Melodic August Wells for free city concert

Ken Griffin and John Rauchenberger of August Wells.
Ken Griffin and John Rauchenberger of August Wells.

Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell – tribunegroove@live.ie

If you’re interested in fine songwriting, put this into your diary: August Wells, Róisín Dubh, Thursday, September 3. The project is the brainchild of Ken Griffin and John Rauchenberger, who are both based in New York. Griffin is a former member of Irish indie legends Rollerskate Skinny, whose 1996 single Speed To My Side remains a classic.

But August Wells is different to the feedback drenched Skinny sound. These songs are slower and more melodic, with a Nick Cave feel to some of them. How does Ken feel about his new band?

“I’m not going to say anything different, but for me I’m happier with this stuff than anything else that’s gone before,” he says. “Just because the battle to get it done wasn’t as huge. My partnership with John involves a lot less talk about the idea than other projects I’ve had.”

The band’s latest single is the melancholic yet heartwarming Come on in out of That Night. How did that song come about?

“That one presented itself almost complete,” Ken says. “These things are mysterious. But that phrase ‘come on in out of that night’ – I didn’t understand it initially, but I just kind of trusted it. Then I built verses around the chorus idea.”

On an August Wells record, you’ll hear a saxophone player, a violinist and a French horn player. But the band is based around the partnership between Ken and John Rauchenberger. How did the pair meet?

“I met him through a circle of friends,” Ken says. “We were all walking home and he wanted us to show us his house. There was a piano there – I’d known him for two years and didn’t even know he could play!

“He sat down and started playing for a minute, and I thought ‘that’s interesting. Those weren’t very predictable notes’. So I suggested why don’t we just get together and play. He lives a hundred yards from me!”

There’s a unique aspect to the relationship that Ken is pleased about.

“John’s gloriously uninformed about any contemporary music,” he says. “Well, the last 40 years. You make the most pop culture reference and he scratches his head. It’s great – you don’t have to have that conversation ‘no, make it more like this’. You’re not referencing other people, you’re just talking in musical terms. Make it more simple, or more complex – he finds an unusual route into my songs, and it makes it more enjoyable.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.