it on the streets of Madrid, nice...
Who are your tips for success for the remainder of the year and beyond?

I think Spies are going to be really big. I bought their single Barricade in Tower Records a few weeks ago and saw them at Forbidden Fruit where they played an amazing set on the Lighthouse Stage...Another young band who I really rate for the future are The Kapitals. Am also really looking forward to albums this year from The Ambience Affair, Sacred Animals, Planet Parade, Jennifer Evans, The Danger Is, Cashier No. 9 and Squarehead.
Who do you believe is the most criminally overlooked Irish artist or band of all time?

When I was growing up I could never understand how Revelino weren’t more successful. Happiness Is My Mine is an all time classic. Myself and my friends used to go to every one of their gigs and we let them know it too!
In more recent times I’m not sure how last year’s album from The Rags A National Light didn’t lead to them becoming more successful??
Why are radio stations reluctant to promote new Irish music outside the confines of shows like yours. When the quality of music is so strong?

I really don’t understand it myself and it’s the biggest complaint I hear from anybody involved within Irish music. A lot of station’s playlists are like exclusive clubs. I do honestly think it will change though. If the Irish music scene continues to grow and develop amazing bands over the next few years then I really hope that radio stations will have no choice but to include Irish artists more. In saying that DJ’s such as Cathal Funge, Dan Hegarty and Donal Dineen already do a great job promoting Irish music.
Would you like Totally Irish, to expand beyond radio ie compilations, gig promotion or even television?

Yes , there are plans for hosting Totally Irish gigs in a venue in the city centre throughout the year and this will hopefully begin in September. We did look at creating a ‘super-group’ of Irish musicians for a Christmas single last year and might try to do it this year. Releasing a compilation album would also be very interesting to do. As for television, sure why not?
You can listen to Totally Irish with John Barker every Sunday, between 8-10pm on 98FM. For further information check out

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Le Galaxie album launch The Workman's Club.

On Friday night electro scientists Le Galaxie conducted a large scale experiment on a throbbing fee paying, general public. The aim of this experiment? To release mankind's inner robot. In the early hours of Saturday morning independent observers pronounced this experiment, a resounding success. Test subjects were injected with Le Galaxie's newly patented serum Laserdisk Nights 2, which yielded instant results.

Le Galaxie used certain triggers including: Tron cube, glow sticks, fluorescent body paint, pulsating indie electro, and hands in the air moments of unity.  As these triggers were introduced subjects could be seen to move uncontrollably. At first foot tapping and head nodding was recorded. Then as glow sticks were introduced, hands went in the air and euphoric smiles appeared on faces. Slowly but surely each subject released their inner robot. Independent observers recorded movements such as "big fish, little fish cardboard box". In some subjects the serum proved more potent and the moves "Swarm of flies" and  "Wobbly cross" were also recorded.

Through the medium of electronica the Le Galaxie scientists pounded the stage in the Workman's Club, delivering thunderous beats and bleeps The guitars and drums in particular, more prevalent than on the record. The emphasis throughout the performance was placed on giving the audience a good time and the set reflected this. Only full-on tracks such as "Orion" and single "Midnight Midnight" would pass muster this evening.

A thoroughly spectacular performance by a band that is on the cusp of the big time. MCD take note this is a main-stage act with main-stage material. In fact you can send Beyonce back. This is where it's at.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Video: Kowalski new single Outdoors

Kowalski previewed their forthcoming single Outdoors on All Gone Pop TV. The single is the first new material proper to be released since the release of their stunning debut EP "Take Care, Take Flight".  Outdoors also sees Kowalski join forces with new UK based indie label Everybodystalking.  In the video Kowalski perform as a trio, minus the comedy stylings of Tom O'Hara on bass (bring back Tom). As you would expect the track is sun kissed with just a dash of sadness.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Video: Ham Sandwich - Models

Here is the video for Models the latest single from Ham Sandwich. It features footage of the band recorded live at The Academy in Dublin (always a good show) mixed with on the road footage. Undoubtedly its best moments feature the crowd being covered in ticker tape. As for the song, well that's not bad either.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Red Brick House - EP

Following a successful appearance at this years Temple House Festival.  We thought it was about time we checked out Sligo quartet Red Brick House's self titled debut EP. 

