Conor O’Brien on the new Villagers track
Occupy Your Mind is inspired by Sochi’s only gay club
Irish band Villagers released a new track last weekend to coincide with the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. But far from being a celebration of the joys of slope style or the finer points of figure skating, Occupy Your Mind is a timely attack on Russia’s anti-gay laws.
The song dropped with a simple message from the band saying: “In the advent of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, please find attached a song written for you, your mother, your father and your gay brothers and sisters in Russia. ”
As far back as October the band were working on and rehearsing the track, but as Sochi loomed on the horizon, the situation in Russia seeped into the song.
“I had an idea for the chorus and as I was reading more about everything that was going on in Russia I was changing the lyrics to make it specifically about that,” says Conor O’Brien. “I emailed everybody in the label including the management, saying I really want to do this on the day of the Winter Olympics opening to make a little point. Everyone got behind it really excitedly
“The initial impulse for the song was an article about a particular gay nightclub in Sochi and I was wondering what it would be like to be one of the clientele in there. The song is trying to capture all that, of being there, flirting and having a great time in this club, but also the foreboding that surrounds that place, which exists in such a bigoted and homophobic place.”
The song is a dark, slickly aggressive slice of synth rock built on some trademark brawling production from James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco. “The main thing I hope is that the track gets the righteous indignation that people feel but that love will still prevail,” says O’Brien.
The track’s release also has a major, accidental resonance in Ireland, with marriage equality top of the news agenda thanks to the controversy around Rory O’Neill’s comments and his subsequent stirring speech at the Abbey Theatre. “I was following it all very closely, the song adds to that general wave; it’s perfect timing,” says O’Brien. “It’s not anything other than a song but perhaps I would say it’s more of a soundtrack to what’s going on. It’s a positive thing; it was such a beautiful speech and he’s such an amazing character.”
See tomorrow’s Irish Times for a longer version of this interview