Interview With Villagers, first published in Downtown/The Evening Echo 2013-12-12

Conor O’Brien, who performs under the name of Villagers, has had an incredibly busy 2013, their second album {Awayland} was nominated for both the Choice Music Prize and the Mercury Music Prize (as was it’s predecessor ‘Becoming A Jackel’ in 2010). Ahead of Villagers upcoming concert in The Savoy, Conor spoke from Rome with Ronan Leonard, “it’s been a good year, we’re all going a little bit crazy right now as we’ve been on this tour for about 7 weeks; pretty much all of this year really. We’ve been playing loads of new places we’ve never been in before and it’s all gone really well but we’ll be happy to get back to Ireland.”

Villagers have notched up a string of glowing reviews and have developed quite a fervent fan base, so as their audience has grown on an international scale have they felt more or less Irish? “I guess the more we travel and play the songs in places like Italy, which wouldn’t be a very English speaking audience, I do get a sense that some of the meanings get lost because it might be specific to growing up in Ireland on a vague metaphorical level… but then again, I generally keep my eyes closed when I’m playing a song so it’s kind of hard to gauge where you are!”

After spending so much time abroad, Conor is looking forward to returning to Cork, “every time we come back to Ireland it always feels like a very homecoming thing, particularly since we are doing these concerts at Christmas time. The last time we played the Savoy was really really special, it was one of our favourite gigs, we’ve spoken about it many times since.”

This mini tour of Ireland will also see Conor drawing somewhat of a line under the {Awayland} record and the touring that is involved with promoting a new album, “we’ll be playing in Cork and then Vicar Street and that’ll be it for a bit. I’ll try and gather all my scribblings I’ve done over the last year and put some together sort of new record. Villagers will still have some concerts to do for the current album, but I kind of want to dedicate the new year to moving on and getting a new batch of songs out there. I think a year and a bit is enough to be playing a record; I always hate it when I see bands playing the same old songs for two years or whatever, it gets a bit old.”

Conor has a clear idea of what he needs to do to create a new album, “I’m the kind of person who needs to get away from touring to get my thoughts together and make a piece of work that I am happy with, that’ll be pretty much all of January and February taken up for me. For the last album I started from scratch with loads of synthesisers and stuff but this time I’ve been coming up with little things on the guitar the whole time, getting back to the core of the song and only afterwards thinking about how I might arrange it. So I think I’ll be going back to that way of doing things for the new record, which is quite exciting. The arrangements of the songs on {Awayland} were kind of geared toward being played to a live audience with a full band. When I was starting out I was doing mostly solo shows, mainly because of money restraints, but now we’ve been really growing as band with everyone having an input in the way we play them, it’s slowly progressing to what I want to be doing.”

Since it is that time of year, I wondered what Conor would like Santa to bring him, “I’ve been thinking of trying to learn a brass instrument, I’ve been talking about taking up the trumpet or trombone or something like that. A friend of mine plays both those instruments and was saying he might teach me, that’d be pretty cool!”

Villagers play The Savoy on Monday 16 December, tickets are available at http://www.tickets.ie

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