The past decade or so hasn’t been the easiest for the youth of Ireland. Austerity, high unemployment rates and mass emigration brought about by a severe economic recession in 2008 hit the 18-30 year old demographic particularly hard and although things have improved in the past few years, the after-effects are still being felt throughout Irish society.
Fortunately, during lean economic times, the arts scene tends to flourish and in Ireland, some fantastic young musical acts have emerged in recent times, tirelessly and enthusiastically playing the various clubs and festivals up and down the country. Here we present to you some of the brightest up-and-coming Irish artists who, despite not having the backing of a major record label (yet), are working their backsides off to showcase their considerable talent to the world.
Cult Called Man
In the words of the band themselves, “Cult Called Man are more than just a band. They are a gathering. A legion. A cult.” Singularly devoted to their craft, they act as pseudo-preachers, inciting inspiration and divination on their growing congregation.
Hailing from Ratoath in God’s own country (County Meath), on initial listen the quintet’s sound may recall some of the quirky, experimental post-punk groups of the late ’70s and early ’80s, such as Talking Heads and Devo, but there is no doubt that the band has evolved away from mere imitation, creating something that is distinctly their own. With an impressive back catalogue to their name already, Cult Called Man has made an indelible impact with each new release, and their live performances, led by charismatic front-man Razmo, have seen them acquire new devotees and garner acclaim from some of the most respected names in the music industry, seeing them play support slots for the likes of Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre) and All Tvvins in recent times.
Continually thinking outside the box and willing to showcase their considerable creative talent, the band have used eye-catching graphic design in their album covers and gig posters, and shot the entire video for Make it Easy, the maiden single from their debut album Cult Fiction, on Super 8 film, achieving a superbly kitsch ’70s vibe. The video for their latest, hot-off-the-press track, I’m In A Dream, is a cracking bit of animation that does full justice to the rocking accompanying tune.
- Cult Called Man play The Bowery in Dublin this Friday, September 29th September.
Lisa started out her musical career as lead vocalist with the wonderful Dublin-based alt-folk band, The Mariannes, with whom she won the inaugural Clancy Brother’s Songwriting Competition in 2014 for the title track of their debut EP, Lost with All Hands.
She has since gone from strength to strength, both as a member of the band and through various collaborations and solo projects. The Black Diary Waltz, Lisa’s tribute to Irish hero Roger Casement, was released by The Mariannes last year and featured on an RTE Radio 1 documentary about the life of Casement, as well as appearing in numerous exhibitions celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Rising he was prominent member of.
Aside from her role in The Mariannes, Lisa has been working alongside multi-instrumentalist/producer Nathan Maher (Slackers’ Symphony, Buffalo Sunn, Handsome Handsome) and bassist Damian McMahon (formerly of Tupelo) on a collection of solo material, from which her debut single, Coming Up, was released in June of this year. Garnering glowing reviews for her rich, Stevie Nicks-esque vocals and deep lyrics, Lisa was recently shortlisted for the 2017 Pure M Best Female (Solo Artist) award alongside established names such as Lisa Hannigan and Wallis Bird.
Rufus Coates and the Blackened Trees
Formed in Co. Meath in 2011 and currently based in Berlin, Rufus Coates & The Blackened Trees are a uniquely dark and atmospheric folk/blues act deserving of a captive international audience.
The duo, comprising the deep, gravelly voice of Rufus Coates and the beautifully sweet vocals of band mate Jess Smith, create captivating music that draws the listener into a dreamlike world full of achingly sombre tales.
After touring extensively throughout Ireland and Europe in 2015 and 2016, the band released their self-titled debut album in March of last year. Voted album of the week by The Irish Times, it is a collection of dark yet hauntingly beautiful songs that takes the listener on an emotive journey; from the account of a character’s descent into addiction and despair in Footpaths of Shame, to being forced to face up to the passing of time in Autumn Leaves.
Each story is narrated through husky, gritty vocals, surrounded by the warm melodies of harmonies, pianos and strings. A formidable live act, Rufus Coates & The Blackened Trees have drawn stylistic parallels with artists such as Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes.
Recently described by Overblown as “…Joanna Newsom if she had a wicked dark sense of humour and a lot more spring in her step”, SILLK is the gypsy chamber folk group conceived out of Cork girl Orla Travers’ desire to tell the fantastical stories in her head.
After spending a considerable amount of time writing and playing music in the pubs and clubs of Ireland alongside violinist Julian Halpin, the SILLK wheels were truly set in motion in 2014 when cellist Chris Schmidt-Martin joined the band. Drawing on Orla’s lyrics as the creative backbone, the three musicians set about creating complex and atmospheric arrangements that would perfectly illustrate the world she imagined.
Melding their eclectic interests and musical backgrounds together (from short story writing to classical, traditional and electronic music, to theatrical performance and sound design), SILLK’s sound and style is rather difficult to define, recalling artists ranging from the offbeat styles of Bjork to the Eastern-tinged folk of Gogol Bordello. Telling tales that are innocent and dark, sweet and caustic, playful and threatening, their music is, at its essence, thoroughly engaging.
Mindful of never heading abroad without their instruments, SILLK’s infectiously mad-cap live shows have gained them fans not only back home, but also in the cafes of Istanbul, Reykjavik and Marrakech. With their debut EP, Time is a Clock, recently released, along with a video for the track Switchblades Don’t Sleep, further live dates are sure to be in the pipeline and not to be missed.
Some more great acts:
Come On Live Long
Described by Nialler9 as “one of the best live bands in Ireland”, Dublin-based quartet Come On Live Long recently released their sophomore album In The Still, 4 years after their debut record Everything Fall received widespread critical acclaim and amassed over 5 million Spotify plays.
Utilizing an assortment of acoustic, electric and sampled instruments live and in the studio, the band’s sound can be best labelled as “widescreen, with superb electronic swagger”.
One of the hardest working bands out there, Dublin five-piece The Eskies have been bringing their folk noir/gypsy jazz/sea shanty sound, along with their memorable stage spectacles, to the venues and festivals of Europe for quite some time now.
Their debut album After The Sherry Went Round was released in the UK in 2016, a year after it had gained public and critical acclaim upon its Irish release. Cataloging their first four years together, the album is, according to Breaking Tunes, “a highly charged, infectious blend of surge, swoon and surge again with dark tales of betrayal, revenge, fear and scorn all delivered at break neck speed and sure to get you flailing about the place with reckless abandon”.
This may be a bit of shameless nepotism (or whatever the equivalent is of “my girlfriend’s in the band“) on my part, but I am desperate to see Handsome Handsome receive the attention their amazing talent deserves. Once described by a gig attendee as ‘ambient, rock, pop, doom, folk’, they possess a style akin to the Pixies, Sigur Ros and Radiohead – although I’m still unsure as to how to pinpoint them.
Having unfortunately been off the live scene for the past year, the band are in the process of recording their debut album, something which will most certainly be one to watch out for. In the meantime, please check out their impossibly beautiful track In Darkness.