It's a  four song collection of well crafted up-tempo indie tunes, with big guitars and big drums. While lead singer Patrick Leydon has a good voice, that moves from gravelly indie anger to pop with ease.

Opening track "In My Head" is full of choppy guitar riffs and a catchy chorus. Think Milburn. "Daydream" is a radio friendly song. Nada Surf via Sligo if you will. It is a strange yet potent combination  The vocal delivery has a hint of Duke Special to it. Some very hummable backing vocals by Les Finan (guitar) keeps this song returning to your mind time after time.

A hail of drums, cowbell and muted guitar stabs leads us nicely into "Not The One". A funky bass led relationship P45. Once again the song is delivered with panache. With special mention for the rhythm section of Peter Murray and Danny Young, who are the stares of the show on this track. 3 songs in and Red Brick Houses are shaping up to be a very accomplished and versatile band.

Propelled by big drum beats and grime filled choruses closing track "Broke The Law" is the pick of the bunch. A throbbing blues tinged track with hints of modern shoegazing acts such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, combined with classic 80's rock guitar stylings. This track has single written all over it.

The EP is available for download free of charge from Bandcamp
Check out for more info on the band.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Satelite Generals live at Whelan's

There is a spark about Satellite Generals.  They subliminally project a musketeer vibe, an undefinable on stage togetherness that makes them a believable band.

They kick things off with a heavily accented Kings of Leon style drum beat on "Kings and Queen" which instantly displays the vocal prowess of lead singer Niall Rogers. It's unusual to see a band with 3 people playing drums at the same time. The bombastic fills of James Rogers are joined by synth player Eddy Edmondson on a mini percussion set-up. While bassist Jay Duff plays a floor-tom, adding texture to the song. Which is at its best in the chorus when Niall Rogers and Jay Duff combine lead vocals.

"Neck Ties" has a somber summer feel, with a guitar line you might expect to find on a Two Door or Kowalski song.  "Matador" is led by some more nifty bass riffs and a catchy "wahow oh" chorus. It's a quality radio friendly pop song, with single stamped all over it.    
Unfamiliar Roads is another radio friendly alt-pop song. Delivering elements of early Coldplay and White LiesRodgers vocals are reminiscent of lather day Jesse Lacey. Once again Satellite Generals have managed to weave the backing vocals in and out to great effect. They finish off  their set with a cover of the Strokes "Someday".

Satellite Generals, truly display the makings of a quality band and we will certainly be back for a second look.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review: Alarmist at Whelan's

Alarmist are definitely not a gateway drug to math-rock. They are at the cold face of of the equation. This Dublin based instrumental quartet owe a lot to modern orchestral music as well as their math rock peers. It came then as no surprise to discover that they are players in the Trinity Orchestra.  Who you may have seen at this years Forbidden Fruit festival. 

Indeed many of their compositions would probably wow a musicology professor due to the unusual time signatures and instrument hopping melody lines. But does your average gig goer or math rock enthusiast want the same things as a music professor. Probably not. More than likely they want to dance or jump around

Luckily for Alarmist
 songs such as Vitamin Saturday, offer up the goods to both gig goer and music professor alike. A juxtaposition of metallic sounds against Sigur Ros style minimalism set against sweeping jittery guitars and synths.  

The influence of Frank Zappa is audible on Giraffe Centre as the bass clarinet mixes with atmospheric synths and jittery guitar lines. All of this as with Zappa is held together by the bass. And while music professors will approve of the theory behind instrument hoping. The audience is visually stimulated with a will he, won't he, sense of suspense, at the execution of these melodies. 

Alarmist are definitely for fans of the Richter Collective's stable of acts such as Enemies and Bats.

