Kilkenny stands out as a truly integral stitch in the mystical tapestry of Ireland.
A cultural and creative hotbed, this almost magical city has for generation upon generation attracted writers, poets and musicians, all eager to absorb this intriguing spirit and feed from the creative passion which pulses through the streets here.
But to discover a real creativity, there has to be more than a mere location, regardless of how captivating its charm. There has to be a chemistry from which true talent can be born, nurtured and expressed. And this is where we find Paul Hindle, Sam Moylan, Daire Nolan and Padraig King.
Audio Fires are an indie four-piece. Making waves around Kilkenny since 2012, the band’s growing reputation has gained them recognition far beyond the boundaries of their native city. But this is a reputation born not just from an undoubted writing and musical talent, but the group’s own firm belief in the message of their work.
Musicians speak about the passion behind their lyrics and delivery all the time. Indeed, it is quite probably an artist’s passion during performance which sets individual acts aside and even serves to make music what it is to each and every one of us. But it’s when we speak to a musician, a song-writer, a performer about their music that we can truly glimpse what it is that lies beneath. This is when passion can be faked to an extent… But belief cannot!
And it’s this kind of belief which filled the eyes of Paul Hindle as he explained to me the meaning behind his lyrics, the importance of each of his bandmates and what it means in essence to be a part of Audio Fires. Seldom will you discover a group who manage to sound so fresh, yet established.
The band’s current EP Don’t Let is doing the rounds right now and, if you love your indie rock as I do, you will no doubt share my belief that this four-track collection is a masterpiece.
Recorded by Martin Quinn, mixed and mastered by Todd Burke no less, the EP is simply bursting with an energy that is completely and utterly unique to Audio Fires. And with influences as diverse as Foo Fighters, Vaccines and Kings of Leon to name but a few, it’s easy to see that this young band’s willingness to learn from those who have gone before, coupled with the belief they have for themselves will continue to forge the musical evolution of a group who have built up a steady and far-reaching following as festival season approaches.
The EP opens with title track, Don’t Let. It instantly immerses you in that energy which I just know will come to symbolize Audio Fires. Hindle’s vocal delivery grabs you from the off. With an almost old-style rock tone to his voice, you’ll scratch your head as you ponder comparisons. My advice? Don’t bother. Take it for what it is, a sound all of its own. Beautifully complimented by King and Moylan on guitar, and with Daire Nolan reaffirming that energy on which we’ve already touched with what can only be described as a drumming master class, this track serves as an explosive introduction to a band who perfectly capture exactly what this soft rock genre should be, even possibly what it may have been lacking somewhat.
Quite often the opening track of an EP can sum up what a band are all about. Not in this case, such is the diversity showcased here.
Second track Don’t Mistake It for Love opens with a drop in tempo, complimented by a slightly higher vocal tone. Once again the vocal is instant, no drawn-out intro, a nod to Audio Fires’ no-nonsense approach to soft rock. It drops a gear and explodes into life, once again showcasing the prowess of Moylan, King and Nolan as well as highlighting the aforementioned vocal range of Hindle.
By this point we’ve come to expect a certain energy as the EP unfolds to reveal a bag full of soul. Track three, All Of The Way does not disappoint, picking up where Don’t Mistake It For Love has left off.
This is where those now distinctive guitar sounds come into their own, allowing King and Moylan to flex their collective muscle whilst shining individually. Add to this the intense backdrop of Nolan’s drumbeat which is effortless yet strong enough to form the backbone of a track that defines a genre in full colour. By now I’m in my element. Whether you wish to call it indie, soft rock or both, this is it at its best.
As the track ends you may reflect on all three and wonder where to now? And this is always a question worth pondering upon hearing a compilation so diverse yet distinctive.
It serves as a question which beautifully paves the way for this EP’s shining light.
Fourth track, Une Partie De La Vie is a gem. No such thought of hiding away an almost bonus-like track to end the record, Audio Fires have, in my humble opinion saved the best for last.
