INTERVIEW WITH LIAM O MAONLAI – HOTHOUSE FLOWERS

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2015-1-22

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Interview WIth Liam O'Maonali

The Hothouse Flowers reach their 30th year on the road this year and next week they roll into Ballincollig to close this year’s Winter Music Festival, a concert which Liam Ó Maonlaí, their charismatic lead singer and pianist, considers a very important start to their year, “I suppose it feels like a first day back at school, for the last couple of years we’ve played a gig around Christmas but we didn’t in 2014 and we are starting off 2015 with two special gigs, one in St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin and this Winter Music Festival.”

These two performances are going to serve as an opportunity for the band to test out a lot of new material they have been working on, “these two gigs will colour our idea of the direction we will take for the rest of the year. We’re hoping to record a new album but we haven’t fixed on the shape that’s going to take yet, I think these performances will probably make a very a strong case for how we’re going to go about it.”

As opposed to just presenting a certain amount songs that they are ready to press record on in the studio, Liam senses that this will help the band decide on what kind of material will make the cut on the new album, “I’ve no idea how it’s happened but there’s a certain energy we have at the moment, the songs are just beckoning out there for us somewhere, Fiachna (Ó Braonáin, guitar and vocals) is writing, Peter (O’Toole, guitar, bouzouki and keyboard) has been writing, Dave (Clarke, drums) has been writing and I’m writing. However we don’t know if we’ll turn all the songs we’ve been writing separately into an album or will we do it like when we started originally when we’d jam out songs.”

Liam looks back fondly on that style of songwriting, “most of our songs were written through that process – songs would be found if you’d like. It’s a nice way for a band to work – it’s a great feeling when a band finds a groove and the singers sees something to say and vocalises it in the heat of that groove. It’s pretty cool and what makes each band unique.”
The Hothouse Flowers love of that spontaneity is also reflected on which songs they play on the night, “we don’t do setlists anymore, we just go stage and we call up our years of being on the road together, which I think gives it a rock and roll feel. If someone shouts a song up we’ll play it, the more obscure the better for us sometimes! There’s songs we obviously play a lot and there’s ones we’re not afraid to crash! I love going to see bands who aren’t afraid to try a tune and if they crack, I’m certainly not going to look for my money back, as long as there is a good humour involved and it’s understood that it’s a creative situation.”
That attitude of performing in the moment is one that Liam and the rest of the band have adhered since the formation of the band; “I wasn’t too excited about idea of over-rehearsing when we were starting off. There was a huge pressure on us to rehearse and our reaction was ‘this is rock and roll, not symphonic orchestral stuff’. I think over-rehearsal can kill the quality of certain types of bands. We love that knife-edge of performance, where you are on the cusp of something rather than thinking you ‘know’ something. I read somewhere that it’s almost patronising to assume what’s right, it’s a big thing in Rock and Roll, it’s always been a sort of shamanic thing, and that’s the kind of rock and roll I like, of course there’s short sharp songs that need rehearsal but the overdoing it is not too exciting for us.”
Liam really values what all the members of The Hothouse Flowers bring to the band, “we keep each other fresh, it’s the great thing that comes with playing with other people, you never know what they’ll throw at you and what will emerge from that. Over the 30 years we’ve been together we’ve established a certain level of interest so people have got used to the fact that they come to see us and can expect anything. I really strongly believe that, if you are really into something and are relatively good at your instrument, if you are finding chord progressions or tones of music that you are really feeling it is understandable… even if the listener doesn’t want to understand it.”
The Hothouse Flowers play The White Horse in Ballincollig on Sunday 1 February with support from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Tickets are available via tickets.ie
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