O’Connell Brothers have just released their new song, Down On The Quays. It is a song about feeling disconnected, finding yourself in a strange place, and playing the role that you think this movie calls for. ‘Lost souls always seem to find each other, and there is comfort in that’. As the saying goes, misery loves company. But there is hope too; ‘the feeling that you are just playing a role, and you don’t really want to be this person. You put a smile upon the tears like everyone else here, but the tears are there’.
Jon and Kieran O’Connell have been making music together for the past 6 years as members of The Fiddle Case, a folk group based in County Clare. In that time they have recorded two albums and gigged and toured extensively at home and abroad. When the pandemic reached Ireland in early 2020, they found themselves out of work and locked down. In relative isolation, they begun working on a body of songs both old and new, crafting their sound in their shed studio.
Earlier this year, the debut single from O’Connell Brothers was released; ‘Songbird’. It flew into the world and onto radio playlists and the reaction was hugely positive. ‘Some songs get tossed around for months, years; a lyrical idea or a bit of a melody…but some seem to just land in your lap; Songbird was the latter’.
The idea for Down On The Quays came to Jon several years ago, remembering a morning in an early house after a long night spent in various bars and side-streets. The lyrics were noted and quickly forgotten. Fast-forward to 2020 and the extra time afforded by another lockdown, the lyrics were discovered and the brothers set to work on putting the song together. For Jon and Kieran, songwriting is unpredictable and often nebulous; they don’t have a formula. It can be a musical hook, a couple of sweet sounding chords or a ream of lyrics that starts the process. However, they have hit a stride on the recording front. Their shed studio is where most of the heavy lifting takes place (the stove being the most critical piece of equipment), but an integral part of their sound is created by Dave Curtis, a maverick Galway-based musician, and Brian Masterson who mixes and masters their work at his studio in Dublin.
Released a week after Down On The Quays was the accompanying video. ‘We wanted to convey a certain feeling with the video, and came up with the idea of a person living this bare and simple existence; waking up in the morning and moving through the world, until his darker urges eventually catch up to him. He can’t outrun it today, but he can try again tomorrow’. The video was filmed guerrilla style around the streets and under the bridge of Ennistymon, and features local man John Fitzpatrick as The Arch-Enemy.
For now, O’Connell Brothers are focussed on putting the finishing touches on their album. They plan to release two more singles ahead of its release. They are enjoying the process of creating music and videos. They continue to perform an online gig once a month, which is critical for the band as this provides a means of staying connected with their audience, and is also the only revenue stream possible at the moment. ‘We’ve always been a cottage industry, and managed to build a little community around our music. We miss that. We’re blessed that we have such a supportive fanbase who’ve stuck with us over the last 18 months, but there’s nothing to beat being in that room together. For us, being musicians without the live element is a bit like being in a boxing match with one arm tied behind your back. But we’re gonna keep swinging as long as we can’.
PHOTO: Myriam Riand