Dreamy piano tones, swirling and captivating. This is one of those tracks that just holds you spellbound. This is where Paul Hindle comes into his own. Accompanied by those fabulous soft but clanging guitar sounds which can only be born from pure creativity, the likes of Noel Gallagher’s Champaign Supernova or Simon Fowler’s Better Day, but with a magical vocal more akin to Fowler’s Robin Hood, this track is simply beautiful. It ebbs and flows as naturally as the tide. Having already touched upon the two ingredients of passion and belief, you can now throw pure, raw emotion and brutal honesty into the mix. Wonderful.
Kilkenny has a long standing, indeed historical reputation. That of a city of beautiful creativity. Seldom has it been illustrated as effortlessly or as naturally as it is here. Don’t Let is one of those EPs which simply doesn’t come along every day. It will genuinely leave you wanting more, and with festival season well and truly upon us, and the band continuously working on new material, that shouldn’t be a problem.
But far from becoming swept away in a tidal wave of compliments and positivity, Audio Fires have a shared focus. It’s a bond based around the continued development of a sound that is already distinctive and one which translates beautifully when performed live.
We often ponder the inspiration or meaning behind lyrics. And when we stumble upon an EP such as Don’t Let, the question expands and becomes about more than a single track or record. We want to know what makes this band tick.
I was privileged to sit and chat with Paul Hindle in the heart of his native Kilkenny. He unravelled the hidden layers and often deeper meanings which merge to form the distinctive, diverse and energetic sound of Audio Fires.
Take it from me. This young band have their feet firmly on the ground.
We were lucky enough to record two acoustic tracks with Audio Fires in Dublin recently. Heres the first – Don’t Let – plus we had a chance to speak with Paul Hindle. Check out the interview in full after the live video.
Audio Fires, in their own words.
LADIM – First things first. Take us back to the beginning. How did Audio Fires come together?
PH – Well, the four of us came from different musical backgrounds to a degree, but the thing we all had in common was rock. I myself played in an indie-pop band, I was actually the drummer. Our lead guitarist Sam came from a blues rock band, they covered the kind of rock music that the ordinary Joe soap may not be altogether aware of, going way back to the American ‘50s and ‘60s. Padraig and Daire played together in a punk-pop band which did an awful lot, including national TV coverage through an RTE talent show some years ago. So I knew all the guys from the circuit.
The first person I called was the drummer because I was a drummer myself. I’d seen Daire play live and thought he was awesome, so he was my first port of call. It was important to get the right man because the ‘solidness’ of indie-rock comes from the strong backbone of your drummer and having the right kit. The same can be said for the all-important bass lines and how we were to complement each other. The same rule applied with Sam and Padraig. The sound has to be just right because the premise of our music is based around us as a complete group with no solos. I think, judging by the feedback we get, we got the blend just right.
LADIM – There seems to be a healthy resurgence of that classic indie-rock sound here in Ireland. Is that something you guys had in mind right from the start, or is it simply a question of writing what comes naturally to you as a group?
PH – Yeah, it’s something I thought about and something we spoke about, but it always has to be writing what’s natural. When you’re a band trying to push your music and get as much coverage as possible you’re in direct competition with every other band and artist out there, and that’s not said flippantly. We’re in competition with U2, Kings of Leon and so on, and that’s the nature of the business we’re in. I remember years ago when I was in another group, one of the first pieces of advice I received, which has stuck with me to this day was whether it’s the writing of your music and lyrics or indeed the presentation and look of your disk, you have to shine just as much as all the biggest names out there. We’re all in the same business after all. And there’s lots of styles out there when it comes to writing and performing, you know, guys and girls with acoustic guitars and very breathy lyrics, you could go down that road of what I might call ‘advertisement’ music, but it tends to be fleeting. You see it every six months or so when a slightly new sound comes along and everyone thinks that’s the way things are going to go. But with rock and indie music, and all the great bands who naturally base their music around that more classic guitar sound it’s different because it’s constant and has stood the test of time. I always think about Arctic Monkeys and the famous speech Alex Turner made after they won the Brit award for best band. The point he was trying to make was a valuable one, even if he did say it in a somewhat odd and roundabout way!