Review: Ash live at Whelan's 6-6-2011

Ash popped their Whelan's cherry and the audiences ears, in a tour-de-force performance that showed they are still top dogs of Irish Rock N' Roll, 17 years after the release of their debut Trailor.

A sold out crowd were impressed by Northern Ireland grunge revivalist LaFaro's mix of "Moist Vagina" style Nirvana. Kyuss, Screaming Trees, and Mudhoney. It is easy to see why LaFaro are hailed as the next big thing to come out of Northern Ireland.  As they deliver memorable riff after riff. LaFaro are let down on the night however, by the sound,with the vocals barely audible at times.   

Ash were joined by LaFaro’s drummer Alan Lynn. filling in for drummer Rick McMurray, whose girlfriend is in labour.  And maybe LaFaro and McMurray should be worried such is the quality of Lynn's performance on the night.

Ash lay down a statement of intent with frenetic opening track Loose ControlTim Wheeler clearly means business.  Putting his all into the, at times considerable guitar work.  His voice is also in top form throughout the evening.  While bassist Mark Hamilton puts his base into, what can only be described as Kama Sutra, style positions. Which get stranger and stranger as the night progresses.

Ewan McGregor movie theme tune A Life Less Ordinary proves that whilst Ash, may desire a second guitar player, they throughly don't need one.  The song is better live than the recorded version.  Those at the back may have wondered what Wheeler was laughing at, towards the end of the song.  He dropped his plectrum while throwing a rockstar shape.

"We normally play this at the end, tonight's an experiment" says Wheeler, referring to Twilight of The Innocents. A mix of sampled and live drums combine well with synth backing tracks, as the song slowly builds to the repeated chorus of "I'm still breathing, my hearts still beating" the vocal highlight so far.  The crowd sing along and moshing ensues during Girl From Mars and Goldfinger.  While a full on pit, erupts during Petrol.

Tim Wheeler, lets the crowd takeover singing duties on Walking Barefoot and once again on Oh Yeah which was notable for two reasons. It featured a great solo by Wheeler and secondly it gave a masterclass, in how to execute a false/double ending in a song.  A must have skill for any band.

Ash classic Kung Foo sends the crowd into overdrive and crowd surfing follows on The Dead Disciples. By this stage, even a love song like Shining Light sees legs flying over head. Return of The White Rabbit closes the first section of the show. Its is not only the highlight of the songs that feature samples.  It is the highlight of the night as a whole.  Underpinned by a dirty bass riff.  A swirling mix of Kasabian and Nine Inch Nails influences, combine to create a disco metal classic, with an excellent chorus "Is this the end of the line my friend I don't wanna know I don't wanna to go"

Ash return for a four song encore of Arcadia, Jack Names The Planets and Angel Interceptor with Burn Baby Burn the highlight.  By now the crowd has gone so wild, that the front row falls onto the stage, in a heap of limbs, as the final note sounds.  Ash are quick to make sure the those on the stage are ok, and discomfort quickly turns into elation, as its hugs and handshakes between Ash and fans.

We don't normally do marks out of ten but in this case we would have to go with 12. Even though we experienced hearing loss for several days. Thanks Tim.

Live Photo by Kieran Frost.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Video: Zombie Cops "You Do"

Dublin rockers Zombie Cops; one of Ireland's finest live acts, have released a promotional video for their forthcoming third single "You Do" A twisted lament with splashes of Placebo and Jimmy Eat World. The video was made by Eoin Heaney of Highly Stimulating Productions and continues the eerie feel of previous single "Taking Lives"

Zombie Cops - You Do from Zombie Cops on Vimeo.

Check out the link below for live dates and free music

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: We Are Losers at Whelan's

We Are Losers are fuzzpop superstars in the making. Saturday night's high octane 7 song set in Whelan's was astounding. Such is the quality of the songwriting and the on-stage intensity of the Kildare/Dublin quartet. Elements of Sonic Youth and Buddy Holly combine to produce stylish, uptempo, 2min darts of harmonising happiness. 

