Northern lights


Move over The Undertones, Japanese Popstars, Nadine Coyle and, er, that guy from D:Ream, there’s a new generation of musical talent making a big noise in Derry, the UK’s City of Culture 2013. Lauren Murphytalks to some of the city’s hottest tickets to see what all the fuss is about


The folk alt-rockers

Did the local music you grew up with have any effect on your own material?

Not really, to be honest! The type of stuff I write is generally influenced by different artists from all over the place.

I am a fan of Neil Hannon, though.

What’s your favourite thing about Derry?

It’s such a musical town! It’s a great pleasure to be a part of the network of musicians, too.

Your favourite venue?

Sandinos back bar is a favourite. An Culturlann’s a great spot to play, and there’s a new venue at the moment called the Glassworks. It’s a beautiful old building that used to be a church, then a library, and it’s gonna host some great gigs, including Other Voices.

What are your plans for 2013?

We have some big gigs in mind for next year, some festivals, and maybe some interesting musical collaborations. And album number two! I reckon it’s gonna be a pretty good year.


The singing, songwriting wünderkind

How important is it to you to be known as a musician from Derry?

I don’t really think about it. I’m proud of Derry, and the people of Derry; I think we’ve achieved so much and have such a wealth of talent. But in terms of my own identity, I’ve been brought up to avoid labels and just to be proud of who I am without having to align myself to anything. I’m just Bridie.

Who’s your favourite Derry act?

Wow, I have so many. The Clameens, The Reverb, Little Bear, Best Boy Grip, ill Minds, The Boatclub, Paddy Nash and the Enchiladas . . . so many more.

Favourite venue?

I suppose my favourites would be the Playhouse, and I’ve had some fantastic nights in Bennigans, and Sandinos hosts some amazing artists. They’re very sentimental to me because I did some of my very first gigs in those venues. Apart from those, I think St Columb’s Hall and the Glassworks are fantastic venues.

What do you have planned for 2013?

I hope to release a few singles, maybe an EP. I’m really excited about City of Culture coming to Derry. There are so many opportunities now for great local bands and I cannot wait to take part. I’m really excited about Other Voices coming to Derry and being involved in that again, too.


The record shop

One of the last outposts on Northern Ireland’s independent music retail landscape, Cool Discs (founder Lee Mason pictured with some happy customers, above) has provided the citizens of Derry with a diverse selection of CD and vinyl releases by international and local acts for the past 16 years.

CONOR MASON (Conor Mason, Our Krypton Son, Little Bear)

The multi-tasker

Do you think that Northern Irish acts get a fair amount of coverage south of the border?

With the amount of social media now, it’s not hard for bands from the north to get their music into blogs, radio, etc in the south. There’s also sections in Northern Irish magazines and radio shows, like Across the Line, that focus on promoting music from north to south and vice versa – so I think it’s all going in the right direction.

Recommend to us some other Derry acts.

There’s too many to pick one: SOAK, Here Comes the Landed Gentry, Conor McAteer, The Wood Burning Savages, Strength, Ryan Vail, Droids, Little Bear, Our Krypton Son.

What’s the best thing about Derry?

I like that there’s so much musical diversity. Sometimes a city can become too focused and reliant on one sound, and before you know it, there are 20 bands playing the same thing. From folk to electronica, everyone is striving to do something a little different.

What are you planning for 2013?

I’m working on material for a new album that I’ll release in late 2013, and will certainly be looking to do a few shows throughout the year.


The piano-pop man

How important is your Derry identity, in the grand scheme of things?

In the last year, I’ve enjoyed being known as “Best Boy Grip from Derry”. I think we all need to have some identity and I’m very proud to be from Derry. It’s a changing city, for the better. That being said, I want to take my sound to the whole world and I’d be happy to known as being from Ireland/the UK, too.

Do you think that Northern Irish music is generally overlooked by music fans in the Republic?

I’ve seen a few acts from the North break through; I think the cream will rise to the top no matter where you’re from. That being said, it goes both ways. I supported Mick Flannery in the same week he was number one in the south, and only one of my mates knew who he was. A lot depends on what station you listen to or what magazines you buy.

Who’s your favourite Derry musician or band?

That’s controversial, considering I’m friends with most. If I was asked to tell you who I think has the biggest chance of making the big-time, my list would include SOAK, Little Bear, Our Krypton Son, Rainy Boy Sleep, Bronagh Gallagher, Paul Casey . . . I’m telling you, there are even more than this. The place is bursting at the seams with talent.

What are your plans for 2013?

I’ll be taking part in some City of Culture events, but they’re all top secret for now.

I have plans to release the Best Boy Grip debut album in 2013, too.


The label

In the course of its 11-year history, STA has been a fierce supporter of Northern Irish acts. Some of their biggest successes include releases by And So I Watch You From Afar, Fighting With Wire and Oppenheimer.


The event

Taking place outside Dingle for the first time since its inception, Other Voices decamps to Derry’s Glassworks from February 8th-10th. Neil Hannon, Jesca Hoop and Marina and the Diamonds are on the line-up.


The electronica whiz

Given Derry’s rich musical heritage, do you think that had any bearing on the sort of music you write?

Yeah, I’ve always said that I’m influenced by the acts in Derry. Lyrics-wise, I look up to Conor Mason, Our Krypton Son, SOAK and Little Bear. When it comes to beats, it has to be the Culture Glitch guys, Planting, The Crimson Underground and Niall Kearney.

Do you think the city has been overshadowed by Belfast on the Northern Irish scene?

Not really – Derry has had good acts make it pretty much every year, from the Japanese Popstars to Fighting With Wire. Derry has a real DIY attitude towards music – the bands run their own nights and do all their own PR. And it’s paying off – at the minute, there’s more hype in Derry than there’s ever been.

Do you think that Northern Irish music is generally overlooked in the Republic?

In some ways, yes. I’d say most people in Northern Ireland know the acts in the south due to the coverage the BBC shows do – but from experience, a lot of the bands in the south don’t know much of what’s happening up here.

What are you planning for 2013?

A pile of festival dates, and an EP release around March.


The venue

The rough-and-ready charm of rock venue Sandinos is part of its appeal: this is no pristine concert hall. In fact, the quirky décor and faded rock posters that line the walls give off a real Berlin dive bar feel. That’s a good thing, by the way.


The indie poppers

Does it ultimately matter where a band is from, in the grand scheme of things?

Well, I have to know where a band is from before I can make sense of them – like, the other day I found out that The Wannadies were Swedish and I’d always assumed they were English. It made them so much cooler in my head. It’s silly, but it definitely affects how people think of you. We wouldn’t really mention it at a gig in Ireland, but as soon as we go away we can’t wait to say we’re from Derry.

How much of an influence has the city had on your music?

I think we would have ended up playing this kind of music no matter where we grew up – to be honest, we weren’t very cool and were pretty out of touch with local music until we got going with the band. But then there’s The Undertones; I don’t think a band has ever been formed in Derry without playing Teenage Kicks at the first practice! And we still play short, fast, fun pop songs, so there has to be some connection there.

Who’s your favourite Derry act?

It has to be The Undertones – we absolutely love them. Although the girls would kill me for not saying Nadine Coyle as well.

What are you planning for 2013?

We’ve got two singles coming out in the first half of the year, with our album, Rocky, coming along with the second. We’re doing a few things with Derry City of Culture too, so I think that it’s going to be a fun year.

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