LADIM – Let’s talk about your current EP. I want to ask you about the video for lead single, Don’t Let. It’s a wonderful graphic for the track, it’s edgy and fits perfectly. Do you write music with images of a possible video in mind, or is that something that comes after?
PH – For us it definitely comes along later. I’d never write music with images of a video in mind, I just wouldn’t let myself think that way. I suppose like a lot of other bands our music is born from the jamming sessions we have, and the writing process springs from there. When we have the bones of a song I would tend to bring the verse and chorus into practice, and that’s where you feel the need for your lead guitar to kick in or whatever. I think if we were to start thinking of a video at this point it may take us away from where the song is going, or even become a distraction. Then the song may become somewhat unnatural. But I think we’ve all came across music that makes us assume that perhaps the song was written around the video, the likes of Thirty Seconds To Mars for example. Jared Leto is from an acting background and it can sometimes feel as though the video came first, but I suppose that’s an art too. If he feels he has a video mapped out in his mind’s eye and then works a song around it and makes it work, then that’s fine. It’s just a different formula, but not for us. We feel that once you get to the video stage, it’s vitally important that it looks like it came from the song, and not the other way around.
LADIM – My favourite track from the EP is Une Partie De La Vie. It’s a fabulous piece of writing. Can I ask, where does the inspiration for a track like that come from? Is it as personal as it sounds?
PH – Not particularly. I write a lot about people who are around me and their situations, maybe that says something about me! I have actually recently written a song which is about me, and I’ve actually surprised myself with how dark it is!
So no, Parite De La Vie was written with an idea in mind and is actually based around a young girl committing suicide. It’s probably as deep as you can get, and the lyric which lots of people think is ‘you make me feel morning forever’, is actually ‘you make me feel mourning forever.’ The chorus starts with reference to Tennessee Falls, which is I suppose a euphemism of falling into water. The lyric ‘wherever you run’ or ‘wherever it takes me’ talks about the feeling of escape and maybe being taken higher or to a better place. The song explores loss, which is a huge part of life that we all have to deal with at some point, and perhaps that kind of tunnel-vision and single mindedness that someone who is contemplating suicide may be feeling.
The personal aspect comes into play through the emotion you put into it and hope the listener takes out. I played the low piano part of the chorus to someone using a bass guitar, they actually filled up and got pretty teary-eyed which showed they were taking from the song exactly what I meant.
LADIM – The variety and energy of your music means it translates superbly when you guys perform live. What kind of audience reaction do you get? Does it vary?
PH – It may vary to an extent, but I don’t think that’s a direct result of our music or the performance. The variation comes from factors like the male to female ratio in the audience and obviously the actual size of the audience. But I write music based on live performances, and as a band we record with the live aspect very much in mind, so it’s fair to say our music is very much geared towards the stage, rather than writing specifically for the studio. So it’s similar to when you ask if I write with a video in mind, I do write with live very much in my thoughts. But it works both ways. If I’m writing a song which I feel may not translate live as well as it should, I may tend to drift away from it and then you have that danger of losing its natural flow.
But the reaction has been fantastic. The feedback we get is full of enthusiasm and energy. We have a show put together which we put quite a bit of thought into, it really gets people going and helps to sum up what Audio Fires are about. It’s certainly worked so far.
LADIM – You say you write with the live performance in mind. Do you think this is what sets Audio Fires apart, as opposed to someone who may say ‘if it sounds good in the studio, we’ll go with it?’
PH – For us, yes. Definitely. And that’s very important to us, so when it comes to getting our music out there and our publicist sending stuff out, I’d always say ‘come and see us live.’ That’s always the message from us. Come and see us live because that’s where it’s at for us. An ex manager told me years ago, it doesn’t matter what anyone in a band is doing. He tapped on a speaker and said all that matters is what comes out of there. And he was right, it’s stuck with me since and it’s something that we share as a band. Sometimes you might be on the fence with an artist, then you see them live and the performance will highlight exactly what the music is all about.
