This is Children Under Hoof. It’s almost forgivable to think of them as a supergroup, given that their ranks include half of Dublin’s experimental scene, including but not limited to Robyn’s Catscars and Paddy‘s Nialler9 Reader’s Poll winning solo stuff. But they’re more than just the sum of their parts. Under the direction of Box Social (RIP) mastermind and general musical shaman Gerard Duffy, they have created a mini-album of bizarre power, a reconstituted krautrock full of menace, mystery and, crucially, groove. It’s called A Collar Can Become A Noose and it’ll be out on tape some time very soon. The music of peeling wallpaper, confusion and overtired energy.
There are five people answering, Robyn Bromfield, Gerard Duffy, Patrick Kelleher, Barry Semple and Paul Vesey. For totally inaccurate descriptions of what they do, check MySpace. Just think of them as the witches from Macbeth throwing stuff into the cauldron, I reckon.
Q 0.5 How are you?
Barry: Good, thank you.
Gerard: Half and half.
Paddy: Good Thanks
Paul: Suckin Diesel
Robyn: Super great thanks.
Q1 Nowadays, when everybody has a decent computer and gear is more available, it’s much easier for anyone to make music and have it heard quickly – does the bedroom music explosion devalue music at all by making it so easy to do?
Robyn: No I don’t think so, good music will always stand out, healthy competition and all that. I think it’s amazing that people nowadays have these opportunities to make their own music and get it out there.
Q2 Is downloading a good thing? Does the fact that it’s possible to get so much music so easily and for free make it more disposable at all?
Gerard: Yes it’s a good thing, the musical horizon has been broaden alot now since you can find everything on the interweb. On a whim you can find the most amazing traditional Indonesian music or discover two Australian nuns making haunting music with echo effects, organs and electronic drums back in the 70s.
If you look at three of the biggest influential mainstream “alternative” band nowadays, e.g. Animal Collective, Radiohead, Grizzly Bear and any three big mainstream “alternative” bands from 15 years ago, the sonic palette now incorporates a far greater spectrum of colours, and these bands are plugging into avast pool of influence themselves that their counterparts fifteen years didn’t have the easy means to access even if they wanted to. This is the good side but yes, most people I know haven’t bought music in years which is disheartening when you see your local record shops is closing down and people are becoming more and more fickle about music and are only interested in the new flavour of the month etc.
There is a health kick against the digital format that has become quite visible in the last three or so years, people still want a physical product to hold and all the art that goes with an album. When you see record shops expanding the vinyl section and all these re-releases by U2, and Neil Diamond on heavy gram records, you know people are buying music again and the major labels are scrambling to make some money again after nearly ten years of plummeting sale figures. Viva La Vinyl.
Q3 Is there anything that makes your music quintessentially Irish? Is it intentional?
Barry: I think that any genuine creative expression is representative somehow of the people who create it, whether or not nationality plays a part in that is debatable. I suppose where you are from is inherent in who you are, your cultural experiences and what you grow up with. I don’t think we set out to be intentionally Irish or intentionally not, we just are who we are and that’s what we sound like.
Q4 Do you find it difficult to self-edit, or to take a step back from your music and look at it objectively?
Paul: With 5 people in the band there is a load of internal self editing with the group as a whole. When an idea is put forth it it really must be strong enough to please everyone through discussion and consideration or it is dumped. Objectivity comes as standard with five differing viewpoints. Assumedly through this naturally evolved editing process the strongest and most pertinent ideas are kept and developed.
Q5 Is there a Dublin scene, or even smaller genre-based scenes? Are you a part of one?
Robyn: Ya there is definitely a Dublin scene with lots of little ones inside of it. Many of our friends make music and we have all made many through it, so we’d like to think we’re part of one, maybe the mini scene of not exactly fitting into a genre…
Q6 Name a non-musical influence on your music.
Barry: Lucid dreams
Gerard: The last Bus Home
Paddy: Roald Dahl
Q7 Take one of your songs and explain the process of writing it from the beginning to the finished article.
Gerard: “A Collar Can Become A Noose” was a thirty odd minute improv recorded with two room mics with Paddy on drums, Barry on Guitar and me singing and jumping from a casiotone, melodica, sax and drums. Then I did a Holger Czukay on it and ripped it up and put it back together again. A couple of days later, Paddy, Barry and I did drumming overdubs. A year later or so (We are a very s///00OOOWwvv band) Paul put down a bass part and Robyn layed down a Oscillator part. Paddy and I mixed it and France Roe helped me add a little more spit and polish to it.
But nearly all our other songs we jam out, then record each part separately, start with either a drum machine, keyboard part or bass and finish with recording vocals last. I think both methods have merit and defo the latter suits some song but vice versa.
Q8 Has music criticism ever influenced your music, or at least made you think about it differently? I mean proper reviews, but also blogs or even just hearing someone you don’t know talk about you.
Paul: Well we haven’t received all too much media attention but I can recall both a positive and negative comment made about the band in online reviews. I’d say it must have some impact on the music by the positive just giving that spurn or will to go on (it feels good to be noticed) and then the negative (in a review of a live show) would push a little more practice to make the live sound more reliable. Only in such small ways could I imagine us being pushed by criticism of the band.
Q9 Have you ever felt guilty for trying to get other people to take an interest in your music, if you aren’t making the effort with new music yourself?
Barry: It’s not important that everyone hears what we do, but i don’t at all feel guilty for expressing an idea and placing a value on it, in the hope that others will hear it and value it on their own terms. I’m certain that the best music out there is that which i haven’t heard, but that doesn’t make me feel guilty for not having discovered it yet, it makes me look forward to hearing it.
Q10 Would you call yourself a traditionalist with regard to music, either as a listener or in how you go about writing/recording/performing?
Paddy: I wouldn’t call us traditionalists, but then I wouldn’t say avant-garde either. I suspect we are about 50-50 each way. Is that a cop-out answer? We just write and record at home in the way that comes most comfortably to us, and with equipment that we can afford. We pick up things as we go along, both musical and recording techniques.
Q10.5 What’s something you’re listening to right now?
Barry: The Ex
and the new Future Islands album is simply and effortlessly stunning. As you said about another pop record, “This is a step forward.”.
Paddy: John Maus
Paul: A lot of Mixmaster Mike and Funk Breaks2, only 2 decent tapes I’ve got for the car.
Robyn: Got a few classic records for my birthday, which are on a bit of a loop – Adam and the Ants, Kate Bush and Madonna.
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