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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



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

Judy Murphy



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

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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