follow me at @ronanfromcork
Fir Beag refer to themselves as a “West Cork Boy Band, kinda…” on their Facebook page, this kind of irreverence is also shown with the title each member is given; Fear Beag (meaning ‘Little Man’ – Liam Ahern on guitar and vocals), Fear Mór (‘Big Man’ – Gavin Moore on guitar and vocals), Fear Ciúin (‘Quiet Man’ – Anto Noonan on drums and vocals) and Fear Sassanach (‘English Man’ – Justin Grounds on fiddle and vocals).
All four play in a myriad of other bands and projects so the chance to play in this particular incarnation is a rare one, Ronan Leonard spoke with Gavin Moore ahead of their upcoming gig in Clonakilty. Firstly he had a poetic way of describing how rarely they play concerts, “we perform sporadically along the Munster coastline, we emerge every once in a while from the ocean, crusted in salt and draped in sea weed.”
He went on to try and describe how the music they make, “it’s just the sound of four friends hanging out in West Cork writing and playing together and not taking it nearly seriously enough; we love playing but don’t like practice! There’s elements of folk, trad, punk, pop and reggae all wrapped up in a nice fluffy indie boy band blanket! But seriously there’s a wide range of genres and sounds covered in our songs but it all just fits somehow.”
The group don’t play too often and even the formation of the band took some time to complete, “we’ve all been in various groups and solo projects over the years and Fir Beag just kind of evolved over time. Liam was writing stuff himself and performing under the name of Fear Beag then I joined him and we played as a duo for a while. Anto started adding in drums and harmonies after a while and then Justin landed in too and the singular became plural”.
The list of projects they are a part of is a long one; Anto Noonan is one of the founder members of The West Cork Ukulele Orchestra and plays drums with a variety of bands including Ian Whitty & The Exchange and Chucklehead, the latter band also features Liam Ahern as guitarist. Justin Grounds regularly tours the country performing his own solo work which fuses fiddle, guitars and electronic composition; as ‘Idiot Songs’ a collaboration with Sligo based Pearse McGloughlin; and also as a member of ‘Day Delay’ who perform improvisational live soundtracks to silent films. Gavin has toured internationally, released several records under his own name over the years and hosts the Sitting Room Sessions every Wednesday in De Barras.
While Gavin accepts that while Fir Beag isn’t the number one priority for any of them it doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously, “we all have a lot going on, the band probably comes second to our individual projects but there’s a fierce energy in our gigs as a result. He quipped, “we got a massive grant for using an Irish name so we only have to do three gigs a year now!”
Gavin laid out their plans for 2014, “we play this gig in De Barras and then Liam is off for 3 months to go surfing which he does every year. In the summer we’ll be doing some touring, hopefully we’ll have recorded an EP to release by then. We have lots of material written over the years and we all have different recording equipment so it’s all about making them talk to each other at some point.”
Considering how involved all four members are with Fir Beag, I asked Gavin if he thought the band would work with anyone else in the group, “anything is possible but it’s hard to see anyone else fitting in the band, politically or musically. I think we’re all happy with the sound and dynamic of the band as it is. It’s like Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore baby, we’re singing from the same hymn sheet whether we like the song or not!”
Fir Beag play a free concert in De Barras in Clonakilty on Friday 24 January at 10.30pm. Their music can be heard at http://www.facebook.com/FirBeag