You can take the man out of the funk, but can you ever take the funk out of the man? Not so in the trim shape of Cormac Breslin, aka CC Brez, the musician and songwriter who made his presence keenly felt in the now-defunct Irish band Republic of Loose.
The poster band for a boisterous and, frankly, dirty night out, “the Loose” (as cofounder Breslin calls them) can lay claim to being an Irish funk band that you didn’t have to make excuses for.
Republic of Loose were founded in 2001 and split up in 2014, but Breslin (cowriter of many of the band's hits, including Comeback Girl, You Know It, I Like Music and The Steady Song) jumped the funk ship and swam for shore a few years previously.
For the past five years he has been juggling life and music, career prospects and options, including a side project, Cars Love Girls, with his sister Orla, who was also a member of Republic of Loose. He says that having been insulated in a band set-up for more than 10 years, the prospect of a solo career was unnerving.
“It was quite a daunting decision to make, and a daunting jump, too. A band is a democracy, but we all know it’s usually a dictatorship that everyone can work with. And at different times everybody takes a turn to be the dictator. It’s how comfortable a scenario you can have working with five or six other people you know, and for a long time that worked really well.”
Time for change
Around the time of the band's final album, 2010's Bounce at the Devil, Breslin felt he needed to take flight.
“The pressure to make money and the pressure to be creatively happy at that stage for me were feeding into each other. It got to the point where we were gigging just to keep things going to pay rent, and to live, basically.”
He suggested the band take a step back from living in each other’s pockets, “which could get quite intense at times. The lads didn’t want to do that, so I said, ‘Cool, full respect, but I’m going to walk away.’ ”
Cue a year or so in which Breslin’s head “wasn’t in the best of places”, but which gradually improved thanks to a regimented work ethic.
“Most days I go to my studio and work. I’ve been doing that for many years. Initially, when I committed to music full-time, I had a lot of hours on my hands. Then it became a habit, and then it became something that I had to do every day, whether for two or five or more hours.
“When I left the Loose, I thought if I didn’t keep up that work ethic there might be a chance that things would slip . . . Creativity is a muscle, isn’t it, and so you flex it.”
For the past three years, Breslin has been activating the muscle day and night. The genesis of his debut album, The Nightfall, began during his and his sister's Cars Love Girls album Skip School (2011).
"For that album I started writing on piano, synths, via programming. The songwriting process changed a bit, and the music changed because of that. I suppose I got back into writing the way I used to write with the Loose – songs like Comeback Girl, The Steady Song, You Know It . . . I'd work up an instrumental and then come up with a guitar riff. Eventually, writing for The Nightfall came back to the core way: a guitar, a hook and then the song."
A funky soul
Funk and soul remain a constant on The Nightfall, with Breslin's unabashed love for the genres obvious throughout.
"I'm a crazy soul-funk head," he says with a laugh. "It's always in the background. James Brown, Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone – and Prince, in particular, because he manages to bring all of those R&B elements into a pop formula. I grew up in a house where I heard so many blues, soul and funk albums, so they've always been there, and I don't think I'll ever move away from those components."
The progressive development of The Nightfall over the past few years, he says, created a whole new world for him – a solitary but gratifying one. The downsides to being his own boss?
“Lack of critical objectivity. One day you listen back to something and think it’s awful, the next day you think it’s really good. The bipolar nature of critiquing your own work will always be there, so not being extreme on either side is the balance; it’s where you feel you can judge yourself fairly. That said, when my missus tells me something isn’t good, it can ruin an afternoon.”
The benefits, he concedes, include “getting to feed the ego that’s making all of the decisions. Also, I don’t mull over things for too long, so the process from start to finish is quite fast.”
Procedures aside, does he recognise any thread that connects The Nightfall back to when, at the age of 12, he was first struck by music's lightning rod?
“The link is my guitar playing,” Breslin says. “The Loose songs came from a guitar riff, sitting on a couch, and then a short time later presenting it to people. That’s still what I’m doing, except I’m now presenting the results to myself.”
- The Nightfall is out now on Fat Burrito Records
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"The first mind-blowing musical moment for me came when I was around 12. Up to that time, I hadn't been a huge music fan. I remember being on the sitting-room floor on a Saturday afternoon. My headphones were plugged into the radio, and I was rolling through the bandwidth when the intro to Purple Haze, by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, came into my ears. I just sat there, frozen by it. It was a full-on sonic experience that you couldn't have prepared me for. It was the kablammo moment for me. Literally, from that day forward, things were different."