Out on a Limb: Limerick Record Label on Turning Ten
Out On A Limb records celebrates its 10th birthday this month. The Limerick label aims to stay connected to the bands it was founded to promote
IT BEGAN with two men and one band. Albert Twomey and Richard Bourke were both part of the Aspersion Music Collective, a non-profit collective based in Limerick who put on gigs around the city. One of the local bands who played there was Giveamanakick, a loud-as-hell two-piece consisting of guitarist Steve Ryan and drummer Keith Lawler. The band had recorded their first album, Is It Ok To Be Loud, Jesus?, and Twomey and Bourke felt something had to be done with it.
“We kind of thought that, unless there was help there, it would never actually get recorded or it would get recorded but not distributed,” says Bourke. “So myself and Albert decided to try and put something together.”
Ryan agrees that without the pair’s support, the album would not have gone very far.
“We were starting from below ground level, we were minus two, underneath the basement and we were coming up out of there,” he says. “I’m not too sure if we would have even got past dropping a few CDs into some local shops or into a Spar or something. Out On A Limb were able to get it into shops around the country, the HMVs and things like that.
“They really, really opened our eyes and took care of that side of things and have continued to do so to this very day.”
As they followed the Giveamanakick release with albums from The Waiting Room and Rest, Twomey and Bourke were joined by Ciarán Ryan, a young writer and music fan who was studying in Limerick at the time.
By 2009, Twomey had moved to Cork for work and, no longer being in close daily contact with the others, decided to leave the label.
“ I just didn’t feel like I could commit to it as much as I used to and that’s not what I’m really about,” he says. “If I’m not going to be hands-on and able to communicate daily, face-to-face, I’d rather leave it in the capable hands of Ciarán and Richard.”
This emphasis on hands-on, face-to-face relationships has been one of the label’s defining qualities. “I love face-to-face stuff,” says Ciarán Ryan. “I think even in terms of running the label, I always find that we get so much more done. You could have weeks and weeks of emailing back and forth with a band but if you sit down with them for half an hour, you figure out exactly what’s going on.”
“I do think that whole idea – and you can go back to the idea of community – it feels more real and tangible when it’s that physical exchange between people, when people are meeting each other or people are talking about music that way rather than being behind a keyboard.”
A thread connecting all the bands on the label over the years is their ability to play well live. While the emphasis on this isn’t as strong as it used to be, the importance of gigs and touring remains clear. When Giveamanakick supported The Undertones on a UK tour, Bourke and Twomey rented a car to follow them to each show. Even now, if an OOAL act are playing anywhere in the country, you will almost always find either Ryan or Bourke there.
“We try our best that one of us will be there,” says Bourke. “It doesn’t always work out now in the latter years. Ciarán generally fills in and goes to gigs because he doesn’t have two young sons. I pick up the slack as well. We think it’s nice that you’re putting weight behind your artist, that you’re bothering to show up. You believe in them and you’re willing to put in a hard slog to help them out.”
It’s an effort that the bands really appreciate. “They really do put in the time,” says Ronan Jackson, bassist and singer in Jogging. “When they do a release tour, they come around to every show, either Richard or Ciarán, and it makes such a difference having a physical presence, having somebody pushing the album at the door.”
A new wave of bands have joined the old label stalwarts, including Jogging, Owensie and Hidden Highways. A change in format, with the label now pressing mostly vinyl, and an injection of what Bourke calls “fresh blood”, has seen OOAL go from strength to strength over the past few years, culminating last year in a Meteor Choice Music Prize nomination for Windings’ I Am Not The Crow LP.
Windings became Ryan’s main focus after Giveamanakick dissolved amicably in 2009, and he says that the friendship between the bands and the label is key to the label’s longevity. “It’s really, really difficult to exist within this thing that people still half-jokingly call the music business, especially as an independent label and artist in Ireland, ” he says. “There has to be mutual respect there and there is mutual respect between all the artists and the Out On A Limb lads, and that’s why it’s still going. There is always a feeling of, we’re all in the same boat here, let’s make it work.”
Jackson agrees. “They both have to believe in [the music], which goes a long way,” he says. “They love it, they want to see it, they want to hear it and they want to share it with people. I think that’s a big factor.”
Entering their second decade, the label’s ambitions remain down-to-earth and connected always to the bands they are supporting.
“We’ve been lucky through our friends, or friends of friends, that we seem to come across really good music and really good bands that we want to help out,” says Bourke. “That’s all we really want to do, is to help out and get music out there that we think deserves to be heard. If we can continue to do that in the future, I think we’ll both be happy.”