Gavin Elsted's quirky voice, light-speed guitar and head movements, are the visual focus. While Bronwyn Murphy-White (bass) and Steve Conlan (lead guitar) slingshot, sunshine harmonies and riffs towards the audience.

A 60's surf-pop song, fights to emerge from a curtain of fuzztone guitars on "The Narcissist" as We Are Losers kick things off in considerable style. "We Vampires" has an Indie-disco feel. With elements of Flaming Lips and Strokes. The song slowly builds until Gavin Elsted, delivers the excellent chorus of "We let the light in" with great harmonies provided by the rest of the band.

"She Dreams in Spectrals"
from the forthcoming Popical Island compilation, is a great song. Continuing in the high-spirits of the previous material. It is slightly reminiscent of "Girl from Mars" era Ash, dripping with fuzzed up harmonies. The only thing that lets We Are Losers down, is the amount of time taken to tune guitars between songs, as this disturbs the momentum of their show.. However, this can be easily rectified.

Forthcoming single "Cheerleader" (July 11th) gets the best reaction from the crowd so far. Its catchy chorus of "let me cheer you on" drawing them in.  We are Losers finish off their set with "Empty Head" a track from their 2010 self titled debut EP. It's a two and a half minute fuzzpop masterpiece, with a great chorus "I wanna live forever" and an "oh oh oh" verse. 

It's great to discover yet another, top quality Irish band exists.


Review: Avalanche Ammo at Whelan's

Anthony Boland took to the stage for a powerful debut performance of devastatingly instant melodic driven math-rock. So much so that Avalanche Ammo, could easily become a gateway drug, for a new generation of fans, into the post rock genre.   

Avalanche Ammo utilises samples and live looping to great effect whilst playing guitar and singing live. Boland pushes himself physically to produce these sounds. Diving from one electronic device to the next, controlling the constantly changing beats and loops he is creating. 

Avalanche Ammo avoids the weedier elements of the genre altogether by never letting the guitar deliver high-end guitar parts on its own. Instead he keeps the momentum constantly upbeat and throbbing with elements of At the Drive In and Deftones never far away from the rhythm figures. While the lead-lines are instant and poppy. Think Two Door Cinema Club and Franz Ferdinand. All these elements combine to create an explosive, if you will Deftones-disco sound.

Sparrow is the best example of this sound jumping from crunching metal riffs to Stereo Lab electronica and back again.  While "Panda Capture" sucked the audience in instantly with its summery, instrumental indie sound.  "Owl Speak" introduced metal elements mixed with Go Team sunshine. Closing track "Pony Up" was the highlight of the set however, delivering dance-floor metal at its finest.

Avalanche Amoo is an exciting new project and a welcome addition to Ireland's critically acclaimed Post-rock scene. His debut EP Animals is out now and available for free via bandcamp and we highly recommend you download it now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: Lynchburg Mob at Whelan's

Lynchburg Mob are a for piece Noir-rock band from Dublin, heavily influenced by Interpol and Echo and The Bunnymen. The lyrics are stark and jagged containing many Ian McCullochesque couplets Ian Plunkett's voice is robust with flickers of McCulloch, Paul Banks and Harry McVeigh audible. The "We were built to last" chorus of Coattails is probably Plunkett's finest moment.

Despite obvious talent and moments of brilliance Lynchburg Mob, seem hell bent on sabotaging themselves, through overkill. With songs containing far too many changes and in several cases a double outro, which hampers the song, by not letting it end on a high.

El Mar is a case in point. It starts off life as a beautiful atmospheric track, with menacing horror movie effects.  However forty seconds in an amateurish Something Happens, style guitar link by Plunkett undoes all this good work, with 15 seconds of self-indulgence. Thankfully it returns to the slick atmosphere of the intro for the verse. Followed by a third bass heavy section which ads something to the composition.

