‘Playing for Ennio Morricone in LA has been the highlight of my career’
Finding the right environment for your creativity is what makes a great musician
Fjokra performing on stage. ‘At first I was inspired by a mixture of my love for hip hop, my background in classical music, experimental heavy rock music and the electronic music scene in Manchester.’
Fiachra MacOireachtai is a classically-trained musician and composer for film and television, and the frontman for Fjokra, an “unpredictable pop” band based in London. Still in his 20s, last year he performed for Quentin Tarantino, Ennio Morricone and Leonardo Di Caprio at an Oscar after-party. He has collaborated with other bands including The Clash and Duran Duran. He also teaches piano from his home in West London.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kilternan, a small village on the border of Dublin and Wicklow. We lived in an old school beside fields and farmland and it was half an hour’s bus journey to Dublin City so growing up I had a nice balance between country and city life. Not having next door neighbours meant that I could make as much noise as I wanted so that was significant to my musical development, especially as a drummer!
What brought you to the UK?
I originally moved because I wanted to study music on a course that offered education and experience in various aspects of music, rather than specialising in just one subject. I was interested in a course that included composition, performance, music production and music business, and at the time there wasn’t a course in Ireland that offered this. I ended up going to Salford University in Manchester and got a first class honours degree in popular music and recording.
Tell us about your music.
I have been writing music for as long as I can remember. I began writing under the name Fjokra when I moved to Manchester. I had been recording and performing in bands throughout my teens in Ireland and when I moved away I decided I wanted to make music that I would write and record myself, and assemble a band of musicians to perform the music live. Being in Manchester surrounded by musicians was the perfect playground for putting this concept together.
At first I was inspired by a mixture of my love for hip hop, my background in classical music, experimental heavy rock music and the electronic music scene in Manchester. The result ended up as a broad mix of styles and sounds in each song. The initial compositions were often quite long. I got good experience from road-testing the live show around venues in Manchester, and learning what did and didn’t work musically and visually on stage.
When I finished my degree, I moved back to Dublin for the summer where I continued to write and record new music while I thought about what to do and where to go next. During my time back home I came in contact with Scott Taylor who was based in London. He had come across my music on Myspace. He came to Dublin and after a long chat and a few beers we decided to work together, with Scott taking on the role of my manager.
I moved to London, where I have since been working in various corners of the music industry. I have released music under the name Fjokra, which has been received well in the press and by the crowds at our shows. My music has also been used in the occasional film, including Miss You Already starring Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore.
Do you travel much?
Yes. Not long after I moved to London I met singer Annie Bea at a Fjokra performance at Universal Studios. We hit it off and Annie joined Fjokra. We began playing together in her jazz and blues band, and as a piano and voice duo. We are now living together and playing around the world together as a duo. It’s great being able to work and travel with your partner.
We have had the opportunity to play in some special places. Last year I had the honour of playing for Ennio Morricone in Los Angeles, which has been one of the highlights of my musical life so far.
Do you think the UK has offered you opportunities you would not have had in Ireland?
The volume of people working in the music industry in London makes for a very competitive environment, but also means that pursuing careers in music production and composition, and having a platform to promote myself as Fjokra both on and off the stage, is more achievable.
Ireland has and always will have an exceptional amount of outstanding musicians. My friends in the UK often comment on how blown away they are by the standard of musicianship in Ireland. Walking into an Irish pub and the likelihood of a trad band of first-rate musicians playing in the corner is something I took for granted until I moved away.
Do you think it is beneficial for young musicians to go abroad?
I don’t think it is always necessary. Ultimately, in order to be a happy and successful musician, you need to surround yourself with people who share similar wavelengths and ambitions to you, both musically and otherwise. These are the people who will stimulate and inspire you to be driven in a positive direction towards your goals, and hopefully you will have a similar effect on them in the process.
Whether it’s in Dublin or London or on top of a mountain in Tasmania, finding your groove and the right environment for your creativity is what makes a great musician. There are also many possibilities for collaboration with other artists that simply were not available to us before the rise of the internet. I have made music with many people from different parts of the world without ever meeting them in person.
What’s next for Fjokra?
I am busy releasing singles and music videos at the moment, which I intend to keep doing into 2018. I would like to have a debut album under my belt by 2019 but for now I am just enjoying writing new music and seeing how people react to it. I would like to bring my band back to Ireland for a tour soon too.