tweety stuff @ronanfromcork
first published in @The Evening Echo 2016-11-10
Lau have won ‘Best Band’ 4 of the last 8 years at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and consistently thrill Irish audiences. Kris Drever, the trio’s guitarist and singer, embarks on a 7 date tour of Ireland this week. Speaking with Ronan Leonard backstage at this year’s Larmer Tree Festival he talked about his working life; the differences between Lau and his solo work; and his long connection to Cork.
It is very clear how Kris divides the material he creates with the band versus the songs he writes for himself, “my solo songs are more of a classic song structure, whereas Lau is an instrumental band where the vocals to some degree are just another top lying instrument. Often Lau goes down political or slightly abstract routes, while my solo work is more autobiographical in nature, a bit more universal in content. On a technical level Lau is a enormous 24 channel set up and fantastic because of it. The idea forming the band was to see how much musical noise can three humans possibly make, and we’re still finding that out! However on my last solo tour I just took one microphone to amplify my guitar and voice, the venues just needed to provide one microphone stand!”
With the solo tour in mind Kris is excited to be coming to Ireland but specifically Cork, “I’ve played in various line ups over the years in Ireland but I’ve never done solo shows here. I’ve a bit of history with Cork, when I was in my early twenties I met some Irish musicians who turned out to be Northcregg. I was playing a lot of Double Bass at the time so they sort of adopted me and had me over to Cork to play with them a few times, so I’ve kicked around Cork on a several occasions!”
As someone who has been a touring working musician for 20 years Kris has a different experience of seeing other countries, where repeat visits are a feature, “it is interesting to revisit places and cities as you tour, it’s nice to be back and playing in different venues in cities you know is still a change. I’ve never been to Cork and not had a good time, I know I’ve a lot of friends that I’ll see at the gig and I know Coughlans is a great venue.”
Kris will be playing 7 gigs in 7 days on this tour, as well as playing cities like Cork, Dublin, Belfast and Kilkenny he also visits towns like Roscrea, Dundalk and Bantry, “I want to play as many gigs while I’m there, it’s a great country, I haven’t done loads of shows there compared to the amount of time I’ve spent hanging out there. I think it’s important to go to places and do the thing that you do, and playing shows is what I do.
This ‘work when you can’ attitude is a recurring theme, with both family and geography informing Kris’s mindset, “I live in the Shetland Islands in a village called Quarff, I have electricity, broadband and all that stuff but it is still an island. We’re 14 hours by boat to Aberdeen so I fly mostly, the weather on an average basis is worse than in Scotland or Ireland so I have to allow extra time to leave and get to shows. As well as that I’ve a young family so I have to ensure that when I’m away I’m doing things and being productive.”
“Sometimes the weather leads to enforced bouts of childcare and children’s entertainment as well!”, he continued, explaining how he works as a musician while not on tour, “I try to write and practise every day, as it’s my job, if I was to only work when I was away the standard of my playing would steadily decay until nobody would want to see me. Music can be cyclical, if you’re away touring it’s hard to find the time to sit, write or read except for the actual travelling time, so when I’m at home I put time aside for actual rehearsal, actual research. Going off-tour doesn’t mean putting the feet up and getting the pipe out.”
In recent years Scotland has given its citizens plenty to think about, “It’s an ongoing… I don’t want to say nightmare… pretty much every single creative in Scotland was for Independence in the first referendum and also to Remain in the recent one, and it got so tiring. At the moment they’ve sort of sent in the clowns and that’s somewhat of a light relief, watching the ‘Bold Brexiteers’ handle everything since their ‘triumph’, so we’ve got the popcorn out watching that. Really it was exhausting, the amount of intensity, passion and energy that goes into living in such a political situation. We were gutted about losing the Scottish Referendum but in a way we were relieved that is was over, you ended up in confrontation the whole time. A lot of the writing on my latest album is about that post-referendum mindset and I’ll be surprised if there isn’t more new subtly hidden finger-pointing material played on the night.”
Finally Kris spoke on the long rooted sense of kinship between Irish and Scottish people and musicians, “as opposed to us just being ‘Celtic Brothers’, I sometimes think that what we share informs our taste to some degree, we’ve had reasonably similar musical experiences, dubious country music and a lot of fiddle music, a lot of the same stuff that we find good, for artistic and nostalgic reasons in a broad cultural sense… that and sharing the shitty weather too!”
Kris Drever played McHughes Restaurant, Belfast on Tuesday 8 November / The Workmans Club, Dublin on Wednesday 9 November Coughlans, Douglas Street on Thursday 10 November /
The tour continues
The Pumphouse, Kilkenny – Fri 11 November /
Leap Castle, Roscrea – Sat 12 November /
The Spirit Store, Dundalk, Sun 13 November /
The Mariner, Bantry on Monday 14 November.