LADIM – You’ve worked with Todd Burke. When somebody like that comes on board, as well as speaking volumes for your music, how much of an influence does it have on the evolution of the band?
PH – It doesn’t alter the process in terms of writing and performing, but the very fact that he’s agreed to come on board and work with you can instil a certain confidence, simply because of his experience and some of the names he’s worked with over the years. Somebody like Todd doesn’t get involved with a project he doesn’t believe in and I suppose it reaffirms our own belief in what it is that we’re doing. And sometimes it’s the simplicity of certain things that works best. Todd will try certain things without reinventing the wheel, which means our music retains its identity. Our guitar tones are old-school, we don’t use very many pedals. I love Marshall Overdrive. We just plug guitar into tuner into Marshall, for me there’s nothing like it. It’s the purest of sounds and can form the spine of a track. Todd was more influential at the mixing stage. He also really brought out the guitar melody, particularly in the pre-chorus section. The most important thing for us was to also use it as a learning experience which is exactly what we did and we hope to head over to LA in the not too distant future once again.
LADIM – You’ve spoken in the past about some of your influences, Vaccines, Kings OF Leon and so on. Is there anybody you’d liken yourself to vocally?… I have someone in mind!
PH – Good question. Vocally, I suppose I’ve always liked Thom Yorke but I know you’re going to say Placebo! I wrote a song a long time ago called Misfortune, we never played it live because it sounded too garage for us, but in parts of it I have to say I surprised myself with how much like Placebo I sounded! But you can’t help who you sound like, and I like some of their stuff although I would say I don’t sound as nasal as him. I certainly don’t consciously try to sound like anyone else, perhaps it depends on who you like listening too. I have been compared to Thom Yorke and took it as a compliment.
LADIM – And is the Placebo comparison one you take as a compliment?
PH – I do. I think you have to. There’s not much point trying to deflect from who you sound like, I can’t because I get it a lot. But saying that, we don’t try to style ourselves around anyone else, the key for us is sounding like Audio Fires and the vocal is an important part of that. Everyone remembers Placebo back in the days of Nancy Boy and so on, but I’ve never played their music, so any likeness vocally is pure coincidence. Bands can change their style and still sound unique. The Beatles always sound like The Beatles, Oasis always sound like Oasis. We work incredibly hard on our identity, and that comes from being unique.
LADIM – Finally, festival season is upon us. With this in mind, and beyond, what does the future hold for Audio Fires?
PH – We’re working towards an album. At the moment we’re busy promoting the EP and the single Don’t Let as well as gearing up for Irish festivals. We’re really looking forward to Light Colour Sound, it’s the festival’s debut so it always has a touch of the unknown about it, but it’s been generating a lot of excitement and the line-up looks great. We’re also doing a lot of demoing at the moment too. We have songs nearly fully produced so it’s just a matter of pre-production. There’s three new songs we’re really excited about so another EP is an option and perhaps a single towards the end of September. There’s a lot of material coming out of the band and you always feel like it’s better than what’s gone before, that goes for the unrecorded stuff too. I took a six month break from writing, then suddenly dropped these three songs which are perhaps a slightly different direction from Don’t Let but still very much Audio Fires. It comes from the mind-set you find yourself in at the time of writing. Sometimes you can look too far ahead and lose track of the present, so we’re staying focused on the here and now. But these are very exciting times for Audio Fires.
Exciting times indeed for the level-headed Kilkenny four-piece. Audio Fires will perform at this year’s Fusion Festival in St. James’ Park, Kilkenny on July 5th as well as forming part of the impressive line-up for Light Colour Sound at Shankill Castle in Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny on the same weekend.
In the meantime, the group’s hugely addictive EP Don’t Let is available right now.
To put it simply, if you’re not wise to Audio Fires, you’ve been missing out. A group of ambitious musicians with not just a shared talent, but a shared focus. Stay tuned for news of new releases from this emerging and impressive band, the brainchild of the creatively gifted Paul Hindle.