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Whirlwind year brings Wild Beasts on a high to their gig in Galway

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Date Published: {J}

It may seem far away but anyone with an interest in current music should make it their business to get a ticket for Wild Beasts’ show in Róisín Dubh on March 25. The English quartet’s second album Two Dancers was one of 2009’s most acclaimed releases, topping many critics’ end-of-year polls.

“It was a real whirlwind year,” says bassist and backing vocalist Tom Fleming. “For the band, it was magnificent. It was a real surprise; I’m not sure any of us expected it go as well as it did.”

Wild Beasts’ follow-up to their Limbo Panto is a much more cohesive and focused record. Were the band pleased with the plaudits foisted on Two Dancers?

“The thing about being vindicated is that you start to wonder whether you needed it or not,” muses Tom. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s really nice, but it’s one of those things – when you see your own name on these lists after a while you think ‘oh it’s normal’. You have to remember it’s not normal, this is amazing, quite rare. It’s been a trip.”

 

Did the band change their game plan when recording their latest CD?

 

“We did approach it slightly differently,” Tom says. “For a start we wrote it in very little time, mainly in about three weeks. We decided to record all together, on tape. The first one was done on Pro-Tools, on a computer. The discipline about tapes means you get about three takes and if none of those are any good then you’ve got to do three more. It makes you listen.”

“It was just where we were at that particular time,” he adds. “We were eager to capture it. I think we were aware that making an album is basically interacting with time, and that’s what makes recorded music different.”

Wild Beasts retreated to Ledders Farm in Norfolk to make the album. The relative isolation of the area helped them focus.

“It was a very self sufficient little farmhouse,” Tom recalls. “We really didn’t leave; I think I left once. It was like get up, go into the studio, then go to bed. With that you keep things on the boil. As long as you’re having fun then it’s wonderful. Obviously if you’re not enjoying, or it’s not going well, then it’s a nightmare. But it did happen quite well. Also it was freezing, it was minus five every day. That was good, it kept us locked away!”

Although based in Leeds, Wild Beasts originally hail from Kendal, a picturesque town in Cumbria in the Northern England. Does their hometown feed into their identity as a band?

“I think we carry a chip on our shoulder because of where we’re from to be honest,” says Tom. “It’s very pretty but it’s also right in the middle of nowhere and it doesn’t have its own music scene, as such. We always thought that music was happening elsewhere, to somebody else. And because of that we made a point of having a voice and having something to say; not necessarily something that hadn’t been said before but something we could make our own.”

Those new to Wild Beasts (and they are absolutely a band worth hearing) will be struck by the falsetto of leadsinger Hayden Thorpe. It’s quite a hook, but one the band can back up with quality songs.

 

“It’s definitely something he’s worked on,” Tom says about his friend’s voice. “As far as I know he’s always sung like that; that way of using your voice as an overriding instrument. I was the last one to join the band and I was very aware of what they were doing before I joined.”

“The one thing that surprises me is he can always do it,” Tom continues. “I’ve never heard him have a sore throat in his life. He can always produce that sound, which is quite something when we’re touring at the pitch we’re touring at.”

All The King’s Men was one of last year’s most memorable songs, a swaggering, sensual number propelled by Thorpe’s demand to ‘watch me, watch me’. How did the band come up such an effective calling card for their new album?

“It’s a sort of idea I’ve had for a long time about small town Lotharios and woman haters,” says Tom. “That ‘watch me, watch me’ is half Superbad by James Brown and a book called Nights At The Circus by Andrew Carter. It has a scene where a woman commands ‘look at me, look at me’. It’s that kind of thing: ‘watch out, look at my resplendence’. It’s supposed to like a bawdy joke, with a nastier side to it; it’s pretty black humour.”

This is a more intelligent and imaginative approach to songwriting than modern music fans are used to, but it still translates into infectious stuff. Tom is proud with how Two Dancers turned out.

“I was pleased and still am,” he says. “The key thing is we wouldn’t make that now; we’ve forgotten how to make that record. We’ll do something else next time but hopefully it’ll be a logical step on. We were pleased because we took a few risks and mostly they came off; they could’ve fallen on their arse.”

Does the intent with which they approach recording cross over into Wild Beasts’ live show?

“I think unavoidably, yeah,” Tom states. “We know each other quite well and we’re doing it for some time now. It’s a sense of communication, I suppose; that we have to speak with one voice for people to get it. Generally speaking we’re quite locked in with each other because we have to be, if people are expecting us to be good. We have to make sure we give them what they’re asking for.”

By the time they reach these shores, Wild Beasts will have completed tours through Australia and America. Expect to see a band on top form when they make it to Galway.

“The pressure’s never off,” Tom says. “You’re only as good as the last thing you did. You have to be good every night; every note on every record has to be interesting and do something. This is a joy and you have to earn it. We can’t take our foot off the pedal yet; we’ve got too much ground to cover. We’re only just starting out.”

Wild Beasts play Róisín Dubh on

Thursday, March 25. Doors 8pm,

tickets €15/€12.50 members.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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