Give any competent producers the multi-tracks and an hour in a studio and this song could easily fulfil its potential. Unfortunately for the Lynchburg Mob, this is a school boy error repeated time after time. 

A cover version of Interpol's "Evil" a perfectly weighted modern classic. Precise in every way, Really hammered the previous point home. Lynchburg Mob delivered the song perfectly however, and it was the highlight of their performance. While "The Importance of Remaining Earnest" is the groups best song. A high tempo Cult style stomper built on chugging bass and some nifty riffs by Darragh Lynch.

Lynchburg Mob are potentially a great band. Plunkett, is a good front man, Lynch, an inventive guitar player. They just need to get the balance right.

Review: Ellie Goulding Live at The Olympia 31/5/11

Not to be outdone by a little old band like Suede, royal wedding singer Ellie Goulding, embarked on her three night residency in the Olympia Theatre playing to a fervent capacity crowd, who she quickly and easily enthralled with songs such as "Under The Sheets", "Your Song" and "Starry Eyed".

The general public may view Goulding as a public-school folk singer. But nothing could be further from the truth, as she instrument hoped from drums to guitar and back again, several times over. 

While her light-show is more akin to what you may expect to see at a Klaxons gig. Indeed the gig comprised a large amount of Indie-electro rather than mid tempo folk.

Goulding appeared from nowhere mounting a drum kit for a dub version of her break through single "Under the Sheets" breaking all expectations from the off she bound down to the front off the stage dressed in a leather jacket and short-shorts for "Under The Sheets" proper. Where she played floor-tom centre stage ala Bat For Lashes and Radiohead. Her voice is much stronger than her slight frame suggests with flashes of Bjork on emotion laden "This Love" one of the highlights of the evening.

The crowd react wildly singing in unison to "Human" especially so when Goulding belts out "I would give my life" through the choruses. While she brought on chills as she sang a section from ballad "Wish I Stayed" acapella, in three part harmony with her backing singers.

Goulding's current hit Elton John, cover "Your Song" is given a "Let It Be" style Beatles makeover to great effect, with the backing singers once again delivering a great performance. This would appear to be the highlight of the night for many, its a hands in the air unifying moment. Goulding however has one final trick up her sleeve. The excellent "Starry Eyed" closes the show to rapturous applause. Judging by the closing section of the show. Goulding is only a few short steps away, from becoming a truly credible artist.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Album Review: Le Galaxie Laserdisc Nights 2

The truly long-awaited debut album from Le Galaxie "Laserdisc Nights 2" is an eleven track opus of air-punching dance magic.

Le Galaxie's sound is a mix of Zodiak Free Arts Centre era Berlin, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Bowie instrumentals and Devo. With more modern references to Daft Punk and Goose, combining to create a superb debut effort, by the electro-quartet.

The influence of science fiction films and literature (perhaps Phillip K. Dick) are also evident in the lyrics, but don't be fooled. This is anything but geek-rock, dance music. Its vivid and vital.

Single "Midnight Midnight" (video below) is top-notch synth-pop, dripping with Numanesque motifs and catchy refrains, set against wall shaking industrial sounds.

On "Powers Of Miami" soundbites and android vocals are intertwined with a riff, that's so good, It will have you reaching for your Air-synth (not an easy feat)  While on "This is Reality, Diane" and "Blood Beach" Le Galaxie, wander the Germanic landscapes of Bowie's infamous "Side B" collaborations with Brian Eno, with some aplomb.  
"Orion" one of the albums standout tracks, is reminiscent, to begin with, of the Sumner/Marr super-group Electronic. The live drums and bass are to the fore, delivering cool retro disco riffs.  Juxtaposed against, contemporary throaty synth sounds. The track closes with an unexpected, but welcome sprinkling of math rock.

When award season rolls around Le Galaxie, can expect to be nominated for album of the year. Laserdisc Nights 2, is the high-tide mark in Irish electronica thus far, in 2011. It sees Le Galaxie, become "The Rolling Stones" to Not Squares, "Beatles"  So let battle commence.